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October 2015 Archives


Class of 2018’s Anne Byrd Mahoney authors first-person account for Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter

page 9 20151023_Fall_2015_RAMificat

The Class of 2018’s Anne Byrd Mahoney describes her medical school experience in the fall issue of RAMifications, the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter.

Her mother’s a pediatrician but that didn’t stop a young Anne Byrd Mahoney from rebelling against trips to the doctor’s office. “I can remember screaming and crying when the nurse asked me to read the eye exam chart, thinking that if I stalled long enough I wouldn’t have to get a shot at the end of my visit.”

In a first-person article in the fall issue of the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter, Mahoney recounts her change of heart. Opportunities to shadow a heart surgeon and a family practice doctor during her senior year of high school definitively sparked her interest in a medical career.

She entered the medical school with the Class of 2018 last fall and is now a student representative on the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s board of trustees. In her newsletter article she gives readers a view of what medical school is like today as students face the prospect of a cap on residency positions, medical school debt and uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Despite those challenges, “Each day, the reality that I get to learn and be a part of medicine gives me a jolt of energy that’s more powerful than anything I might buy at Starbucks.”

Mahoney got further confirmation she’s on the right track this past summer when she spent two weeks working in a medical clinic in Peru.

“My experience there made me realize that all of the tough days in medical school are worth it,” she wrote. “Every second spent scrutinizing the minute details of human physiology or of mechanisms of action of this and that drug is worth it. Any uncertainty about what lies ahead was negated by the passion I felt while working with patients.”

Mahoney is a native of Richmond and the daughter of housestaff alumna Rhoda Mahoney who practices with Pediatric Associates of Richmond. You can read Anne Byrd Mahoney’s first-person account in the fall issue of RAMifications, the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter.


Medical student Brent Monseur finds connections to OB-GYN while studying with NASA

Monseur with two spacesuits at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he completed a clerkship in aerospace medicine.
Monseur with two spacesuits at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he completed a clerkship in aerospace medicine.

As fourth-year medical student Brent Monseur looks ahead to residency and a career in OB-GYN, he knows the challenges he will face. “As increasing numbers of women enter the workforce and delay childbearing, physicians face new challenges to empower and support their patients to adequately plan their families,” says Monseur.

This fall, Monseur has been discovering parallels between these challenges and those that exist for another group of patients: astronauts.

“The tactics used in OB-GYN of primary prevention, the development of innovative technologies and the use of alternative health care delivery strategies form the bedrock of aerospace medicine.”

In October, he participated in NASA’s Aerospace Medicine Clerkship, a program that allows fourth-year medical students to complete a research project on space medicine. “I worked at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where my workstation was adjacent to the former sleeping and rehabilitation quarters of the Mercury 7, the original class of American astronauts.”

Although he admits it’s not the most typical path, Monseur hopes to combine his interests in OB-GYN and aerospace medicine in his career. “I envision investigating issues of spaceflight contraception and delayed childbearing due to career goals and cosmic radiation, issues where aerospace medicine and gynecology intersect.

“Fertility preservation and management of recurrent miscarriage would also be very useful in treating the astronaut corps should I pursue a second residency in aerospace medicine to become a flight surgeon. The beauty of the field of aerospace medicine is that the option is always there whether I want to pursue it directly after I finish my OB-GYN training or after years in practice.”

Fourth-year medical student Brent Monseur in front of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the first vehicle designed for deep space exploration.

Combining the two fields is not totally unprecedented: while in Houston, Monseur got to meet Richard Jennings, M.D., who is the only physician double board certified in OB-GYN and aerospace medicine. He also connected with Richard Williams, M’79, NASA’s chief health and medical officer, who invited him to tour NASA’s headquarters in Washington D.C.

Whether or not Monseur chooses to pursue aerospace medicine at some point, his time at NASA gave him a good idea of what it would be like to be a full-fledged flight surgeon. He also began to consider how the field of aerospace medicine might change in the coming years. As we move into what Monseur calls “the era of interplanetary space expedition,” there may be a need for consultants based in Houston who can deliver care remotely to astronauts traveling throughout the solar system.

For now, however, Monseur’s focus remains on our planet, and more specifically on finishing up his last year of medical school. Because of the School of Medicine’s flexible fourth-year schedule, he will be spending most of the year away from the MCV Campus. He also remains a national board member of Medical Students for Choice, an organization dedicated to advocating for training for tomorrow’s abortion providers and pro-choice physicians.

By Jack Carmichael

You can read more of Monseur’s recollections of his NASA internship in a first-person account posted to the AAMC’s Aspiring Doc Diaries.


