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May 2012 Archives


Chief resident thrives in fast-paced national newsroom

Emergency Medicine’s chief resident, Veronica Sikka, M.D., Ph.D., MHA, MPH, recently returned from her dream internship — a month in New York, N.Y., working for ABC News’ Medical Unit. Sikka took the unpaid internship as a step toward fulfilling her lifelong goal of working in broadcast journalism, but she was surprised to develop new skills that enhanced her role as a physician.

Emergency Medicine's chief resident, Veronica Sikka, M.D., Ph.D., MHA, MPH

Emergency Medicine’s chief resident, Veronica Sikka, M.D., Ph.D., MHA, MPH, interned for a month with ABC News’ Medical Unit.

“This internship was amazing. I went up there to learn more about journalism and came out of it learning how to connect with my patients on a personal level and with media. It’s really all about communicating clearly and without all the medical jargon we tend to use when we talk,” said Sikka, a four-time VCU graduate with distinguished academic and real-world public health experience.

ABC News’ internship program brought four residents from medical centers across the country to the network’s headquarters to help produce medical stories for Good Morning America, Inside Edition and World News Tonight. The residents worked closely with Richard Besser, M.D., the network’s chief health and medical editor, to translate scientific findings into health news that makes a difference in viewers’ lives.

Each morning, interns were assigned story topics. Then the hunt began: find experts to provide context, literature to validate the science and a “face,” or a patient who had experience with the topic in question. The interns’ summaries faced a 2 p.m. deadline. Had they created a package that was compelling enough for the evening news? With additional responsibilities for online coverage, interns worked throughout the day and evening, sometimes working on stories as late as 1 a.m.

Sikka, who grew up with a passion for journalism and a special affinity for ABC, thrived in the frenetic pace of TV news. She researched and wrote stories about prostate and lung cancer screenings, prescription medications for children, weight loss and more. Her online story detailing how inserting a colored potato chip in a stack of chips caused people to eat less generated 500,000 hits — a record high for an online medical piece.

She said the highlight of the month was developing a story about the increase of children swallowing lithium batteries, which aired on World News Tonight. Sikka recognized the importance of telling the story of dangerously ill children who were arriving in emergency rooms after ingesting the batteries. Her coverage generated a follow-up story in a widely-read emergency medicine newsletter for physicians.

Veronica Sikka with Diane Sawyer on the set of ABC News.

Sikka with Diane Sawyer on the set of ABC News.

“You feel you’re actually reaching out to the lay public in a way that makes a difference,” Sikka said. “As a physician, you’re making a difference one patient at a time. In media broadcasting, you’re making a difference to millions of people at one time.”

Sikka’s passion and commitment was recognized at ABC News. The Medical Unit saw Sikka’s public health experience and talent, and asked her to review medical literature to determine its value and to write stories for the Web and for television. She researched eight stories that aired on television and wrote eight online pieces during her time at ABC News.

As she prepared to return to the MCV Campus, Sikka asked Besser for advice on how to keep her communication skills sharp as a practicing physician harboring dreams of a broadcast career. Besser said to take every patient as a practice session, and focus on explaining medical information in the clear, concise and jargon-free manner she learned to use at ABC News.

When Sikka applied this advice, she noticed an immediate connection with her patients. “Something clicked. They got what I was explaining to them,” she said.

Sikka will finish her residency in June and begin as an attending emergency medicine physician at the VCU Medical Center. She plans to pursue her interests in health news by continuing to write for ABCNews.com and perhaps branching out to the Richmond Times-Dispatch or ABC News affiliates.

“Overall, this was an amazing experience and only further confirmed my passion for
medical broadcasting,” she said. “I am more confident about my decision to pursue a career in medical journalism and relate better to my patients. I have Drs. Joseph Ornato, Mary Alice O’Donnell and Renee Reid to thank for making it possible for me to spend time at an away rotation in New York.”

In her month at ABC, Sikka produced eight online stories including:

  1. More Kids in ER from Swallowing Batteries
  2. Colored Potato Chips Slow Snacking
  3. Govt. Panel Scuttles Prostate Cancer Testing Recommendations
  4. Major Cancer Groups Recommend CT Scans for Lung Cancer
  5. How Do Docs Prescribe Kids’ Meds? Guess
  6. When You Eat May Trump What You Eat for Weight Loss
  7. Beijing Olympics Show Air Pollution-Heart Attack Link
  8. Coffee Drinkers Have Lower Risk of Overall Death, Study Shows

Professor Dom Sica to lead national hypertension society

Domenic A. Sica, M.D., was elected president of the American Society of Hypertension, a prominent national organization committed to helping scientists communicate effective prevention and treatment strategies for patients with high blood pressure. Sica, M’75, H’78, will be president-elect from 2012 to 2014 and president from 2014 to 2016.


Members of the society share a commitment to eliminating hypertension and its consequences by increasing awareness of translational research leading to effective treatment strategies for the public.

As the medical school’s chairman of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Hypertension, Sica shares his knowledge with other scientists, patients and community members. He has published more than 650 abstracts, publications and book chapters and has edited seven books.

