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February 2015 Archives

22
2015

Annual brunch gives donors, students a chance to celebrate $1.8 million in scholarships

Ben Lindsey

The Class of 2015’s Ben Lindsey was chosen to speak on behalf of his fellow students at the MCV Foundation’s annual scholarship brunch. He told the assembled donors, “Your confidence in us is an incredibly inspiring gift and we hope to one day be in your shoes, giving back to MCV.”

See more photos from the MCV Foundation’s Scholarship Brunch. Photo credit: Chris Ijams, CSI Studios, LLC.

Students, alumni, faculty and friends from the MCV Campus recently gathered at the MCV Foundation Scholarship Brunch to celebrate the outstanding financial support given to students across the campus each year.

The event provides an opportunity for students and donors to get to know each other, as scholarship recipients thank donors for their generosity and donors have the pleasure of hearing what a difference their gifts have made. This year’s brunch included 127 donors and 142 students from across the MCV Campus, all of whom had a connection to the over $1.8 million paid out in scholarships and awards this year.

This past year’s numbers are impressive: 325 endowed scholarships, 431 students who receive financial aid and three dozen new scholarships established. But the brunch offers a chance to look beyond the numbers to the real reason for the donors’ generosity: the students. This year’s event featured a speech by fourth-year medical student Ben Lindsey, who holds the Kinloch Nelson Scholarship.

Ben told the audience that his scholarship gave him a sense of tradition, power and confidence that he will continue to carry even after he leaves the MCV Campus. His scholarship is named after Kinloch Nelson, M.D., the beloved Dean of Medicine who is credited with starting the school’s Department of Family Practice and for whom the Nelson Clinic is named.

Ben described looking around the campus and seeing signs of Dr. Nelson’s legacy everywhere, including within himself.

Kinloch Nelson, M’98 and his wife Melissa Nelson, M’98

Kinloch Nelson, M’98, and his wife Melissa Nelson, M’98, attended the scholarship brunch to meet the Class of 2015’s Ben Lindsey who holds a scholarship that memorializes the former Dean of Medicine Kinloch Nelson, M.D. The Class of 1998’s Nelson is a descendant of Dean Nelson.

See more photos from the MCV Foundation’s Scholarship Brunch. Photo credit: Chris Ijams, CSI Studios, LLC.

“It is both incredibly humbling and motivating to realize that I maintain the support of this legacy through the Kinloch Nelson scholarship,” he said. “Through legacies like the Nelsons’, the scholarships we receive are far more valuable than their intrinsic monetary worth.”

Ben also took the opportunity to talk about the strength of the MCV Campus’ alumni network. Before coming to the School of Medicine, Ben worked as a medical scribe in Charlottesville, Va. He noted that “Many of the residents with whom I worked during that job had attended medical school at MCV. They tended to be the most competent residents and they raved about the clinical experience they had received while attending MCV for medical school. Thus, it was my interaction with these MCV alumni and my desire for an unparalleled clinical experience that convinced me to aim for MCV.”

The School of Medicine’s alumni have continued to impress him as he looks beyond graduation this spring. Ben just finished interviewing for residency positions, a process that took him to hospitals and academic medical centers across the country. He was happy to find that everywhere he interviewed there were connections to the MCV Campus and alumni were excited to meet him and help out however they could.

These stories about the impact of scholarships and the importance of active alumni are what make the brunch such a success. Students like Ben show donors the real results of their generosity and how scholarships mean much more than financial aid. The brunch is also meaningful for students, as they get to better understand the legacies that the scholarships represent. As Ben said at the close of his speech to the assembled donors, “You have indescribably enhanced our time as students here at MCV. Your confidence in us is an incredibly inspiring gift and we hope to one day be in your shoes, giving back to MCV.”

By Jack Carmichael

21
2015

Internal Medicine’s Larry Schwartz honored by AAAAI for contributions to science

Lawrence B. Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D.

Lawrence B. Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D.

Lawrence B. Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D., has been honored by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology with its Distinguished Scientist Award. The AAAAI board of directors unanimously selected Schwartz for the award that was bestowed at the AAAAI annual meeting in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 21.

The AAAAI award was given to recognize how he has advanced the treatment of allergic disease though his ground-breaking contributions to understanding the mechanisms and significance of mast cells.

As a result of his research, physicians throughout the world are now able to test a patient’s blood for tryptase, a protease enzyme, preferentially expressed by mast cells. His assay for tryptase is now used throughout the world to facilitate the diagnosis of systemic mastocytosis (a WHO criterion and FDA approved for this purpose), uncovering this disorder in many patients for whom this problem might otherwise have remained undiagnosed. The assay is also used to help diagnose mast cell-dependent systemic anaphylaxis; to monitor mast cell cytoreductive therapy; and to assess anaphylactic risk in patients who are sensitive to insect venom. Until Schwartz identified tryptase, there was no reliable and robust method to screen for mastocytosis with a blood test or to identify mast cell activation in allergic reactions.

