Jump to content
School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine discoveries


Alumni achievements and news archives


5 Commandments for Young Scientists from alumnus Sebastian Joyce

Chair of surgery

Sebastian Joyce, PhD’88

When Sebastian Joyce arrived on the MCV Campus to pursue his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology in the early 1980s, he’d come farther than most: more than 12,000 miles, from Bangalore, India.

“I was as fresh off the boat as it gets,” says Joyce, “and I left a man. I came here a peasant, and walked away a scholar.”

He credits his transformation to the freedom he was given by his mentor T. Mohanakumar, D.V.M., Ph.D., to think independently and pursue scientific discovery in his own way.

He’s still doing that today. As a professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt University, he’s developing the unconventional approach of using T cell-targeted vaccines against infectious diseases.

“He is on the cutting-edge of finding the most effective approaches for preventing infection,” says Phillip B. Hylemon, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology who was on Joyce’s dissertation committee when he was a Ph.D. candidate in the 1980s.

Joyce described his novel approaches to vaccine development when he spoke at VCU earlier this month at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology’s Research Seminar Series. “Vaccines are man’s greatest inventions,” he told his audience as he enthusiastically recounted for them his lab’s efforts to design vaccines to prevent and treat infectious diseases that plague humankind.

Joyce’s creative and innovative science has won him sustained grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, and his publication record includes the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Nurturing the next generation of scientists is a priority for Joyce. He challenged established scientists to take seriously their responsibility to their trainees with the sentiment expressed in his own lab’s motto: “Inspire young minds: to wonder and imagine; to explore and innovate; to discover and evolve.”

5 Commandments for Young Scientists

1. Be curious
2. Read widely and think broadly about everything, and particularly your own project
3. Question everything, especially dogma
4. Devise simple yet clever experiments
5. Find answers by yourself

Joyce also spoke directly to the students in the audience, encouraging them with his 5 Commandments for Young Scientists. On his last commandment — “Find answers by yourself” — Joyce challenged students: “You don’t have to listen to the gray haired, the balding [older generation] or go to them with all your questions. If they already knew all the answers, there would be no point in you doing the experiment!”

Read about Joyce’s scientific odyssey on the his lab website.


Housestaff alumna Cynthia Romero honored by the Medical Society of Virginia

Cynthia C. Romero

Cynthia C. Romero

Cynthia C. Romero, H’96, has been honored for her outstanding contributions promoting the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health through political service. She accepted the Clarence A. Holland, M.D. Award during the Medical Society of Virginia’s annual meeting on Oct. 26. The award was bestowed by the MSV Political Action Committee.

A family physician from Virginia Beach, Romero currently serves as the director of Eastern Virginia Medical School’s Brock Institute for Community and Global Health. She also is the physician manager for Romero Family Practice in Virginia Beach.

She has a distinguished record of service, including being named Virginia’s Commissioner of Health by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2013. Upon completing her term, she returned to EVMS to lead the Brock institute’s effort to leverage its clinical, research and educational programs to positively affect specific health priorities in Hampton Roads.

In his nomination, MSV Past-President Sterling N. Ransone Jr., M.D., cited Romero’s leadership as president when MSV participated in a year-long negotiation with the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners. “Not only did Dr. Romero represent the physician position well, she also developed strong relationships with the NP leadership,” Ransone said. “MSV gained through the eventual passage of the team care bill, but we have also developed a much stronger relationship with an organization which had been seen as an adversary up until that point. We could not have done that without Cyn’s leadership and commitment to doing what is best for the patients and physicians of the commonwealth.”

Romero also has served as president of the Norfolk Academy of Medicine, the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians and MSV in 2011. She was founding president of the Organization of Young Filipino-Americans at the University of Virginia where she received her undergraduate degree, president of her medical school class at EVMS and chief resident at the Riverside Family Practice Program with the VCU School of Medicine.

The MSVPAC’s award honors Clarence A. Holland, M’62, and his long and distinguished record as a public servant. Holland was elected to the Virginia Beach City Council from 1970-1982 and was mayor from 1976-1978. From 1984-1995, he served in the Virginia Senate. The MSV Political Action Committee is the political arm of the Medical Society of Virginia, representing more than 18,000 Virginia physicians and approximately 1,000 Alliance members.


