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School of Medicine discoveries

March 2015 Archives

30
2015

MD-PhD alumnus Gerald Feldman named president of American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics

Gerald L. Feldman

Gerald L. “Jerry” Feldman, M’84, PhD’ 82

The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) has named Gerald L. “Jerry” Feldman, M’84, PhD’ 82, president of the national organization for clinical and laboratory genetics professionals. During his two-year term, Feldman plans to embrace new technologies and treatments and improve organizational structure as the field of medical genetics continues to expand.

“Dr. Feldman has a long history with ACMG, and through his extensive committee work, he’s taken an active role in steering us to where we are today,” said Michael S. Watson, executive director of the ACMG, in a news release from his organization. “His institutional knowledge and experience working across the full spectrum of clinical genetics services and education will help our organization going forward, in an era when genomic information promises to play a bigger role in medicine than it ever has before.”

Feldman spent two years as president-elect of the ACMG, serving on various committees and taskforces while preparing for his role as president of the organization. Feldman also works as a professor of molecular genetics, pathology and pediatrics at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., where he directs the medical genetics residency and fellowship programs and serves as medical director of the Genetic Counseling Graduate Program.

His principal research focuses on diagnosing and managing patients with genetic disorders. He is co-investigator for the NIH program Inborn Errors of Metabolism Collaborative, which collects data and studies best practices in service of children with rare genetic disorders which prevent them from metabolizing certain fats, proteins and sugars.

Feldman also serves in several clinical roles, among them program director and lead investigator of the Newborn Screening Management Program at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and director of clinical genetic services at Wayne State. Feldman’s combination of experience in clinical care, education and research makes him uniquely qualified to represent the diverse body of ACMG members.

“The era of the genetic and genomic revolution is here,” said Feldman. “New technologies, new treatments and identification of new genetic disorders will improve patient care in ways we could not have even envisioned a few years ago. I look forward to serving as president of the organization that is leading these efforts.”

The ACMG has more than 1,750 members, among them biochemical, clinical, medical and molecular geneticists, genetic counselors and other health care professionals. As the only nationally recognized medical organization dedicated to improving health through the practice of medical genetics and genomics, the organization seeks to promote medical genetics education, research and access while advocating for its members and other providers of medical genetics services and their patients.

By Jack Carmichael

25
2015

Class of 99’s Bob Feezor returns to campus as HM Lee Lecturer

Robert J. Feezor, M’99

During his return to Campus, Bob Feezor, M’99, stopped by the Egyptian Building and recalled how he’d taken his Boards in the Baruch Auditorium’s narrow seats. Seeing the school’s new facilities, he said, “makes me want to be a student again.”

For Robert J. Feezor, M’99, serving as the H.M. Lee Lecturer is not only a professional honor.

“It’s the highest personal privilege,” he says.

To explain, Feezor points to three pivotal years. 1999, when he earned his medical degree. 1973, when he was born in West Hospital. And 1964, when his father, Bill Feezor, became the 40th kidney transplant patient of H.M. Lee, M.D., H’61, and David Hume, M.D., the pioneering surgeons for whom the Hume-Lee Transplant Center is named.

When Feezor was invited to serve as the H. M. Lee Lecturer, it was a special moment. “I’m not an overly emotional person, but when I heard from [vascular surgery chair] Mark Levy,” he pauses for the right word, “it means a lot.”

H.M. Lee, M.D., H’61

H. M. Lee, M.D., H’61, was an internationally renowned pioneer in organ transplantation and a former professor and chairman in the Division of Vascular and Transplant Surgery.

As a second-year medical student, he had the chance to meet Lee. Feezor was doing an elective on the ethics of organ transplantation and asked to speak with the surgeon, who not only gave him his perspective on the topic, but remembered the elder Feezor. “He described him to a T,” said Feezor, who recalls that Lee even pulled out old records on his father that had Lee’s penciled-in notes filling the margins.

“I was so impressed that this very famous surgeon would make the time for a young medical student,” said Feezor. “It was the first time I’d seen you could be very accomplished and also humanistic. What I saw in Dr. Lee and other faculty members solidified my decision to go into academic medicine.”

Feezor’s father went on to become one of Lee and Hume’s longest-living kidney recipients, and his life would be entwined with MCV in big ways and small. From 1967-1976, he worked at MCV as a hospital administrator, a stint that sadly included being the administrator on duty when word came in that the private plane Hume was flying had crashed in California. “It was the hardest day of my life,” Bill Feezor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Class of 1999’s Feezor Is now an assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville. He also serves as program director for the fellowship program in vascular surgery. He’s passionate about teaching students and residents. He’s good at it, too – in 2005, he was awarded the national Resident Award for Exemplary Teaching by the American College of Surgeons.

Those teaching skills were on display at the Lee Lecture when Feezor chose as his topic the current management of type B aortic dissections. The clinical issue spurred a lively discussion at the end of his presentation.

