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October 2016 Archives

28
2016

Flying Physicians

There IS a Doctor on Board.

For many, the feeling of soaring among the clouds in an aircraft is an unrivaled experience. And if the views weren’t enough, some even find a way to use aviation to serve their fellow man.

Douglas Johnson, M’79

Douglas Johnson, M’79, with the experimental Lancair IV-P that he built himself.

Flying can be a great opportunity for physicians to blend two passions, says Douglas Johnson, M’79. “Physicians go into medicine because they want to help people,” he says. “We want to do a good job at what we do, and want to provide a service that not just anybody can provide. Pilots are the same way.” Johnson is one of a number of medical school alumni who use their aviation skills and knowledge to extend the care they provide.

“Give both groups—pilots and physicians—a psychological profile,” Johnson says, “and you’ll see a lot of similarities, including a drive for success, attention to detail and high ethical standards.” Professionally, there are parallels, too. Cockpit resource management techniques have influenced the way physicians practice medicine today, successfully incorporating checklists, teamwork training, briefings and debriefings, incident reporting, simulator training and standardization.

Johnson, a radiation oncologist in Jacksonville, Fla., is immediate past president of the Flying Physicians Association, a nationwide organization whose members use their love of flying to continue learning and help others.

“We help directly,” says Johnson, who is also an assistant professor of oncology with Mayo Clinic. “We can take supplies and help rebuild after hurricanes, earthquakes and natural disasters.

“After the earthquake in Haiti [in 2010], we were contacted by a hospital there that was short on medical supplies. We got a list of the supplies they needed—and we doubled it. We filled 24 aircraft and flew down to the Dominican Republic, where we loaded them on one big UN helicopter. It flew across the mountain range and landed on the grounds of the hospital, so we knew our supplies got there and weren’t rotting somewhere or being pilfered.”

The Flying Physicians Association is just one of many organizations that encourage physicians to mix medical and aviation skills. Some others include Angel Flight, Fly for Good, Air Charity, Flying Samaritans and even Pilots N Paws, which transports animals.

Some of these groups transport patients for medical treatments, but Johnson cannot. Though he’s been flying it for nearly two decades, his Lancair IV-P is classified as experimental, and most humanitarian organizations do not want an experimental aircraft transporting patients.

It’s a pressurized-cabin aircraft he built himself. It took four and a half years, but he’s thrilled with the result. Building and owning a plane was a dream for Johnson, who was a skydiver during his undergraduate studies because he couldn’t afford flight school. “I was the guy who’d sit next to the pilot and watch. But of course, I never got to see a landing.” After completing his internship, he rewarded himself with flying lessons.

Douglas Johnson, M’79

Many organizations encourage physicians to mix medical and aviation skills. “We can take supplies and help rebuild after hurricanes, earthquakes and natural disasters.”

In addition to humanitarian flights, the Flying Physicians Association also holds CME events and raises funds for the Air Safety Foundation of the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). Air safety is an important focus of the group, which acknowledges that sometimes physicians have a reputation as risk takers in the air.

Many at VCU remember the impact of the tragic death of Surgery Chair David Hume, M.D., in 1973. When his self-piloted plane crashed in California, its effects were felt for years on the MCV Campus and in the transplant community.

Keeping the nation’s skies safe is top priority every day for Keith Martin, M’80. Though he isn’t a pilot himself, his work as co-founder and chairman of Aviation Medicine Advisory Service (AMAS) affects countless pilots, as he consults with and helps them obtain and maintain Federal Aviation Administration medical certification.

Like Johnson, Martin served in the military as a flight surgeon, tasked with ensuring the well-being of those who fly, control or jump from planes. Flight surgeons aren’t required to be licensed pilots, but do log numerous hours of flight time.

Martin contends with many of the same conditions that concern all physicians today, but in the air, the stakes can be higher. Pilots diagnosed with illnesses such as diabetes, coronary artery disease or depression, or those taking certain medications, until recently could be barred from commercial piloting—and thus lose their livelihood.

