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November 2017 Archives


Timely scholarship gives nontraditional student the help he needs to return to the classroom

Kenneth Guinn first experienced the fast-paced, high-stakes environment of the emergency room as a volunteer at a hospital near his undergraduate university.

This story first appeared in Impact, VCU’s award-winning publication that shows how philanthropy changes the lives of students and faculty on campus.This story first appeared in Impact, VCU’s award-winning publication that shows how philanthropy changes the lives of students and faculty on campus.

“I loved the energy,” he says, “and the sense of urgency knowing that patients needed immediate help.”

After those experiences, Guinn knew he wanted to go to medical school. What he didn’t know yet was that his journey to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine would involve a few unexpected diversions.

“I just always assumed I would go right into medical school after earning my bachelor’s degree,” he says. “I never even considered another path to that goal.”

But as Guinn neared the end of his undergraduate education, something else occurred to him: a feeling that it was his duty to serve his country. Instead of applying to medical school, he joined the Navy.

“When you’re enlisted, you’re pretty low on the totem pole, so respect and humility go a long way,” says Guinn, who completed a four-year enlistment before being discharged honorably. “I learned a lot about character during my time in the military, which I believe will be useful in my future medical career.”

Guinn was finally ready to take everything he’d learned and get back to work pursuing his original dream of a medical degree. He was accepted into the VCU School of Medicine in 2015. But after years away from the classroom, he faced the challenges of not only returning to school as a nontraditional student but also affording an expensive medical degree.

Relief came via the Stephen C. and Marie F. Cenedella Endowed Scholarship, a renewable award that Guinn has received both of his years at VCU.

“When you think about the costs – tuition, books, even living expenses – it all adds up,” Guinn says. He also receives help through military benefits and says every bit helps. “The financial benefit of the scholarship has been great, but it’s also a confidence-booster. It means a lot when someone shows that they support you and believe in your success.”

Awarded annually to students in the VCU School of Medicine based on both merit and need, the Cenedella Scholarship was established with a gift of $125,000 from Stephen C. Cenedella, M’68, and his late wife, Marie, and 1967 alumna of the School of Allied Health, in December 2005.

Stephen Cenedella and his late wife, Marie, pictured in 2006.Stephen Cenedella and his late wife, Marie, pictured in 2006.

Cenedella still talks with gratitude about the scholarship he received during his time on the MCV Campus. By the end of his third year in medical school, he had accumulated 14 student loans. The scholarship he received covered the full tuition cost for his final year.

“I’ll never forget how relieved I felt to have that last year paid for,” Cenedella says. “I always knew I wanted to pay it forward.”

Cenedella hopes his support will help medical students pursue their passion without being discouraged by the financial burden.

“My advice for them is to follow their heart and never forget why they wanted to become doctors: to help others,” says Cenedella, who has seen more than 200,000 patients since his career in family medicine began in 1972.

In November 2016, Cenedella made arrangements to give an additional $100,000 to the scholarship fund through his individual retirement account. With this additional gift Cenedella is contributing to the School of Medicine’s 1838 Campaign, which aims to recruit and reward top students and to reduce student debt.

Planned giving via an IRA charitable rollover

The federal government made permanent a tax law that makes it more appealing for some donors to use IRA funds to support VCU.

IRA owners older than 70 1/2 are required to begin taking annual minimum distributions. Recent legislation allows these individuals to make a distribution of up to $100,000 from their IRA directly to an eligible charitable organization, tax-free. This can satisy the required minimum distribution amount from their income, resulting in lower taxable income regardless of whether they itemize deductions.

Peter F. Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine, says the campaign is a way to level the playing field for all students. When the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for medical schools in the U.S., visited VCU last year, they gave the School of Medicine high marks and a full eight-year re-accreditation. In their review, they paid special attention to the level of educational debt students carry, which is an issue nationwide.

