Jump to content
Placeholder image for header
School of Medicine discoveries

May 2018 Archives


Supporting the next generation of physicians

Eric Freeman, M’02, returned to campus as the speaker at the medical school’s Second Look program.

Eric Freeman, M’02, returned to campus as the speaker at the medical school’s Second Look program.

For Eric Freeman, M’02, life is all about giving back.

“So many people gave their time, talent and treasure to mentor me and allow me to be successful. I believe that much of my success was because of my upbringing and I am around an outstanding family, my church and my community,” he says. “Now, my practice has become a ministry for me, and what better way to pay back those who helped me than to give back to my local community.”

In addition to running a busy private practice, Old Dominion Pediatrics in Richmond, Freeman volunteers with the Richmond Academy of Medicine and with the health ministry at his church, Providence Park Baptist.

He’s also committed to supporting the next generation of physicians.

That’s why he returned to the MCV Campus recently to share his experiences, learnings and advice with prospective medical students. The medical school’s Second Look program gives applicants who are members of underrepresented minorities a chance to explore the school’s programs in more depth. Each year, a weekend of activities is organized by the School of Medicine’s Office of Student Outreach, along with VCU’s chapters of the Student National Medical Association and Latino Medical Student Association. The weekend offers opportunities to interact with faculty and current students in a more relaxed atmosphere than the usual formal tours and interviews.

Freeman credits his family – his mother was a teacher, father a masonry contractor, and two aunts were physicians – for inspiring and encouraging him. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from the College of William & Mary, he found support in medical school from a variety of faculty members. He credits family medicine physician Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M’79, now the senior associate dean for admissions, with keeping him grounded and treating him like family. Cheryl Al-Mateen, M.D., associate professor and child psychiatrist, taught him about the importance of mental health in children, something he spends a great deal of time addressing in his practice today. Linda Costanzo, Ph.D., professor emerita of physiology and biophysics, he said, was an amazing mentor and teacher. And the late Thomas Tucker, M.Ed., director of the Health Careers Opportunity Program at VCU, opened doors to the profession.

Freeman is proud of the education he received in the School of Medicine and is determined to continue the tradition of supporting others. “I think alumni have a responsibility to give back. The reason I am who I am is that there were so many people who took time with me to provide me knowledge and to give me a chance. I think that has made me a better person, a better pediatrician and a better physician.”

Donna Jackson, Ed D., assistant dean for admissions in the School of Medicine, has noticed Freeman’s commitment to others ever since he was a student on the MCV Campus.

“At VCU’s School of Medicine, service is important, and Dr. Freeman is one who got that idea,” Jackson says. “As a student, he always expressed a desire to serve in communities of need in Richmond and continued that when he returned to Richmond after residency to fulfill his life-long aspiration to practice in his hometown. Our current students can be inspired by Dr. Freeman’s journey to set goals that continually include service to others. Whether at home or in a new city or state, we want our students to give back. There is no better example of one giving back than Dr. Freeman.”

Freeman stresses that he’s just paying it forward. “It’s important to reach back and bring people along on the journey. That means a great deal to me.”

As part of that pledge, he assured Second Look participants that he would be available for students and residents alike looking for a mentor.

He also gave them some advice. “First of all, stay humble and stay hungry. People will want to help you and add to your life and to your worth. Also, when you’re humble, doors will open to you to guide you on your journey.”

The other thing, Freeman notes, is to be committed and to be consistent. He’s fond of a Denzel Washington quote: “Without commitment, you’ll never start, but more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never finish.”

By Lisa Crutchfield


Jennifer Lawton, H’99, returns to campus as Brooks-Lower Visiting Professor

Cardiac surgeon Jennifer Lawton, H'99

Cardiac surgeon Jennifer Lawton, H’99, returned to the MCV Campus as the 2018 Brooks-Lower Visiting Professor and guest judge for the Department of Surgery’s research day.

The value the VCU School of Medicine has long placed on research impacted Jennifer Lawton, M.D., H’99, in a way she will never forget.

“I learned how to do it all here,” Lawton says. “The benefits of an environment like that can’t be underestimated. Without the training and time in the lab I put in here, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Today, she is the first woman to head the Johns Hopkins Division of Cardiac Surgery. She also serves as director of the Cardiac Surgery Research Laboratory and program director for the cardiothoracic fellowship training program.