For example, he says, “Initially if you were diagnosed as HIV-positive, that was not a problem, but if you went on the treatments, that automatically disqualified you from flying. So what was a pilot to do? Not go on the medications?

“We were concerned that pilots would not seek the health care they needed,” he says. Fortunately, over more recent years, AMAS has worked with the FAA to develop protocols to allow pilots to return to flying in a safe, supervised way.

Several School of Medicine alumni work not only to ensure safety in the air, but also well above the earth’s atmosphere.

Richard Williams, M’79

Richard Williams, M’79, with his rare Nanchang CJ6 Chinese military training aircraft used by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

NASA’s Chief Health and Medical Officer Richard Williams, M’79, is responsible for the oversight of all health and medical activities at the nation’s space agency. He works on policy and oversight issues, but also focuses on astronaut health. “It’s a chance to contribute to the destiny of our species,” he says.

“We’re taking a long-range view. The work being done in human space flight, leading to human exploration beyond low Earth orbit, not only represents the ultimate frontier, but it will ultimately help assure our survival.”

On earth, Williams volunteers as a senior aviation medical examiner for the FAA, performing flight physicals for pilots near his home in Fredericksburg, Va. He’s also a private pilot who’s had about 18 different airplanes and logged over 4,000 hours flying single and multi-engine aircraft.

“I live on an airfield and currently own two airplanes,” he says. One is an experimental Lancair 360, the other a rare Nanchang CJ6 Chinese military training aircraft used by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

 

WHO ELSE IS UP IN THE AIR? 

Here’s a sampling of some medical school alumni who have used flying as a means to do good.

lillypaulPAUL LILLY, M’64, is a former member of the Air Force who flew more than 50 missions as a flight surgeon in B-52s in the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. Later he trained and qualified as a WSO (weapon systems officer) in the F-15E. He’s committed to caring for pilots and veterans, both as a medical examiner for aviators and a flight instructor. He and several others perform the missing man formation, an aerial maneuver used at funerals or memorials for veterans. Lilly also provides a special experience for veterans who have stopped to visit the D-Day Memorial near his home in Bedford, Va. “We’ll get together at a nearby airport,” he explained. “While the veterans are having lunch, we’ll fly over the memorial and do the missing man formation to salute them. It’s a privilege for us to honor the veterans.” Lilly often is spotted practicing aerobatic maneuvers in his single-engine two-seater RV-8 plane.

JOHN A. GOODNO, JR., M’55JOHN A. GOODNO, JR., M’55, served in the Air Force and has enjoyed volunteering with several organizations after retiring from his OB-GYN practice in California. “I had time to devote to some of these medical missions. I was invited by several groups to join them and go to Mexico.” With the Flying Samaritans and the Flying Doctors of Mercy (also known as LIGA), Goodno and other physicians fly their personal airplanes (his is a Cessna 210) to Mexico once a month to care for the underserved at two active clinics. “It’s been very rewarding. It’s been great experience to get involved with volunteer medicine.”

HARRY A. “BERT” WELLONS, M’61HARRY A. “BERT” WELLONS, M’61, has incorporated flying into his retirement activities. “I was looking for ways to use aviation – I still wanted to fly,” says the cardiothoracic surgeon who now lives in Charlottesville, Va., and currently flies a Piper Mirage. “I have, in the past, done Angel Flights transporting patients from remote locations for appointments at medical centers and a few missions with Veterans Airlift Command which provides transportation for wounded veterans.” He also volunteered to fly soldiers to and from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

OWEN BRODIE, M’62OWEN BRODIE, M’62, Brodie is a retired Richmond-area psychiatrist who served as president of the Flying Physicians Association in the late 1980s. Though he recently had to stop flying because of vision issues, he flew volunteer missions with Angel Flight in his Cessna 177RG. It also was a great way to get to meetings, he says.