Alumna Janet Eddy honored for her longstanding commitment to the uninsured and underserved

Chair of surgery

Janet M. Eddy

The Class of 1987’s Janet M. Eddy has been honored by the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation with its Salute to Service award for her service to the uninsured and underserved. She accepted the award on Oct. 25 at the MSV Foundation’s Gala in Wiliamsburg.

Eddy has a longstanding commitment to providing care to those without insurance. Even before medical school, she worked at Richmond’s Fan Free Clinic, and she continued volunteering at the clinic during medical school. She became its director after completing her residency with the medical school’s Department of Family Medicine.

Since 2008, she has served as medical director of the Bon Secours Richmond Health Care System’s Care-A-Van and helped lead the mobile outreach program’s expansion into Hampton Roads. Under her leadership, it has grown from 8,000 patient visits in 2009 to more than 19,500 in 2013.

Eddy was instrumental in the creation of Access Now, a network of physician specialists and surgeons who provide care to those without insurance in the Richmond area. She has also served as medical director of Craig Health Center at St. Joseph’s Villa, where patients can access services not offered on the Care-A-Van. She also regularly participates in medical mission work, most recently spending a month in New Mexico working on a reservation.


Football injuries place the need for team doctors in the spotlight

It’s every coach’s worst nightmare.

With time running out in an intense football game, the quarterback drops back and hits his receiver for a first down. The safety comes out of nowhere to deliver a bone-crunching tackle.

A hush falls across the high school stadium as the receiver lays motionless, face down on the hard turf. The coach rushes in from the sideline. With no training to handle such a crisis, he calls 911.

In a perfect world, high school athletes would have access to both team physicians and athletic trainers,
a luxury enjoyed at Hanover County’s Atlee High School thanks to the services of Sally Marks, ATC, and Mike Petrizzi, M.D.

Scenes like this are not uncommon, because less than 20 percent of high schools have a working relationship with a team doctor. And only about 55 percent of high school student athletes have access to a licensed athletic trainer.

“It can be very scary,” says Mike Petrizzi, M.D., clinical professor of family medicine on the MCV Campus. He’s the medical director of Hanover Family Physicians and has been team physician at the county’s Atlee High School since 1991. “I think there are many family doctors and pediatricians who know they are needed on the sidelines, but are insecure about whether they have sufficient training.”

That’s why Petrizzi teamed up with Steve Cole, certified athletic trainer and associate athletic director at the College of William and Mary, to create the Sideline Management Assessment Response Technique (SMART) workshop in 2003. The course teaches physicians the skills necessary to be both competent and confident in their ability to serve the community at athletic events.

“The better trained providers are, the better chance we have of avoiding a catastrophic event on Friday night,” says Jeff Roberts, M’04, program director for the St. Francis Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship Program in Richmond.

Jeff Roberts, M’04

Roberts, team physician for Virginia’s Powhatan High School, is a SMART instructor. The four-hour course emphasizes hands-on learning, with volunteers in football gear bringing the Friday night experience to life. Participants practice how to recognize and manage football injuries, including concussions, stingers, separated or dislocated joints, torn or sprained ligaments and broken bones. They practice the log roll – moving a player with a suspected neck injury onto a backboard.

“Thankfully, I have never had an athlete suffer a c-spine fracture,” Petrizzi says. “But you never know what you might face. It sure does help to have practiced what to do in the event of a catastrophic injury. Our student athletes deserve the best care.”

As a high school athlete, Petrizzi remembers watching a news program that asked, “who’s watching your kids?” Even then, he was alarmed to discover that first-aid training was not a requirement for coaches.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “It became a passion of mine to develop a program that would help make sports participation safer for our youth. Trained personnel are needed whether the team is having a bad year or a winning year. If something should happen, these athletes need to be with someone they know and trust. That’s important.”

In an ideal world, Petrizzi says, schools would have an athletic trainer and team doctor working together to provide the best care. He is hopeful that SMART one day will be part of family medicine and pediatric residency training across the country and that those completing the course will, in turn, teach others – a vital step in providing more coverage at the high school level.

“Unfortunately, injuries are part of any sport,” Roberts says. “The question is, how prepared are you to handle them?”

By Janet Showalter

Tips for High School Team Physicians from Mike PetrizziCONCUSSIONS
• When in doubt, keep them out.
• You can have a concussion and NOT lose consciousness.
• Learn the five steps to a graduated return-to-play protocol.

• Master the log roll.
• If an athlete remains unconscious, you must assume a broken neck.