Lawton returned to the MCV Campus in April 2018 as the Brooks-Lower Visiting Professor and guest judge for the Department of Surgery’s research day. She spoke to the audience on the topic, “Why on earth would you want to be a surgeon-scientist?”

Most importantly, she says, it’s because surgeons can ultimately bring research to the bedside. “We are precisely the people who know the areas of need. We know the patients and the problems they face. We see it every day.”

Surgeon-scientists, she adds, will contend with critics who say they are either spending too much time on research or too much time in the operating room. Yet for her, it’s worth it to strive for the right mix. “I find it very invigorating to find those benefits for patients.”

Not to mention, points out Stuart McGuire Surgery Chair Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D., there’s no question about Lawton’s success on both sides of the spectrum. “She is a great researcher and a great surgeon, and very well known in the profession. We were looking to bring in someone with significant interest in research and a practicing surgeon. She is outstanding.”

Lawton’s research interests include women and heart disease, and gender differences in cardiac surgery. As a funded surgeon-scientist, she studies protection of the heart muscle by examining the responses of isolated heart cells (myocytes) in response to stress and the role of a cardioprotective ion channel in the heart.

She has spent much of her career raising awareness of heart disease as the leading cause of death for adult women in the U.S. through her advocacy as a leading authority with the American Heart Association.

The death of Lawton’s grandparents from heart disease led her to medicine. But in high school, she began to question her decision until her mother told her to “just try it and jump in. Everything is going to work out alright.”

The key, she adds, is having a champion in the workplace and at home.

The Brooks-Lower Grand Rounds Lecture is named for two beloved professors in the School of Medicine, James W. Brooks, M.D., and Richard R. Lower, M.D. While Lawton says she missed working with Lower by a few years, she trained in the research lab with technicians who had trained under the pioneering transplant physician. “He is responsible for so much of how heart transplants are performed today.

“I was fortunate to be here with Dr. Brooks, although I never rotated on thoracic,” she says. “But I had knowledge of his wardrobe habits,” describing his famous bow tie, hat, towel and stethoscope ensemble, much to the delight of the audience at the April lecture.

Lawton asked the crowd to help carry on Lower’s and Brooks’ legacies. “We need you. We need you to be role models to the next generation, especially women.”

By Polly Roberts


Inaugural Supper Club connects alumni, students

John McGurl, M'93 (right), hosted the inaugural Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club in April.

John McGurl, M’93 (right), hosted the inaugural Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club in April, welcoming a small group of students to his home to enjoy a meal and conversation.

John McGurl, M’93, remembers well the hustle and bustle of medical school. Days (and nights) were filled with studying, exams, rotations, more studying, group meetings, even more studying. So when he had the opportunity to provide a group of current medical students with a little relief (and mentorship), he didn’t hesitate.

This spring, McGurl volunteered to host the School of Medicine’s inaugural Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club in the Richmond home he shares with Michelle Gluck. The event’s concept is simple: small groups of students can sign up to have a meal and conversation with Richmond-area alumni to share ideas, seek career advice and build relationships.

“It was the most fun we’ve had in a long time,” McGurl says. “We loved spending time with the students, learning their backgrounds, hearing what areas of medicine they plan to focus on, and just getting to know them and what medical school is like today.”

Students were also eager to hear about McGurl’s experiences as a doctor — from his medical school and residency days to his current job as an internist at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“It was a wonderful event and I’m so glad that VCU School of Medicine is helping its students build their professional network, gain exposure to potential mentors and engage us to be more willing to give back to our school in the future,” one student attendee shared in a post-event survey.

Designed for first- and second-year students, the inaugural supper club’s 10 available slots filled within 24 hours of the invitation’s delivery. Afterward, 100 percent of the students who attended the event said they would like to attend another supper club in the future.

McGurl would be happy to welcome them. “I’d love to host more events like this soon,” he says. “I would have had another one the next day.” The event lasted well past its 8 p.m. end time as the group continued to share stories, some even about life outside of medicine.

“Alumni play a significant role in the student experience,” says Thomas Maness, M.P.A., the medical school’s associate dean for development and alumni affairs. “Connecting with current students and providing valuable guidance can help shape the careers and lives of future fellow graduates.”

Interested in hosting a Supper Club event?
The Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club is a unique opportunity for alumni to engage with their alma mater.

Supper Club events can be held in alumni homes or at local venues near the MCV Campus. Medical school staff will assist with all of the arrangements to make hosting easy and convenient.