On the medical school’s faculty since 1983, Schwartz is the Charles and Evelyn Thomas Professor of Medicine and chair of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology. Schwartz’s research had been funded continuously by the NIH for more than 30 years, including a MERIT award in 1990 and as PI of NIH’s Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center at VCU in 2008. Author of more than 350 publications, Schwartz is one of the most highly cited researchers in his field. He has been recognized by VCU with awards for research and innovation; election to honorary societies, i.e., the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and to leadership positions, including chair of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, of the Clinical Immunology Society and of NIH study sections.

19
2015

Tony Kuzel takes presidency of Association of Departments of Family Medicine

Anton Kuzel, M.D,. M.H.P.E.

Anton Kuzel, M.D,. M.H.P.E.

Anton Kuzel, M.D,. M.H.P.E., was installed as president of the Association of Departments of Family Medicine during the organization’s annual winter meeting in Savannah, Ga. in February. Kuzel is a professor and the Harris-Mayo Chair in Family Medicine and Population Health in the School of Medicine.

At the meeting, he delivered the first address of his one-year tenure, taking the opportunity to focus on the importance of the triple aim of better health, better care and better value through lower costs.

“Changing how primary care is financed – moving away from fee-for-service towards comprehensive primary care capitation – will be essential for primary care to reach its full potential in helping us achieve the triple aim,” Kuzel told his audience. “Large, self-insured employers are already doing direct contracting with primary care practices because their workforce ends up being healthier, more productive and less costly in terms of health care. I see them as our natural partners to achieve true health care reform in the U.S.”

The ADFM represents chairs and senior administrators of 150 family medicine departments across the United States. In the coming year, Kuzel expects it to continue its partnership in a national effort backed by all the family medicine organizations called Family Medicine for America’s Health.

With the tagline “Health is Primary,” the initiative’s goal “is to engage the public and important stakeholders in moving us to a system of health care that focuses on prevention and keeps people healthy and productive, rather than one that rewards treatment of complications of advanced disease,” Kuzel said.

Kuzel earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois and completed his residency training in family medicine at MacNeal Memorial Hospital in Berwyn, Ill. He is associate editor for Qualitative Health Research and co-editor of two books on qualitative and health services research. Kuzel joined the VCU medical school’s faculty in 1984, first at the VCU-Fairfax residency program site before coming to the MCV Campus in 1990.

19
2015

“An underdog disease finds a champion”

Robert B. Scott, M.D., the Honorable L. Douglas Wilder, Florence Neal Cooper-Smith, Wally R. Smith, M.D., and John E. Nestler, M.D., at the May 2014 reception celebrating the appointment of Smith as the inaugural holder of the Florence Neal Cooper-Smith Professorship.

Robert B. Scott, M.D., the Honorable L. Douglas Wilder, Florence Neal Cooper-Smith, Wally R. Smith, M.D., and John E. Nestler, M.D., at the May 2014 reception celebrating the appointment of Smith as the inaugural holder of the Florence Neal Cooper-Smith Professorship.

Florence Neal Cooper-Smith (MS’85) became aware of sickle cell disease in 1942, 34 years after the first known case presented itself in the United States.

Her lifelong dedication to the disease began during a routine childhood trip to the family doctor. During her visits, she often waited in the doctor’s office rather than in the waiting room. Once, she found a book to read and stumbled on a few new words: hematology and sickle cell anemia.

“It hit me. Sickle cell was a disease in colored people, that was the terminology back then,” she remembered. “You were born with it, there was no cure and you died early. That stuck with me.

“When I asked my doctor about it, he explained that the disease affects the shape of red blood cells and you’re born with the anemia, but he didn’t know much more than that. I kept asking people about it. It never left me.”

Advancements have been made in the study and treatment of the disease in the century since it was first identified, but people of many races are still born with it, still die early from it and no cure exists.

Cooper-Smith hopes all of that will change in her lifetime. It’s hard to doubt her when she emphatically proclaims that she’ll raise a million dollars for research before she dies.

She has $725,000 to go.

Her grass-roots efforts — gaining support from churches, fraternal and civic groups, family and friends, for example — raised enough money to endow last May a professorship in the VCU School of Medicine. Thought to be the first of its kind in the country and named in her honor, the milestone professorship supports aggressive research projects designed to discover lifesaving treatments and perhaps a cure.

Recently, a group of her friends organized the Florence Neal Cooper-Smith Sickle Cell Research Committee to increase awareness about the disease and to raise money for research.

