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School of Medicine discoveries

May 2014 Archives


Cheifetz authors timely classification system for regional campuses in premier journal for medical educators


Craig Cheifetz, M.D., F.A.C.P.

Faced with forecasts of serious physician shortages, the Association of American Medical Colleges called on U.S. medical schools for a 30 percent increase in enrollment by the year 2016. Half of that growth has already occurred.

Much of the expansion has been accomplished through the growth of regional medical campuses – campuses geographically separate from the medical school’s main campus. Often, RMCs have missions that differ from their main campus, especially in the areas of rural and community medicine. Up to now, there has been no an easy-to-use classification system to make those distinctions.

For the past two years, Craig Cheifetz, M.D., F.A.C.P., has chaired the AAMC’s Group on Regional Medical Campuses. The GRMC is the national body representing regional medical campuses throughout the U.S. and Canada. In that role, he has led development of a system that classifies RMCs into one of four models—basic science, clinical, longitudinal or combined.

He describes the process in the May issue of the Academic Medicine, the premier journal for medical educators.

The classification system will pave the way for research into RMCs’ impact on medical education. Even questions as basic as the number of RMCs and whether they are growing or shrinking in number have been difficult to answer until now.

“The utility of the definition is in its simplicity and the practical ways in which it can be used in future research,” writes Cheifetz in the report: Regional Medical Campuses: A New Classification System.

The first research study using the classification system is expected later this year. Deans were asked to apply the classification system to their own RMCs and to provide information ranging from student and faculty affairs to medical education and finances.

Cheifetz, who is associate dean for medical education at the VCU School of Medicine, has overseen the development of the medical school‘s Inova Campus since its earliest stages. Each year, two dozen third-year and two dozen fourth-year medical students train at the branch campus at Inova Fairfax Hospital.


Microscopic images from 5 with medical school ties are featured in exhibit: Through the Looking Glass

Anders Hånell

Anders Hånell’s winning image, capturing a mouse’s traumatic brain injury (click to enlarge)

A new exhibit at the Tompkins-McCaw Library features microscopic images created by VCU students, faculty and staff including five from the medical school. The exhibit, “Through the Looking Glass,” will be on display through Dec. 31.

The exhibit’s 24 images were chosen from 40 submissions by a panel of judges from VCU’s biomedical engineering and clinical laboratory sciences, led by Scott Henderson, Ph.D., director of the Microscopy Facility in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.

The panel also awarded three prizes on the basis of aesthetic appeal, technical skill and scientific significance.

The winning submission, by Anders Hånell, a postdoctoral scholar in anatomy and neurobiology, is an image of a traumatic brain injury in a mouse.

“The axon in the center of the image, the long slender yellow structure going from the center to the bottom right corner, has a swelling near the center of the image,” Hånell said. “At this point the swelling is only seen as a modest increase in the diameter, but they expand over time and eventually cause the axon to disconnect. Since the swelling and eventual disconnect occurs after the actual injury, in theory, it is possible to prevent it, but so far there are no treatments which can do this.”

Anders Hånell

Anders Hånell

Other medical school scientists whose images were selected for display are:

  • Ema Dragoescu, M.D., an assistant professor of pathology
  • Rebecca Martin, Ph.D. student, microbiology and immunology
  • Carmen Sato-Bigbee, Ph.D., an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Shilpa Singh, student, biochemistry and molecular biology

You can read more about the exhibit Through the Looking Glass.


Paul Wehman lets his voice be heard

Edith Mitchell

Paul Wehman, Ph.D.

In a pair of recently published op-ed columns, Paul Wehman, Ph.D., writes about the challenge and necessity of helping those with autism find meaningful, gainful employment.

It’s a subject he knows well. He pioneered the development of supported employment at VCU in the early 1980s and has been heavily involved in its use with people who have severe disabilities, such as those with severe intellectual disabilities, brain injury, spinal cord injury or autism.

In “Employing People with Autism,” published by the Washington Post on April 3, Wehman tells the story of Sean:

“Sean was born at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Va., and spent many weeks of his young life in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. Today, 20 years later, he is a handsome young man with a brilliant smile, and he is back in the same pediatric intensive care unit. Now, however, he is serving a 10-week internship stocking nursing stations, sanitizing supplies and verifying patient information on charts.”

Sean participates in one of Wehman’s ongoing studies, and Wehman outlines its findings in his column: participants’ increased independence, their success in securing employment with wages that ring in 24 percent higher than Virginia’s minimum wage.

In the Richmond Times-Dispatch column, “Autism and (Un)Employment,” published on April 30, Wehman points out that those with autism could be an untapped resource in answering the nation’s unemployment woes.

