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19
2017

Through Your Eyes: A poem by Megan Shandelson Lemay, M’11

 

In the third grade, MEGAN SHANDELSON LEMAY, M’11, won her first writing contest, and she’s been hooked ever since. “Whenever I reflect about my experience with a patient, I always think of it as a story. I write a story in my head on the drive home from work and write it down later. It has helped me connect with patients to think of what their story has been, how it may conclude and what role I can play in their story.” Thoughshe usually writes prose, this poem is the result of a writing workshop at the end of her residency that prompted her with the word ‘redemption.’ She encourages her fellow alumni: “I have no formal training in writing. You don’t need to write well to reflect in pen and paper!”

Needle to Neck

I very nearly killed someone
the first time I put needle to neck.
The senior resident in my ear,
“We have to be quick. Go on, deeper.
Poke around. Get the flash.”
Twenty minutes later, the chest x-ray.
The pneumothorax.
The surgeon running in.
Swinging neck tie,
plunging tube into chest.
Intubation.
My mouth agape in the corner.
Five days later,
she’s awake.
I cry at her bedside, apologizing.
She asks me where her front tooth is.

This story first appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.

I vow never to put needle to neck again.
Now they call me,
sometimes at 2 am.
“She can get the line. She’s really good.”
I tell all the interns
what I had to teach myself.
Needles can kill.
Measure twice.
Second guess.
Caution.
Always.

A difficult line.
Fourth attempt.
I place it now quickly, safely.
The nurse claps.
Daughter thanks.
The patient and I both cry.
All teeth are intact.

19
2017

Face Time: Alumnus returns to campus to discuss pioneering surgery

In 2005, surgeons in France completed the world’s first partial face transplant on a woman who lost her lips, cheeks, chin and most of her nose after she was mauled by her dog.

A dozen years and many lessons later, face transplantation has moved from possibility to reality, with surgeons refining techniques and transforming the lives of patients once considered beyond hope. Leading the way is Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M’99, considered one of the world’s pioneering surgeons in the field.

This story first appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.Eduardo Rodriguez, M'99

EDUARDO D. RODRIGUEZ, M’99, returned to the MCV Campus last summer as the speaker for the 2016 S. Dawson Theogaraj Lecture. At the annual event, he described his team’s work to complete the most extensive face transplant ever. Rodriguez is the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at New York University’s School of Medicine. The surgery, which took place at the NYU Langone Medical Center in August 2015, received extensive media coverage and cemented Rodriguez’s reputation in the field.

Patrick Hardison, a 41-year old firefighter from Mississippi who had received horrific facial injuries, received the face of David Rodebaugh who had died in a cycling accident. The operation included a number of milestone procedures including transplanting the donor’s eyelids and muscles that control blinking – which had not been previously performed on a seeing patient. In addition, the ears and ear canals were transplanted along with bony structures, including portions of the chin, cheeks and the entire nose.

Rodriguez credits his time in VCU’s School of Medicine for a solid foundation in medicine. Rodriguez earned a D.D.S. degree from New York University in 1992, then completed his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

“There are oral surgery programs that have affiliations with a medical degree, and I had colleagues who recommended that this was something I should do. I applied to all the medical schools in the country that had a relationship with an oral surgery program.” He ended up at VCU, condensing his medical degree into two years. After that, he trained in the plastic surgery program at Johns Hopkins Hospital/University of Maryland Medical Center and completed a fellowship in Taiwan.

“I thought VCU was the best education I ever received,” he said in a telephone interview from New York. “Those were the most enriching educational years of my life. I became a very good student. Living in Richmond, a smaller town, allowed me to focus on education and gave me a very strong foundation to be successful.”

Patrick's ProgressionRodriguez first became interested in the possibility of face transplants after hearing a lecture at Johns Hopkins about face transplants in rats. “My mentor at Johns Hopkins, the chief of plastic surgery, told me this is what I should be doing. I had no idea what that really meant, but I was fascinated by it.”