RALPH RIFFENBURGH, M’47RALPH RIFFENBURGH, M’47, was an ophthalmologist, recreational pilot and FAA medical examiner for years. In addition, he volunteered with the San Bernardino Sherriff’s Department, scouring canyons near his California home for lost hikers and campers. Now 93, Riffenburgh fondly remembers getting a night job as an orderly on the psych ward to afford flight lessons while in medical school. It was the start of nearly 70 years of flying, which culminated with his receiving the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from the FAA for more than 50 years of safe flying.

LEON "SKIP” BEELER III, M’79LEON “SKIP” BEELER III, M’79, isn’t piloting, but like his classmate Richard Williams, is making sure NASA astronauts and employees stay healthy. He’s medical services manager at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, the site of space shuttle launches until 2011. The massive complex is still active, with the Commercial Crew Program working toward launching Americans from Kennedy in 2017. Regular expendable launches of satellites and Space Station resupply missions are among the many programs and projects ongoing at America’s Spaceport. Working there has unique challenges, he says, like ensuring safety around rocket fuels and caring for the thousands of visitors who tour the site each year. “We ensure that astronauts and supporting staff are healthy enough to keep the program running.”
By Lisa Crutchfield
28
2016

New milestones for Pharmacology and Toxicology Department

Long-running training grant that propelled department to 310 graduates is renewed

When William Dewey, Ph.D., and Louis Harris, Ph.D., first stepped foot on the MCV Campus more than 40 years ago, they had high aspirations for a department struggling to make a name for itself.

They were not only excited by a vision for transforming the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology into one of the best in the country, but confident they could.

William Dewey

A part of the department for over 40 years, William Dewey, Ph.D.,now serves as its chair. He takes great pride in the department’s success, but refuses to take any credit.

“We both had this goal of turning students into exceptional scientists, to put active scholars out there in the community,” Dewey said. “We were partners in this idea.”

The department traces its roots to the school’s 1838 founding, when pharmacology was an element of the curriculum. When Harris and Dewey arrived in 1972, from the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, they would be an active part of the
department’s leadership for the next 44 years.

“We knew we had our work cut out for us,” Harris said. “We knew we had to put together a strong team and build a strong foundation.”

Within the first two years of their arrival, the number of students grew to 20 and has been climbing ever since. In May, the department hit an important milestone, marking the 310th scientist to earn a Ph.D. degree. The faculty has also grown, from about a dozen to nearly 40.

“We are very proud of what we have accomplished as a team,” said Dewey, who points to a strong faculty whose high profile research attracts students with great potential.

About two-thirds of the faculty are devoted to drug abuse research. Others are focused on cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and cancer pharmacology. None of their work would be possible without federal grant money, something that also has grown steadily over the years.

For fiscal year 2016, the department’s 64 federal grants totaled $14.2 million. One of the most important is the long-running training grant, renewed over the summer by the National Institutes of Health. The grant, specifically for training pharmacologists in drug abuse research, amounts to about $3 million over five years. It will pay the stipends for nine pre-doctoral students and six post-doctoral scholars.

“I would not be here if it weren’t for the training grant,” said Jacy Jacob, a third-year Ph.D. student. “A lot of us would not be able to pursue our dream without it.”

Jacob is working in Dewey’s lab with two other graduate students researching the effects of ethanol on reversing opiate tolerance. She accumulated student debt while earning her master’s degree in pharmacology and toxicology, also at VCU. She had no desire to add to it.

“This means everything to me,” she said.

Dr. Louis Harris

Department chair for 20 years, the influence of Louis Harris, Ph.D., continues to this day.

The department has held the training grant since 1976, making it one of the longest-running in the country. Over its 40-year history, the grant has supported the education of 174 scientists. And when it was reviewed for five more years, the committee gave the application a perfect score.

“Clearly this is a very prestigious thing for us. It puts us on the map as one of the largest departments in the country,” said Hamid Akbarali, Ph.D., co-director with Dewey on the training grant and vice chair and director, graduate education and postdoctoral training. “It helps us attract top-notch faculty. Scientists and scientists-in-training want to be here.”
Joel Schlosburg, PhD’10 (PHTX), still feels the pull. After spending the last six years in San Diego as senior research associate at the Scripps Research Institute, he headed back to the MCV Campus this fall as an assistant professor.

