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July 2011 Archives


Steve Woolf takes national stage, urges physicians-in-training to open eyes to community impact on health

, Steven Woolf, M.D., M.P.H.

Housestaff alum and now Family Medicine Professor, Steven Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., was the keynote speaker at the 2011 American Academy of Family Physicians’ national conference for residents and medical students in Kansas City, Mo., on July 29.

He challenged his audience to “get outside of the box and think beyond the clinical setting when caring for patients.” Woolf pointed to social determinants as having power to shape patients’ health outcomes. Factors like the home environment, personal health behaviors and socioeconomic status all play a role, he said. “The point is these risk factors are a very big deal if you want to save your patient’s life, help them to live longer and have a better quality of life.”

Woolf completed his residency training at the medical school’s Fairfax Family Medicine Residency. He is now a professor of family medicine at the VCU School of Medicine and director of the university’s Center for Human Needs.

Read coverage of his address at the AAFP News Now online site, Family Physician Urges Residents, Students to Consider ‘Social Determinants’ of Health.


A second class of summer students completed an innovative program in infectious diseases

A bevy of summer programs gives high school and college students the chance to explore their interest in a medical or science career.

In order to engage medical and undergraduate students in infectious diseases issues on a local and global scale, the School of Medicine offers a nine-week Summer Student Program in Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Public Health Epidemiology. Now in its second year, the series of seminars and workshops runs from May 31 to July 29.

Ian Nixon, M.D., FACC, FAHA
VCU M2 student Matthew Macey works in the hood of the Zhao lab.

The bench-to-bedside MIDPH program enables students to come together through research, while working one-on-one with research mentors. Under the guidance of the mentor, students conduct research in the areas of microbiology, clinical research or epidemiology.

The program director, Gordon Archer, M.D., says, “the program not only exposes students to high-quality research and research mentors in areas related to infectious diseases and epidemiology, it also allows very bright college students who may be interested in medical school, graduate school or combined degree programs to interact with our own medical and graduate students, providing a valuable perspective on life as a postgraduate student.”

A daily lunchtime seminar raises a hot topic in infectious disease for discussion of how it translates to research. But morning and afternoons are spent in hands-on work in the more than 20 labs throughout the medical school where participants study topics from basic science to applied science. The summer session culminates with a poster session that showcases the students’ work.

“This is a great way to bring students together with research,” said program coordinator Christine Feagans, M.P.H. “I enjoy watching the med students and undergrads work together and teach each other.”

In 2011, 200 applicants vied to fill the eight undergraduate spots. According to Feagans, even though interest in the program is growing, the goal is a small group of participants that allows more one-on-one interactions with mentors.

This year’s undergraduates represent a broad spectrum of students coming from all over the country, including Harvard University, the University of North Carolina and VCU. The five medical student participants all hail from the MCV Campus.

“It is valuable for the students to experience research first hand and see their projects through the entire process from inception to the results phase,” Feagans said. “The program also allows the students to be exposed to many career options throughout the summer.”

Learn more about the MIDPH program.


High school students learn what it takes to be a doctor

A bevy of summer programs gives high school and college students the chance to explore their interest in a medical or science career.

So you think you want to be a doctor?

An intensive four-week program answers that question for up to 30 rising juniors and seniors from high schools around Virginia. For a month, they explore their interest in a medical career, getting a firsthand look at what it takes to be a physician through the lens of the Virginia Governor’s School for Life Sciences and Medicine.

Sachith Gullapalli

Sachith Gullapalli

Housed at VCU, the highly competitive program is the most selective of the state’s seven Summer Residential Governor’s Schools. This year, 150 applicants were considered for just 26 openings.

A rising junior at Roanoke’s Hidden Valley High School, Sachith Gullapalli had an interest in medicine, but hadn’t been so sure about pursuing it as a career. His volunteer work at his local veterans hospital had placed him in a health-care environment, “but not as close to seeing what doctors are doing” as his Governor’s School experience. Citing the chance for a firsthand view of doctor-patient interaction, attending procedures and rounding through the ICU, he says “this month made me more interested.”

He says he was most surprised by the amount of collaboration that goes into patient care. In the Neuro ICU, he saw “huge teams managing different aspects of a patient’s care, pharmacists, anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, all discussing the patient’s treatment.”

Marina Girgis

Marina Girgis

Before arriving at the bedside, though, the Governor’s School challenges students with three weeks of classroom-based case studies. Experts from VCU, its Medical Center and the Virginia Department of Health lead students in looking at health care from the vantage points of patient, scientist and community. Students are asked to play the physician’s role: obtaining medical histories, developing differential diagnoses, selecting diagnostic tests, interpreting physical exam findings and lab results and, ultimately, creating a treatment plan. Along the way, they pick up molecular techniques, problem-solving diagnostics and an understanding of public health and epidemiological statistics.