Before joining NYU Langone in 2013, Rodriguez was on faculty at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. There he led a 2012 landmark surgery, the most extensive facial transplant at the time, of a Virginia man who had suffered a gunshot wound.

ENDOWED LECTURESHIPS SPARK NEW IDEAS AND APPROACHES

At the time of the death of S. Dawson Theogaraj, M.D., in 1984, a fund was established with gifts from a variety of sources to honor the life and work of the plastic surgeon who was known for his academic brilliance and dedication to teaching. The fund supports an annual lectureship program as well as an award to the plastic surgery resident who achieves the highest score on the plastic surgery in-service exams.

The lectureship is one of about two dozen in the medical school supported by endowed funds at the MCV Foundation. The funds carry the names of some of the school’s best-known faculty, alumni and friends including: renowned orthopaedic surgeon Richard Caspari, M.D., who advanced arthroscopic surgery and treated Mary Lou Retton six weeks before her gold-medal-winning Olympic performance; Clarence Holland, M’62, who served his community as a family physician for 42 years and as a Virginia state senator for more than a decade; and the pioneering medicinal chemist and faculty member Everette May, Ph.D., who synthesized an anti-malaria drug as well as a drug still used as an alternative to methadone treatment for opioid addiction.

The medical school’s lectureship endowments, totaling more than $2.7 million, enrich the MCV Campus’ learning environment for students, residents and faculty by bringing important topics and innovative thinkers to campus. In addition to Eduardo Rodriguez, M’99, serving as the Theogaraj Lecturer, recent years have seen highly regarded speakers from all over the country visit Richmond to share advances, technologies and perspectives that shape future approaches to patient care, scientific discovery and medical training.

Rodriguez notes that such transplants include health and mental risks that must be weighed against the benefits. Recipients deal with the psychological battles of living with someone else’s face, as well as lifelong reliance and side-effects of immunosuppressant medicines. As with other transplants, the body can reject a new face.

In such a developing field, he notes, there’s not yet a blueprint for success.

“Physicians and patients are on this journey together,” he says. “Once you’re successful and you see the patient doing well and you reflect on what we’ve achieved, and reflect on change in this individual’s life, you can’t help but be amazed by the complexity of the process.”

The Department of Defense and several research institutions, including NYU, have dedicated funding and resources to refining the procedure.

Rodriguez knows that the next decade will include improvements in transplantation and perhaps even some breakthroughs that seemed unimaginable in recent years.

“First, we have to keep working on trying to reduce the toxic effects of the anti-rejection medicines,” he says. He believes biomedical engineers will one day be able to create tissues specifically for patients needing transplants.

“It’s not just how many more transplants I can do. It’s how can we continue to improve the quality of face reconstruction and bring in different elements of science to provide these types of procedures safely, as well as improving the quality of these patients’ lives and shaping a better future for these individuals.”

By Lisa Crutchfield

19
2017

Vietnam, Revisited

For the New PBS Film Series THE VIETNAM WAR, a Doctor Tells His Story

On Nov. 30, 1967, HAL KUSHNER woke up to find himself hanging upside down by his seatbelt in a burning helicopter. The 27-year-old Army flight surgeon from the Class of 1966, not yet four months into his first tour of duty in Vietnam, had crashed into the south Vietnamese jungle. One crew member was dead. Another, badly injured, would soon die as well. A third, who went in hopes of finding friendly aid, would be shot and killed. When no help came, Kushner, alone and injured, the sole survivor, struck out into the jungle on foot. He had burns from the fire, a broken wrist and collarbone, lost and broken teeth, and wounds in his shoulder and neck from live rounds set off by the fire.

The Vietnam War, a 10-part, 18-hour documentary, will air in September on PBS stations nationwide.
For her part, Novick says that working on the film “has been the most challenging and the most rewarding experience I have ever had.” She expresses deep gratitude for the people, like Kushner, who shared their stories in the making of the film. “To get to know people who have had these remarkable experiences and to trust us enough to personally tell their story – it changes the way you understand the world and what it is to be a human being.”