Following his death in 2013, Hyung Mo “H.M.” Lee’s family, friends and colleagues made gifts in his memory to create the memorial lecture that bears his name. The focus of the annual lecture alternates between the Divisions of Transplant Surgery and Vascular Surgery.

The elder Feezor passed away in 2006, and this week marks nine years since his death – 42 years after his life-saving transplant.

21
2015

Pathology’s Celeste Powers receives national honor for contributions to education

Charles Johnson Kinsolving1904

Celeste N. Powers, M.D., Ph.D., F’89, accepts the L.C. Tao Educator of the Year Award from Zubair Baloch, M.D., president of the Papanicolaou Society of Cytopathology.

Celeste N. Powers, M.D., Ph.D., F’89, accepted the L.C. Tao Educator of the Year Award from the Papanicolaou Society of Cytopathology at the society’s annual meeting in Boston on March 21, 2015.

The L.C. Tao Educator of the Year Award is presented to a pathologist in recognition of meritorious service and contributions to the field of cytopathology education. In 2002, Powers’ MCV Campus mentor William “Jack” Frable, M.D., also received the award.

Powers is the Saul Kay Professor in Diagnostic Pathology and chair of the Division of Anatomic Pathology in the Department of Pathology. The co-author of two textbooks, she also has authored numerous book chapters and over 100 peer reviewed publications in head and neck surgical and cytopathology. Powers has developed and directed regional and national courses, workshops and symposia and has served as an editorial board member and reviewer for numerous pathology journals. At its inception in 1996, she was associate editor of Cancer Cytopathology and, in 2009, became its editor-in-chief.

She is currently president of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology and has served the American Society of Cytopathology as an executive board member and president in the past. In 2008, she received the American Society of Cytopathology’s highest honor, the Papanicolaou Award.

Powers earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Baylor College of Medicine and an M.D. from the University of Texas Medical School, where she also completed her residency in anatomic and clinical pathology. She received her fellowship training in surgical and cytopathology on VCU’s MCV Campus under the directorship of William “Jack” Frable, M.D. She held faculty appointments at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, and SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse before returning to Richmond in 1998 to join the Pathology Department.

20
2015

Nationally known speakers, dozens of student presenters intersect at regional neurosciences meeting

Scientists from the symposium

The symposium featured four nationally known scientists: (left-right) Ben Arenkiel, Ph.D. (Baylor College of Medicine), Vincent Pieribone, Ph.D. (Yale University), David Lyon, Ph.D. (University of California Irvine) and Michael Krashes, Ph.D. (NIDDKD).

The Kontos Medical Sciences Building was busier than a cluster of excitatory neurons on March 20 when 150 neuroscientists convened for the annual symposium of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.

The symposium featured a quartet of nationally known speakers who travelled from UC Irvine, Yale, Baylor and the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to present the latest discoveries from their research labs. From their talks, the symposium’s topic was born: “Optogenetics, Chemogenetics and Circuit Mapping of Brain Function.”

Each speaker described some of the latest tools used by neuroscientists to uncover the connections and functions of the central nervous system. These tools ranged from using the unique properties of the rabies virus to delineate CNS connections to using fluorescent protein genes derived from ocean coral to generate voltage probes that can convert voltage changes across biological membranes into optical signals.

CVCSN student presenter winners

CVCSN student presenter winners were Jianmin Su (Virginia Tech), Kareem Clark (VCU), Claire Dixon (VCU), Joseph Balsamo (JMU) and Ryan Poland (VCU). Photo taken by Pavel Lizhnyak.

Chapter President Raymond J. Colello, Ph.D., Treasurer Andy Ottens, Ph.D., Secretary Unsong Oh, M.D., and Rory McQuiston, Ph.D., organized the symposium.

An associate professor in VCU’s Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Colello says that the annual gathering has always been a place to learn about recent findings, but it’s also an important forum for students to begin to take their place in the neuroscience community.

In an hour-long session, called a Data Blitz, eight doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars from VCU presented a series of oral presentations. They shared their research findings with an audience populated by faculty, students and post-docs from neuroscience research programs around Central Virginia.

“I was delighted how well all the students did at explaining their research and its impact within the five-minute time constraint of the Data Blitz talk,” says Colello.

VCU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology postdoc Michael Surace presented during the Blitz. “Although the Data Blitz format presses you to present your data concisely, this may actually be a benefit,” he says. “I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of conversation it sparked with other researchers, especially those from other institutions.”

An additional poster session boasted nearly five dozen abstracts representing the work of undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs from a half dozen Virginia schools: Eastern Virginia Medical School, James Madison, VCU, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and William and Mary.

At the end of the day, symposium organizers selected five outstanding student presenters for awards.