His time spent in Richmond as a graduate student convinced him there’s no place
like home.

“When it comes to things like drug abuse research, there are few places you can point to that have the same resources and the same collaboration as here,” he said.

“You have the most diverse group of people who bring their own backgrounds, ideas and expertise to the table. It’s incredible. I think that healthy environment is all thanks to the strong leadership of people like Dr. Dewey and Dr. Harris.”

Dewey first met Harris in 1959, when he worked under him as a lab tech in New York. They both served on the faculty at Chapel Hill, where Harris was tasked with creating a graduate program in pharmacology in the 1960s. When Harris accepted the challenge of building up the VCU program, he asked Dewey to come with him.

“We immediately started recruiting faculty and students,” Harris said. “We began applying for more grants to support our research. As the grants came in, we were able to recruit even more. It fed on itself. It’s been a real team effort.”

Harris stepped down as chair in 1992. George Kunos, M.D., Ph.D., currently the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, assumed the post at that point, and Billy Martin, Ph.D., took over eight years later as the department entered the new millennium. Martin played a crucial role in building the department’s reputation for landmark research in drugs of abuse.

His primary focus was researching the effects of marijuana’s principal psychoactive ingredient, THC. Martin, who passed away in 2008, also made significant contributions to nicotine research.

With two-thirds of the faculty devoted to drug abuse research, others are focused in fields like cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and cancer pharmacology.

With two-thirds of the faculty devoted to drug abuse research, others are focused in fields like cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and cancer pharmacology.

“We’ve enjoyed strong, passionate leadership throughout the history of this department,” Akbarali said. “They have steered us in the direction we are now in. It really is like a little family here. I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else.”

Dewey has served as chair since Martin’s passing. Now 81, he continues to take great pride in the success of the department. But he refuses to take any credit.

“The chairman doesn’t do it,” he said. “The faculty does it. The people in this department are highly recognized across the country for their expertise.”

Over the years, faculty members have won numerous awards and published thousands of papers in international journals. They serve on national boards and as consultants for the courts. They are invited to lecture across the globe and work with the NIH to evaluate grants.

The students they mentor go on to pursue successful careers in research. Some work in private industry, on college campuses or for the federal government. Others have landed prominent positions with the Food and Drug Administration.

“During my graduate days, I remember my faculty advisor telling me it didn’t get any better than VCU,” said Frank Vocci, Ph.D., who completed his post-doctorate work at VCU in 1978. “He was right. I learned from the best and had the opportunity to conduct research in some fascinating areas of drug abuse.”

Vocci worked in drug abuse liability determination at the FDA and directed the NIDA medications development program before landing his current role as president/senior research scientist at the Friends Research Institute in Baltimore.

“VCU was extremely important to my career,” he said. “It was a great choice for me. They continue to have a reputation for turning out quality people.”

The training grant is tangible evidence of the culture of collaboration that alumni repeatedly reference. “I had heard great things about VCU before I came, but it was even better than I thought,” said Kathleen Brady, M.D., PhD’81 (PHTX), who today serves as vice president for research at the Medical University of South Carolina. “I had great mentors who were very involved in my work. Even the leadership of the department took a very personal interest in the graduate students. I wasn’t used to that.”

Since leaving Richmond, Brady continues to stay in touch with faculty and returns to the area regularly for drug abuse seminars and meetings. They have been pioneers in the field of pharmacology for a long time,” she said. “I am not surprised at all about their continued success.”

But Akbarali says, “There’s always room for improvement. As advances in techniques and technology continue, we are always looking forward.”

For years, Akbarali’s interest centered on Crohn’s Disease and colitis. Since coming to VCU 10 years ago, he has been working with Dewey on opiate-induced constipation research.