Within hours he would be captured by the Viet Cong, shot and wounded again in the shoulder when he couldn’t raise his injured arm to signal surrender. It was Dec. 2, 1967, and Kushner was a prisoner of war, the ordeal to come foretold in the words of an English-speaking enemy officer he would soon encounter, who promised him, “You will find that dying is very easy. Living – living is the difficult thing.”

For more than three years he was held under horrific conditions, starving and ill in jungle camps in South Vietnam, a doctor helpless to save the men around him who died of hunger and dysentery and malaria and abuse, for want of food, or basic medicine, or hope. “Each day was a struggle for survival,” he told fellow veterans at a reunion many years later. “We often wanted to die.”

Somehow, Kushner survived. Eventually he was marched more than 500 miles to North Vietnam. He arrived in Hanoi weighing 88 pounds, and finally ended up in the notorious Hanoi Hilton, before at last, in March of 1973, he would be released to come home, 1,931 days after his capture.

This story first appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.Hal Kushner, M'66

For many who served in Vietnam, leaving the place, the war and the suffering behind them proved impossible. Kushner, however, returned to his wife and two young children (his youngest born not long after Kushner’s capture), ready to move forward with his life and his career – a long and successful practice as an ophthalmologist in Daytona Beach, Florida. “My philosophy has always been to look forward, not backward, to consider the future rather than the past,” he told his fellow veterans at the reunion. The war did not haunt him.

But it has continued to haunt this country. The America Kushner came home to was not the one he’d left. It was a nation in tumult, fractured along countless fault lines by a war that even today, more than 40 years after its end, remains an unhealed wound and an unresolved trauma.

“It is one of the most painful, tragic, divisive, polarizing and misunderstood conflicts in U.S. history,” says documentary filmmaker Lynn Novick. “It reverberates in our lives, our politics and our culture to this day.”

It is because Vietnam is “unfinished business in American history,” says Novick, that she and fellow director Ken Burns began 10 years ago to conceive of the project that would become The Vietnam War, an exhaustive, 10-part, 18-hour film that will begin airing this September on PBS stations nationwide, and which, Novick says, is “the most ambitious and challenging project we have ever undertaken.”

The war, says Novick, is “deeply unsettled history,” and Novick and Burns “wanted to go back and take advantage of new scholarship, new perspectives from people who lived through it,” she says. “We wanted to represent many points of view.”

And so, over the course of six years of production on the film, more than 100 people were interviewed on camera, according to Novick – Americans and Vietnamese, veterans and anti-war protesters, survivors of those who died in the war, civilians whose lives were upended by it. And among them was retired Army colonel and former prisoner of war Dr. Hal Kushner. He might not necessarily have seemed the obvious choice at first; he had rarely spoken publicly about his experiences. Kushner says that it’s not that he has trouble talking about any of it, but that he has found that living by a philosophy of not looking backwards in anger or bitterness or regret was the positive path for his life. “It’s not who I am. I don’t define myself by that experience.”

However, he was friends with the veteran war correspondent Joe Galloway (co-author of the book We Were Soldiers Once…and Young), who was a consultant for the film. In the winter of 2011, Galloway recommended Kushner to Novick and Burns – who of course were seeking to include the POW perspective.

Hal Kushner, M'66, and Lynn Novick

Novick and Kushner spoke first on the phone. “Within five or ten minutes,” Novick says, “I certainly felt that having him in the film would be enormously important.” She flew down to meet him in Daytona Beach, and after their conversation there, he agreed to take part.

“I think she probably auditioned me covertly without me knowing it,” he says, amused, but he liked her very much. For Novick’s part, she says that the occasion was a “mutual get-to-know-each-other.” She and Burns were looking for people who had “something to say,” a story that was compelling, an ability to connect with viewers, and Novick saw that in Kushner and his story.

“I asked him to share his story not just with us but with millions of people who were going to see the film,” Novick says. “Because he is not someone who gives speeches or is well known as a former POW, we felt extraordinarily fortunate that he was willing to tell the story in our film, and at much greater length and more depth.”

