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1904 graduate practiced medicine on the western frontier

Charles Johnson Kinsolving1904

C. J. Kinsolving at his 1904 graduation from University College of Medicine. Scroll below for a slide show of more photos provided by Doc Kinsolving’s family.

Shortly after earning his medical degree in 1904, adventure-loving Charles Johnson Kinsolving packed his bags and headed west. His goal was the Alaskan frontier.

Before that, the Abingdon, Va., native had been to South Carolina to work in a cotton mill. And he’d made the 300-mile trip to Richmond to enroll in the University College of Medicine. Founded in 1893, UCM would merge with MCV in 1913.

On his westward trip, Kinsolving would occasionally interrupt his travels with short-term assignments. By the fall of 1906, he’d already worked for a time as a staff physician for mine operations in both West Virginia and South Dakota.

And on a Sunday in October, he was again making the most of his adventure, taking a roundtrip excursion on a steamboat. He departed from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he’d taken a position as a staff physician at the local hospital. He disembarked on the docks of St. Maries for some lunch and to wait for the return trip.

As his grandson Laurence Kinsolving tells the story, “word spread that a doctor was in town.” Soon, he received an urgent request to treat an injured man at a waterfront hotel. He always carried his black bag with him, but he did need to restock his medical supplies. “He set out to visit a local drugstore,” his grandson continues. “When the druggist learned that the visitor was a physician, he asked Dr. Kinsolving to look in on several loggers with serious injuries residing in the rooms upstairs.”

An afternoon spent in treating broken bones and other injuries left Kinsolving so concerned for his patients that he missed the return trip to Coeur d’Alene, and spent the rest of his life in St. Maries. “He never made it to Alaska until after retirement.”

Kinsolving briefly returned to Virginia in 1909 to marry his childhood sweetheart, Julia Elizabeth Eanes. He carried her west to the frontier where, her grandson says, she found it astonishing that a town of 1,100 inhabitants could support 11 saloons.

University College of Medicine

The University College of Medicine was established by Hunter Holmes McGuire, M.D., in 1893 just three blocks away from MCV. It was first known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1913, MCV and UCM merged through the efforts of MCV Professor of Surgery George Ben Johnston, M.D., and Hunter H. McGuire’s son Stuart McGuire, M.D., who was president of UCM at the time.

Their home doubled as a medical office. Kinsolving – known simply as “Doc” around town – was accustomed to making house calls far outside St. Maries, sometimes accepting nothing more than chickens, venison or eggs as payment. In his career, Doc would face Idaho’s fires of 1910, treating injured fire fighters and going four or five days without unsaddling his horse or getting any rest. In the end, the fires would claim the life of his and Julia’s newborn daughter.

He also battled the deadly flu pandemic of 1918. “He treated over 500 flu victims,” reports his grandson, “many under quarantine, but was proud to say that he did not lose one patient.”

In 1945, Doc Kinsolving closed his black bag for the last time and fully retired to his Goosehaven farm. He was known, though, in those later years after retirement to sometimes keep office hours at the Elks Lodge where he was a charter member and to give fistfuls of silver dollars to his grandchildren, including Laurence Kinsolving, of Marianna, Fla.

Our thanks to Laurence Kinsolving for sharing his grandfather’s story with us.

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Alumna Marcella Fierro’s continued service to forensic medicine featured in Richmond Academy of Medicine newsletter

Marcella F. Fierro, M.D.

Fierro retired in 2007 from her post as the state’s Chief Medical Examiner, where she investigated the results of some of the nation’s most notorious crimes.

Retirement hasn’t hindered how alumna Marcella F. Fierro, M.D., is impacting the future of forensic medicine. Following a 34-year career and serving as Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner, Fierro has remained a steady influence in her field. Recently featured in the summer issue of the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s quarterly newsletter, Fierro describes her current work educating others and advocating on behalf of the profession that she dedicated her life to serving.

Fierro’s recent work includes the 2009 publication of a book she co-wrote with her colleagues on the NAS Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Community: “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.” Fierro shared her thoughts on the publication of the book for the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s Ramifications, “If you asked me what’s the most important achievement of my career, this had to be one of them.” The book outlines basic infrastructural necessities in the field of forensic medicine and is being used to garner support from Congress to address those needs.

Widely known as the inspiration for Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta book series, Fierro also has appeared on TV including a recent PBS special on New York’s first trained medical examiner. Asked how she’s coped with what she’s witnessed as Virginia’s CME, Fierro compared it to trauma surgeons and other physicians who help accident victims. She told Ramifications: “You realize what the patient needs is not your emotions or your outrage. What the patient needs is your care, and no one but you can provide it. The discipline is you know you can do something—you can speak for that patient.”

Fierro has multiple connections to the medical school. She completed her residency and fellowship training with the School of Medicine in 1973 and 1974 respectively. She also served on faculty and as the chairman of the Department of Legal Medicine and Pathology until her retirement in 2008.