“That’s the strength of the faculty – we all were recruited because we brought an area of expertise that wasn’t here before,” he said. “We keep building. It’s all because of the passion and the commitment people have for the betterment of the department.”

For Dewey, that passion is stronger than ever, even after 40 years.

“I have had a ball,” he said. “It’s been so rewarding. I take a lot of pride in what this department has done. We don’t do this work for our egos. It’s always been about creating an atmosphere where we can conduct research that will one day improve the health of our
communities.”

Dewey knows all too well the importance of good health. He and his wife have a mentally disabled daughter and a son who lives with insulin-dependent diabetes. Dewey’s wife also suffers from diabetes and is battling breast cancer. “It really comes down to helping people,” he said. “Life is so wonderful. If we can improve it, what better thing can we do?”

  • The Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology’s first Ph.D. was awarded in 1952, making it the first awarded by MCV.
  • The department ranks 16th in the country in grant money received from the National Institutes of Health.
  • The training grant has supported 101 pre-doctoral students and 73 post-doctoral students since 1976.
  • With more than 300 Ph.D. graduates, the department’s alumni body is the largest of any of the medical school’s basic science departments.
  • The department was called the Department of Pharmacology from its creation until 1982, when Toxicology was added to the name.

By Janet Showalter

28
2016

Piece of the past

Dan Johnson, M’65, never expected to find anything of value as he cleaned out the attic of his Atlanta home.

Imagine his surprise when he came across a dusty box containing two surgical kits, one used for suturing and the other for dissection long before Johnson was born.

Dan Johnson, M’65's surgical kits

Dan Johnson, M’65, was surprised to find two surgical kits in his attic, including (top) a dissection kit used in cadaver labs before the turn of the century. Bottom: This leather-bound suturing kit from the late 1800s proclaimed a physician’s competence with its soft velvet lining and tortoise-shell handles. But since it could not stand up to sterilization, it fell out of use with the acceptance of germ theory.

“I thought it looked important, so I made some calls,” Johnson said.

He donated the items to the Tompkins-McCaw Library on the MCV Campus, and with help from Johnson, the staff uncovered as much as they could about the pieces.

“It is important to save these items because they help us document the changes in medicine that have taken place throughout our history,” said Andrew Bain, who manages the medical artifact collection at the library.

The suturing kit, manufactured between 1870 and 1881 in New York, offers a clear picture of a time before physicians saw patients in an office. Instead, they made house calls and used the knives, probes, tweezers and needles from their suturing kits to extract foreign objects from wounds and suture common cuts.

It was important for these physicians to convey a feeling of competence to patients, Bain said, so their instruments sported expensive tortoise-shell handles. The leather-bound kits were lined with soft velvet.

“While lovely, the tools were not very sanitary,” he said. “They couldn’t boil the instruments because the handles would crack.”

With the discovery of germ theory around the turn of the century, physicians opened offices where they could better control the environment, and the popularity of these kits faded.

The other kit Johnson discovered in his attic was typical of the kind used by medical students in cadaver labs in the late 1800s. Spotting the name of Glasgow Armstrong inscribed on the bottom of the wooden case, Bain investigated and learned Armstrong graduated in 1900 from New York University and later practiced in Staunton, Va.

“A lot of students threw their dissection kits away, so it’s wonderful to receive a donation like this one,” Bain said. “We are so grateful for every donation we receive.”

Of the 6,000 items in the library’s collection, more than half were donated by alumni, Bain said.

For Johnson, parting with the surgical kits was an easy call.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize how primitive medicine once was,” he said.

It is unclear how Johnson’s father-in-law, Walter Glenn Hardt, M’37, came to own both kits. He served in the Navy before opening a family practice in Bedford, Va. After his
passing in the 1970s, Johnson’s wife, Lucy Hardy, packed up her father’s belongings.

“For 30 years these boxes have been sitting here,” Johnson said. “When my wife passed away, I began cleaning things out. I never imagined I’d come across this, though. I guess
it just proves you never know what you might find in an old box in the attic.”