The actual filming took place in Kushner’s home in Maine in July 2011. He was intrigued by his behind-the-scenes look at the process, as a full production crew descended on his house. “They came in and took photos of everything, then they moved everything around, the tables and chairs and furniture, and they put screens on the windows to filter the light.” After a long day of filming – Kushner seated in a chair with the camera on him as Novick sat opposite him – and only a brief break for lunch (peanut butter sandwiches, Kushner recalls), the crew consulted the photos they’d taken in the morning “to put everything back the way it was.”

Kushner sums up the day concisely as a “far-reaching interview.”

Novick, however, says that for her and the crew it was far more. The word she chooses is “profound.” “The day that we spent with him doing that interview was one of the most remarkable days on this project and one of the most remarkable days in my 25 years of doing documentaries,” she says. “It was such an incredible privilege to be in the room; I will never forget it as long as I live.”

Without going into the details that she wants viewers to experience watching the film, Novick describes Kushner’s story as riveting – not only for what happened, but also for how he chooses to tell it. “He describes things with a methodical scientific observation of the world, and he also brings poetry and humanity and a sense of humor,” she says.

In November of 2015, Novick and Burns invited Kushner, along with a number of others involved in the film, to New York City for a long weekend of viewing the documentary – at that point in its final stages of editing – in its entirety. Hundreds of hours of footage and interviews had been shot, in Vietnam as well as in the U.S. The production team had assembled a database of more than 20,000 still images gleaned from around the world. “There was a lot of stuff in this film that you will find nowhere else,” Kushner says.

The schedule was very rigorous over that weekend, Kushner says, long days of watching segments of the film and then engaging in discussion with everyone assembled in the room – which included former anti-war peace activists, retired military leaders, family members of someone who had died in the war and others, with often diverging perspectives. The conversations, though respectful, at times grew heated, Kushner acknowledges.

To Novick and Burns, that was a good sign – an indication of the kinds of “courageous conversations” that they hope the film will provoke among viewers. In a film that sought to be comprehensive and fair in representing “a very complicated story from many angles,” says Novick, the expectation is that there will be moments of discomfort for everyone watching it. “There are very intense feelings about the war and what it means,” she says.

Kushner agrees. “The Vietnam wound is still open,” he says. “I would hope that the film would provoke a national conversation about Vietnam and really bring some closure to the whole history.”

By Caroline Kettlewell

18
2017

Myron Levine, M’67: A pioneer of the modern discipline of vaccinology

A brilliant and determined visionary saves lives and helps develop a new medical discipline

M67 Myron Levine receives 2017 Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific AchievementThe National Foundation for Infectious Diseases has honored Myron M. (Mike) Levine, M’67, with the 2017 Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific Achievement for his outstanding contributions to infectious disease and vaccinology, as well as his excellence in research and training, which have had enormous impact on global public health and will continue to pay dividends for millions of individuals in the future.

Levine’s latest contribution to improving public health is the live cholera vaccine, created and tested under his leadership, and recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“I always had an interest in the developing world and what we then called tropical medicine and tropical pediatrics,” Levine says. “I was also an addict for flying light planes. My early goals was to be a member of the flying doctor’s service in East Africa.”

Through the Center for Vaccine Development, the academic vaccine development enterprise that he founded in 1974 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, his research has encompassed disease burden measurement, bacterial pathogenesis studies, design and creation of vaccine candidates, clinical studies to test the safety of vaccine candidates and their ability to elicit relevant immune responses, and large-scale field trials to assess vaccine efficacy.

Once vaccines are licensed, Levine collaborates with industry and public health authorities to facilitate their introduction into target populations and to measure their impact on disease burden and safety.

Alongside his landmark research, Levine has also developed courses and mentored scores of individuals who now hold leading positions in academia, research institutes, United Nations agencies and industry. His children are among them. Though he says neither he nor his wife Suzanne, a pediatric nurse and 1963 alumna of the School of Nursing, urged them toward the field, all three now have careers in global health and medicine — the Levine family business.

