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April 2013 Archives


Alumnus Tom Scalea speaks to pre-med society about his career in medicine

The Class of 1978’s Tom Scalea spoke at the VCU Pre-Medical Society’s annual banquet that recognizes graduating students who have been accepted into medical school.

The Class of 1978’s Tom Scalea spoke at the VCU Pre-Medical Society’s annual banquet that recognizes graduating students who have been accepted into medical school.

As students look toward a career in medicine, they must choose to practice in a specialty they love, said Thomas Scalea, M.D.

The Class of 1978’s Scalea, now the physician-in-chief of the University of Maryland’s R Adams Crowley Shock Trauma Center, returned to Richmond to share experiences from his career. He told pre-med students that a career in medicine is rewarding and encouraged them to look for mentors who will inspire them.

“Medical school was the best thing I ever did,” Scalea told the VCU Pre-Medical Society. “Every day, but four, I have loved what I do.” On those four days, he had to confront the deaths of patients and the question of whether he had made the right call in their treatment.

The pre-medical society hosts an annual banquet that recognizes graduating students who have been accepted into medical school. In his wide-ranging discussion, Scalea urged them to focus on “the humanity of doctoring,” as they embark on careers in medicine.

The Class of 1978’s Tom Scalea spoke at the VCU Pre-Medical Society’s annual banquet that recognizes graduating students who have been accepted into medical school.

The Class of 1978’s Tom Scalea spoke at the VCU Pre-Medical Society’s annual banquet that recognizes graduating students who have been accepted into medical school.

“Sit on the bed, take their hand in yours and talk to them,” he said. “And the world becomes a better place for them than before.”

Scalea discussed the steps physicians can take to provide more humane care for patients and their families. At the Crowley Shock Trauma Center, Scalea and his team do a second set of rounds at 6 p.m. each evening to meet with his patients’ families and answer their questions.

As the graduating students look toward medical school and futures as physicians, Scalea encouraged them to discover what they are passionate about and work tirelessly to pursue it.

The VCU Pre-Medical Society is a student run organization based on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus to meet the need of students interested in pursuing a career in medicine. Each year, the organization hosts a banquet recognizing students who have been admitted to medical school.


Philippe Girerd is Grand Marshall for NASCAR race at RIR

Philippe Girerd, M.D.

Philippe Girerd and his son Jack with NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace, who’s coming up on his 900th start.

From the NASCAR garage to the victory lane celebration, Philippe Girerd, M.D., had an exceptional view of the RIR race weekend.

The associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology won the opportunity to serve as Grand Marshall of the ToyotaCare 250 Nationwide Series Race, run on April 26.

The position came with the responsibility of delivering the famous line: Drivers, start your engines! It also gave him the chance for a behind the scenes look at the Richmond International Raceway.

Girerd and his son Jack got a private tour of the NASCAR garage with Toyota driver Kenny Wallace. Wallace shared his insight into the race cars, their parts and how the racing teams make adjustments throughout the course of the race.

The father and son spotted well-known drivers Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Elliott Sadler, and in the pre-race meeting for drivers and crew chiefs, they listened in on the rules and regulations for the 250-lap, 187.5-mile race.

Philippe Girerd, M.D.

Philippe Girerd and his son Jack got an up close view of the pit crews from atop what he described as a mobile toolbox.

An unparalleled view of pit road came during the race, when they took seats atop a mobile toolbox that gave them a look at the pit crews. “They were really well-organized,” said Girerd. “It brought a whole new dimension to the race. It was like watching an emergency situation in the hospital.”

From their vantage point, they watched the crews occasionally resort to duct tape in a pinch to hold damaged cars together. Girerd also noticed that seven layers of windshield protectors get peeled off one-by-one as needed to clear the drivers’ view. Apparently, at speeds approaching 200 mph, insects don’t stand a chance.

A racing fan for years, Girerd has attended both Formula One Grand Prix races as well as LeMans series races. He’s even driven on the race track a number of times at the Virginia International Raceway near Danville.

“Ironically,” Girerd said, “up until now, I have had very little contact with NASCAR aside from occasionally watching some races on TV with friends.”


Two Alumni Honored at Reunion

Tom Scalea

Tom Scalea and Jerry Strauss

Every year, the medical school honors two alumni for their outstanding achievements during Reunion Weekend. This year, Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., bestowed the awards at the Grand Opening Gala of the McGlothlin Medical Education Center.

“As we mark the 175th anniversary of the founding of our medical school, the support of our alumni has never been more important,” Strauss said, noting how fitting it was to celebrate the school’s alumni in this milestone year. “ It is our alumni and their accomplishments, after all, that have advanced the School of Medicine’s reputation.”