Read more about her recent activities and her plans for the future in the Ramifications’ summer issue, page 14.

By Eleana M. Legree


Master’s thesis is foundation for film that shatters old myths of Down syndrome


Benjamin Kaman (front) and his family are participating in a documentary about Down Syndrome that got its start with Kayla Claxton’s master’s thesis.

Leigh Ann Kaman fell to the floor when doctors told her that her newborn son, Benjamin, had Down syndrome. She and her husband, Brian, felt totally alone.

“It’s not the diagnosis you want to hear,” she said. “I felt scared, anxious and sad. I had to grieve the loss of the expectations I had for my first-born child.”

Now 12, Benjamin is enrolled in mainstream classes at school, loves to play sports, read, swim and go hiking with his parents and younger siblings, Samuel and Gracie. A far cry from what his parents feared.

“Quite frankly, we didn’t know what to expect,” Leigh Ann Kaman said. “There wasn’t a lot out there to help us figure it all out.”

That’s why the Kamans are ecstatic to be working with the VCU genetics and film departments on a project to help raise awareness about Down syndrome. Along with about a dozen other local families, the Kamans will be featured in a documentary that will illustrate the needs and aspirations of people with Down syndrome and bring about improvements in knowledge and access to community resources.

“We are just delighted about this,” said Colleen Jackson-Cook, Ph.D., director of the Cytogenetic Diagnostic Lab and professor of pathology. “What is so exciting is how many people have pulled together to make this happen. That is so gratifying.”

The VCU Council for Community Engagement, in partnership with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond, awarded the project $17,000. Jackson-Cook submitted the grant and is helping to develop the film. But her involvement is just the beginning.


Kayla Claxton, MS’14

As part of her thesis for her master’s degree in genetic counseling, Kayla Claxton, MS’14, developed a survey to assess the educational and service needs of parents who have children with Down syndrome. She distributed the 39-question survey to parents and service providers, analyzed the results, wrote a detailed thesis and presented her conclusions during an event at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond.

VCU is the only school in the state to offer an accredited master’s degree program in genetic counseling. It is part of the School of Medicine’s Department of Human and Molecular Genetics.

“I feel so proud to be part of the program and part of this project,” Claxton said. “This was not just my thesis project, but it’s something that will help the entire community. It is a great way to help people understand what Down syndrome is and to help parents realize they are not alone. ”

Claxton provided her conclusions and survey results to Sasha Waters Freyer, the chair of the Department of Photography and Film. Freyer is producing the film with help from 15 of her advanced documentary students. They are using the survey results to focus the content of the film.

“This is a great opportunity for the students,” Freyer said. “It’s working with a real world client, and it also serves the needs of the community. It’s nice to work on a project that you know will benefit a large audience.”

Freyer and her students began filming in March and now are in the editing stage. They hope to have a rough cut to show to Jackson-Cook and the Down Syndrome Association by the end of July. After some fine-tuning, the 20- to 30-minute film will be distributed to parents, healthcare providers and medical and education students. The National Down Syndrome Association has also expressed interest in showing it at its annual conference. In addition, plans call for a Spanish translation of the film by Eugenia Munoz, Ph.D., associate professor of Spanish.

The documentary will replace a 1980s version that is terribly outdated. The new film will provide more updated information on a number of topics for parents, including insurance, medical advances and research, respite care and support. For medical students, it offers guidance on appropriate ways to deliver the diagnosis and interact with patients and parents. The film shatters the old myths of Down syndrome and shows how children can lead healthy, productive lives.

“I really wish something like this had been available when we were facing Benjamin’s diagnosis,” Leigh Ann Kaman said. “I am so happy to be part of this project, to be a ministry to someone who is hurting and facing a challenge.”

–By Janet Showalter

About Down syndrome
From The National Down Syndrome Society

  • Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.
  • Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.
  • More than 400,000 people in the United States live with Down syndrome.
  • People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions. Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.
  • Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades — from 25 in 1983 to 60 today.
  • All people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, but the effect is usually mild to moderate.
  • Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.

Biostatistics alumnus Karl Peace commended by the Virginia General Assembly

Karl Peace

Alumnus Karl Peace, Ph.D.

Alumnus Karl Peace, Ph.D., has been commended by the Virginia General Assembly as “a prolific biostatistician and devoted educator, [who] has contributed immensely to his field and inspired countless students at the Medical College of Virginia and other universities to achieve greatness in science and medicine.”

Peace earned a Ph.D. from the Department of Biostatistics in 1976 and for more than 30 years has served the department as adjunct or affiliate faculty. In addition to his service on the MCV Campus, Peace is senior research scientist and professor of biostatistics in Georgia Southern University’s Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health. The college’s Center for Biostatistics and Survey Research bears his name, and he is the founder of the Biopharmaceutical Applied Statistics Symposium, now in its 21st year as well as the Journal of Biopharmaceutical Statistics, now in its 23rd year.