“They hold gifts that are not fully realized by the public — yet,” he writes.

Wehman’s program partners with VCU Medical Center and Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital, where “there is a high demand for accuracy and cleanliness. Persons with autism can provide unique attention to the detail required.”

The program’s success was highlighted in a Wall Street Journal article published on May 20: Adults With Autism Find New Source for Job Interview Advice.

Wehman is a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and is the director of the VCU Rehabilitation Research and Training Center. He has written, co-authored or edited 42 commercially published books and written over 200 journal articles. He is on several editorial boards and has been Editor of the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation for 18 years. He has been the principal investigator of more than $70 million worth of federal grants since being at VCU. Wehman is the parent of two children with disabilities.


New curriculum and McGlothlin MEC featured in RAMifications

Edith Mitchell

Isaac K. Wood, M.D.

The spring issue of the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s quarterly newsletter features extensive coverage of the medical school’s new curriculum and the modern McGlothlin Medical Education Center that makes it possible.

The article highlights the philosophy and planning behind the curriculum changes as well as the new innovative courses that have been introduced.

“We could not find anything that we felt consistently fit our needs,” Isaac K. Wood, M.D., senior associate dean for Medical Education and Student Affairs, told the reporter. “So we had to come up with something new.”

The newsletter will be in the mail to RAM members soon. Meanwhile, the RAMifications spring issue is available on their website.


Alumnus Cliff Deal’s military service is featured in Richmond Academy of Medicine newsletter


Cliff Deal (first row, 2nd from left) with members of the 945th Forward Surgical Team at FOB Apache’s trauma center in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.

In December 2013, alumnus Clifford L. Deal III, M.D., returned stateside from his most recent tour of duty: a four-month-long deployment as a combat surgeon in Afghanistan. His experiences are chronicled in the spring issue of the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s quarterly newsletter as the first of a series of articles about Academy members’ military service.

Deal serves as chairman of the Department of Surgery at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital and as a clinical assistant professor in the Division of Trauma and Critical Care Surgery at the VCU Medical Center. The RAMifications article describes his service with the trauma unit as “invaluable to his work as a combat surgeon.”

Deal told the interviewer: “Continuing to do that while I practice saved me while I was in Afghanistan and absolutely led to the saving of some lives, because I had that experience.”

In addition to his status as clinical assistant professor, Deal has multiple ties to the medical school. He earned both his medical degree and a master’s from the medical school, in 2000 and 1995 respectively. He also completed his surgery residency training on the MCV Campus.

You can read more in the RAMifications article that describes his time at a forward operating base Apache that served as headquarters of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in a mountainous valley in eastern Afghanistan.


Collaboration between Arts and Medicine wins Quest Innovation Funds


Aaron Anderson, Ph.D.

The latest round of VCU’s Quest Innovation Fund awards supports 15 projects, including one that builds on the ongoing health-focused interdisciplinary collaboration between the School of the Arts and the School of Medicine.

The project is an Arts-Health Fellows program conceived by Aaron Anderson, Ph.D., who is an associate professor and associate chair of VCU’s Department of Theatre. He is also founding director of VCU’s new standardized patient program that’s run in conjunction with the medical school’s Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety and housed in the new McGlothlin Medical Education Center.

The program is the first in the country to use arts and medicine equally in developing innovative solutions to the challenges facing our health care system. It aims to form sustainable research collaborations between the two VCU campuses.

The program provides structured mentorship, contacts and financial support for four projects (two for faculty and two for students) to deploy arts in health care. This year’s fellows and research partners include:

  • Laura Chessin (Department of Graphic Design) – working with Kirsten Olsen (Centering Pregnancy administrator) and RaShel Charles (VCU Institute for Women’s Health)
  • Adrienne Enriquez (Communication Arts / Scientific and Medical Illustration) – working with VCU’s Children’s Hospital of Richmond / Center of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism
  • Jamie Moore M.D., (Department of Otolaryngology / Head and Neck Surgery) – working with Cynthia Donnell (Department of Music / Voice)
  • Morgan Yacoe (Department of Sculpture) – working with Jennifer Rhodes, M.D., (reconstructive pediatric plastic surgeon), Ellen Brock, M.D., (Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and medical director of the Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety), and Amelia Grover, M.D. (Division of Surgical Oncology)

Read more about the Arts-Health Fellows program in the quarterly e-newsletter “Quest in Action,” which features the faculty, staff and students who’ve won Quest Innovation Fund awards.

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Updated: 04/29/2016