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August 2013 Archives


Women in Science receives the VCU Service Project of the Year


Each year, WIS hosts about 100 Girl Scouts on the MCV Campus to introduce them to the various scientific career options available to women.

Women in Science (WIS) received a boost this year when the organization was honored with VCU’s Outstanding Community Service Project of the Year award. WIS is a student organization committed to promoting science careers for young women.

WIS was recognized for its annual Girl Scouts Day project. At this year’s event, WIS hosted 100 Girl Scouts on the MCV Campus and coordinated with faculty and volunteers to produce various fun and creative scientific learning modules for their young visitors. The successful project focused on introducing young girls and their families to the various scientific career options available to women.

WIS doesn’t limit its club activities to youth outreach programs. The organization also promotes career development events for its members. This year, WIS is looking to repeat last fall’s wine and cheese mixer that provided graduate students with the opportunity meet and network with MCV faculty in a casual setting. It will be held on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013.

The group also hosted various seminars and fundraisers throughout the year. Seminars focused on professional development and covered topics ranging from career options after graduation and applying for a postdoctoral position to obtaining academic funding and grants.

According to Divya Padmanabha, the 2012-2013 WIS president, the upcoming goals of WIS will place a greater emphasis on promoting the career development of female scientists on the MCV Campus. Divya would be keen to see faculty play a greater role in meeting with, influencing and mentoring young female graduate students.

You can follow Women in Science on Facebook or plan to support their community service projects:

  • Food Drive: November 4-15, 2013
  • Toys for Tots: December 2-14, 2013

Trio of students intern with the World Health Organization

This summer, three medical students participated with the WHO internship program in Geneva, Switzerland:

The three are enrolled in the medical school’s International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program that recruits and prepares students who have an interest in and a commitment to practicing medicine in medically underserved areas. They found the I2CRP program had prepared them well for their summertime experiences.

WHO group

Braveen (far right), Mona (third from right) and Adrian (second from left) with their fellow WHO interns on a trip to the Alps. Photo courtesy of WHO intern Chenxi Yu.

“I2CRP provides students an important glimpse into a side of medicine traditionally not taught in the medical curriculum,” says Adrian. “Many of the topics we covered throughout the year – health care disparities, access to health care, universal coverage – were topics that were discussed at the World Health Assembly and even daily during informal lunch conversations with experts at the WHO.”

The students’ WHO internships coincided with the 66th World Health Assembly, where member states convene to establish global health needs and priorities. Adrian and Braveen’s WHO internships were both part of the Duke Global Health Fellows Program. Mona travelled as a Women’s Leadership Board Fellow of the Harvard Women and Public Policy Program.

“The I2CRP program faculty are extremely proud of the accomplishments of all of our I2CRP students,” said Steve Crossman, M.D., director of medical student education in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health. “Mona, Braveen and Adrian are superb examples of how passionate and committed our students are. They inspire and challenge all of us in our ongoing efforts to serve others.”

In Mona’s view, the I2CRP program tends to attract student-leaders who are not just passionate about doing good but truly driven to do what they can to eradicate injustice. In the program these idealists find a safe haven from cynicism. “I2CRP provides a community of like-minded peers and mentors where we can express and reinforce our motivations, our power to make a difference and our deep disdain for complacency and the status quo.”

The program exposes students to the hard realities and difficulties – as well as the rich rewards and potential for positive impact – that comes with practicing in underserved inner-city and rural communities, whether in Virginia or abroad. Mona’s views have been shaped through her third-year I2CRP clerkships in rural community surgery and Richmond community health centers and free clinics as well as VCU’s HOMBRE medical mission to the Dominican Republic.

Throughout his WHO internship, Braveen often thought back to clinical encounters he’d had with his I2CRP preceptor at a Richmond free clinic, CrossOver Healthcare Ministry. As he listened in on WHO discussions about global guidelines for alcohol abuse, violence against women or incorporating mental health into primary care, he realized “These are the narratives of people around the world in some of the poorest settings, but it hits me that they are the stories of patients I have seen in America as well.”