By Janet Showalter

This story first appeared in the fall 2016 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.

20
2016

Alumni host basic science students in Research Triangle Park

Jean Kim, PhD’10 (MICR)

Jean Kim, PhD’10 (MICR) welcomed students to RTI International where she is now a research microbiologist. Photography: Carrie Hawes

Career exploration hit the road when 38 students and four post-docs boarded a bus bound for Raleigh, N.C., to take part in VCU Career Services’ Rams’ Roadtrip program.

The graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering spent two days meeting with researchers, publishers and clinicians to learn more about careers beyond the scope of academia. The goal was for students to walk away with a broader perspective on what they could accomplish after graduation.

Rams’ Roadtrip began because members of VCU Career Services noticed that graduate students were leaving VCU without understanding the breadth of available job opportunities. Many Ph.D. candidates overlook non-academic opportunities in favor of a traditional career trajectory that takes them from doctoral study to postdoctoral research to university faculty, a path where opportunities are in decline.

A 2011 study by the journal Nature noted a 150 percent increase in the number of postdocs from 2000 to 2012. At the same time, full-time, tenure eligible opportunities remained constant or declined. Carrie Hawes, the program’s organizer and assistant director at VCU Career Services, believes exposure through Rams’ Roadtrip helps to enhance students’ perspectives on potential career paths.

Basic science students visit Research Triangle Park

Research Triangle Park was the third stop in the Rams’ Roadtrip program that broadens students’ perspective on careers beyond the scope of academia. Photography: Carrie Hawes

North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park is known for its high concentration of organizations focused on pharmaceutical and biological sciences research and development. So it was an ideal destination in October when students visited Becton Dickinson, Research Square, QuintilesIMS and RTI International. They had the chance to tour the facilities, hear overviews of current research and meet with researchers from each organization.

“This was an awesome opportunity for someone like me in their second year of a Ph.D,” said Supriya Joshi, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. “I still have some breathing room to look at opportunities and assess what things work in non-academic careers.”

Jean Kim, PhD’10 (MICR) welcomed students to RTI International where they met with members of the commercialization group to learn about monetizing research. At RTI, students also met Jenny Wiley, Ph.D., an alumna of VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences and a former faculty member in the medical school’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

At Research Square, the students were exposed to careers in scientific publishing, meeting Jennifer Mietla, PhD’14 (BIOC), who is now quality control editor with the organization.

Throughout the trip, the students got a heavy dose of career advice from their hosts related to how to find their first job.

“People really got to see what others who had once worked in those exact same VCU labs are doing now,” Hawes said. “It was neat for the students to see what you can do come to life.”

This is the third time VCU Career Services has hosted the Rams’ Roadtrip program. In September 2015, the group took students to Bethesda, Maryland, for a look at science policy and consulting careers through visits to the National Institute of Health, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Society of Microbiology and MedImmune. Students also visited the University of Richmond to explore teaching-focused careers at a liberal arts university.

Organizers say this hands-on program is providing graduate students networking opportunities and a greater awareness of potential career options. Seven students from last year’s trip found employment with non-academic research organizations after graduation.

By Brian Nicholas

15
2016

Medical Society of Virginia honors Robin Foster and Gene Peterson for service

The Medical Society of Virginia Foundation recently recognized two medical school faculty with Salute to Service Awards, which are given to Virginia physicians and medical students for their selfless services to others, impact to the health of the population served and commitment to health care excellence.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., won the service to the uninsured and underserved award and Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D., posthumously won the service for advancing patient safety and quality improvement award at the awards ceremony, which took place at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center in Roanoke, VA on Oct. 15.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., Robin L. Foster, M.D., was honored by the MSV for her service to the uninsured and underserved.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., Division Chairman of Pediatric Emergency Services, Director of the Child Protection Team, Associate Chairman of Emergency Medicine, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics

Dr. Foster’s award acknowledges her commitment and impact on the profession and the health of the population she serves. She was honored for her work in forming Richmond’s first Child Advocacy Center in partnership with Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Greater Richmond. The Child Advocacy Center coordinates activities across agencies to improve training for professionals in positions to defend and protect children in legal and social service interventions. Dr. Foster is also a founding member of Bridging the Gap, which uses adolescent hospital visits as a starting point for increased education, communication and engagement for violence prevention. Along with this work, she is an active leader of Reach Out and Read as well as Richmond Midnight Basketball League—both of which aim to help children and adolescents.

