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Faculty honors and news archives


Pathology’s Kimberly Sanford receives national honor as 2015’s Distinguished Pathology Educator

“My first job in the laboratory was as a phlebotomist while attending college to become a medical laboratory scientist,” says Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06. “From that point on, I knew that I had found my home.”

Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06

Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06

After graduation, she worked in a variety of laboratories around the MCV Campus before deciding to enter medical school. Today, she is an assistant professor in the medical school’s Department of Pathology and has received the Outstanding Teacher Award in the pathology introduction course for medical students for four years running. Drawing on her wide-ranging experiences, she has authored text book chapters as well as peer reviewed publications and has developed educational content at national meetings for all laboratory professionals.

This fall, she received national accolades as the recipient of the 2015 ASCP H. P. Smith Award for Distinguished Pathology Educator. The award is one of the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s highest honors. Each year, the society recognizes individuals who have made outstanding, lifelong contributions to the society and who have had distinguished careers in pathology and laboratory medicine embracing education, research and administration.

Sanford is medical director of both transfusion medicine and the Stony Point Laboratory at VCU Health. She is a three-time VCU alumna, having earned a medical technology degree from the School of Allied Health in 1991, a medical degree from the School of Medicine in 2001 and continuing on VCU’s MCV Campus to complete her pathology residency in 2006.


M3 Yeri Park and faculty member Mike Czekajlo honored by Medical Society of Virginia


Class of 2017’s Yeri Park.

The Class of 2017’s Yeri Park and Michael Czekajlo, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, were honored by the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation. The pair were presented with Salute to Service Awards at the MSV’s annual meeting in Chantilly on Oct. 24.

Park received the service by a medical student award for her impact on medically underserved communities. She served as the pharmacy chair for the 2014 Honduras Outreach Medical Brigade Relief Effort (HOMBRE) trip to the Dominican Republic that provided preventive care for over 1,000 patients. In addition, Park is co-founder of the Farmworker Health Outreach project on Virginia’s eastern shore that’s focused on the needs of migrant workers, and she also volunteers with the Mattaponi Healing Eagle Clinic, Crossover Healthcare Ministry and the Center for High Blood Pressure.

Park was elected to the post of president of the Class of 2017, and she served as co-president of the Student Family Medicine Association and on the leadership board of the Women in Medicine Student Organization. She is enrolled in the fmSTAT program that nurtures students pursuing a career in family medicine. In a video interview with the MSV, she describes her path into medicine.


Michael Czekajlo, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology

Czekajlo was presented with the service to the international community award. It acknowledges his long-term service and commitment that includes establishing the CPR for Schools program in Poland, which has now trained 1 million school children in the mechanics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He also introduced innovative technology at an interdisciplinary simulation center in Poland that trains about 5,000 each year, teaching Polish health professions students the key aspects of treating heart disease and training American military and first responders on critical care practice.

A Fulbright scholar and director of the simulation center at the VA Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center, Czekajlo has encouraged the growth of simulation in Poland and helped the Polish Minister of Health secure a 60-million euro grant from the European Union to improve and enhance medical simulation in the country. Czekajlo was born to Polish émigrés and his connection to Poland is chronicled in a video produced by the MSV.

The MSV Foundation’s Salute to Service Awards are given annually 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.


Internal Medicine’s Richard Wenzel honored by Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Richard “Dick” P. Wenzel, M.D., professor emeritus and former chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine, has been honored as a 2015 recipient of the Simon Gratz Prize. The award was bestowed by the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at an Oct. 17 ceremony during Thomas Jefferson University’s Alumni Weekend in Philadelphia.

A 1965 graduate of Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Wenzel is a renowned expert on antibiotic resistance and a pioneer in preventing and controlling hospital-acquired infections. His research on bloodstream infections as well as his field work treating cholera patients in epidemics in the Philippines and Bangladesh are well known.

Alumni Weekend 2015 - Wenzel and Tykocinski

Dick Wenzel, M.D., recently was accepted the Simon Gratz Prize by his alma mater, the Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

Wenzel discussed those topics in a presentation during Jefferson’s Alumni Weekend. He also recounted for his audience his opposition to the Bush administration’s push to vaccinate the U.S. population for smallpox in preparation for the invasion of Iraq. Wenzel’s position was later praised by the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine).