“The accreditors were glad to see that we’ve launched the 1838 Scholarship Campaign to build an endowment that’s on par with our peer schools,” Buckley says. “Combined with tightly limiting tuition increases, it’s our approach to helping talented and compassionate students fulfill their dream of becoming physicians – regardless of their families’ financial resources. We’re enormously grateful to Dr. Cenedella for his partnership in that goal.”

Guinn is on track to graduate from the School of Medicine in 2019. He has maintained his passion for emergency care and still experiences the same rush of adrenaline that inspired him to pursue it as a career.

In a letter of thanks to Cenedella, Guinn explained that although his path to medicine was not as direct as he’d imagined, he believed his experience would help make him a better doctor.

“While I have not taken the traditional path to medicine, I have learned and grown so much more through my alternative route,” he wrote. “I plan to remain a creative, outside-the-box thinker who is not afraid to take the road less traveled.”

By Brelyn Powell


Associate Dean Cheifetz receives national honors

As the nation faces an anticipated physician shortage, many medical schools have elected to expand class size. Much of the expansion has been accomplished through the growth of regional medical campuses – campuses geographically separate from the medical school’s main campus.

Craig Cheifetz, M.D.Craig Cheifetz, M.D.

Craig Cheifetz, M.D., associate dean for medical education in the VCU School of Medicine, has overseen the development of the school’s Inova Campus from its earliest stages. Since 2005, Cheifetz has supervised the training of third- and fourth-year medical students at Inova Fairfax Hospital, where the students benefit from the hospital’s diverse patient population and state-of-the-art facilities.

Cheifetz has also served as a leader on the national front, and now has been honored by the Association of American Medical Colleges for his exemplary service in fostering information sharing, communication and discussion of key issues among administrators, staff and faculty of regional medical campuses.

He accepted the Distinguished Service Award from the AAMC Group on Regional Medical Campuses at the AAMC Annual Meeting in Boston on Nov. 3, 2017.

“Regional campuses have been a key component as we look to address the physician shortage, and Dr. Cheifetz has been a national leader in their development and success,” says Peter F. Buckley, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “He’s universally known for his willingness to serve as a mentor – whether you’re a medical student or a peer at another school. I greatly admire his generosity in sharing from his experiences and wisdom.”

Cheifetz has served as chair of both the GRMC Steering Committee and the GRMC Program Planning Committee. He is credited for leadership that led to a marked increase in energy, productivity and visibility for the GRMC. In addition, his published scholarship on regional campuses has helped academic medicine better define and understand the many roles and value of regional medical campuses.

VCU and its faculty played a prominent role at the AAMC’s 2017 annual meeting. Vice President for Health Sciences Marsha D. Rappley, M.D., who also serves as chief executive officer of the VCU Health System, gave a plenary address on Nov. 5 and was honored for her role as chair of the AAMC board of directors. An alumni reception on Nov. 4 celebrated Rappley’s tenure as board chair as well as VCU Health’s selection as a 2017 Baldwin Awardee for its exemplary graduate medical education program.

By Erin Lucero


Alumni star M’99 Eduardo Rodriguez inspires the next generation

It was front-page news out of NYU Langone Health in August 2015. In a 26-hour operation, the face of a 26-year-old bike mechanic who was declared brain-dead after a cycling crash was transplanted onto a 41-year-old former firefighter who was severely burned in the line of duty.

Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M'99 (center) with the Class of 2019's Diana Otoya and the Class of 2020's Frank Soto at the 2017 Alumni Stars Ceremony.Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M’99 (center) with the Class of 2019’s Diana Otoya and the Class of 2020’s Frank Soto at the 2017 Alumni Stars Ceremony. Photo credit: Jay Paul.

Leading the team that performed the most extensive facial transplant ever was M’99 Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., D.D.S., the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone. The painstakingly delicate surgery was a resounding success.

Becoming a leader in facial transplantation, Rodriguez says, wasn’t an anticipated career goal.

“However, I’ve always had an interest in finding solutions to difficult problems, and this pursuit has led me to the position in which I currently reside,” he says.