“Dr. Foster has dedicated her career to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, violence prevention and improved advocacy policy on behalf of the underserved population of at-risk children and adolescents and their families,” said nominator Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D. “She has played a key role in multiple significant projects that have positively impacted the lives of underserved and vulnerable children and adolescents in our community. From clinical care, to counseling, to making the most of any contact with the medical center, to changes in policy and law, she has led an unmatched spectrum of programs contributing to improved family life and child and adolescent health in vulnerable populations.”

Dr. Foster is a 1989 graduate of the VCU School of Medicine, which is where she returned as a faculty member in Emergency Medicine in 1996. She currently serves there as the Division Chair of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Associate Professor in Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics. She is the co-founder and medical director of the Child Protection Team, which evaluates over 1,000 alleged victims of abuse and neglect per year.

Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D.Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D., was honored posthumously by the MSV for advancing patient safety and quality improvement

Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D. (awarded posthumously), Former Chief Safety Officer and Associate Dean for Medical Education

The Salute to Service Award for advancing patient safety and quality improvement acknowledges Dr. Peterson’s accomplishments as the first Chief Safety Officer at VCU, in a role that was unique within the country. Dr. Peterson was the first incumbent to receive the appointment to Professorship for Safety, Quality and Service in Resident Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. He set the foundation for resident and physician training with quality and safety initiatives at VCU by improving the safety of clinician training and leading the development of models that still serve VCU today. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Dr. Peterson immediately rose to the challenge to assist with the Unique Pathogens Unit.

“Because of Dr. Peterson’s vision and success in integrating resident and physician training with the quality and safety initiatives of the VCU Medical Center, his development of models of care delivery will sever patients and learners for years to come,” said nominator Abraham Segres, Vice President of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA). “Dr. Peterson left an indelible mark on all of his colleagues as well as the patients and communities served by VCU. He was truly a visionary leader, and his work integrating resident physician training with the quality and safety initiatives of the VCU/MCV Hospital Clinics has been the foundation for the future of VCU’s educational programs.”

During his time at VCU, Dr. Peterson was an active participant of several initiatives including the technical advisory panel for TeamSTEPPS, a program developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to improve patient safety as well as communication and teamwork skills among health care professionals. He also collaborated on the World Health Organization’s surgical safety checklist for 10 years. He showed a deep commitment to patient safety and encouraged all VCU employees to speak up if they saw something wrong or sensed a potential problem. He wanted to standardize safety measures during patient hand-offs between shifts and worked closely with the University of Virginia Patient Safety team to provide high quality and safe care.

Dr. Peterson died on Nov. 20, 2015. MSVF is honoring him with this award posthumously for his lifelong commitment to advancing the practice of medicine and to improving patient safety.

Announcement courtesy of the MSV Foundation, the philanthropic organization affiliated with the Medical Society of Virginia. MSVF develops sustainable programs and initiatives that equip the physician community to improve the health of Virginians. Building upon physicians’ deep, personal commitment to patient care, MSVF initiatives offer them the opportunity to lead and participate in programs that have direct impact on health care quality and access in Virginia.

15
2016

Housestaff alumnus named New York State EMS Physician of Excellence

Scott S. Coyne, H’81, remembers his first days as a radiology resident on the MCV Campus. The enormity of the work had started to sink in when Fred Vines, M.D., former division chair of diagnostic radiology, offered these encouraging words.

“He said to me, ‘When you finish here, you’ll be able to handle anything — nothing will be hard for you.’ And he was 100 percent right.”