Wenzel’s contributions have been recognized repeatedly. In 2010 he received the Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific Achievement by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and he was honored with the International Federation of Infection Control’s Martin S. Favero Award in 2014.

“I have been fortunate to have numerous opportunities to explore in medicine, to be surrounded by talented fellows and colleagues, and to remain curious in my career,” Wenzel said. “To receive this recognition in the presence of my classmates at the 50th reunion was extraordinarily exciting.”

Every three years, the Simon Gratz Prize is awarded to alumni of Sidney Kimmel Medical College whose work has furthered the advancement of medical or surgical treatment of disease or for research work that has been of practical value. This year, Wenzel shares the prize with the Class of 1990’s Vincenzo Berghella, a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine, and ophthalmologist Richard F. Spaide of the Class of 1981.


National EMS award named for Emergency Medicine Chair Joe Ornato

Photo of the national EMS awardA national EMS award has been named for Emergency Medicine Chair Joe Ornato, M.D.

The respect Joe Ornato, M.D., has enjoyed over his 40-year career has now taken tangible form.

He was honored this summer at the Pinnacle EMS Leadership Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., with the announcement that a national award recognizing leadership in the emergency medical services field would carry his name.

Triple board certified in Internal medicine, cardiology and emergency medicine, Ornato is professor and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine. He is also medical director of the Richmond Ambulance Authority, Richmond Fire & EMS and Henrico County Division of Fire.

Reporting on the award, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services described him as the “undisputed leader in EMS and ED use of coordinated team resuscitation practices” from induced hypothermia to uninterrupted, continuous-compression CPR and rapid cath lab delivery/intervention.

Edward M. Racht, M.D., H’87, is the first recipient of the Joseph P. Ornato, M.D., Award for Clinical Leadership in EMS.

Ed Racht and Rob Lawrence with event organizersEd Racht, H’87 (right), and Rob Lawrence (second from left), chief operating officer of Richmond Ambulance Authority, with event organizers.

“Ed was one of my first trainees,” said Ornato. “I had nothing to do with his selection but was delighted when the selection committee chose him to receive the award.”

After completing his residency with Ornato in 1987, Racht joined the faculty of the medical school and served as associate chief of the medicine section of Emergency Medical Services. During his eight-year tenure on the MCV Campus, he was appointed by two Governors of Virginia to three successive terms on the Virginia State EMS Advisory Board.

Racht is now the chief medical officer of American Medical Response, the largest EMS provider in the nation, and in 2008 he was named a “Hero of Emergency Medicine” by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Ornato earned his medical degree at the Boston University School of Medicine and completed an internal medicine residency at Mount Sinai Hospital and a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center. A member of the Institute of Medicine, Ornato is past chairman of the American Heart Association’s National Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee and also chaired the national steering committee on the NIH Public Access Defibrillation Trial.


“You don’t have to leave the United States to find a need.”

Kelli McFarlingThis summer, the Class of 2018’s Kelli McFarling (second from right) traveled to both Honduras and Wise County, Virginia, to help provide health care to the underserved. She was struck by the similarities shared by the patients she met.

The Class of 2018’s Kelli McFarling knew the need for medical care was great in Honduras. But she had no idea how overwhelmed she would feel trying to do her part.

“I know any little dent we can make is a good thing,” said the rising second-year medical student. “But it’s frustrating to see how much needs to be done.”

Kelli was one of about 32 students from the VCU School of Medicine to participate this summer in HOMBRE (Humanitarian Outreach Medical Brigade Relief Effort). Started in 2000, this medical mission trip, organized by first-year students under guidance of faculty from the schools of medicine and pharmacy, takes place the summer before their second year. What began with mission trips just to Honduras has grown over the years to include four sites – Honduras – Norte; the Dominican Republic; Peru; and Honduras – Pinares.

“I learned so much about disease from both a pathological and population health perspective,” Kelli said. “It definitely makes me want to be a doctor even more.”

