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November 2011 Archives


Bearded students raise money for pediatric patients

Thirty-two medical students went scruffy for a month to raise money for local children.


A group of second-year medical students inspired their first- and second-year classmates to participate in a No Shave November competition, a challenge to stop shaving for a month that raised more than $300 to support local children with cancer. No Shave November challenges have become popular traditions on campuses and in offices throughout the country, and students Aaron Schatz, David Zuelzer and Alex Skidmore brought the trend to the MCV Campus in 2011.

Their idea for the No Shave November competition created a fun opportunity to connect with classmates and give back to a local organization: the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. Students were excited about the competition and responded with a strong turnout. Since the event’s organizers were second-years, Zuelzer said he especially was thrilled with the first-year students’ participation.

First-year student Mark Korenke

First-year student Mark Korenke was No Shave November’s winner for best beard. He’s pictured here with his 4-month-old, mustachioed son, Jack.

On Nov. 1, the competition got underway with 32 participants. Unshaven students started appearing in classes across campus, and fundraising numbers were increasing despite an awkward phase that competitors had to endure when their faces began to show a shadow.

“My favorite part of the challenge was the first couple of weeks,” said Schatz. “It was very awkward, because not all hair grows at the same rate. It was a common time to get a question like: ‘What’s going on with your face?’“

But, as the stubble grew, many of the participants’ classmates were impressed by the beards that appeared. At the end of the month, seven confident gentlemen entered their photos in No Shave November’s finale: a competition for the best beard.

More than 150 students voted, and first-year Mark Korenke was selected the winner. Schatz, Zuelzer and Skidmore will hold a trophy presentation ceremony after their winter break to celebrate Korenke’s victory. Event organizers believe Korenke’s win was aided by his toddler’s appearance in their contest photo wearing a paper mustache.

“The trophy is of a man with his fist in the air like Rocky, and it’s dedicated to the most manly man,” Zeulzer said.

Korenke also will have the honor of presenting a check of more than $300 to the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. The students were excited to donate the money to a local cause, and they hope that the money will be used to buy hair replacements for children who are undergoing chemotherapy.

“In essence, we thought of it as giving our hair to them in an indirect manner,” Schatz said.

With No Shave November behind them, the participants took the opportunity to shave their beards into what Zuelzer called “socially unacceptable facial hair.” There was a brief proliferation of handlebar mustaches, goatee and Mohawk combinations, and long sideburns connecting through the mustache. They each took their new look with them to class on Dec. 1, amusing their classmates. Then, the participants were free to return to their clean-shaven appearances.

“After a month of not shaving, we were literally itching to get rid of the facial hair,” Schatz said.


PM&R associate professor lauded for early career achievements

Juan Carlos Arango, Ph.D.

Juan Carlos Arango, Ph.D.

Juan Carlos Arango, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, received the Early Career Award from the National Academy of Neuropsychology. The award was presented at the NAN’s annual conference on Nov. 18 in Marco Island, Fla.

The award is given to someone who is nominated by the academy membership and judged by the awards committee and the Board of Directors to have made substantial early career contributions within 10 years of receiving his or her doctoral degree, particularly regarding scholarly activity.

Read more about Arango’s work.


Marathoners say training impacts studies, patient care

For medical students Michael L’Heureux and Taylor Gilmore, running has been a part of their lives since high school. This year, both decided to tackle a bigger athletic challenge: the SunTrust Richmond Marathon on Nov. 12.

Taylor Gilmore

Taylor Gilmore crosses the finish line of the Richmond marathon. Running alongside her is her sister and enthusiastic supporter, Courtney.

L’Heureux ran for his high school track team and occasionally jogged during college. He picked up the distance after arriving on the MCV Campus. After completing a 10K race in the spring, he signed up to compete in the marathon. Gilmore began the sport with her high school cross country team and has made running a lifelong activity.

Both students are in the middle of a busy M-2 year, but they carved out time in their schedules each week to train for the 26.2-mile race. Each runner’s weekday training runs take less than an hour, making them fairly easy to schedule. Longer runs are slated for weekends when they have more free time.

“Making time for training is all about sticking to a schedule,” Gilmore said. “I set my schedule at the beginning of the week. That ensures that I get my studying and running done.”

She used to eliminate workouts when work piled up, but she found exercise contributes to her overall academic performance. A set training plan encouraged her to get outside and log miles.

Michael L'Heureux

Second-year student Michael L’Heureux says that the regular runs that made up his marathon training helped him clear his mind and come back to his studies with a fresh approach.