Week four culminates in real-life application as students head into the hospital for three days of shadowing physicians in various disciplines. “Without exposure to actual hospitalized patients, their health care providers, and the diagnostic/treatment process, all learning would remain merely an academic exercise,” says Jeanne Minetree, director of the 2011 Virginia Governor’s School for Life Sciences and Medicine. “The shadowing experience is the capstone, a catalyst for student comprehension of how art and science blend to form the practice of medicine.”

Sachith Gullapalli, Marina Girgis and Kevin Cooper, M.D.,

High school students Sachith Gullapalli and Marina Girgis shadowed pulmonologist Kevin Cooper, M.D., a professor of internal medicine and a mentor for Governor’s School students. Their time in the VCU Medical Center’s ICUs and clinics provided a real life application of their classroom study.

That was the case for Marina Girgis, a rising senior at Henrico’s Godwin High School. She thinks that the public may have a glamorized idea of medicine, imagining that physicians “look at patients and get an answer right away. It’s not that clear cut.” In her Governor’s School experience, she got an idea of how instead they “work through problems and possible solutions through teamwork.”

She hopes to use her last year of high school to volunteer at the Massey Cancer Center or pursue more shadowing experiences with physicians to get a better sense of whether medicine is the career for her.

The Virginia Governor’s School for Life Sciences and Medicine is sponsored by VCU Life Sciences under the leadership of Vice Provost Thomas F. Huff, Ph.D. Susan Haynes, administrator of the Department of Surgery’s education programs, coordinates the program’s shadowing experiences, with participation from physicians with Internal Medicine, Neurosurgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Surgery and Telemedicine. Medical school faculty interested in volunteering with the program can contact Haynes at 828-1141 or schaynes@vcu.edu.

Learn more about the Virginia Governor’s School for Life Sciences and Medicine.


Emmagene Worley blogged about her experiences with Physicians for Peace in the Middle East

Ian Nixon, M.D., FACC, FAHARising second-year student Emmagene Worley was part of a 19-member team of volunteer physicians, surgeons, therapists and med students who traveled with Physicians for Peace to the West Bank, part of the Palestinian territories in the Middle East.

While on the week-long trip, Worley blogged about the experience, chronicling the types of procedures performed, the food consumed and the hospitality that met the team throughout their stay.

In a July 7 blog post, Worley described a visit to the Ramallah Hospital that is located just north of Jerusalem by about 10 miles. The team had been called in for a bilateral cleft surgery.

Ian Nixon, M.D., FACC, FAHA“The little girl was eight months old, with the biggest brown eyes we had ever seen,” wrote Worley. A surgeon with Physicians for Peace “served as a teacher to the local pediatric surgeon, sharing his techniques and advice for operating on a cleft lip. They outlined their plan in methylene blue, essentially a blue marker, and then made their cuts. To us, it looked like magic, to make a functional and normal lip and nose from just a few small incisions.”

This is Physicians for Peace’s 23rd mission to the region. The team delivered patient assessments, surgical treatment, burn care assistance and educational exchanges, introducing new skills and techniques to local health care professionals in multiple locations, including Ramallah and Hebron.

Ian Nixon, M.D., FACC, FAHA“This mission to the West Bank represents the very best of Physicians for Peace: our team is building on well established relationships even as they look forward and work alongside new friends and partners,” said Brig. Gen. Ron Sconyers (USAF, Ret.), president and CEO of Physicians for Peace. “In the same way, Emmagene represents the ideal volunteer. As an office intern last year and a student volunteer this summer, she has truly committed herself to our organization. On this mission, she’s made valuable and lasting contributions through her daily interactions and thoughtful blog updates. We’re very grateful to have her in our community of supporters.”

Physicians for Peace aims to transform lives by training, supporting and empowering health care professionals working with the world’s underserved populations. With each international trip, PFP’s teams provide in-country health care professionals with the education, training and resources to help themselves and their communities. Rather than healing just one person at a time, its teams teach others, so they in turn can heal many.

Worley is currently setting up a Physicians for Peace student group on the MCV Campus. Students who are interested in learning more about opportunities to support the organization can contact Anna Wood at awood@physiciansforpeace.org.

Read about Worley’s experiences in her July 5, July 6 and July 7 blog posts.

Photos courtesy of Kris Giacobbe for Physicians for Peace.


Richmond Magazine talks to alumnus about creating, volunteering at free clinic

For five years, low-income, uninsured Hanover County residents have found free health and dental care at the St. James the Less Free Clinic. And for five years, the Class of 1988’s Thomas Hubbard has been there on Wednesday nights, treating patients.

Acts of Faith article

An article, Acts of Faith, published in the July 2011 issue of Richmond Magazine describes the clinic’s work, along with the role Hubbard and his wife have played in its creation and continuation.

“I became a doctor because I like to help people,” Hubbard told Richmond Magazine. “But to do something to help somebody without a financial reward, it just feels good. I feel more exhilarated coming home at 10 o’clock at night on Wednesday that I do coming home at 6 on other nights.”

After earning his medical degree in 1988, Hubbard pursued family medicine, staying on the MCV Campus for his intern year and then moving to the Blackstone Family Practice to complete his residency training.

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Updated: 04/29/2016