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11
2016

Face time: The Class of 99’s Eduardo Rodriguez returns to campus to discuss his pioneering transplant 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.

Class of 99’s Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS

In August 2015, the Class of 99’s Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., D.D.S., the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone, led a team of more than 100 physicians, nurses, technical and support staff to complete the most extensive face transplant to date, and the first in New York State. PHOTO CREDIT: NYU Langone

Eleven 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 leading surgeons in the field.

He returned to VCU’s MCV Campus this summer as the speaker of the annual S. Dawson Theogaraj Lecture. 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.

In August 2015, Rodriguez led a team at the NYU Langone Medical Center that completed the most extensive face transplant ever.

Patrick Hardison, a 41-year old fireman from Mississippi who had received horrific facial injuries received the face of cyclist David Rodebaugh. The operation received extensive media coverage and cemented Rodriguez’s reputation as a pioneer in the field.

He 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.”

Class of 99’s Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS

Eduardo D. Rodriguez, pictured with his face transplant patient Patrick Hardison at NYU Langone on Nov. 12, 2015. PHOTO CREDIT: NYU Langone

Rodriguez 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.”

In March, 2012, Rodriguez led a team in what was one of the most extensive facial transplants ever, from hairline to the neck of a Virginia man who had suffered a gunshot wound. The 36-hour operation involved more than 100 health care providers along with meticulous planning and execution.

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 life-long 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 shape a better future for these individuals.”

By Lisa Crutchfield

15
2016

Medical Society of Virginia honors Robin Foster and Gene Peterson for service

The Medical Society of Virginia Foundation recently recognized two medical school faculty with Salute to Service Awards, which are given to Virginia physicians and medical students for their selfless services to others, impact to the health of the population served and commitment to health care excellence.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., won the service to the uninsured and underserved award and Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D., posthumously won the service for advancing patient safety and quality improvement award at the awards ceremony, which took place at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center in Roanoke, VA on Oct. 15.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., Robin L. Foster, M.D., was honored by the MSV for her service to the uninsured and underserved.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., Division Chairman of Pediatric Emergency Services, Director of the Child Protection Team, Associate Chairman of Emergency Medicine, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics

Dr. Foster’s award acknowledges her commitment and impact on the profession and the health of the population she serves. She was honored for her work in forming Richmond’s first Child Advocacy Center in partnership with Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Greater Richmond. The Child Advocacy Center coordinates activities across agencies to improve training for professionals in positions to defend and protect children in legal and social service interventions. Dr. Foster is also a founding member of Bridging the Gap, which uses adolescent hospital visits as a starting point for increased education, communication and engagement for violence prevention. Along with this work, she is an active leader of Reach Out and Read as well as Richmond Midnight Basketball League—both of which aim to help children and adolescents.

“Dr. Foster has dedicated her career to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, violence prevention and improved advocacy policy on behalf of the underserved population of at-risk children and adolescents and their families,” said nominator Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D. “She has played a key role in multiple significant projects that have positively impacted the lives of underserved and vulnerable children and adolescents in our community. From clinical care, to counseling, to making the most of any contact with the medical center, to changes in policy and law, she has led an unmatched spectrum of programs contributing to improved family life and child and adolescent health in vulnerable populations.”

Dr. Foster is a 1989 graduate of the VCU School of Medicine, which is where she returned as a faculty member in Emergency Medicine in 1996. She currently serves there as the Division Chair of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Associate Professor in Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics. She is the co-founder and medical director of the Child Protection Team, which evaluates over 1,000 alleged victims of abuse and neglect per year.

Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D.Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D., was honored posthumously by the MSV for advancing patient safety and quality improvement

Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D. (awarded posthumously), Former Chief Safety Officer and Associate Dean for Medical Education

The Salute to Service Award for advancing patient safety and quality improvement acknowledges Dr. Peterson’s accomplishments as the first Chief Safety Officer at VCU, in a role that was unique within the country. Dr. Peterson was the first incumbent to receive the appointment to Professorship for Safety, Quality and Service in Resident Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. He set the foundation for resident and physician training with quality and safety initiatives at VCU by improving the safety of clinician training and leading the development of models that still serve VCU today. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Dr. Peterson immediately rose to the challenge to assist with the Unique Pathogens Unit.