Cooper-Smith’s devotion to finding a cure includes years of community-based education and legislative work in Virginia as well as national networking through the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 1969, she led a Richmond-area survey to gauge awareness of the disease. Only 3 in 10 people had heard of it. Two decades later, she pushed a bill through the Virginia legislature mandating statewide newborn screening for the disease.

“We call Florence the ‘mother of sickle cell in Virginia,’ and it’s definitely a term of endearment,” said Wally R. Smith, M.D., professor and vice chair for research in the VCU Division of General Internal Medicine at the School of Medicine and inaugural holder of the Florence Neal Cooper-Smith Professorship.

Trained as a medical technician, Cooper-Smith began her career at the Medical College of Virginia in burn research alongside E.I. Evans, M.D., in the early 1950s. Later, she met hematology professor Robert B. Scott, M.D., and the two collaborated to create the Virginia Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Program, now housed at the Virginia Department of Health.

Even with a national reputation for her efforts, Cooper-Smith remains humble and hopeful.

“It overwhelmed me to hear that the professorship was going to carry my name,” she said. “I didn’t do anything other than move something along. I just want to keep the research going. We’ve got to find better treatment, management and care for the 100,000 people affected in the U.S.”

“In a way, we’re continuing Florence’s original community work through one of our current projects,” Smith said. “We find and bring into care patients with sickle cell disease who have not been seeking care. It’s as if we hand these patients a life raft.”

The life raft is hydroxyurea, an underutilized, under-prescribed anti-sickling medication approved for use in the late 1990s.

When explaining why the drug isn’t more widely used, Smith said, “It’s the curse of sickle cell. There are not enough doctors taking care of adults with the disease. Patients don’t trust the medical establishment and they feel rejected.”

It’s an uphill climb, but thanks to the funding the Cooper-Smith Professorship provides, he said, he and his VCU colleagues can continue that climb.

To learn more about the Florence Neal Cooper-Smith Professorship, contact Brian Thomas, interim president of the MCV Foundation, at 804-828-0067 or bsthomas@vcu.edu.

This article by Nan Johnson first appeared in the fall 2014 issue of Impact, the quarterly publication of VCU’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

19
2015

Alumna Melissa Byrne Nelson honored with YWCA outstanding Woman Award

Alumna Melissa Byrne Nelson

Melissa Byrne Nelson

Melissa Byrne Nelson, M’98, will be honored by Richmond’s YWCA as one of its Outstanding Women of 2015 at the annual awards luncheon on April 24. Each year, the YWCA recognizes women in the Richmond area who have made significant contributions to the community, and Nelson is being honored for her work in the health and science field.

Nelson is passionate about delivering the best possible pediatric care to Richmond’s children, and she works hard to fight for the ideas she believes in. That’s all part of her personal philosophy on life. She says that “Whatever the challenge – school, work, family – don’t be a bystander and just get through it. Get involved. “

She practices with Pediatric Associates of Richmond and has been working with Pediatricians Associated to Care for Kids (PACKids) to advocate for the construction of a children’s hospital in Richmond. In describing her vision for a single location providing a family centered environment, she recently told RVA News “VCU’s premier pediatrics department and the best pediatric medical teams in our community will take care of our children as a collaborative team.”

She earned her undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech and her medical degree on the MCV Campus. She has volunteered with the alumni board of both those schools as well as with the World Pediatric Project.

19
2015

Neurosurgery resident Lisa Feldman named to prestigious William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship

Lisa Feldman, M.D., Ph.D.

Lisa Feldman, M.D., Ph.D.

Fifth-year neurosurgery resident Lisa Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., has been selected for the William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship.

“It’s the most prestigious fellowship award offered by the national neurosurgical societies,” says R. Scott Graham, M.D., director of the Department of Neurosurgery’s residency program. “Its yearbook of past awardees reads like a who’s who of the neurosurgical field. Many have gone on to become chairs of neurosurgery departments around the country or hold other prominent roles.”

Feldman is the department’s first Wagenen Fellowship winner. With the award, Feldman receives a $120,000 stipend and $15,000 in research support. She’ll travel to New Zealand in July to study perfluorcarbon as a new oxygen delivery therapy in hopes of reversing the cell death that results from radiation treatment of brain cancers. She’ll collaborate with a researcher at Washington University on the project. Her past research projects have already resulted in presentations, publications and patent applications.

“I am absolutely delighted to be awarded this fellowship, and look forward to beginning my work,” Feldman said. “In addition to exploring perfluorocarbons as a treatment for a serious neurosurgical disease, radiation necrosis, I hope to foster a long-lasting international collaboration with my host lab at University of Auckland, collaborators at Washington University in St. Louis and my home Neurosurgery Department at VCU.”

Feldman earned her medical degree at Rush Medical College in Chicago and her Ph.D. work was completed at Montréal Neurologic Institute.

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Updated: 04/29/2016