“It was a wonderful opportunity, not just to be able to share your work, but to see all of the amazing research being performed right in our own backyard,” said Kareem Clark, VCU graduate student and poster presentation winner. “As a grad student, a regional meeting such as this one is great for networking and finding potential post-doctoral positions locally.”

16
2015

Two alumni offer perspective on connecting with patients via online communities

The popularity of social media and online communities has created countless web sites offering medical advice. Some physicians wonder what role they should play – or even if they should get involved at all.

S. Larry Schlesinger, M'71

S. Larry Schlesinger, M’71

S. Larry Schlesinger, M’71, of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Brooke R. Seckel, M’69, of Boston, Mass., recently took the time to answer our questions about their choice to be active online. The two surgeons are among the top 100 most influential board-certified dermatologists and plastic surgeons in social media as compiled by RealSelf. The list honors board-certified doctors who are among the most active and highly rated on the online community where the general public poses questions and finds answers about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, dentistry and other elective treatments.

Both Seckel and Schlesinger point to the fact that an increasing number of patients use the internet to find doctors and check their credentials. “Over 68 percent of patients search online to help them make health care decisions,” says Seckel. Schlesinger emphasizes the point, saying “the choice is to engage online communities or be invisible.”

An online presence not only makes finding a doctor easier, but it also allows patients to become more informed about medical procedures and make better decisions about which doctor to choose. Schlesinger points out that although many patients still find doctors through traditional referrals from friends, family or other doctors, “patients are still going to the internet to validate their decisions.”

Brooke R. Seckel, M'69

Brooke R. Seckel, M’69

Seckel says that “patients who come in for consultation after reading on RealSelf are usually very well informed. An informed patient is often more likely to understand their goals, be aware of complications, able to complete a better informed consent and understand the recovery period. This typically makes management of these patients much easier and facilitates communication.”

Patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from online medical communities like RealSelf. By offering their advice to patients online, doctors like Seckel and Schlesinger improve their social network ranking on Google and other sites, increasing the likelihood that patients will come across their names when searching for a doctor online.

Competition for page views and clicks will only increase as more people turn to the internet for medical advice. For now, the surgeons remained focused on educating patients and increasing the quality of care. Seckel says that his goal is to “educate and teach objectively and honestly,” and for his part Schlesinger says that “those practices which are transparent and engage online drive quality and patient satisfaction. The practice thrives and patients benefit.”

Schlesinger offers plastic surgery services in three locations in Hawaii. He was the first plastic surgeon in Hawaii to be chosen as physician of the year by his peers in the Hawaii Medical Association. With more than 30 years of plastic surgery experience, he has performed more than 18,300 plastic surgery procedures.

Seckel practices with Boston Plastic Surgery Specialists and is an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is chairman emeritus of plastic surgery at Lahey Clinic where he founded the Lahey Clinic Department of Plastic Surgery and the Lahey Clinic Residency Training Program in Plastic Surgery.

By Jack Carmichael

16
2015

Anatomy’s Babette Fuss takes helm of American Society for Neurochemistry

Babette Fuss

Babette Fuss, Ph.D.

Babette Fuss, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, is president of the American Society for Neurochemistry. She took office during the society’s 46th Annual Meeting, held in March in Atlanta.

She’s been a member of the organization since 1995 when she was a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA and her advisor at the time, Wendy Macklin, encouraged her involvement. A long-standing society member, Macklin served as ASN president from 2005-2007.

“The society has a great tradition of fostering junior researchers,” said Fuss, who gave her first oral presentation to a national audience at an ASN meeting while still a postdoctoral fellow. Once she became a junior faculty member, she stepped into leadership roles with the organization, serving first on a number of committees and then being elected to the ASN council in 2007 and as secretary in 2009.

“The society has greatly facilitated the building of my professional network and has contributed to my career development by, for example, providing the opportunity for oral presentations at an early career stage,” Fuss explained. “For as long as I have been involved, the society has put a strong emphasis on supporting junior scientists. This is one important and unique aspect of the ASN.”

As a result, she now encourages her own students to attend the society’s annual meeting, and most discover they appreciate the opportunities that arise from it. “ASN’s annual meetings provide a number of opportunities for interactions between junior scientists and well-established researchers, as for example lunch group meetings with the plenary speakers. A strong focus during my tenure will be the continuation of ASN traditions, specifically organizing high quality annual meetings in the field of cellular and molecular neuroscience and the fostering of young talent,” Fuss said.

Fuss also hopes to increase participation of faculty and students from Latin America and Canada.

“Based on my own experiences with collaborators located in South America, there is a vibrant and creative neuroscience community that offers ample opportunities for remarkable scientific interactions. What I would like to see in the future is that ASN’s annual meetings will provide a unique forum for research done within the Americas and to thereby foster Pan-American interactions and career development beyond borders.”

Fuss earned her Ph.D. from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA. She joined the VCU faculty in 1999.