“Because of Dr. Peterson’s vision and success in integrating resident and physician training with the quality and safety initiatives of the VCU Medical Center, his development of models of care delivery will sever patients and learners for years to come,” said nominator Abraham Segres, Vice President of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA). “Dr. Peterson left an indelible mark on all of his colleagues as well as the patients and communities served by VCU. He was truly a visionary leader, and his work integrating resident physician training with the quality and safety initiatives of the VCU/MCV Hospital Clinics has been the foundation for the future of VCU’s educational programs.”

During his time at VCU, Dr. Peterson was an active participant of several initiatives including the technical advisory panel for TeamSTEPPS, a program developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to improve patient safety as well as communication and teamwork skills among health care professionals. He also collaborated on the World Health Organization’s surgical safety checklist for 10 years. He showed a deep commitment to patient safety and encouraged all VCU employees to speak up if they saw something wrong or sensed a potential problem. He wanted to standardize safety measures during patient hand-offs between shifts and worked closely with the University of Virginia Patient Safety team to provide high quality and safe care.

Dr. Peterson died on Nov. 20, 2015. MSVF is honoring him with this award posthumously for his lifelong commitment to advancing the practice of medicine and to improving patient safety.

Announcement courtesy of the MSV Foundation, the philanthropic organization affiliated with the Medical Society of Virginia. MSVF develops sustainable programs and initiatives that equip the physician community to improve the health of Virginians. Building upon physicians’ deep, personal commitment to patient care, MSVF initiatives offer them the opportunity to lead and participate in programs that have direct impact on health care quality and access in Virginia.

29
2016

The lure of the track

The Class of 95’s John M. “J.” Salmon IVThe Class of 95’s John M. “J.” Salmon IV says a love of cars drive him and his dad into racing. His father, John M. Salmon III, DDS, is a 1965 graduate of the dental school.

Years ago, John M. “J.” Salmon IV, M’95, and his father John Salmon III, DDS’65, always talked about building a car together. It seemed a natural thing for a father known as “the fix everything guy” and his young son to set their sights on, but they never got around to it when J. was little.

Today, after finally building not one, but two cars with his father, J. Salmon has moved into the driver’s seat. Each year, he races sports cars at the Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Georgia, though he’s quick to point out that he’s not a professional. His job is to warm up the crowd, so to speak.

“It’s like going to see the Blue Angels at the air show in Virginia Beach,” J. Salmon says. “They’ll be lots of airplanes and activities before they appear. That’s what I do as part of the support race team at the Petit Le Mans. It gives people something to watch and serves as a stepping stone for young drivers.”

The Petit Le Mans is an annual sports car endurance race. Now in its 19th year, the event covers 1,000 miles or 10 hours of racing, whichever comes first, and features 41 entries across four classes of the International Motor Sports Association WeatherTech Championship competition.

Salmon’s event, the Mazda Prototype Lites series, gives him the opportunity to drive at speeds topping 140 mph in a world-class environment where he’s happy to finish within one second of the pack.

“I’m very happy if I’m not dead last,” he laughs. 2016 marks his third year of support driving at the Petit Le Mans.

The Class of 95’s John M. “J.” Salmon IV“Racing is so fast. It’s a blend of science and art. A lot of physicians are drawn to that.”

How it all started
About an hour from the Salmons’ homes in Lynchburg, Virginia, is one of the country’s top six road courses, the Virginia International Raceway. So it’s not surprising that their love of cars drove them into racing.

“It just sort of steamrolled,” J. Salmon says. “It took Dad and me about three or four years to finish our first car and while we were doing that, we’d spend time at the track. We’d go to the track like others went golfing. Most people don’t have a facility as nice as VIR so close to them. That helped contribute to my delinquency!”

A VIR racer himself, the elder Salmon tries to keep his speed these days under 125 mph. With a recent knee replacement surgery under his belt, he’s careful not to overdo. A trip back to the track during recuperation helped him gauge his abilities.

“The knee is in good shape, but I wanted to see how it performed at the track,” he says. “The only real pressure I have to use is on the brakes, that’s why I wanted to go see how it worked.”

Problem solving
Working with engines, suspensions and timing belts is a lot like problem solving in the health care field, explains J. Salmon who practices as a pathologist.

“Many times Dad and I would be working on a car trying to make it faster. We’d upgrade things if necessary. And yes, we blew up an engine. But we figured it out. Problem solving stems from medicine. In school, you’d see a problem and decide how to approach it. You come up with your own solutions. Racing is really immersive. It’s complex, challenging and a blend of science and art. A lot of physicians are drawn to that.”