Housestaff alumnus Scott S. Coyne is the New York State EMS Physician of Excellence.

Housestaff alumnus Scott S. Coyne is the New York State EMS Physician of Excellence, recognized for the implementation of life-saving programs that have helped improve safety and resulted in statewide EMS protocol changes.

Coyne says that level of preparedness and training — “the intensity and immediacy of the clinical experience, going 24/7” — is what prepared him to ultimately spend a decade as Department of Radiology chair at then-named Northshore University Hospital at Glen Cove, now Northwell Health, a health network of 21 hospitals in New York and New Jersey where he worked for 19 years.

Now the chief surgeon and medical director for the Suffolk County Police Department on Long Island, Coyne was named the New York State EMS Physician of Excellence in October 2016.

The award recognizes a physician who has demonstrated exceptional dedication and experience in the pre-hospital care environment. Since joining the police department in 1992, Coyne implemented life-saving programs that have helped improve the safety and well-being of Suffolk residents, as well as resulted in statewide EMS protocol changes.

In 2008, he created the medical crisis action team, or MEDCAT. Made up of nearly 30 police officers trained as advanced life support paramedics or critical care EMTs with specialized training in combat medicine, Coyne calls MEDCAT a “medical SWAT team.”

Trained to deliver care under fire, the team operates under the principle of taking advantage of golden minutes to begin care at, what Coyne calls, the “point of wounding.” Five MEDCAT physicians complement the team.

“Our team is trained to deal with the threat and then immediately begin care of the injured,” Coyne says. “Many victims may only have minutes to survive with certain types of injuries. We are on call 24/7 and will respond as a special operations team to these types of situations.”

In 2015, Coyne and three MEDCAT officers received the International Association of Chiefs of Police Lifesaving Award for saving the life of a police officer who was gravely injured by fleeing felons.

“The officer was intentionally hit by a car as the felons pulled away and left to die in the street,” Coyne says. “Miraculously, we had three MEDCAT officers within a couple of miles of the crime scene.”

Coyne has trained thousands of police officers and emergency services personnel to respond in high-risk operations such as active shooter situations and has equipped all patrol officers with combat tourniquets to effectively respond to such incidents. He has maintained a high standard of police academy medical training, requiring all Suffolk County police officers to become certified EMTs before graduation.

“Most departments have a few EMTs but we actually have five weeks of EMT training built into our academy so that our police officers also are state-certified EMTs,” Coyne says.

In addition, he has certified 1,500 police officers to administer Narcan, a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses opioid overdoses.

“In the last four-and-a-half years, our officers have given Narcan 720 times,” Coyne says. In 2014, the U.S. Attorney General recognized Suffolk County’s Narcan program as a nationwide model for law enforcement.

Coyne readily shares his expertise beyond Suffolk County. In February, he served as keynote speaker at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine’s multidisciplinary trauma symposium “Creating Order out of Chaos.” He spoke on threat suppression, patient management and coordination of trauma care in a mass casualty incident and also led a separate workshop on the development of key principles of a hospital-based active shooter plan.

He says his training at a major trauma referral center was the foundation for his work in the field. “My fondest years really were at the Medical College of Virginia, not only for the premier training it offered, but also for the friendships and professional relationships I developed. It was absolutely one of the most important times in my life.”

Coyne returned to campus in 2016 to meet with Department of Radiology Chair Ann S. Fulcher, M’87, H’91, vice chairs Melvin J. Fratkin, M’64, H’68, F’69, and Mary Ann Turner, H’75, and professor emeritus Jaime Tisnado, M.D. Coyne also toured VCU Medical Center, including Main Hospital, which was under construction throughout the duration of his residency.

“I was overwhelmed at the growth of MCV into such an impressive state-of-the-art facility. MCV was always my first choice. I remember so clearly, as a student at Downstate medical school, when envelopes were handed out on Match Day and not knowing where life was going to take me. Acceptance at MCV was the best news I could have ever received. Little did I know that MCV would become such a cornerstone in my life.”

By Polly Roberts