A ‘walking atlas’
Levine was born in Riverdale, New York, a quiet residential neighborhood in the northwest Bronx. Ironically, for someone who would spend his entire adult life working on global infectious diseases, by age 16 the farthest he had traveled was a few hundred miles to visit his mother’s relatives. But as a child he voraciously read books on the history of Europe, Asia, Africa and South America and was jokingly called a “walking atlas” because of his detailed knowledge of world geography.

His interest in the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases in developing countries was already fervent when he arrived on the MCV Campus in the 1960s. Although there were few opportunities for global health experiences in those days, the entrepreneurial spirit and skills Levine would demonstrate throughout his career drove him to arrange four separate electives, each accompanied by a student fellowship that included travel, living expenses and a stipend, and each spanning several months during each of his four years of medical school.

He studied in Israel (1964), Paris (1965), Costa Rica (1966) and Pakistan (1967) where a major smallpox epidemic erupted that provided him with a clinical experience that kindled a life-long intellectual interest in smallpox. Likewise, his interest in cholera was sparked around the same time during a stay at the Cholera Research Laboratory in Dhaka, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). These consecutive international experiences indelibly imprinted and reinforced his early interests.

Forty years of scientific achievements
Levine joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1973. One year later, he founded the Center for Vaccine Development and served as its director for the next 40 years. Though he stepped down as director in 2015, Levine remains on faculty with the university.

From basic vaccine research to vaccine field trials and impact measurement, Levine’s work has had worldwide impact.

For example, during the 1980s and 1990s, emerging technologies incriminated many new bacterial, viral and protozoal agents as causes of diarrhea. By the turn of the millennium, so many new etiologic agents had been identified that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided Levine with $50 million in support to quantify the burden and identify the most important pathogens associated with moderate-to-severe diarrheal disease in children younger than age 5 years.

The BMGF-funded Global Enteric Multicenter Study was carried out in four sites in sub-Saharan Africa and three in South Asia where collectively 80 percent of diarrheal disease deaths occur globally in children under age 5 years. The study’s findings have had a powerful influence on research priorities and on the implementation of vaccines and other interventions.

A determined scientist responds to global public health needs
Levine’s leadership has been sought repeatedly by the World Health Organization. In 1975, he was in Bangladesh — the last country in Asia to eliminate smallpox — when smallpox transmission was interrupted. And as recently as 2014, when the devastating epidemic of Ebola struck West Africa, he was asked to organize Phase 1 clinical trials of one Ebola vaccine in Mali and assist in a historic Phase 3 efficacy field trial in Guinea of another.

He has received many honors for his work including the Rank of “Grand Officer of the National Order of Mali” from the President of Mali, an honor traditionally bestowed only upon heads of state. In 2007, the VCU School of Medicine honored him with its Outstanding Medical Alumnus Award.

“Mike Levine sets a goal and does not stop until he reaches it,” says Kathy Neuzil, M.D., M.P.H., FIDSA, who succeeds him as only the second director of the CVD, and marvels at his unfailing energy and work ethic. “He outworks everyone in the room and shows no signs of slowing down!”

And that is very good news for the future of global public health.

You can read more about Levine’s career as a pioneer of the modern discipline of vaccinology in a profile published in the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases 2017 awards program and in the blog post “Celebrating Infectious Disease Heroes.”

12
2017

Biostatistics alumnus returns to campus, shares stories from the pharmaceutical industry

Biostat alumnus Tony SegretiWhat can you learn about a career in pharmaceuticals from America’s pastime?

Plenty, says Anthony Segreti, PhD ’77 (BIOS), a card-carrying member of the Society for American Baseball Research, the organization that has developed sabermetrics, the empirical analysis of baseball statistics. (Think about the 2011 Brad Pitt film, Moneyball, depicting a general manager who built a stellar team of undervalued players using sabermetrics.)

Baseball and pharma have some things in common, said Segreti. “Baseball teams draft and sign a lot of players to contracts and, of that number, only a few are going to make it to the major leagues. In the pharmaceutical industry, there are a lot of contenders but not a lot make it to the approval stage.

