Jump to content
Placeholder image for header
School of Medicine discoveries

November 2014 Archives


Student scientists’ parody video “We Found Drugs” perfect prescription for research retreat

Jacy and Andrew

M.D.-Ph.D. student Andrew Van Der Vaart and Ph.D. student Jacy Jacob

Ever wonder what an anthem to neuropharmacology sounds like? If you guessed a remixed Rihanna song featuring two student scientists, you’re right.

M.D.-Ph.D. student Andrew Van Der Vaart and Ph.D. student Jacy Jacob were tasked with entertaining students at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology’s recent research retreat. They decided to write, record and film the parody music video “We Found Drugs” that has been attracting attention across the MCV Campus and social media.

The video, by all accounts, was an instant success. When played at the retreat, it received a standing ovation just “30 seconds in,” according to Jacy. It racked up nearly 1,000 YouTube views in a single day. And the Dean of the School of Medicine, Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., and other faculty reportedly had a good laugh when they saw it at a recent meeting.

Jacy, the video’s star, nearly dropped the project before it began. Luckily an early morning email from Andrew with the song’s chorus “We found drugs in synaptic space” inspired her, and she wrote the verses in just a few hours. After about eight hours of filming and a couple recording sessions in Andrew’s impromptu home music studio, “We Found Drugs” was finished.

While the video has certainly enjoyed wide popularity, it does include a couple jokes that only pharmacology and toxicology insiders will get. The first is the celebrity cameo by Michael Miles, M.D., Ph.D., a pharmacology and toxicology professor, who, according to Andrew, is a strong supporter of the scientific parody video genre. The other joke requires a keener eye for detail and a pharmacological sense of humor. The video mocks the often difficult to remember names of designer drugs by inventing a few of its own, from the almost-believable “Gliditizaglib” to the not-quite-as-believable “Cinnamonnanabun.”

Andrew and Jacy are debating the next step for their video. As “We Found Drugs” continues to collect YouTube views and Facebook shares, they are considering entering it into some competitions, such as the “Lab Grammys,” where it could win even greater acclaim. For now, Andrew and Jacy are content with having created their own anthem of neuropharmacology and having had a little fun along the way.

By Jack Carmichael

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-353PU_JJY&w=560&h=315]


Saving football: neuroscientist Ray Colello’s research garners nationwide media attention

Ray Colello

Ray Colello, Ph.D.

Could lightweight, rare earth magnets reduce the force of a head-to-head collision on the football field?

That’s the question that’s occupying Ray Colello, Ph.D., this NFL season.

“Helmet to helmet collisions are considered one of the primary means by which concussions occur in football,” says the associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, who’s also an avid football fan. “Repeated concussions can lead to severe brain disease, and the average collegiate football player will take over 500 hits to the head over a season of games and practices.”

On Nov. 15, he presented findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience showing neodymium magnets can generate repulsive forces of over 300-fold their weight that could be used to reduce the impact forces generated during helmet-to-helmet collision.

The proposition has caught the interest of the science press and, in the days following his presentation, he’s done more than two dozen interviews with news outlets like NPR, the journal Science and Scientific American.

Colello’s research has been supported by the VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund. His next step will be to field-test the magnets by fitting them inside football helmets worn by crash-test dummies.

Such tests could mimic the indirect hits and rotational forces that come into play in a football game. “We don’t want to trade concussions with spinal cord injuries,” Colello told the journal Science.

Read more about Colello’s discovery.



Housestaff alumnus Jeffrey Lamont named Wisconsin’s Pediatrician of the Year

Jeffrey Lamont

Jeffrey Lamont, H’82, has been named Pediatrician of the Year by the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (WIAPP). It is the chapter’s most prestigious honor.

Lamont has practiced in Wisconsin for 30 years, and his work in school health on behalf of WIAAP has also earned a national Award of Excellence from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Dr. Lamont is a central member of our chapter and a vocal advocate for children and their physicians,” said James Meyer, M.D., Wisconsin chapter president. “He is instrumental in making connections with our state public health initiatives, especially in the domain of school health, where his involvement has raised the bar of excellence in training and education for school health personnel.”