Pathology’s Kimberly Sanford receives national honor as 2015’s Distinguished Pathology Educator

“My first job in the laboratory was as a phlebotomist while attending college to become a medical laboratory scientist,” says Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06. “From that point on, I knew that I had found my home.”

Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06

Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06

After graduation, she worked in a variety of laboratories around the MCV Campus before deciding to enter medical school. Today, she is an assistant professor in the medical school’s Department of Pathology and has received the Outstanding Teacher Award in the pathology introduction course for medical students for four years running. Drawing on her wide-ranging experiences, she has authored text book chapters as well as peer reviewed publications and has developed educational content at national meetings for all laboratory professionals.

This fall, she received national accolades as the recipient of the 2015 ASCP H. P. Smith Award for Distinguished Pathology Educator. The award is one of the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s highest honors. Each year, the society recognizes individuals who have made outstanding, lifelong contributions to the society and who have had distinguished careers in pathology and laboratory medicine embracing education, research and administration.

Sanford is medical director of both transfusion medicine and the Stony Point Laboratory at VCU Health. She is a three-time VCU alumna, having earned a medical technology degree from the School of Allied Health in 1991, a medical degree from the School of Medicine in 2001 and continuing on VCU’s MCV Campus to complete her pathology residency in 2006.


Family Medicine Physicians Needed, STAT!

The Class of 2018’s Mariko “Marley” Hanson has read the latest reports that detail a growing need for primary care physicians.

“I think more and more medical students are pursuing a specialty instead,” she said.

The Class of 2018’s Marley Hanson (right) was paired with Janet Eddy, M’87, H’90, through the medical school’s fmSTAT program. “When I started, I thought my mentor would just be an advisor,” Hanson said. “She has been that, but it’s been so much more. It’s grown into a wonderful friendship and partnership.”

“But I’m passionate about family medicine. It’s a great way to reach underserved populations.” According to the Annals of Family Medicine, the U.S. will need an additional 52,000 primary care physicians by 2025 to serve the aging population, as well as the added number of individuals who will have health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

But that goal may be difficult to reach, as the New York Times recently reported a decrease in the graduation rates of primary care doctors.

“A lot of students have come to the School of Medicine over the years thinking they would become family medicine doctors, but then they got lured away to a specialty,” said Carolyn Peel, M’92, H’95, assistant professor for VCU’s Department of Family Medicine and Population Health on the MCV Campus. “We’ve been thinking for years, what if we could identify students who had an interest in family medicine as part of the application process and nurture them all the way through?”

That idea came to fruition in 2010 with the development of the Family Medicine Scholars Training and Admission Tract, or fmSTAT. A dual admission program within the School of Medicine, fmSTAT is designed to develop, nurture and support medical students who are committed to the pursuit of a career in family medicine.

“This is one of the reasons I chose VCU,” Hanson said. “It made the school stand so far apart from others.”

The program got its start when Dean of Medicine
Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., asked faculty to consider a three-year accelerated program as a potential for increasing the number of students pursuing primary care. A team led by associate professor Steve Crossman, M’95, director of medical education for the VCU Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, gave the question careful consideration. In the end, they conceptualized fmSTAT instead.

“I think what our students really value with this program is that sense of community,” Peel said. “There’s this student camaraderie. The support is invaluable.”

The first class of five students entered fmSTAT in 2012 and will graduate next May, an important milestone for the program. This year’s incoming class of 10 marks the fourth set of students.

Carolyn Peel, M’92

“It has grown each year since we started,” Peel said. “We are proud of that fact.”

Students accepted into the program enjoy preferential placement with specially chosen family physician teachers and are assigned family physician mentors. They also attend semi-annual retreats and seminars and have the opportunity to shadow a family physician during the summer following their first year.

“These students are not just sitting in class next to another person,” said Judy Gary, M.Ed., fmSTAT’s educational director. “They are getting out there in the community and gaining valuable experience.” Hanson, for example, was paired with Janet Eddy, M’87, H’90, the medical director of the Bon Secours Richmond Health Care System’s Care-A-Van, a mobile clinic that provides medical care to the underserved. Both share a commitment to providing medical care to this vulnerable population.

“When I started, I thought my mentor would just be an advisor,” Hanson said. “She has been that, but it’s been so much more. It’s grown into a wonderful friendship and partnership.”

Hanson sees patients with Eddy and attends medical conferences with her. Since many of Eddy’s patients don’t speak English, Hanson is also learning Spanish.