David Whitehead

David Whitehead and Jerry Strauss

This year, the Class of 1978’s Tom Scalea was named Outstanding Medical Alumnus. For more than 15 years, he has served as physician-in-chief of the University of Maryland’s R Adams Crowley Shock Trauma Center. In this role, he oversees the nation’s first and only integrated trauma hospital. In addition to working with the Air Force to provide essential care to wounded troops, Dr. Scalea has also traveled internationally with his team to Haiti and China to offer help in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes.

The Caravati Service Award went to the Class of 1973’s David Whitehead who also completed his family medicine training on the MCV Campus. He went on to establish his own family practice office with a fellow 1973 classmate and served the community of Harrisonburg for 30 years. After retirement, Dr. Whitehead returned to Richmond and has contributed to the success of the medical school through his work on the Admissions Committee, as an assistant clinical professor of family medicine and as a member of the Continuing Medical Education Committee.


Rising M3 Larry Istrail blogs on KevinMD.com

Larry Istrail

Larry Istrail

Considered one of the web’s top blogs in health care and medicine, KevinMD.com regularly takes a look at American health care, with physicians, patients and – in Larry Istrail’s case – students weighing in with their perspectives.

In April, rising M3 Istrail’s essay, The Largest Barrier to Achieving Humanistic Nirvana in Medical Care, stirred discussion on the blog. In his post, he theorized what would happen to the cost of haircuts if the salon industry looked more like the health care marketplace where “consumers no longer maintain their important role of paying customer.”

The essay reveals two of his guiding interests: an affinity for technology and a business-mindset.

A self-described “entrepreneur turned medical student,” Istrail teamed up with three others in 2009 to create PhotoCalorie. The web-based photographic food journal and iPhone app was designed to give dietary researchers an improvement on the field’s traditional data collection. Rather than relying on study participants’ recollections and estimations of food intake, PhotoCalorie offers researchers a virtual window into the actual eating behaviors of their study subjects.

More recently, Istrail founded his second company, the Ancestral Weight Loss Registry (AWLR). The website invites people who’ve chosen a carbohydrate-restricted or paleo diet to fill out a questionnaire and tell their personal stories. After 15 months, over 3,000 people have registered – representing all 50 states and more than 50 countries – have registered for Istrail’s crowd-sourced effort to understand successful weight loss. He hopes this data, too, will provide scientists better information on diets that he feels are under-represented in the current research databases.

Read Larry’s essay on KevinMD or learn more about his interests at Idea Mensch.


Kurt Hauser receives SNIP’s highest honor

Kurt F. Hauser, Ph.D.

Kurt F. Hauser, Ph.D.

Kurt F. Hauser, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology, accepted the Wybran Award from the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology at its 19th Scientific Conference on April 6 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Wybran Award is the highest honor bestowed by SNIP in recognition of the very best scientific contributions that have resulted in the preservation and expansion of the field of neuroimmune pharmacology.

The award carries the name of Joe Wybran, a renowned scientist whose work integrated the fields of neuroimmunology, drugs of abuse and immunity to infection. He was killed in 1989, and afterward the award was created to memorialize his scientific prestige in the field and serve as a remembrance of his contributions that underpin SNIP.


Dr. Leah Bush to step down as Chair of Legal Medicine Department

Leah Bush, M.D., has announced that she will step down from her position as Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner as well as from the responsibilities of the chair of the Legal Medicine Department in the VCU School of Medicine.

In an announcement to the medical school’s faculty, Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., commended Bush for her work as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s CME, a position she has held since 2008, during which she also served as Chair of Legal Medicine. Prior to her appointment as CME, Bush served for more than 18 years as Deputy Chief ME in the Tidewater District.

“I know that she felt it was her duty to speak on behalf of victims of crime,” Strauss said. “It was a responsibility that she carried with skill, energy and compassion. I am profoundly grateful that she also felt it her duty to support our educational programs. Perhaps that commitment had its start in her own medical training.” Bush earned her medical degree from the VCU School of Medicine in 1984 and stayed on the MCV Campus to complete residency training in pathology and legal medicine. She also earned a master’s degree in biology from the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.

Her tenure as chair and chief will end immediately, as she has pressing family responsibilities that require her attention. Bush will transition to the role of an Assistant Chief Medical Examiner for the Central District Office until her planned retirement in 2014. William Gormley, M.D., Ph.D., will take over as Acting Chief Medical Examiner while the Virginia Department of Health recruits Bush’s successor.

“I am grateful that Dr. Bush has agreed to stay on with the medical school in an adjunct faculty position and has offered her consultation and support to our school in her new role as Assistant Chief ME,” Strauss said. “Please join me in thanking her for her service to our school and to the Commonwealth and in wishing her well.”

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Updated: 04/29/2016