“You can have a lot of notoriety and expectations, but what really matters is how you perform on the field – or in the clinical trials. Everything is based on evidence, just like everything is based on how a player is able to succeed on the field.” And as in baseball, you can’t always win, he said. That’s part of the game.

Segreti joined the pharmaceutical industry in 1979 at Burroughs Wellcome Co., and remained there through mergers with Glaxo and SmithKline, until leaving in 2006 to work at two contract research organizations for a few years. He then joined biotechnology firm Targacept and remained there until his 2014 retirement.

To use another baseball analogy, Segreti made it to the show. At the Department of Biostatistics graduation ceremony on May 12, he shared stories of some big wins.

Those include being in the lineup in the development of some highly successful drugs, including Acyclovir, an antiviral drug that started a new era in herpes treatment; Zidovudine, for HIV treatment; and epoprostenol sodium, a game-changer for pulmonary arterial hypertension. “Drug development is a team sport,” he noted.

And that’s where his training on the MCV Campus especially came into play.

“I always felt that VCU was a real springboard to my career. There’s a wonderful opportunity for graduate students to interact with researchers and solve real world problems and learn a lot of the activities you don’t learn in a textbook. You learn to be an effective consultant, researcher and how to get along with those who don’t see the world the way that you do.”

Because recruiting new talent to the field is important, he remains active in the Biopharmaceutical Applied Statistics Symposium (BASS), a forum where researchers and scholars in academia, government agencies and industries to share knowledge and ideas. He’s chairing this year’s meeting and working to support the next generation of biostatisticians who attend.

In addition to sharing his time and expertise with the Biostatistics Department and its students, Segreti and his wife, Wendy, have made several generous donations to the university. “There’s nothing I’d rather spend money on – outside my family – than giving something back to the university that really helped my career.”

He fondly recalls his years on the MCV Campus and how the biostatistics graduate students would exercise together during lunch. For two years in a row they won the intramural basketball championship of their league. “The joke was that nobody under 6 feet would get a scholarship,” he said.

Like many players, Segreti eventually worked as a manager, leading between 15 and 40 statisticians. Those professionals, he said, tend to like to work independently, so he knew he needed a special strategy.

Naturally, he looked to sports for a management philosophy, taking a cue from a famed baseball manager. “Tommy Lasorda said, ‘Managing is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it; not hard enough and it flies away.’”

By Lisa Crutchfield

26
2017

Honors Day celebrates student achievement and scholarship

During the busy days and years of medical school, Honors Day takes time to shine a light on some of the school’s brightest students and the scholarships that benefit them.

“In the life of a medical school, the opportunity to honor aspiring physicians is a fantastic experience,” says Dean of Medicine Peter F. Buckley, M.D.

The annual spring event traditionally recognizes those students whose outstanding performance has marked them with the distinction of having earned the highest grade in a course or clerkship or as the top student in their class.

Before Honors Day, Class of 1996 alumna Diane DeVita (far right) and her sister, Lynette Freeman (third from right), along with DeVita’s husband, John (far left), and their children, met Dean of Medicine Peter F. Buckley (top right) and the inaugural Freeman-Gayles Memorial Scholarship recipient, the Class of 2017’s Sarah Berg (center).

Before Honors Day, Class of 1996 alumna Diane DeVita (far right) and her sister, Lynette Freeman (third from right), along with DeVita’s husband, John (far left), and their children, met Dean of Medicine Peter F. Buckley (top right) and the inaugural Freeman-Gayles Memorial Scholarship recipient, the Class of 2017’s Sarah Berg (center). Photography: Skip Rowland

The day also serves as the chance to celebrate the dozens of privately endowed scholarships that have been established to benefit medical students. At the 2017 ceremony, the school awarded the Freeman-Gayles Memorial Scholarship for the first time.