Lamont has served as WIAPP’s School Health Chair for over a decade and this year completed his tenure as immediate past president of the chapter. He serves the national AAP in his role on the National Nominating Committee.

“There is a lot of good work being done by a lot of Wisconsin pediatricians year in and year out,” Lamont said. “To be recognized in this way by our professional organization is about as nice a surprise as one could ask for.”

Lamont has been interested in school health for many years, working with the AAP, the state of Wisconsin and local schools.

“I have never forgotten the quality of the people I had the privilege to work with at MCV,” Lamont said. “The education I received was superb, not only in terms of hard medical knowledge but in terms of what it truly means to be a children’s physician. The faculty set a tone, a standard of conduct, that one tried to live up to.

“To this day, I’ll find myself facing a clinical dilemma and thinking of how this or that faculty member would respond to what I’m contemplating at the time. It was the frequent citing of the work of the American Academy of Pediatrics by MCV faculty, particularly Dr. Edwin Kendig, that got me involved with the AAP in the first place.”

Lamont is medical advisor for three school districts as well as Marathon County Special Education. He served from 2006-12 on the AAP’s Executive Committee of the Council on School Health and was lead author of the revision of the AAP policy statement on Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion, published in February 2013. He also was a contributing author to AAP’s published manual and course, Pediatric First Aid for Caregivers and Teachers.

“I feel that schools are extensions and reflections of the communities they serve and should be supported as such,” Lamont said. “School health is best addressed by a full range of resources — clinics, specialty organizations, school districts and state and local government — working together to identify problems and solutions and not trying to make them the responsibility of any one entity.”

Lamont is a strong believer in involving and educating parents as well. He’s been known to turn treating a child’s earache into an opportunity to build trusting relationships: “I use teaching otoscopes, which lets the parent see what I see when I examine the child’s ear.”

Lamont has worked with Marathon County Special Education to develop the School Health Skills Day workshop for school personnel who are called upon to provide health and nursing care to students, including those with special health needs. He also serves on the Board of the Foundation of Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital, which supports the hospital’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. The SANE program recently presented data indicating the majority of women served by the program are younger than age 18. He also has been active for many years in the American Heart Association Pediatric Advanced Life Support program. Currently serving as an instructor and as regional faculty, he credits his involvement with PALS to the influence of John Mickell, M.D., who was the director of the Pediatric ICU during his residency.

After moving to Wisconsin, Lamont practiced first with the Wausau Medical Center, an independent multi-specialty clinic. In 1997, the WMC merged with the Marshfield Clinic, and Lamont has practiced with the Marshfield Clinic in Weston since then.


90th birthday party a chance to celebrate the remarkable career of Farrar W. Howard, M’53


Many with ties to the medical school were on hand for Howard’s party, including: (standing, left-to-right) Anup Gokli M.D., assistant clinical professor with the Department of Family Medicine; James Darden M’58, H’63; Wyatt Beazley M’61, H’66; James Wickham M’60; and (seated) Michelle Whitehurst-Cook M79, H’82 with Doc Howard.

Farrar W. Howard, M’53, celebrated his 90th birthday last fall, which gave many members of the MCV Campus community the opportunity to reflect on his remarkable career.

After a nearly 35-year career practicing medicine in central Virginia, Howard has collected a lot of friends, stories and memories. The more than 500 guests at his birthday party are testimony to the strength of his connections – including those on the MCV Campus.

Howard started off with one country office and a lot of area to cover: from 1956 to 1980, he was the only physician between Sandston in eastern Henrico and Williamsburg, about 40 miles further east. To cover such large area and serve such a wide range of patients, Howard relied on his endurance, dedication and sense of humor.

“I guess I was a racehorse type of individual,” Howard said during an interview in 1993 with Hampton Road’s Daily Press newspaper. Back in the early days of his practice he could see as many as 100 patients a day and worked nearly every day of the week.

When flu season started, he would often go days without sleeping to make sure everyone was taken care of. He recalled a particularly bad season in which he managed to see nearly 500 patients in his office in addition to countless house calls over the course of just a few days. His wife had given him a new pair of pants that Friday, but by Tuesday, he said, “I had worn the seat right out of them britches. You could see my shorts shining through it.”