To be part of the Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club, contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at (804) 828-4800 or MedAlum@vcu.edu.

Just stopping in town for a visit? Development and alumni relations also can help alumni schedule tours of the MCV Campus or connect with students.

By Polly Roberts


Through your eyes

From the time he was 5 years old, R. Randolph Duffer, M’72, H’75, worked on the family farm in Charlotte County, Virginia, milking cows and harvesting tobacco.

"Being a country doctor, your patients become family," says the Class of 72's Randolph Duffer. "I may help them as their doctor, but they are always helping me with plumbing, electrical work or whatever needs doing."

“Being a country doctor, your patients become family,” says the Class of 72’s Randolph Duffer. “I may help them as their doctor, but they are always helping me with plumbing, electrical work or whatever needs doing.”

At 13, he began spending his summers curing tobacco leaves inside one of several tobacco barns on the property, sleeping under the barn’s attached shed.

“My father would bring me breakfast, I’d buy lunch up the road, and then my father  would bring me dinner,” Duffer says. “It was hard work, but it was all we knew. It was a way of life then.”

Tobacco was the major crop in rural south central Virginia. As far as the eye could see, tobacco barns dotted the landscape.

Today, not so much.

“Very few are surviving,” Duffer says. “Most are rotting. It’s sad to see them disappear.”

Duffer is doing his part to preserve his past. In 2013, he began disassembling the pine log structures on his family’s land and rebuilding them on his 200-acre farm
in Gretna, about 40 miles away. He has completed two, making the second one his home. He plans to begin work on the third barn this spring.

“This is part of my history,” says Duffer, who has been practicing rural family medicine in Gretna for 42 years. “I have a responsibility to save it.”

The first barn originally featured four rows of tier poles, used to dry the tobacco. Duffer transformed it into a log cabin, complete with a living room, dining room and kitchen. He added on a rescued shed that contains the bedroom and bathroom.

The second barn is larger, with a front and back porch and a guest bedroom and bath. Duffer moved from the first to second barn earlier this year.

“It’s a piece of art, just like a painting or a sculpture,” Duffer says.

Duffer used reclaimed wood from homes in the area for kitchen cabinets, doors and floors. He learned construction skills from his father, Rufus Joe Duffer, who was a
part-time carpenter, and receives help on his projects from neighbors, friends and family.

“Being a country doctor, your patients become family,” he says. “I may help them as their doctor, but they are always helping me with plumbing, electrical work or whatever
needs doing.”

Duffer knew early on that he would practice medicine. His uncle, Aubrey, an MCV alumnus, practiced dentistry. “My father, in all his wisdom, sat me down and encouraged me to go to medical school,” Duffer says.

He chose rural medicine because he is “a country boy at heart.” Today, he inspires others to do the same. Over the years, he has precepted dozens of students, including his first from the MCV Campus last year.

“There is such a need for rural family health care, and the reward is great,” he says. “It may not be as lucrative, but the satisfaction completes you.”

At 72, Duffer has no plans on retiring. “That’s not in my vocabulary,” he says. “When you have a passion for something, you want to do it as long as you can.”

That includes restoring tobacco barns.

“The little gravel road that leads to my house is called Farmers Road,” Duffer says. “What a perfect name. Every day, it takes me back to my roots. It takes me home.”

By Janet Showalter


Continue the work

The Class of 53’s Julie Møller Sanford

The Class of 53’s Julie Møller Sanford.

There’s a Danish proverb that says “Alle Baader hioelpe.”

“Every little helps.”

Julie Møller Sanford, M’53, discovered at a young age that a little kindness could go a long way.

Born in Alabama to Danish parents, Møller and her family lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, for much of her childhood, enjoying the company of aunts, uncles and cousins who lived within walking distance. Yet all of that quickly changed in April 1940 when Germany invaded Denmark during World War II.

Møller was just 13 years old.

At the time of the invasion, her parents were overseas so, alone, she and her 10-year- old sister fled through Germany, Austria and Italy to catch a boat to New York. Although they were able to travel under an American passport, their journey wasn’t without peril. Germany had invaded the Lowlands in Western Europe and as the sisters reached the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy, the border closed. German soldiers marched on their train and turned it back to Innsbruck, Austria, forcing all passengers from the train.

“Despite maintaining a calm facade for the sake of her little sister, my mom was scared to death,” says Møller’s daughter, Ann Sanford, recounting the stories her mother shared with family before her passing in 2017. It wasn’t until adulthood that she and her  siblings learned many of the details of what happened, thanks to Møller’s inquisitive  grandchildren.