In recognition of his contributions, House of Delegates member Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) offered House Joint Resolution No. 5073, approved by both the House and Senate on June 12.

The resolution describes Peace’s impact on the field of biostatistics and also notes that he has created scholarship awards that have helped more than 50 students earn master’s degrees or doctorates in biostatistics from VCU’s MCV Campus. He also generously supported the Hans Carter Professorship on the MCV Campus and GSU’s Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health bears the name of his late wife as well as many other education and charitable organizations.

As described in his autobiography Paid in Full, Peace was born into a family of southwest Georgia sharecroppers. He was the first person in his family to go to college and, as an undergraduate, a Georgia State Teacher’s scholarship supplemented by seven part-time jobs helped him complete his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, even while supporting his siblings and cancer-stricken mother.

Education proved to be the road that would change Peace’s life and that of his family. Rising from an entry-level biostatistician position at Burroughs-Wellcome to vice president of worldwide technical operations at Parke-Davis/Warner Lambert, Peace went on to start Biopharmaceutical Research Consultants Inc. in 1989. He provided expertise to dozens of international biotech and pharmaceutical companies and played a key role in the development and regulatory approval of dozens of medicines, including drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, arthritis, anxiety, depression and panic attacks and gastrointestinal ulcers.


Alumnus Cliff Deal’s military service is featured in Richmond Academy of Medicine newsletter


Cliff Deal (first row, 2nd from left) with members of the 945th Forward Surgical Team at FOB Apache’s trauma center in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.

In December 2013, alumnus Clifford L. Deal III, M.D., returned stateside from his most recent tour of duty: a four-month-long deployment as a combat surgeon in Afghanistan. His experiences are chronicled in the spring issue of the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s quarterly newsletter as the first of a series of articles about Academy members’ military service.

Deal serves as chairman of the Department of Surgery at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital and as a clinical assistant professor in the Division of Trauma and Critical Care Surgery at the VCU Medical Center. The RAMifications article describes his service with the trauma unit as “invaluable to his work as a combat surgeon.”

Deal told the interviewer: “Continuing to do that while I practice saved me while I was in Afghanistan and absolutely led to the saving of some lives, because I had that experience.”

In addition to his status as clinical assistant professor, Deal has multiple ties to the medical school. He earned both his medical degree and a master’s from the medical school, in 2000 and 1995 respectively. He also completed his surgery residency training on the MCV Campus.

You can read more in the RAMifications article that describes his time at a forward operating base Apache that served as headquarters of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in a mountainous valley in eastern Afghanistan.


The Class of 1974’s Edith Mitchell returns to campus, speaks about cancer disparities

Edith Mitchell

The Class of 1974′s Edith Mitchell returned to campus and spoke with a full house about minimizing cancer care disparities. She also had the chance to meet student reps from our Student National Medical Association chapter.

For the Class of 1974’s Edith Mitchell, M.D., FACP, Reunion Weekend was more than a chance to reconnect with classmates and re-visit campus. It was also the chance to encourage a new generation of student doctors to consider racial disparities in cancer diagnosis, treatment and outcomes.

On Friday April 11, Mitchell spoke to an audience of faculty, residents and medical students in the Goodwin Research Laboratory. She discussed the myriad factors that are at work in cancers that disproportionately affect African-Americans and shared the cancer disparities trends she’s seen over a nearly 40-year career.

Mitchell asked the medical students and trainees in the room to include cancer research and treatment among their career options. To get them started, she shared information about a funding opportunity available to young investigators through the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The Jane C. Wright, MD, Young Investigator Award memorializes a physician who performed patient trials in chemotherapy as early as the 1940s. By 1967, when African-American women physicians numbered only a few hundred in the entire U.S., Wright was the highest-ranking African-American woman at a nationally recognized medical institution.

Following Mitchell’s talk, she met student representatives from the medical school’s Student National Medical Association chapter. The SNMA is the oldest and largest student-run organization focused on the needs and concerns of medical students of color.

The SNMA chapter’s president, Stequita Hankton, was on hand. “One thing I found surprising yet refreshing was Dr. Mitchell’s ability to present her extensive science-based research while simultaneously advocating for underserved communities,” said the member of the Class of 2017.

“Dr. Mitchell’s story of being one of only two African-American students was inspiring and was an affirmation as to how far the VCU School of Medicine has come in seeking diversity,” Stequita said. “I believe it is immensely helpful for students to hear from alumni who’ve gone before them. Having the opportunity to network with alumni provides students the opportunity to establish mentors as well as interact with their future colleagues.”

In 2012, Mitchell established the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities at Thomas Jefferson University’s Kimmel Cancer Center. She is a clinical professor of medicine and medical oncology in the Department of Medical Oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. Mitchell has also served as the program leader in gastrointestinal oncology for more than 15 years and has a focused research effort in aggressive breast cancers.