Howard’s personal doctor had a different view of his work he says: “You’re a man of excesses.”

Throughout the years Howard added more practice locations in eastern Virginia and relied on alumni from the MCV Campus to staff them. Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M’79, H’82, now the medical school’s associate dean for admissions, got her first job with Howard after completing her residency. She was joined by many other medical school graduates, among them Dennis Thomas, M’79, H’82, Cheryl Jordon, M’87, H’90, Shane Kraus, M’78, John Kowalski, H’84, and Charles Sparrow, M’85, H’88, to name just a few.

Whitehust-Cook remembers Howard’s work ethic as well as his ability to slow down and relax. “Because he covered such a large area for such a long time, he helped deliver generations of babies for different families.” Howard’s work ethic wasn’t limited to medicine: “He had a 500-acre tree farm in Charles City county that he won awards for,” including being named the National Tree Farm of the year in 1987 by the American Forestry Association.

Every August, however, Howard “went off for vacation on a tug-boat that was owned and captained by one of Howard’s patients and close friends. This “tug-boat” time allowed Howard the rare chance to slow down, to read and be peaceful, disconnected from the world,” a time that allowed him to prepare for another year of grueling work.

You won’t hear any recollections about rest or peacefulness from Howard – he’s more interested in talking about splitting wood to keep a patient warm while she gave birth, or how he used to run into patients around town and lay them down on the hood of his car to give them their shots. These days Howard has a big audience for his stories- he has six children, 16 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and Jeannette, his wife of 64 years. Although his rambunctious days of practicing medicine are over, Howard’s presence can still be felt in the communities and people he touched during his career, both on the MCV Campus and in central Virginia.

By Jack Carmichael


Class of 1941’s Arthur Kirk honored for lifetime of philanthropy

Graphic: AFP Association of Fundraising Professionals VA, Hampton Roads Chapter, Arthur A. Kirk, MD, Outstanding Individual Philanthropist

Watch the Association of Fundraising Professionals Hampton Roads Chapter’s 7-minute video honoring Arthur A. Kirk, M’41, as the chapter’s Outstanding Philanthropist for 2014. Video produced by Thomas Redmond.

Arthur A. Kirk, M’41, has been named the 2014 Outstanding Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Hampton Roads Chapter. This award recognizes Kirk’s lifelong devotion to serving others and his support for Virginia’s medical and educational institutions.

After graduating from MCV in 1941, Kirk completed his internship at Walter Reed and was then called on to serve his country as part of the 7th Army and 82nd Airborne during World War II. His actions during this time were early examples of the selfless compassion that would characterize his life. While stationed in Europe, he intervened on behalf of the survivors from the Ludwigslust concentration camp the Germans had deserted. Decades later, he can still recall exact details about how quickly his work increased survival rates among the nearly 1,000 former prisoners.

Upon returning home Kirk began practicing in Portsmouth, where he resides today. In Portsmouth, Kirk is known for serving his community for over 40 years at his orthopaedic practice and as team physician for local high school football and basketball teams. He is a co-founder of the Kirk-Cone Rehabilitation Center for Children, which for 60 years has served children with crippling diseases who are unable to attend school. Kirk volunteered his time, resources and expertise to the center, leading one resident to remark, “everybody in Portsmouth knows Dr. Kirk because of the good he’s done.”

Outside of Portsmouth, as well, Kirk is recognized as a devoted philanthropist. He has been a longtime supporter of his alma maters, the Southeast Virginia Community Foundation and many other causes. He’s also given of his time and expertise on several long-term medical mission trips to Afghanistan and Indonesia to help treat the sick in those countries.

Throughout his life, Kirk has given back in both small and big ways. His children, Russell and Ann, witnessed their father’s small, countless acts of philanthropy. One of Ann’s earliest memories is of the time her father brought home two Dutch sailors for dinner because they didn’t have anywhere else to go. Russell, who fondly recalls Sunday drives with their father to plant trees on the side of the road, says his father “has been doing good for people ever since I can remember.” One of the latest examples of his philanthropy was a bit larger in scale when Kirk donated $100,000 to buy state-of-the-art mammography equipment at Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View.