Sica is also an avid VCU basketball fan. He is a season ticket holder and has purchased up to 2,000 tickets each year for the past 12 years so local high school students can attend games. Dedicated to raising community awareness, Sica has found a way to combine his passions of eliminating hypertension and watching basketball — he’s been known to give free blood pressure screenings to fans before Rams games.


PharmTox Chair Bill Dewey accepts Presidential Medallion for decades of outstanding leadership

Dr. Bill Dewey’s more than 40 years of research and academic leadership were honored at Commencement with the Presidential Medallion, VCU’s award for extraordinary achievement.

William L. Dewey, Ph.D.

William L. Dewey, Ph.D., arrived on campus in 1972 as the director of the Department of Pharmacology’s graduate program. He has gone on to provide stellar leadership in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology as its chairman and vice chair for research. He has also served outside the department in roles that included assistant dean of the Graduate School, dean of the School of Basic Health Sciences and associate provost and vice president for research and graduate studies.

Read more about Dewey’s contributions and research.


Alumnus Van Hubbard, nationally known obesity researcher, inducted into AOA

Van Hubbard, M.D., Ph.D., the School of Medicine’s first graduate to receive both an M.D. and a Ph.D. degree at graduation, is now a leader in the field of public health and nutrition. His accomplishments were recently honored when he was inducted into the Brown Sequard chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha.

Van Hubbard, M.D., Ph.D.

Van Hubbard, M.D., Ph.D.

Hubbard, who graduated in 1974, returned to the MCV Campus to participate in the annual Kinloch Nelson, M.D. Student Honors Day and to be recognized as the medical school’s sole alumni inductee into the national medical honor society.

While on campus, Hubbard spoke to M.D.-Ph.D. candidates and student members of AOA about the extensive research and policy making focused upon obesity. He said much of the current research and treatment related to obesity relies too heavily on the Body Mass Index (BMI) as the diagnostic criteria for obesity rather than as a screening tool for individuals and an epidemiologic tool when applied to populations. Hubbard said BMI does not give doctors a complete understanding of the subject’s physiological and metabolic status, contributing to inconsistent results in research studies and potentially influencing the quality of care for patients.

Hubbard has spent his more than 35-year career at the National Institutes of Health and achieved the rank of Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General in the U.S. Public Health Service. In his current role as director of the NIH’s Division of Nutrition Research Coordination, Hubbard is responsible for coordinating over $1 billion in research activities related to nutritional sciences and obesity. Because of the significant impact of his research and leadership, Hubbard was honored in with the 2010 Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award from The Obesity Society and with the 2012 Barney Sellers Public Policy Award from the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.

In his lunchtime conversation with the students, Hubbard encouraged them to make an impact on others throughout their medical careers. “Whatever your interests are, your ultimate goal is to make a difference,” he said. “I encourage you to go out and make that difference.”

AOA, the only national medical honor society, recognizes and encourages excellence in medicine by promoting scholarship and research. Though Hubbard was the only alumni inductee, the chapter also inducted top students from the third- and fourth-year classes, faculty and housestaff. An elite society, the MCV Campus’ Brown Sequard Chapter accepts only the top 16 percent of the medical school class.


Class of 2015 student receives MCVAA scholarship

The MCV Alumni Association recognized Sean Brodie, a student in the medical school’s Class of 2015, as the 2012 recipient of the MCVAA Legacy Scholarship.

Brodie, originally from Colorado, follows in a long line of MCV Campus graduates. His father, Harry Brodie, M’75, and uncle, Edmund Brodie, M’71, both earned their medical degrees from the School of Medicine. Brodie’s grandfather, Edmund “Mac” Brodie, D.D.S., started the tradition in 1943 when he graduated from the MCV School of Dentistry. In 2001, the eldest Brodie children named the Brodie Oral Cancer Research Laboratory, in the Baxter Perkinson Building, in his honor.

Sean is interested in the neurological effects of memory and plans to pursue research projects in this field after graduating from medical school.


Neurosurgeon named to Rutgers’ Hall of Distinguished Alumni

Kathryn L. Holloway, M.D., professor of neurosurgery, has been named to Rutgers University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Kathryn L. Holloway, M.D.

In existence for a quarter of a century, the Hall inducts just five alumni each year. Numbering a little more than 200, its members include actor Calista Flockhart and basketball coach Jim Valvano as well as Nobel Prize winners, U.S. senators and astronauts.

Holloway was honored for her pioneering work in developing a new approach to deep brain stimulation that allows patients to move their head during surgery. A revolutionary technique at the time, her approach is now used nationwide.

“This innovation resulted in a change that I can see day after day, that people are more comfortable during very serious neurosurgery procedures,” Holloway said. “I see a problem, and I want to fix it.”

After earning her undergraduate and medical degrees from Rutgers, Holloway completed her neurosurgical residency training on the MCV Campus in 1990. She was recruited onto the faculty of the VCU School of Medicine and now also serves as the chief of neurosurgery at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond.

Read more about Holloway’s accomplishments.

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Updated: 04/29/2016