A few weeks after returning from Honduras, Kelli hit the road again, but this time she remained in the United States. As a member of the RAM (Remote Area Medical) team, she traveled to Wise County with 11 other medical students in July to a temporary clinic that provides free medical, dental and eye care to more than 2,500 patients from 16 states.

Did you know?

HOMBRE was first organized as the Honduras Outreach Medical Brigada Relief Effort when students and faculty were traveling only to Honduras. As HOMBRE grew to include more sites, the name changed last year to reflect that growth. HOMBRE is now known as the Humanitarian Outreach Medical Brigade Relief Effort.

“It was an incredible experience to go to both places and see what it was like to be in a third-world country, and then come right back here to Virginia and see the similarities,” Kelli said. “You don’t have to leave the United States to find a need.”

This marked RAM’s eleventh year at Wise. The 12 medical students were among 1,000 volunteers on this year’s RAM team that included physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, podiatrists, respiratory therapists, lab technicians and radiologists.

“Our patients here don’t have access to medical care because the area is so rural,” said Kevin J. Lee, M’09, who led VCU’s RAM team this year. “In addition to not having health care facilities, many can’t afford health insurance, or the insurance they can afford has huge deductibles.”

The three-day clinic is an invaluable experience for students, Lee said, because it takes them outside their comfort zones.

Kevin J. LeeKevin J. Lee, M’09, has volunteered with Remote Area Medical in Wise County, Virginia, for five years. This summer he led VCU’s RAM team.

“They are seeing things they may not necessarily be exposed to otherwise,” he said. “For example, in school they generally listen to normal heart and lung sounds, or somewhat well managed chronic problems. Here, they tend to hear far more unusual murmurs or lung sounds, as well as complex medical conditions stemming from longstanding untreated chronic medical problems and a significant lack of resources.”

At this year’s clinic, many patients waited in line all day to see a doctor. When they first entered the triage area, they were seen by volunteer nurses. The general medical team then met with them, with third- and fourth-year medical students conducting interviews and evaluations under the supervision of attending physicians. From there, they were either set up with a treatment plan or directed to other specialties.

“I was all over the place,” Kelli said. “I helped with pelvic exams, I helped remove skin lesions and even assisted with tooth extractions. That’s what makes RAM so special – the interprofessional care. It was amazing as a student to have this kind of experience.”

HOMBRE provides interprofessional care as well, with medical, pharmacy and physical therapy students working alongside faculty from VCU’s Medical College of Virginia Campus to treat the medically underserved. This summer, for example, the Dominican Republic team treated about 900 patients over a 10-day period.

“We empower the students to be the primary care providers,” said Mark Ryan, M’00, a site leader for the Dominican Republic team and assistant professor for the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health. “We are asking a lot, but they answer to it. We have a lot of confidence in them.”

A working medical student Twelve VCU medical students were among 1,000 volunteers on this year’s RAM team. Physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, podiatrists, respiratory therapists, lab technicians and radiologists provided care to more than 2,500 patients from 16 states.

Students worked in pairs. A medical student might have been paired with a pharmacy student, for example, so they could experience team-based care. They conducted patient interviews, performed exams and presented their findings to faculty. They worked as a team to formulate a treatment plan. This approach allows student teams to independently evaluate patients, while ensuring necessary supervision and teaching takes place.

“They are not only providing meaningful service, but come out of it with significant professional growth,” said Ryan, medical director of the Hayes E. Willis Health Center. “They are seeing such a wide range of cases, which really builds their confidence.”

Whether the students are volunteering with RAM or HOMBRE, the cases they see can be quite similar. Patients are often suffering from hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, chronic back issues, arthritis and tooth decay. In Wise, where long-term tobacco use is common, many patients also suffer from respiratory issues and even cancer.

“The similarities were shocking,” Kelli said. “In Honduras, I became appreciative of the aspects of health related to infrastructure. Lack of clean drinking water, working plumbing and health literacy were all major factors negatively impacting patients’ health. Lasting impacts in Honduras require more than just a few day’s work. In rural Virginia, the basic infrastructure was in place, but access to health care is limited by costs and distance.”

In both locations, patients return year after year, often seeking out the same doctor or student they saw the year before.