The Møllers’ dearest family friends in Denmark were Jewish and “she had heard of the concentration camps and didn’t know what would happen as she sat with her sister on the train platform in Austria,” Sanford says. “Then a kind young man took notice and helped them find food and a place to stay. The next day, they were able to get back on the train and continue their journey.”

The Class of 53’s Julie Møller Sanford and her sister were passengers on one of the last ships to safely reach the U.S. during WWII. s Julie Møller Sanford led a storied life, filled with family, kindness, acceptance and a commitment to paying it forward.

The Class of 53’s Julie Møller Sanford and her sister were passengers on one of the last ships to safely reach the U.S. during WWII.

Ultimately the sisters reached the boat in Genoa, Italy — one of the last passenger ships to safely cross the Atlantic Ocean. At last safely aboard, Møller recognized the dire circumstances around them; they were fortunate to share a cabin with an elderly woman while many passengers slept in common areas.

Their mother met the boat in New York City with tears of relief and joy, having searched for them on each ship that arrived.

“The impact of that period in her life helped her understand the hardships faced by many and the difference one person could make,” Sanford says. “She also was mindful of and grateful for the opportunities she had for learning and to make a positive contribution. She just appreciated life. In her medical practice and in her community, she was calm and resourceful, kind and accepting. She understood the importance of recognizing the dignity in others, whatever their origins or circumstances.”

So it came as no surprise to Sanford that her mother decided to endow a scholarship in the School of Medicine. In coordination with her husband John Sanford, also a physician, she made provisions for the MCV Foundation in her estate and also named the foundation as a beneficiary on her retirement accounts.

“My parents had families that supported them when they worked to become physicians — emotional support and financial support,” Sanford says. “They appreciated that and wanted to pay it forward. Medicine wasn’t just a job or profession to them. It was a calling and an opportunity to make an impact. Both viewed this scholarship as a wonderful way to continue that work, their life’s work, and to share that with others.”

Møller also had an impact in Duluth, Minnesota. In 1964 she became the first female doctor at the Duluth Clinic, where she practiced internal medicine. Sanford remembers pictures from her mother’s early years of training in Chicago and in practice — all men and “then there’s mom. Women in medicine were all pioneers back in those days.”

Møller made a point to treat each patient as an individual — not a lab result or diagnosis, a lesson she passed on to the two of her four children who became physicians and to her students in her role as a clinical preceptor for the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth.

“My brother told me of her advice to him — to make sure to find out something personal about each patient,” Sanford says. “What’s the most exciting thing they’ve ever done or the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen? And then remember it. Treat each patient as a unique person, with dignity and respect.”

The Class of 53’s Julie Møller Sanford and her husband John Sanford, M.D.

The Class of 53’s Julie Møller Sanford and her husband John Sanford, M.D.

Both lifelong scholars, Møller and her husband instilled a love of learning in all their children, as well as an appreciation for their Danish heritage. Their home was always “hyggeligt” — cozy and welcoming, filled with family, friends and plenty of books.

This warm and accepting spirit, impressed upon Møller by the experiences of her childhood, now extends to the School of Medicine and future scholarship recipients. To Julie Møller and John Sanford, the commitment was about more than money.

“My sister, a physician, summed it up well noting that our parents would have said to the students, ‘It’s us next to you. We’re here for you and we believe in you,’” Sanford says.

“That’s just how they were. All four of us kids are so proud and happy that they were able to do this. Our family will grow with this scholarship.”

How she did it
Planned giving donors like Julie Møller Sanford, M’53, help shape the future of the MCV Campus. In addition to including the MCV Foundation in her estate plan, Møller also named the foundation as a beneficiary on her 401k and IRA accounts.

“Using a retirement account is such an easy way to include a charity in your long-term plan,” says Jane Garnet Brown, director of gift planning at the MCV Foundation. “There’s no need to update your will or work with a lawyer, and the beneficiary designation can be made anytime.”

Retirement assets are generally included as a taxable estate asset and taxed as income to the named beneficiary. As a result, your beneficiary may ultimately receive only a fraction of the account’s value.

“By naming the medical school as your beneficiary, you can avoid these taxes entirely with 100 percent of your gift supporting your charitable intentions and thus leave more tax-efficient assets to your beneficiaries,” Brown says. “It’s certainly another tool to consider in your estate and philanthropic planning, especially if you have other ways of providing for your loved ones.”