Endowed by Class of 1996 alumna Diane DeVita and her sister, Lynette Freeman, the scholarship serves as a tribute to their parents, who died while DeVita was in her second year of medical school on the MCV Campus. While some schools may have required her to take a semester off, VCU allowed her to study from home and take her exams when she returned. It’s in this spirit of compassion that she and her sister hope to ease the financial burden for future students.

DeVita and Freeman, along with DeVita’s husband, John, and their children, attended Honors Day, after first enjoying lunch where they met scholarship’s inaugural recipient, Sarah Berg, who will graduate in May and train in emergency medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Missouri.

Honors Day also recognizes students who receive specialty awards, such as the four graduating students who produced this year’s top I2CRP capstone scholarly projects. The International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship is a four-year program for students who declare an interest in and commitment to working with medical underserved populations in urban, rural or international settings.

Among this year’s recipients are Jacqueline Britz, for the project “Strengthening Early Childhood Programming in Underserved Communities in Virginia,” and Yael Tarshish for “Mental Health of Latina Mothers at Hayes E. Willis Health Center.” Both students have benefited from multiple scholarships, including the Aesculapian Scholarship, made possible through donations to the school’s Annual Fund.

The Class of 2019’s Alvin Cho took home first place at the 2017 Medical Student Research Poster Session

The Class of 2019’s Alvin Cho took home first place at the 2017 Medical Student Research Poster Session for his poster “Effect of Gut Microbiome on Morphine Tolerance.”

In addition, Honors Day celebrated the 2017 Medical Student Research Poster Session, held in mid-April with 43 posters on display. The posters described research conducted by students covering a broad spectrum of topics in the basic and clinical sciences.

First place went to the Class of 2019’s Alvin Cho, whose poster “Effect of Gut Microbiome on Morphine Tolerance” highlighted his research over the winter with his mentor Hamid I. Akbarali, Ph.D., professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Other Honors Days awards spotlighted the newest inductees into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society and the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award winner, the Class of 2017’s Braveen Ragunanthan.

Student Clinician Ceremony
The 2017 event ended with the Student Clinician Ceremony, an annual event previously held in the summer. Sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine, the ceremony is designed to provide guidance, information and support to rising third-year medical students as they prepare to begin their clinical rotations.

The transition from classrooms, simulations and research “to being front and center and seeing patients every day” brings on a new sense of responsibility, said Adam Bullock, M.D., FAAP, as he addressed the Class of 2019. The assistant professor is a pediatric emergency medicine physician with Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and the 2017 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Faculty Award recipient.

He encouraged students to listen to each patient’s individual story. “One of the most important questions you can ask is ‘What brings you in tonight? What are you afraid of?’”

Bullock elicited a laugh from the crowd when he joked about the grind of the medical profession and that “there is no ESPN ‘SportsCenter’ Top 10 best intubations of the day.” Instead, he told the students to ask themselves each day, “Did I help someone? Are they feeling better?” and therein will lie their motivation.

Part of the Student Clinician Ceremony also recognized outstanding residents through the Gold Foundation’s Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award. Current fourth-year students chose five residents who were particularly strong role models for compassionate, relationship-centered care during the students’ third-year rotations.

Craig Kelman, M.D.
Department of Neurosurgery
2011 graduate of VCU School of Medicine
Advice: “Try to see patients in their own world. You are in a unique position to talk with them more than the residents. Get to know them.”

Tu Nguyen, M.D.
Department of Internal Medicine
2014 VCU School of Medicine
Advice: “Nurture your relationships with your family and friends, and find meaning in the relationships you cultivate with patients.”

Valerie Plant, M.D.
Department of Surgery
2012 graduate of VCU School of Medicine
Advice: “Be honest and choose a specialty you will love and enjoy. It will help with the tough times.”

Roxanne Sholevar, M.D.
Department of Psychiatry
Graduate of Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University

Krista Terracina, M.D.
Department of Surgery
2011 graduate of Louisiana State University School of Medicine
Advice: “One night a week, spend 30 minutes with a patient, just talking. And remember the grandmother test – if it doesn’t meet the standard of care you would want for your grandmother (or daughter or other family member), it’s not right.”

By Polly Roberts