Mark Ryan, M.D., medical director of I2CRP, notes that students who join the program “are committing to extra work and additional obligations above the usual requirements of medical school in order to gain a broader understanding of healhcare inequities and medically marginalized communities. Mona, Adrian and Braveen, and many other I2CRP students working in the U.S. and overseas put this knowledge into action to better the health of communities and individuals.”

Adrian Diaz

Adrian Diaz

M2 Adrian Diaz at the 66th World Health Assembly. Hosted at the United Nations, it was just across the street from the World Health Organization’s Geneva headquarters where Adrian interned.

“I chose to intern at the tobacco free initiative for a few reasons,” says Adrian. “While infectious disease – HIV, TB, Malaria, etc. – is a hot topic, the big health issue of this century will be non-communicable disease, and tobacco is the common risk factor for the four big NCDs: cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory conditions.”

Adrian describes the summer as a rejuvenating experience. In the months before entering medical school, he traveled to Southeast Asia and Central America on humanitarian medical relief mission trips where he was confronted with lines of patients, from sunrise to sunset. “I was not disillusioned by what seemed like an endless amount of work, but rather by how a system had let down such a large number of people,” he explained in a first-person essay published on KevinMD.com.

During his first year of medical school, he was surprised to witness some of the same barriers. He wondered if the fight against healthcare disparities would ever be won.

But at his summer internship, he was privy to conversations and debates with leaders in global health. It had the result of convincing him that progress is being made for universal health care access, reducing health care disparities and eradicating many diseases through immunizations. “Diseases can spread faster than ever, while at the same time life-saving therapies can be delivered to areas we never before dreamed of. We are now practicing medicine in a globalized world.”

He hopes his career will encompass practicing medicine on both the domestic and global fronts, as well as research and public/global health.

“This fall I will be going back to my medical training eager to work towards these goals and rejuvenated knowing that one day the lines will start to get shorter, and patients will not only live longer lives, but healthier ones.”

Braveen Ragunanthan

Braveen Ragunanthan

M2 Braveen Ragunanthan carved out some time to explore Europe during his summer internship with the WHO, including a trip to the Alps. Photo courtesy of Braveen’s fellow WHO intern Chenxi Yu.

As part of his undergraduate studies at Duke, Braveen participated in the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. Through the program, he spent summers observing rural American poverty in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa, neglected tropical diseases in Ethiopia and AIDS policy work at the U.S. State Department.

These experiences formed the foundation of his understanding of global health, which he interprets—not in terms of geography – but as fighting health disparities and advocating for health equity. Over the course of his undergrad years, he says, “Global health went from an interest to my passion. It became my purpose, my mission and quest, it became why I get up in the morning, it became everything that I believe in.”

His WHO internship with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse was a deliberate choice to engage with a policy issue outside the realm of his previous experience.

“My daily interactions with people, ranging from folks with decades of experience to freshly-arrived interns from diverse backgrounds, were exhilarating,” says Braveen. His days were filled with learning about the latest development in global health, observing real-time policy decisions and meeting key leaders from around the world.

His work focused on next steps in the global agenda for developmental monitoring and evaluation in early childhood development. “Think baby milestones and such – when children crawl, talk, reflexes, etc.” Calling on experts from organizations like UNICEF, World Bank and UNESCO, Braveen worked to get a handle on what tools and instruments are used internationally and in individual countries to assess childhood development at the population level.

While interning, Braveen saw the passage of the landmark Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, representing a significant commitment by over 190 countries, some of whom had denied mental illness even existed in their respective countries 20 years ago.

Braveen plans a career as a primary care physician in a medically underserved community in the U.S. He envisions caring for his patients will take him outside his practice’s walls and into the neighborhood as an active community member involved with local schools, small businesses, grocery stories and faith-based institutions. “Disparities in health both within our nation’s borders and outside must be fought wherever they exist.”

Malkit “Mona” Singh

Malkit “Mona” Singh

M4 Malkit “Mona” Singh in Chamonix, France. Photo courtesy of Mona’s fellow WHO intern Chenxi Yu.

“I think we all have the power to do what we can, with what we have, to give others a chance,” says Mona. “I learned that from my parents.”