Planned gifts are one way to support the School of Medicine’s 1838 Campaign, which aims to increase the number and size of scholarships to students. Full- and half-tuition scholarships, created with a commitment of $750,000 or $375,000, are most urgently needed and serve as one of the medical school’s best resources for recruiting and rewarding top students.

The MCV Foundation houses the medical school’s endowment funds and offers planned giving expertise to our alumni and donors. If you want to begin a conversation about how to use estate planning to your advantage, please call Jane Garnet Brown at (804) 828-4599. If you are already speaking with a representative from the School of Medicine about making a gift, please let them know you’ve seen this article and would like more information.

By Polly Roberts


Leading the charge

As the nation grapples with how to treat children with mental health illnesses, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Department of Psychiatry invest in a future that’s inspirational, not institutional.

One in five children nationwide will experience a serious mental health issue. Yet 75 percent of them will not receive the care they need, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Access is the biggest barrier — waiting six months for treatment or living in a remote area nowhere near a practicing psychiatrist. With increasing demand and retiring specialists, an escalating psychiatrist shortage further complicates the issue.

The new VTCC will double its faculty and staff, quadruple its research space and build a pipeline of child and adolescent psychiatrists for Virginia and the nation.

The new VTCC will double its faculty and staff, quadruple its research space and build a pipeline of child and adolescent psychiatrists for Virginia and the nation.

In Virginia, the mental health needs of children and adolescents took center stage in the aftermath of the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting.

“After Virginia Tech, we asked ourselves, ‘how are we helping to advance the national conversation on mental health?’” says Joel Silverman, M.D., H’73, chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.

Part of the answer came in the form of $56 million in funding from the Virginia General Assembly to build a state-of-the-art child psychiatric facility on Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s Brook Road Campus. Authorized in 2013, the new Virginia Treatment Center for Children opened this spring, replacing the 50-year-old cinderblock facility on the outskirts of the MCV Campus that some alumni may remember.

“It’s so important to start with children because so much of mental illness, when we look back — when we see them at 22 and 23 — there were signs at 11 and 12 that we missed and we had the opportunity to grow a healthier child,” Virginia’s then-Secretary of Health and Human Resources William Hazel Jr., M.D., said at the facility’s November ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The 119,000-square-foot facility will triple the number of outpatient visits at the VTCC over the next three yea

rs to 21,000 a year. In-patient rooms will increase from 24 to 32, expanding access for children who come from all corners of the state.

Along with improving access, the new VTCC will double its faculty and staff, quadruple its research space and build a pipeline of child and adolescent psychiatrists for Virginia and the nation. In addition to increasing the number of medical students and residents who complete clinical rotations at the center, the number of child and adolescent psychiatry fellows will rise from four to six.

At the heart of the new VTCC is an opportunity to show the community and future psychiatrists what a caring treatment philosophy looks like in physical form.

At the heart of the new VTCC is an opportunity to show the community and future psychiatrists what a caring treatment philosophy looks like in physical form.

Ross Yaple , M.D., H’09, remembers when word came through that the General  Assembly had approved the funding for the new VTCC. He had just been named the division’s new fellowship program training director. “I hit the floor,” he says. “A brand new facility just for child psychiatry, with that level of funding, is unheard of.”

As work began to design an accessible, family-friendly facility, Yaple envisioned a new curriculum that could take advantage of the benefits of the new space and provide an unparalleled training experience for medical students, residents and fellows.

“It was a chance to up our game,” he says.

The beauty of the new VTCC is that it doesn’t feel like a child psychiatric facility at all. Filled with natural light, glass walls, green spaces, bright colors and home-like furnishings, its in-patient rooms include chalk walls and overnight accommodations for family members to stay with children throughout their treatment.

The center has long emphasized family involvement throughout the treatment process, encouraging parents or guardians to be present as much as possible during their child’s hospitalization and providing them with 24-hour visitation access.

A therapy mall offers occupational, recreational, art, music and play therapy, while a half-court gym and outside areas give patients space to play, all while providing the highest level of safety. The final product is the result of input from doctors, nurses and families, led by Silverman and VTCC Executive Director Alxandria Lewis, Ed.D.