His community says the title of Outstanding Philanthropist is well deserved. And Kirk? He says that this award “is a good finale to a long life.”

By Jack Carmichael


#GreatGood: Ph.D. student’s research explores social media

Chair of surgery

Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D. student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Health

Like many graduate students, Jeanine Guidry approached her thesis project with apprehension and perhaps a little dread. Who, after all, enjoys countless hours of research?

“Apparently me!” Jeanine said with a laugh. “As I was working on my thesis, I realized I loved it.”

So much so that after earning her master’s in strategic communications from George Washington University, she decided to pursue a Ph.D. She is on pace to graduate in 2018 from the medical school’s Department of Social and Behavioral Health.

“I’m loving everything about it so far,” Jeanine said. “I’ve always had a real passion for nonprofits and helping people who are struggling in life.”

Jeanine’s area of focus is on the use of social media and mobile technology in health communication, as well as the use of social media among nonprofits. Her recent work analyzes how the public uses social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to communicate their experiences, fears and thoughts on such timely topics as vaccines, depression and Ebola.

Pinterest users, for example, pair text and graphics, like the person who expressed just how debilitating depression can be: “I lost myself somewhere in the darkness.”

“The range of experiences and the range of topics is incredibly broad,” Jeanine said. “Health affects all of us, and it affects all of us differently. With social media, we can express that in a totally new way.”

Chair of surgery

Jeanine’s research examines how the public uses social media like Pinterest to communicate their experiences, fears and thoughts on such timely topics as vaccines, depression and Ebola.

She presented her paper “Framing Public Health Issues with Images: How Pinterest Tells Stories of Depression” at the Digital Disruption to Journalism and Mass Communication Theory Conference in Brussels, Belgium, on October 3. She presented another paper about vaccines over the summer in Montreal.

“More people than ever are getting information from social media platforms like Twitter and Pinterest, and it’s imperative that we as researchers understand how this type of information exchange is affecting public opinion and knowledge of public health issues,” said Jeanine’s advisor, Kellie E. Carlyle, Ph.D., assistant professor and graduate program director. “Jeanine’s research into understanding how public health issues are portrayed in social media gives public health researchers the information needed to design effective messages that promote healthy behaviors.”

Jeanine would not be able to conduct her research, she said, without the support and encouragement of Marcus Messner, Ph.D., associate professor at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Jeanine is an affiliate graduate researcher with the School’s Center for Media+Health.

“They make what I do possible,” she said.

At 47, Jeanine is not your typical student. She grew up in the Netherlands and earned her bachelor’s and first master’s in health sciences from Maastricht University. She moved to the United States in 1991, met her future husband Chris and married in 1997. She has worked in community development and with nonprofits since.

Chair of surgery

Even as she works toward her Ph.D., Jeanine is the lead singer for the Offering, a band that plays for organizations that can’t afford to hire musicians. She also is the executive director for Arts in the Alley, a Richmond-based nonprofit that turns rundown streets into works of art through murals. “My days are incredibly fulfilling,” Jeanine said. “I love what I do.”

Jeanine is looking forward to tackling her dissertation on social media’s changing landscape. While Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest may be three of the most popular platforms today, it could be very different by the time she finishes her dissertation.

“Just look at Pinterest,” Jeanine said. “People at first thought it was just a visual platform, but it’s amazing to see how people talk about their struggles with depression or their fears of Ebola. Who knows what’s next.”

Many people turn to social media not only for information, but for support in dealing with a chronic illness or the loss of a loved one.

“We don’t know what platforms will be popular in a few years,” Jeanine said. “Social media is developing at such breakneck speed. There are so many conversations happening out there that we can get involved in and use social media for great good.”

Did you know?

  • Facebook has more than 1 billion active users
  • Twitter users send 500 million tweets every day
  • 23 percent of Pinterest’s 70 million total consumers use it at least once a day
  • 70 percent of Snapchat users are female
  • 23 percent of teens consider Instagram their favorite social network
  • 12 million-plus people blog via social networks

Courtesy SocialTimes.com

By Janet Showalter

Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine
Contact us
Contact webmaster
Updated: 04/29/2016