But as drawn as he is to racing at the Petit Le Mans, J. Salmon is equally happy racing here in Virginia.

“I enjoy it more at the local track with friends,” he says. “I get to go home at night and be with my family.”

By Nan Johnson

08
2016

Door Opens Wide for Biostatistician

You might not picture a biostatistician on the front lines of saving lives. But Maureen McBride, PhD’95 (BIOS), has parlayed her training into a high-powered career at UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nation’s transplant network.

Maureen McBride, PhD’95 (BIOS)

Maureen McBride, PhD’95 (BIOS), says she’s “privileged to be in a position where I feel like the work I do helps patients every single day.”

As chief contract operations officer, McBride is part of a six-person C-suite at UNOS, a private nonprofit organization that operates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network under contract with the federal government. They are tasked with operating the 24-hour computerized organ sharing system that matches donated organs to patients registered on the national organ transplant waiting list. The organization also seeks to increase understanding of the transplant system through education and improve transplant success rates through research and policy. It’s just a stone’s throw from VCU’s MCV Campus.

Her job is an important – and busy – one. “One of my primary responsibilities is to work with our partners in the transplant community and our funders at HRSA [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration],” says McBride. “We make sure everybody’s on the same page with the different projects we have going on.” In addition to contract operations, she oversees three departments at UNOS: member quality, policy and the 24/7 organ placement division.

As she was finishing her doctorate, McBride heard about the opportunity for a senior biostatistician at UNOS. Its mission lured her away from thoughts of joining the pharmaceutical industry, a career path that interested many classmates. “It was a very different kind of opportunity. I knew I’d enjoy the direct connection with people in the field. I knew I’d have opportunity to work with people on national policy-making committees, to give presentations, write manuscripts and do collaborative research.”

In 2006, McBride became director of research, providing expertise in research, analysis and performance measurement conducted by UNOS staff. In 2014, she was promoted to her current position.

She’s pleased to help advance organ availability and transplantation through education, technology and policy development.

“I started as biostatistician involved in research and data, but now my scope has broadened to include policy development, performance improvement and compliance. Our organization is growing, medicine is evolving, and with a foundational education, you can go many different directions,” she says.
“The depth of her knowledge about how UNOS and transplantation work is amazing,” says Brian Shepard, CEO of UNOS. “Whenever I’m trying to understand something that nobody else seems to understand, I go to Maureen.”

It’s a time of growth at UNOS. The field of transplantation is expanding rapidly, with transplants in the U.S. up 6 percent last year and trending toward a 10 percent uptick this year. “I feel privileged to be in a position where I feel like the work I do helps patients every single day,” McBride notes.

McBride appreciates the long-standing relationship between VCU and UNOS. Noted transplant surgeons H.M. Lee, M.D., and David Hume, M.D., helped push the passing of the National Organ Transplant Act that founded the organization now known as UNOS. VCU is also a source of interns and hires for UNOS.

McBride’s top priority remains focusing on the lifesaving mission of UNOS. “There are currently 120,000 people on the waiting list,” she says. “But we’re only going to do about 30,000 transplants this year. Demand always far exceeds the supply.” She encourages everyone to make their wishes regarding organ donation known to their loved ones.

By Lisa Crutchfield

29
2016

“Nothing is more addicting than the thrill of discovery” Study abroad invigorates professor, students

Premed student Rosellen Provost

Premed student Rosellen Provost traveled to Italy with four fellow honors students for a three-week course that’s convinced her to pursue a career in medicine.

The little boy looked apprehensive as the male nurse approached to tend to his broken arm.

“You aren’t going to cry in front of all these girls are you?” he asked, smiling reassuringly. With a renewed sense of bravery, the child replied with an emphatic, “No!”

Standing nearby in the Italian emergency room, Rosellen Provost and her premed classmates smiled, too, as they watched a new friendship unfold before them.

“I always thought I might want to go into medicine, but after this experience, I have no doubt,” she said. “This is fueling me.”

Rosellen, a sophomore, was one of five undergraduate students from VCU’s Honors College to travel to Italy for three weeks this summer to explore the importance of research and learn what medical science looks like outside the United States. The trip was led by Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D. H’07, who holds the James C. Roberts, Esquire Professor in Cardiology in the VCU School of Medicine and serves as associate chair for research in the Department of Internal Medicine.

“It was fantastic,” Abbate said. “The kids had the joy of discovering, researching and caring for patients.”