Rodriguez recently returned to Richmond to be honored at the 2017 Alumni Stars ceremony, a biennial event that celebrates alumni from across the university’s academic units for their extraordinary personal and professional achievements. During the event, Rodriguez met the Class of 2019’s Diana Otoya, who says she was encouraged by Rodriguez’s non-traditional path to medical school.

“I confessed to him I didn’t really know what I wanted to do yet,” Otoya says. “He made me feel comforted by his own story about starting in dentistry before even thinking about medical school. He gave me reassurance that there is no path that is set in stone and that our careers are fluid.”

Rodriguez and his team at NYU Langone are planning for future reconstructive procedures while expanding the face transplant program’s clinical, research and education/training efforts.

“Clinical efforts will focus on patient selection and achieving the most optimal aesthetic and functional results,” he says. “Research efforts are focused on improving immune surveillance and designing patient-specific targeted immune therapies to lessen drug toxicity without increasing risk of transplant rejection.”

Peter F. Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine, praised Rodriguez’s work. “He brings hope to patients in the most difficult of circumstances and I have no doubt he will continue to transform countless lives,” Buckley says. “I’m proud to see him receive this alumni honor and grateful we can call him one of our own.”

Rodriguez, the son of Cuban immigrants, was born and raised in Miami. His road to VCU began with undergraduate education at the University of Florida followed by a dental degree from NYU College of Dentistry. He completed a residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine before enrolling at VCU, where he earned his medical degree in 1999.

“I was fortunate to have been part of a newly designed education curriculum there and certainly received the best medical education at VCU,” he says.

In addition to pioneering clinical achievements, Rodriguez has written more than 130 articles and 21 book chapters. He is a member of numerous national and international professional societies, and he was the Dawson Theogaraj visiting professor in plastic surgery on VCU’s MCV Campus in 2016.

Rodriguez is quick to share credit for his accomplishments and accolades.

“I am lucky to have been mentored by remarkable individuals, and along the way, I have worked hard but have enjoyed every moment,” he says. “I have learned from the most challenging moments, and that is why one must always look forward and never give up.


M4 Nehal Naik on national board

The Class of 2018’s Nehal Naik is one of eight members on the Resident and Medical Student Board recently created by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.

The Class of 2018’s Nehal NaikThe Class of 2018’s Nehal Naik

Residents and medical students already constitute half of SAEM’s total society membership. The inaugural RAMS board will give them a stronger voice within the SAEM community by developing educational content and annual meeting programming; promoting mentorship and career development; and identifying leadership and advocacy opportunities of particular interest and importance to our junior members.

“Resident and students involved with SAEM get a jump start on their academic careers by learning from titans of academic emergency medicine,” Naik told Pulse, the SAEM newsletter. “From our speed mentoring sessions to committee work, SAEM creates a pathway for success.”

Earlier this year, Naik completed a yearlong research fellowship in Lima, Peru, where he traveled under the sponsorships of the National Institutes of Health Fogarty Global Health program. He has long had an interest in pursuing a career in emergency medicine.

“By being part of the inaugural RAMS board through SAEM, Nehal is at the forefront of leadership in the next generation in EM, specifically as part of academic EM’s largest organized group,” says Joel Moll, M.D., Naik’s advisor and the residency program director for the Department of Emergency Medicine. “Nehal’s particular interest in the developing world and those who are underserved and under resourced in the U.S. is in keeping with EM’s mission to serve all patients by providing equitable health care.”

Naik grew up in Santa Barbara, California, earned his undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkley and a master’s from Georgetown University. Along the way, he has cultivated enthusiasm for rock climbing, river rafting and salsa dancing. His 12-month term on the RAMS board runs through May 2018.

“Emergency medicine is strategically placed in medicine to understand the needs of our community,” Naik says. “We need to continue our academic efforts to promote public health and be leaders within public health policy.”

SAEM is dedicated to the improvement of care of the acutely ill and injured patient by improving research and education.

By Erin Lucero

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Updated: 04/29/2016