As L’Heureux and Gilmore embarked on the months-long and oftentimes solitary journey of training for a marathon, each had experiences that made them stronger students. L’Heureux said the regular runs helped him clear his mind and come back to his studies with a fresh approach. The training also forced him to focus on accomplishing something other than schoolwork.

“I wasn’t exactly following the healthiest lifestyle while I was in college and felt that as a medical student I needed to change that. Since I have started running I have lost weight, decreased my resting heart rate, improved my sleep patterns and noticed other general improvements.”

Gilmore’s success in conquering the physical and mental challenges of long distance running inspires her as she works to master difficult course work.

“The challenge of a marathon has also made me mentally stronger, which is very helpful as the material gets more and more difficult in medical school,” Gilmore said. “If I’m having trouble getting through material, I just think, ‘Wow, if I can run 16 miles like I did last week, I can definitely do this.'”

With the race just days away, L’Heureux and Gilmore were looking forward to crossing the finish line, and both hope to apply the lessons they learned while training to their future careers as physicians.

“I’ve heard people say that training for a marathon is hard, but I don’t think I realized how difficult it would be until I was actually doing it,” Gilmore said.

Taylor Gilmore

Second-year student and marathoner Amanda P. Ulrich at the SunTrust Richmond Marathon.

Her commitment to the training process taught her patience. She benefited from the journey and felt fulfilled after working for months to achieve something so special. She’ll look to translate that to help her patients mentally prepare for the journey of battling long-term diseases.

After dramatically increasing his fitness levels and becoming a healthier eater, L’Heureux believes he will understand patients’ challenges better.

“If I am going to be asking my patients to make drastic lifestyle changes in the future, then I should be prepared to do so myself and should be aware of the challenges they will face,” he said. “I do not believe that every person can or should run a marathon, but everyone can make improvements in their lifestyle to benefit their health.”

Other students who are training for the SunTrust Richmond Marathon and McDonalds Half-Marathon include: Nick Erdle, Dee Monroe, Allison Pagano and Amanda Ulrich.


Chief resident is voice for students and residents at national leadership group

Emergency Medicine’s chief resident, Veronica Sikka, M.D., Ph.D., MHA, MPH, has been selected to serve on the Board of Directors of the American College of Physician Executives. She was chosen for the one-year term following the ACPE’s national search for a chief resident training in any specialty.

Veronica Sikka, M.D., Ph.D., MHA, MPH

Emergency Medicine’s chief resident, Veronica Sikka, M.D., Ph.D., MHA, MPH, has been selected to serve on the Board of Directors of the American College of Physician Executives.

In November, Sikka stepped into her responsibilities at the ACPE annual meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. Though she does not have voting powers, she represents the interests and needs of medical students and residents in the board’s activities, discussions and deliberations.

“ACPE has been instrumental in improving patient healthcare through physician leadership,” said Sikka, whose goal is a career in health administration and health policy. “I’m looking forward to this year of interacting with dynamic physician leaders and learning how they use their skills to impact the delivery of patient care at a local and national level.”

Representing nearly 10,000 members, the ACPE is the nation’s largest health care organization for physician executives. The College aims to provide its members with leadership skills and encourages them to assume more active roles in the management of their organizations.

Sikka gained practical experience in the field of health policy in 2006 when she worked with the Virginia Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Technology to spearhead projects at a statewide level related to electronic medical records and improving access to healthcare for the indigent. The Virginia secretaries have since been named to positions in the Obama Administration: Aneesh Chopra as Secretary of Technology, and Marilyn Tavenner was recently nominated to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“I can think of no one better than Veronica to serve in this role,” said Timothy C. Evans, M.D., the residency program director in the Department of Emergency Medicine. “Given her background and past work, she has a very bright future in academic emergency medicine and leadership. She will be a strong representative of the interests and needs of residents and medical students across the country.”

Sikka currently serves as chair of the GME Housestaff Council at the VCU Medical Center with Mary Alice O’Donnell, Ph.D., and has published manuscripts on health leadership topics as well as on her work with cancer diagnosis and health screening in emergency departments. She recently returned from India where she presented research findings related to anesthesia in the emergency department setting, placing first internationally at the INDO-US Emergency Medicine Summit.

Sikka is a four-time VCU graduate, beginning with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2001. In addition to the medical degree that she earned in 2009, she completed a doctorate in health policy from VCU’s School of Allied Health Professions that same year. She also earned a master’s of health administration from VCU’s School of Allied Health Professions in 2003 and a master’s of public health from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2003.

Sikka is anticipating another interesting opportunity in May when she will go on assignment with ABC News’ medical unit, working with well-known correspondents Drs. Oz, Schneiderman and Johnson.

Read more from the ACPE.

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Updated: 04/29/2016