“The level of community engagement, collaboration and creativity that comes together in this state-of-the-art facility is nothing short of remarkable,” says School of Medicine Dean Peter F. Buckley, M.D. “We are most grateful to Dr. Silverman, Dr. Lewis and their entire team for their dedication and innovation here.”

Buckley, a psychiatrist and schizophrenia expert, is no stranger to the impact a facility can make on patient care and education. At his previous position as dean of the Medical College of Georgia, Buckley led a multiyear evaluation of all of Georgia’s public health facilities that resulted in statewide improvements in quality of care as well as new collaboration between the public facilities in Augusta and MCG. Prior to that, he served as medical director for Ohio’s Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare system, where under his leadership the hospital became the best-rated psychiatric hospital in the state.

“I can say with absolute certainty that the VTCC is setting the standard for children’s psychiatric care on a national level,” Buckley says. “We wanted a facility better than anything we had ever seen and that’s exactly what we have built for the citizens of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

For his two-year child psychiatry fellowship on the MCV Campus, Yaple recalls a small program with superb training and faculty. Despite the facility’s physical limitations, the staff delivered compassionate and innovative care, for example implementing a no-seclusion policy in 2006.

But Wi-Fi was hit or miss among the cinderblock walls, keeping learners and physicians at their desktops and limiting collaboration. Lecture-style learning was the norm. The building’s one lackluster observation room was hardly used, leaving attending physicians to observe residents and fellows in the exam room with patients.

At the new VTCC, all of that changes. “I looked at the entire building from the perspective of teaching,” Yaple says.

To start, teaching and learning can happen from anywhere. Multiscreen learning modules dot the new building, providing teachers and learners easy access to impromptu learning spaces. “Sometimes all you need is a 15-20 minute debrief and you can get back to seeing patients,” Yaple says. “You don’t have to walk halfway across the building to find a conference room with Wi-Fi.”

Two observation suites give trainees more autonomy and one-on-one interaction with patients while supervisors monitor the patient care; meanwhile, learners can observe attending physicians perform forensic evaluations, a skill they previously couldn’t observe firsthand.

The observation rooms carry a benefit for families, too. Therapists can watch parents interact with their children and even coach their behavior through an ear piece, setting the stage for parents to return home with their children with the tools they

Outpatient rooms will increase from 12 to 20 and be outfitted with complete audio/video capabilities so faculty can record sessions, letting them observe students without being in the room — allowing for a less disruptive experience for patients.

As Yaple envisioned a shift to a more technology-driven, active-learning curriculum, he realized he didn’t want to wait for the building’s 2018 opening to begin implementation. Research in adult-learning theory showed added technology and active learning could improve retention and lead to higher marks on board exams.

So in 2016, with the help of the medical school’s technology team, the program partnered with the Department of Psychology to launch the country’s first fully integrated online didactic curriculum for child and adolescent mental health. It serves as a permanent repository for all curriculum resources, flips the classroom and emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach.

Take a lesson on brain circuits, for example. Instead of Yaple spending 60 minutes describing each circuit in depth, the students download and watch a video on fear and panic. Together, they map out the brain and then each pick a brain circuit to research and teach to one another. “They’re really engaged,” Yaple says.

The facility’s advanced technological capabilities also provide more opportunities for telemedicine and video-conferencing, expanding treatment and education to patients and physicians across the state, particularly in rural Southwest Virginia where few psychiatric resources exist. Now Yaple talks by phone to many providers but soon he hopes to video chat with them and possibly even see patients on screen.

“Many pediatricians in rural areas are seeing patients who also could benefit from a psychiatrist’s care,” Yaple says. He’d like to offer these pediatricians access to online conferences to grow their knowledge of children’s mental health.

At the heart of the new VTCC is an opportunity to show the community and future psychiatrists what a caring treatment philosophy looks like in physical form.

“We’ve actually built a structure out of our treatment philosophy,” Yaple says. “It’s a testament to the center’s success that we could translate that to a design that enhances patient care. It complements what we’re already doing and now we can make it really shine.”

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, a top factor in medical students choosing psychiatry is providing a high-quality medical school psychiatry clinical rotation. The new facility opens doors to more experiences for medical students along with residents and fellows.

“It’s an opportunity they’re not going to find anywhere else,” Yaple says.

It’s also Virginia’s answer to a call for more comprehensive child psychiatry throughout the state and beyond by increasing access to care today and building a pipeline of psychiatrists for the future.

By Polly Roberts

Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine
Contact us
Contact webmaster
Updated: 04/29/2016