• If an athlete’s arm is stinging or burning but there’s no neck pain, assume an injury to the brachial plexus. Sideline him unless the injured side can move as easily and with the same strength as the uninjured side.

• With a normal neurovascular exam and lacking the experience to reduce the dislocation, immobilize in a splint and transfer to the ER.
• If no pulse and a long drive to the hospital, one attempt to reduce it with longitudinal traction might save the limb.

• Perform a functional assessment by asking the athlete to show you he can use the affected side doing what his sport demands. For instance, very few sports rely only on running straight ahead, so ask the athlete to cut, twist and stop on the injured joint.

Want to learn more?
Since Petrizzi and Cole started SMART, more than 500 physicians, athletic trainers, coaches and emergency personnel have completed the workshop. It has been offered at medical conferences across the country as well as local events and in small group settings. It is also a highlight of the VCU Sports Medicine Update in Primary Care conference. Sponsored in part by the VCU Continuing Medical Education Office, this year’s conference will be held Dec. 5-7 at Kingsmill Resort and Spa
in Williamsburg. Learn more and register at www.vcuhealth.org/cme.


Physician-scientist rises to challenge of DC advocacy position

Margaret “Kenny” Offermann, M’80, PhD’81, honed some serious time-management skills during her years on the MCV Campus. That’s served her well in a career as medical oncologist, biomedical researcher and advocate for health and science policy—jobs which she sometimes holds simultaneously.

Margaret “Kenny” Offermann, M’80, PhD’81
photo by Lawrence Green

Interests in medicine, science and policy – and the ability to juggle them all – laid the foundation for her term as president of FASEB that ended this past summer. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology is the nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers. As its leader, her priorities included educating legislators about the importance of funding and drawing their attention to tough issues – in terms they can appreciate.

“It’s not just advocating for increased dollars,” Offermann says. “It’s looking at our existing system and saying, ‘how can we make the system better so there is a bright future for science in America?’”

Offermann learned early how to balance her many passions, from ballet to basketball to biology.

A native Richmonder, Offermann was familiar with the MCV Campus. She worked with Gaylen Bradley, Ph.D., former chair of microbiology and immunology and dean of basic health sciences, on an undergraduate fellowship. She wasn’t willing to give up the goal of a career in medicine, but that experience, combined with her respect for biochemistry professor Judith Bond, Ph.D., (who later became FASEB’s president) had sealed her interest in research, too.

“I had started thinking of myself as a scientist,” says Offermann. So she added what she describes as a “stealth” Ph.D. to her medical school work. Since the university did not have a formal M.D.-Ph.D. program, she created her own path, keeping the secret from medical school administrators until fourth year. Juggling classes, writing a dissertation and playing intramural sports required discipline. “Paranoia can be a great motivator,” she laughs.

After graduation, Offermann continued to blend research and practice, eventually landing at Emory University’s School of Medicine, where she spent 17 years building a tumor biology program and later serving as associate director of Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.

“There are so many opportunities and so much need for combining science and medicine,” she says. “Most physicians focus on delivery of care, and most researchers focus on one area. It takes a physician-scientist to know unmet clinical needs and to have the tools to be able to address those and move the bar.”

FASEB, Immediate Past President
Salutramed Group, Inc., Managing PartnerPREVIOUS POSTS:
Emory University School of Medicine, Professor of Hematology and Oncology, Co-Director of MD-PhD training program, Associate Director of postgraduate training program, Associate Director of Winship Cancer Institute

American Cancer Society, Deputy National Vice President for Research

BA, Mount Holyoke College
M.D., Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University

Internship/ residency in internal medicine at University of Chicago Hospitals; training in medical oncology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School

• Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
• The nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers, comprised of more than 120,000 researchers worldwide from 26 scientific societies
• Founded in 1910 and located in Bethesda, Md., one mile from NIH

Several years ago, Offermann left academia for the health and science policy arena. At the American Cancer Society, she honed a natural talent for putting complicated ideas in layman’s terms, an important skill when she advocated for funding in a tough Washington environment.

With one daughter in medical school and another planning to attend veterinary school, the need for reform has hit home. “It seems tremendously wasteful and also very dangerous for the future by disincentivizing the best and the brightest. Many have said we’re likely to be sacrificing a generation of scientists because of funding policies.”