“When they came to me and asked me to be a mentor, my initial reaction was no,” Eddy said. “I don’t really like having people in my clinic. It’s a tiny space, and most of my patients want to keep a low profile. But I also feel obligated to help. There are not enough of us around.”

They’ve known each other for a year now, but after just a few weeks, Eddy knew she made the right decision.

“It’s been so good,” she said. “Marley is learning first hand what’s good about this field, what’s great about family medicine.”

Family practitioners enjoy the unique privilege of following a patient through all stages of care and play a vital role in preventive care. They get to know not only the patient, but often the entire family. They are the initial point of contact and often have a long-term relationship with patients.

More family practitioners are needed to not only treat patients, but to help bring down the cost of medical care, Eddy said. When patients can’t get in to see a family doctor, they instead go to the emergency room or to a specialist, which is more expensive. “I just love the utility of family medicine,” Eddy said. “You can walk into any place and get done what needs to be done. It’s incredibly rewarding.”

But many medical students get wooed away from the field to more lucrative and glamorous specialties. “Medical students for the most part are in a hospital setting,” Peel said. “They don’t always see what care in the community is all about. It’s easy to lose sight of community-based care inside a hospital’s four walls.” But with fmSTAT, medical students are getting the opportunity to actively participate in family medicine their first year of school.

The fmSTAT program builds camaraderie among the students with workshops and semiannual retreats. Cross-class interaction gives students of all ages the chance to learn from each other and offer support.

“I never thought I would have this type of opportunity so soon,” Hanson said. “I’m out there [with Eddy] talking with patients and getting involved in their care. That sort of thing usually comes later. I like the idea that I’m doing this alongside other like-minded students, faculty and staff. We are like a big family.”

Cross-class communication and interaction is integral to fmSTAT, giving students of all ages the chance to learn from each other and offer support. Team-building activities have included a Top Chef-inspired competition and ropes courses.

That emphasis on camaraderie is paying off. Of the 20 students accepted into the program so far, only three have resigned, Gary said. And the program is gaining attention. U.S. News & World Report ranked VCU among the top 50 medical schools for primary care in its 2016 edition of “Best Graduate Schools.”
Hopes are running high for the future too, but Gary cautions it will take some time to determine if fmSTAT will add to the number of VCU students matching in family medicine residencies. Over the last several years, she said, about 10 percent of the School of Medicine’s class has matched in family medicine.

Did you know?

This story first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.

“We are so excited about the possibilities for the future,” Gary said. “We are working on building an endowment so that we can create more scholarship opportunities. We are very hopeful that this program will make a difference.”

For Hanson, it already is.

“It’s been so rewarding to be a part of this program,” she said. “I had no idea family medicine was so diverse. I know I’m in this for the long haul because I can truly make a difference in the lives of others.”

By Janet Showalter


Piece of the Past

The physician rides confidently on horseback down a dirt road, anxious to reach his destination. His patient, after all, has been waiting days for treatment.

He formulates a plan as his horse trots on. He will grind some of his most trusted ingredients into a fine powder using his pestle and mortar. He then will use a mold to shape this compound into a pill for the feverish farmer. With any luck, his patient will be back on his feet in a day or two.

Scenes like this were common in the 1800s, when house calls were the norm. Since doctors often traveled for days in rural areas before reaching their patients, it was crucial they pack everything they could possibly need to save a life.

Saddlebags, then, were vital. Physicians were careful to fill glass bottles with salts, aspirin, opiates and other ingredients, then place them inside the saddlebag’s compartments.

“They needed to be able to make solutions right on the spot,” said Andrew Bain, who manages the Medical Artifact Collection of Tompkins-McCaw Library’s Special Collection and Archives. “They became compounding architects.”

A medical saddlebag dating back to the 1880s and manufactured by George P. Wapkins Company of St. Louis, Missouri, is one of about 6,500 pieces in the school’s Medical Artifacts Collection. While few specifics are known about the piece, a little detective work reveals a lot.

“You can tell from the stitching and the thickness of the leather that this was an expensive item,” Bain said. “It was intended to convey authority and be fashionable at the same time. The doctor who carried this wanted to communicate that he was professional, someone patients could trust.”

The collection’s detailed records were not started until 1982. Since the saddlebag came into the school’s collection prior to that, Bain can only guess the specifics of the piece.

“You are transported to a different place and time just looking at it,” he said.

Did you know?

This story first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.

Physicians were often notified by telegram or by a messenger that services were needed. He might travel 25 to 30 miles – a full day’s ride – to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis, influenza or bacterial infections. They also were prepared to set broken bones, bandage wounds and deliver babies.