“This summer, a man I see every year came up and gave me a big hug,” said Lee, who has been traveling to Wise for five years. “He had this smile on his face as he told me he had found a job and would have health insurance. He was so proud.

“The best part was he was there this year to sign up as a RAM volunteer. After all those years of being the one in need, he was back to serve. That was so incredible to hear and very emotional for me. What a testament to how much the people in the community feel we are making a difference.”

By Janet Showalter


Alumnus and faculty member Mark Hom teams up with cycling legend to spotlight the science of fitness

Mark Hom, H’92

His interest in physical fitness led Mark Hom, H’92, to write a book that focuses on the crucial role mitochondria play in exercise, disease prevention and nutrition. Here he’s pictured breaking away on a Richmond Area Bicycling Association club ride. Photo by Allan Cooper

As he approached his 50th birthday, Mark Hom, H’92, made a pact with his wife that they would try to stay in great shape as they got older. They both took up cycling and, after struggling to pedal only a few miles when they first began, they now log thousands of miles on their bikes each year. His interest in physical fitness, and in cycling specifically, led him to write a book on the subject. “The Science of Fitness: Power, Performance and Endurance” focuses on the crucial role mitochondria play in exercise, disease prevention and nutrition.

In a recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch by Louis Llovio, Hom described how mitochondria – the power plants of our cells – convert food and body fat into the energy we need to exercise. Mitochondria multiply in response to intense exercise and diminish from lack of activity. Because their role in fitness and health is so central, it’s important to take care of your mitochondria to ensure top physical performance and to prevent the diseases of the modern age such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome.

“My analogy is that since mitochondria are inside your body and inside your cells, it is up to you to be a good shepherd to your mitochondrial flock by feeding them, making them strong and protecting them.” That translates into supplying them with good nutrition and exercising with intensity, while avoiding toxins that might weaken them.

“The Science of Fitness: Power, Performance and Endurance” can be found online at Amazon.com. The book is also available in Richmond at Barnes and Noble’s Libbie and Short Pump locations.

When he began writing the book, Hom, an assistant professor of radiology at the School of Medicine, started thinking about examples to demonstrate the importance of mitochondria’s role in fitness. As a cyclist, his thoughts quickly turned to one of the sport’s legends: Greg LeMond. LeMond. The two-time World Champion and three-time Tour de France winner obviously had superior mitochondria to power those wins but also suffered a near-fatal hunting accident in 1987 that knocked him out of cycling at the peak of his career.

After he recovered from his wounds, LeMond rebuilt his fitness to win again, but later suffered from muscle weakness and a lack of endurance. A muscle biopsy revealed the hallmark ragged red fibers of mitochondrial myopathy.

Mark Hom, H’92

Mark Hom, H’92

Hom, familiar with LeMond’s story, says this diagnosis was a seminal event in mitochondrial disease awareness. The lead shotgun pellets from the accident leaked toxins into LeMond’s body, damaging his mitochondria and prolonging his recovery time. Diagnosed with mitochondrial myopathy, LeMond was forced to retire from bike racing in 1994 when he still should have been in his prime years.

Because LeMond’s story presents such a poignant example of the connection between mitochondria and fitness, Hom decided on a whim to send an early draft of his book to the famous cyclist.

To his surprise, LeMond responded with a long email and agreed to co-author the book. LeMond, who always sought coaches knowledgeable in physiology, says that physical training needs a more scientific approach as described in this book, something that trendy fitness books tend to lack. He has also gained a deeper understanding of how mitochondria shaped the high and lows of his cycling career.

Hom hopes that his book can be a guide for others looking to get in shape and understand the science behind fitness.

“My book is meant to help anyone at any age or fitness level to be as energetic and healthy as possible. We have different chapters on exercise, nutrition, maintaining muscle mass, slowing the aging process, and staying mentally sharp. Getting older is difficult enough. You don’t want to get old and have diseases too, especially diseases that can be largely prevented with exercise. For younger readers it explains why exercise should begin at an early age, in this era of childhood obesity.”

For his part, Hom plans to continue tending his mitochondrial flock on long, intense bike rides with his wife.

By Jack Carmichael