Offermann’s experience and insight made her uniquely qualified to lead FASEB in today’s challenging environment, says Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D., the organization’s deputy executive director for policy. “She brings a wonderfully diverse perspective on how and where science improves peoples’ lives.”

Offermann was a visible presence in Washington, advocating for reforms including a more stable, sustainable funding environment, decreased regulatory burden and re-structuring training to fit workplace needs. “Much of the training now doesn’t give students opportunities to customize their research for jobs they might want to pursue,” she explains. “They’ve been the workforce in the lab, doing technical and demanding and important work, but it doesn’t necessarily fit their career goals.”

Offermann remains involved in FASEB as its immediate past president. “She has been a great, enthusiastic spokesperson for FASEB,” says Bond, Offermann’s former mentor who went on to her own term as FASEB president. “Kenny has great breadth from her training and experience in academia, science funding agencies, and entrepreneurial enterprises. It gives her a unique perspective to represent biomedical scientists and engineers in our country.”

Now she has more time to devote to her job as managing partner at the Salutramed Group Inc., an Atlanta-based consulting firm. And because one job is never enough, she and husband Russell Medford, M.D., Ph.D., own Artetude, an art gallery in Asheville, N.C.

By Lisa Crutchfield


3 tips from the MCV Foundation

Use your IRA to support student scholarships

The Individual Retirement Account (IRA) has long been a tool for forward-thinking physicians and scientists planning for a secure retirement. Those funds can also be an overlooked resource for charitable giving.

The Class of 1965’s Donald Francis Perkins, though, spotted the opportunity and used his fund to give a helping hand to students following in his footsteps.

Perkins completed an ophthalmology residency at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. Calling on his training and skills, he went on to open an ophthalmology practice in his native New Jersey.

Long before his death in April 2014, Perkins made arrangements for his IRA to provide student scholarships that will give others the kind of education that laid the foundation for his career.

“My hope is that my contribution would specifically be used for financial aid for deserving students who need it,” he wrote when he informed the school of his plans, calling himself a “grateful out-of state student.”

The gift sounds like the generous friend he remembers from medical school, says classmate Harry G. Plunkett, Jr., M’65. “He was determined and dedicated. He loved all the experiences of studying medicine. He was consistent and always upbeat.” Dr. Plunkett fondly remembers getting to know Perkins over a cadaver in their first-year anatomy class. He also recalls how Perkins, a classically trained musician, would rush to the student center after exams to play the piano to relax and entertain friends.

“When you’re going through medical school, it’s tight. It’s tough. You watch every penny, and it’s great when someone can help you along,” says Plunkett, who also has donated to the school.

Donating an IRA is a way to remember MCV and to ensure that tomorrow’s student doctors have the resources they need to succeed. Letting the medical school know of your plans can qualify you for membership in the Medical College of Virginia Society.

“Dr. Perkins’ gift testifies to his commitment to ensuring the legacy of excellence in medical education on the MCV Campus,” says Brian Thomas, interim president of the MCV Foundation. “Future generations of medical students will benefit from Dr. Perkins’ generosity.”

By Lisa Crutchfield

Donating an IRA could have significant tax advantages. Consider:

1. IRA OVERFUNDED? As some individuals approach retirement, they realize they have accumulated a significant amount of money in their IRS-qualified retirement plans where taxes are due when money is distributed. Some even find that their retirement accounts are over-funded for their retirement income needs.

2. AGE MATTERS In many cases, minimum distributions are required at age 70. Depending on your tax situation, you could face a sizeable tax bill since distributions are taxed as ordinary income. Charitable contributions can reduce taxable income, so think of using your IRA as a source for giving. The income tax due on the IRA distribution can be offset by the charitable income tax deduction creating a “wash” for tax purposes.

3. DON’T LEAVE A BURDEN Leaving your retirement account to your spouse can be a fine idea if he or she rolls the lump sum into another traditional IRA. However, that route may not be open to other heirs who could find the inherited account subject to a substantial tax burden both at the federal and state level. Instead, consider avoiding such tax problems by leaving your children or other non-spouse heirs other assets like stock and bequeathing your IRA to charity where the full amount of the retirement account value can go to the organization. Thomas notes that every case is different, so consulting with advisors familiar with your particular estate plans and individual tax situation is essential.To learn more about joining the MCV Society, contact Tom Holland, associate dean for development and alumni affairs at 800.332.8813 or tehollan@vcu.edu.