“We may not know the name of the doctor who owned this bag,” Bain said, “but we can imagine he brought comfort to a lot of people.”

By Janet Showalter


Catalyst Norma Kenyon

As vice provost for innovation at the University of Miami, alumna Norma Sue Kenyon is perched between the lab and the clinic, helping academic researchers scale the precarious path from idea to market.

Early on, Norma Sue Kenyon recognized her affinity for research. Her dad was a doctor, her mom a nurse: good models for a career path in clinical care. However, she says, “I was more interested in how things work.”

Norma Sue Kenyon, PhD’86 (MICR), has been chosen as one of VCU’s 2015 Alumni Stars; she’s the School of Medicine’s representative in the elite group.

Norma Sue Kenyon, PhD’86 (MICR), has been chosen as one of VCU’s 2015 Alumni Stars; she’s the School of Medicine’s representative in the elite group.

Now, at the pinnacle of an impressive career, the former Ph.D. student from VCU’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology finds herself perched between the lab and the clinic. As chief innovation officer at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and vice provost for innovation at the University of Miami, Kenyon helps academic researchers scale the precarious path from idea to marketable product or technology.

“Just because an idea is patentable doesn’t mean it’s going to be a therapy or product,” Kenyon says. “You can also develop a very good therapy that’s not patentable.”

Her own research portfolio includes the immunology of transplants and diabetes research. While on the MCV Campus, she explored the immunological differences between successful and failed organ transplants. After earning her doctorate in 1986, she headed to UCLA for her first postdoctoral fellowship. She studied T-lymphocytes — “my favorite cells” — but she missed the applied element. “It was a great academic environment, but it wasn’t translational,” she says.

And then she saw a job ad in the journal Science about research on islet cell transplantation and was intrigued. Islet cells are the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas that are dysfunctional in diabetes. The idea was to transplant just these cells, as opposed to the whole pancreas. Kenyon did a second postdoc at the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami and studied novel approaches to immunosuppression. “The immunosuppressive drugs we used — so that the tissue isn’t rejected — had adverse effects on the function of the islet cells,” she says. “It’s like we were shooting ourselves in the foot.”

When her second child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the tender age of one, Kenyon doubled down on translatable diabetes research. Since then — and over the course of Kenyon’s career — islet cell transplants have improved along with new approaches to enhance the acceptance of the new tissue.

Kenyon maintains an active research program at the University of Miami, where she’s also professor of surgery, microbiology and immunology and holds the Martin Kleinman Chair in Diabetes Research. She is currently investigating mesenchymal stem cell infusion to support islet cell transplants. The stem cells produce a number of active factors that dampen immune responses and boost tissue regeneration.

Kenyon tackles her administrative duties with equal vigor. She recruited expert help and improved outreach efforts, turning Miami from a place that collected patents in a file drawer to one that helps faculty members navigate the tricky road to building a product or a business. Licensing agreements have climbed each year since Kenyon came on board in 2012.

Another of Kenyon’s many hats is executive director of the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research, which funds promising projects to boost them up the first steep step. “We award gap funding for scientists to do the killer experiment that will convince a venture capitalist or an angel investor,” she says. “If it’s a good startup, we provide an entrepreneur in residence to help write a business plan and get business funding.” There’s a lot to learn for budding entrepreneurs.

One person who is not surprised by Norma Sue Kenyon’s trajectory is Francis L. Macrina, Ph.D., VCU’s vice president for research and innovation. Macrina was chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology when Kenyon was a student.

“The kind of success that Norma displayed as a graduate student has continued in her career,” Macrina says. “She’s made significant scientific contributions and she’s got a growing role as a major senior administrator at Miami. She is one of the true stars and she reflects well on our university, the School of Medicine and the department.”

Did you know?

This story first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.

Macrina remembers conversations he and Kenyon had about the human side of research — appropriate mentor-trainee roles, ethical practices with animal subjects and who gets credit for what work. From those conversations, Macrina launched the Chairman’s Colloquium, a series of panel discussions on some topic of scientific integrity or skills, such as how to look for a postdoctoral fellowship.

The colloquium turned into a formal course in 1991 to meet NIH training grant requirements. And Macrina recently published the fourth edition of his best-selling book, Scientific Integrity: Text and Cases in Responsible Conduct of the Research.

“The seminal catalytic event for all these things,” Macrina says, of the colloquium and the course and the book, “was Norma, a student.”

By Jill Adams

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Updated: 04/29/2016