Her parents emigrated from rural India in the late 1970s. With only modest schooling, they learned to speak English working as a cashier at 7-Eleven and McDonald’s and as a janitor and taxi driver in D.C. “My mom and dad each worked multiple jobs to support – not just our family – but also poor relatives and friends. They taught me to value sewa (selfless service) and sarbat da bhalla (working for the common good) and to never forget my own privilege and power to serve.”

She had suspected that the WHO was not the place to exert that power. “To me, local and global are one in the same. There are serious inequities and injustices right here – all around us — and abroad. I had this picture of the WHO as this big bloated beast with good intentions but difficulty accomplishing the real work on the ground.”

A phone call with Meena Cherian, M.D., director of the WHO’s Emergency and Essential Surgical Care Program changed Mona’s mind. “Here was a WHO physician-leader who acknowledged there were barriers but was not going to let those frustrations stop the work of bringing parties together and mobilizing action for the poor.” She was inspired.

The WHO Emergency and Essential Surgical Care Program provides tools and works with health ministries and partners to improve access to lifesaving, disability-preventing surgical care in low- and middle- income countries. During her internship, Mona worked to further the program’s efforts to improve policy, planning and training as well as monitoring and evaluation for the delivery of emergency surgical, obstetric, trauma and anesthesia services in resource-poor settings.

The experience shaped her views on strengthening health care delivery for vulnerable women and victims of domestic violence in underserved settings. She shared her perspective in an essay published on KevinMD.com.

Mona is pursuing a dual degree, M.D.-M.P.A. She has just completed her two-year master’s in public administration at the Harvard Kennedy School as a Public Service Fellow in time to return to the MCV Campus for fourth year and begin the application process for general surgery residency.


Alumnus Kenneth Jones retires, is featured in the Roanoke Times

This summer, the Class of 1974’s Kenneth Jones retired from a 36-year career seeing patients in Christiansburg.

Jones has been a fixture in the Christiansburg community, treating three generations of some area families. His retirement was covered by the Roanoke Times in a story published on Aug. 11.

The article describes how his interest in medicine was sparked one summer when he worked as an orderly at Fairfax Hospital alongside the emergency room doctors.

“They were great,” he told the Roanoke Times reporter. “They knew exactly what to do — act quickly and decisively. Literally watching them save people’s lives — that’s what got me excited about medicine.”

When he earned his medical degree in 1974, he says, the concept of a family doctor was new. It appealed to him.

The Ronaoke Times story quotes Jones: “I just kind of felt like a family doctor would have more opportunity to really make a difference in people’s lives and make more permanent relationships.”

He honed his skills training with Epes Harris, M.D., co-founder of the Blackstone Family Practice Center, a premier teaching facility that produced approximately 200 family physicians, most of whom went on to practice in rural areas.

The Roanoke Times story chronicles his career, including a fire in 1996 that forced him to rebuild his practice site, and his commitment to the Christiansburg community that led him to spearhead a fundraising effort to put lights on the Christiansburg High School baseball field to make night games possible.

Of his retirement, he told the paper: “I wanted to go out while I still felt like I was still strong, still making good decisions,” Jones said. “It’s very taxing being a family doctor for a long time because it’s a lot of stress and a lot of stuff you have to keep learning, and I just didn’t want to lose my edge.”

Read more about his career in the Roanoke Times article.


M3 Katy Skimming to serve on AMA council guiding physicians’ ethical conduct

Katy Skimming, M3

Katy Skimming, M3

The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics is considered by many to be the most comprehensive ethics guide for physicians. To ensure that it is responsive to contemporary issues, the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs serves as its steward. Each year, the council reviews a wide variety of professional issues facing physicians and makes recommendations on how physicians should conduct themselves.

Katy Skimming, a member of the Class of 2015, has been selected for a two‐year term on the council. She will serve in the medical student position alongside seven practicing physicians and a resident.

“Last year I served on the American Medical Association’s Medical Student Section Committee on Bioethics and Humanities,” Katy said. “I wanted to continue to be more involved in the AMA and applied for the position.” She was selected by the current AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, M.D., and her appointment was approved by the AMA House of Delegates this summer.