The trip was part of Abbate’s brainchild: Discover Medicine in Italy, which included two three-credit courses, Introduction to Translational Research and Introduction to Medical Semiotics. Abbate, a native of Italy and a UCBM graduate, taught both courses. His wife, Vera Abbate, Ph.D., instructor in the School of World Studies, served as course director, and Salvatore Carbone, instructor of medicine, assisted Abbate with the program and classes.

The students were paired with five Italian medical students and shadowed physicians. They took day trips to hospitals in Rome and observed molecular biology experiments.

Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D. H’07

A native of Fondi, Italy, Cardiology’s Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., returned this summer to lead Discover Medicine in Italy. The course invigorated Abbate along with the Italian and VCU students he was teaching.

They also spent time in the lab and had to come up with their own concepts for future research projects. Rosellen’s project focused on a clinical trial for a vaccine that stops heroine from being synthesized and going to the brain, thus making a drug user immune to a physical high. Others explored new devices and dementia treatments.

Abbate was impressed with all the students’ work, and said, “their excitement for discovery was contagious.”

Even Abbate got recharged. His own love for research got its start when he was a medical student in Italy. As the years passed and administrative duties grew, he could feel the burn out coming. He wasn’t sure he wanted to encourage young students into the field. Then he read the book, “The Vanishing Physician Scientist,” and found a new perspective.

“As busy as we can be, I think sometimes we forget how beautiful research work is,” Abbate said. “This trip gave me time to reflect and to really appreciate what we do. Spending time with the students and sharing with them my passion, seeing their eyes light up, reinvigorated me. Nothing is more addicting than the thrill of discovery.”

Abbate got the idea to organize the study abroad opportunity after the University of Rome invited him on campus as a visiting professor last year. He said he would only accept if he could get something out of it that would be of value to VCU students.

He contacted the Honors College because he wanted to reach out to premed students. Those interested attended an orientation, filled out an application and secured their passports. The college pitched in with the finances, offering each student $2,500 toward the cost of the trip.

“To get a global perspective on healthcare is an enriching experience,” said Jacqueline Smith-Mason, Ph.D., associate dean of the Honors College. “Study abroad can be life-changing.”

During their time in Italy, students got a taste of what universal health care is like. They saw how medicine – from procedures to patient interaction – differ abroad. They also visited Fondi, where Abbate grew up, Pompeii and Sperlonga.

“What a beautiful country,” Rosellen said. “But what I loved most was the theme of service there. They live to serve other people. That’s exactly what I want to do.”

By Janet Showalter

21
2016

Kelley Dodson named first female president of the Virginia Society of Otolaryngology

I think my presidency definitely reflects the change in traditionally male dominated surgical specialties to now being more representative and inclusive of women as a whole.

“I think my presidency definitely reflects the change in traditionally male dominated surgical specialties to now being more representative and inclusive of women as a whole.”

Housestaff alumna and School of Medicine faculty member Kelley M. Dodson, M.D., was installed as president of the Virginia Society of Otolaryngology on June 4. She is the first female president in the society’s nearly 100-year history.

It’s a milestone that Dodson says has special meaning for her.

“I think my presidency definitely reflects the change in traditionally male dominated surgical specialties to now being more representative and inclusive of women as a whole.”

Dodson has been involved with the society for a half dozen years. She served as president-elect last year and before that as vice president.

Through her service, she says, “I have gained significant insight especially into legislative issues facing the commonwealth of Virginia, as we have been very active in the legislative process on issues affecting our specialty.”

Kelley M. Dodson, M.D.

Kelley Dodson, M.D.

The Virginia Society of Otolaryngology was chartered in 1920. It provides continuing medical education for its members and addresses political and regulatory challenges affecting practice issues. Each spring, the society holds an annual meeting, which was held this year in McLean, Va.

Dodson has a clinical interest in pediatric otolaryngology as well as in congenital and genetic hearing loss. On the research front, she is interested in language and speech outcomes in children with hearing loss and has been involved with genetic studies of tinnitus and different forms of hearing loss. She also studies pediatric chronic rhinosinusitis and the mask microbiome in cystic fibrosis.

After completing her residency in the Department of Otolaryngology on VCU’s MCV Campus, Dodson joined the medical school’s faculty in 2005. She is now director of the department’s residency program.

By Erin Lucero
Event photography by Susan McConnell, Virginia Society of Otolaryngology