Katy was first exposed to ethics studies as an undergraduate at the University of Richmond where she took her first courses in Health Care Ethics and Leadership Ethics.

“I became very interested in the field and its application to medicine and health care,” said Katy, who wrote her Leadership Studies honors thesis on whether or not physicians have a moral obligation to practice a healthy lifestyle. Before enrolling in medical school, she continued her studies in ethics and earned a master’s degree in bioethics from New York University.

“The summer between my first and second year of medical school, I interned with the New York Department of Health’s Task Force on Life and the Law. I worked on an ongoing project regarding recommendations for the allocation of ventilators in a pandemic. It was very exciting to see how ethical theories and discussions can be applied to medical research in order to make policy recommendations.”

In addition to developing timely and practical guidance for physicians, the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs also has responsibility for peer review and disciplinary action when AMA members or applicants for membership are alleged to have engaged in improper conduct. As the student member, Katy will participate in the judicial process, but will only vote on decisions regarding medical students.

Katy will attend council meetings four times a year as well as teleconference meetings that are called as the need arises. Her first teleconference meeting is scheduled in August.


Faculty duo author first handbook focused on polytrauma

David X. Cifu, M.D.

David X. Cifu, M.D.

David X. Cifu, M.D., and Henry L. Lew, M.D., Ph.D., have authored the Handbook of Polytrauma Care and Rehabilitation. Due out in September 2013, the handbook is described as a practical, pocket-sized manual featuring real-world care for common medical and psychological problems seen by patients with multiple disabling injuries.

Polytrauma patients, such as soldiers injured in combat, often present with a myriad of problems and conditions including traumatic brain injury, concussion, spinal cord injury, amputation and PTSD. They may also face other medical and psychological issues such as depression, insomnia, alcohol and substance abuse, dizziness and light sensitivity as well as work and family issues. Cifu and Lew’s handbook offers a roadmap on how to initiate and follow through the continuum of successful patient care.

Henry L. Lew, M.D., Ph.D.

Henry L. Lew, M.D., Ph.D.

Shaping systems of care for polytrauma patients is a priority for Cifu who is chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and its Herman J. Flax, M.D. Professor. He also serves as national director of the PM&R Program Office and a member of the Senior Executive Staff for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is the principal investigator or co-PI on research grants totaling more than $25 million and has more than 165 articles, 65 abstracts, and 20 books and book chapters to his credit.

His co-author, Lew, is an adjunct professor in VCU’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and a professor at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine. In the past decade, Lew has received multiple federal grants supporting his study of the diagnosis and rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury and its comorbidities, including cognitive, communicative and musculoskeletal/pain issues. He has published more than 100 scientific articles and nine book chapters on his work and serves as a consultant for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.


M2 Brent Turner named to board of Medical Students for Choice

Brent Turner

Brent Turner, M2

The Class of 2016’s Brent Turner is serving a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the international non-profit organization Medical Students for Choice.

The organization is dedicated to ensuring medical students and residents obtain comprehensive education in reproductive health by providing both didactic resources and opportunities for hands-on training.

“I first got involved with the organization at a national conference in Baltimore while I was completing my master’s at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,” Brent said. During his first year of medical school, he was co-president of VCU’s Medical Students for Choice chapter with the Class of 2015’s Jerrine Morris.

“Together we hosted VCU’s first annual Virginia Capitol Choice Symposium, which brought together 50 medical student attendees from across the state.”

Brent recently completed the American Medical Student Association’s National Sexual Health Scholars Program. He was one of 26 medical students selected from across the U.S. to learn how to effectively communicate with patients about sexual health. The program encourages students to share the knowledge and skills they gain with their classmates at their home medical schools.

Brent serves on Medical Students for Choice’s Finance Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and Social Media Task Force. He plans to attend the organization’s 20th Anniversary and Conference on Family Planning in November in Denver, along with third-year student Jerrine Morris and second-year student Audrey Bowes.

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Updated: 04/29/2016