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23
2015

Jerry Strauss to chair IOM committee on the state of ovarian cancer research

Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D.

Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D.

The Institute of Medicine has appointed Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., to chair The State of the Science in Ovarian Cancer Research.

With a goal of reducing the incidence of and mortality from ovarian cancer, his ad hoc committee will evaluate research in the field, identify key gaps in the evidence base and recommend next steps. The committee will prepare a consensus study that is expected by the end of 2015.

A member of the IOM since 1994, Strauss is a past president of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation. He received the society’s highest honor, the Distinguished Scientist Award, in 2006. Author of more than 300 original scientific articles, Strauss holds twelve U.S. patents for discoveries in diagnostics and therapeutics.

Last year, Strauss was appointed chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The board advises the NICHD scientific director and on matters related to the institutes intramural research activities. His term as chair runs through June 2016.

In 2005, Strauss was named dean of VCU’s School of Medicine and executive vice president for medical affairs of the VCU Health System. He is currently serving as interim vice president for VCU Health Sciences and interim CEO of the VCU Health System.

26
2014

Saving football: neuroscientist Ray Colello’s research garners nationwide media attention

Ray Colello

Ray Colello, Ph.D.

Could lightweight, rare earth magnets reduce the force of a head-to-head collision on the football field?

That’s the question that’s occupying Ray Colello, Ph.D., this NFL season.

“Helmet to helmet collisions are considered one of the primary means by which concussions occur in football,” says the associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, who’s also an avid football fan. “Repeated concussions can lead to severe brain disease, and the average collegiate football player will take over 500 hits to the head over a season of games and practices.”

On Nov. 15, he presented findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience showing neodymium magnets can generate repulsive forces of over 300-fold their weight that could be used to reduce the impact forces generated during helmet-to-helmet collision.

The proposition has caught the interest of the science press and, in the days following his presentation, he’s done more than two dozen interviews with news outlets like NPR, the journal Science and Scientific American.

Colello’s research has been supported by the VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund. His next step will be to field-test the magnets by fitting them inside football helmets worn by crash-test dummies.

Such tests could mimic the indirect hits and rotational forces that come into play in a football game. “We don’t want to trade concussions with spinal cord injuries,” Colello told the journal Science.

Read more about Colello’s discovery.

 

06
2014

Washington Post talks with Peter Boling about the enduring value of house calls

Peter Boling

Peter Boling, M.D., H’84

Since 1984, Peter Boling, M.D., H’84, has been making house calls to visit frail, elderly patients who would find it difficult to make it to the doctor’s office for an appointment.

He’s convinced it’s the way to help them avoid costly hospital stays – and save the health care system money in the meantime.

Washington Post reporter Jeff Guo recently spent a day with him to learn more about the enduring value of house calls.

“The idea is to deliver health care where it’s best for the patient,” Boling told Guo. “If the clinic is the right place for them, then come to the clinic. If it’s hard for them to come to the clinic, short-term or long-term, we’ll go to them.”

All medical students go on a house call with Boling’s team. One of his goals, he tells the Washington Post “is to have established an economic model that makes this a desirable mode of practice.”

A professor of internal medicine and chair of the Division of Geriatric Medicine, Boling was instrumental in developing the Independence at Home Act that is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. His is one of 19 sites nationwide to participate in a demonstration to test the advantages of house calls for elderly patients too ill or disabled to visit their physicians.

Read the Washington Post story: One doctor’s old-fashioned idea to cut health care spending: house calls.

16
2014

Ken Kendler is inaugural speaker at Oxford Loebel Lectures

Chair of surgery

Ken Kendler, M.D., outside Oxford Martin Lecture Theatre

In its inaugural year, the Oxford Loebel Lectures and Research Programme featured Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., in a pair of presentations on Oct. 15 and 16 at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Rather than focusing on the biological, psychological or social as independent factors, the Oxford Loebel Lectures were established to encourage researchers to consider how those factors interact in their contribution to mental illness.

Kendler’s research is pertinent to that approach. Many of his more than 800 publications address the relationship between biological, psychological and social contributors to psychiatric and substance use disorders.

In a pair of well-attended lectures, Kendler first described how recent studies in the genetic epidemiology and molecular genetics illustrate the complex causal pathways to mental illness. In his second appearance at the Oxford Martin School Lecture Theatre, he proposed new goals for psychiatric research and a new framework for conceptualizing and classifying disorders.

Chair of surgery

Ken Kendler, M.D., presenting at the Oxford Loebel Lectures and Research Programme

Kendler is the Rachel Brown Banks Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and a professor of human genetics in the VCU School of Medicine. A member of the Institute of Medicine, he also is director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics and editor of the journal Psychological Medicine. Involved in both DSM-III-R and DSM-IV, he chaired the Scientific Review Committee for DSM-5.

The Oxford Loebel Lectures and Research Programme were established with the support of J. Pierre Loebel, a clinical professor emeritus at the University of Washington, and his wife Felice who was also on the faculty at the University of Washington, in the Department of English.

Videos of Kendler’s lectures are available online at the OLLRP website.

01
2014

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

01
2014

Vigneshwar Kasirajan named Chair of Surgery

Chair of surgery

Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D.

Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D., has been named Chair of the Department of Surgery effective immediately. Kasirajan joined the MCV Campus in 2000. A professor of surgery and chair of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, he has served as interim chair of the department since July 1, 2013.

Kasirajan has transplanted over 150 donor hearts in his career and is also one of the pioneers in the surgical implantation of artificial hearts and other mechanical assist devices. In 2006, he led the first surgical team on the East Coast to implant the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, the only device of its kind approved by the FDA. His work in this field has helped establish VCU as one of the leaders in the realm of artificial hearts.

“Dr. Kasirajan has helped to create a vibrant environment at VCU,” said Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “In addition to his work with transplant patients, he is at the forefront of a new frontier in cardiac surgery that includes artificial hearts and mechanical assist devices. As the lead investigator on a number of national clinical trials, he is addressing some of the most urgent issues in cardiac surgery.”

Based upon his experience and success with artificial hearts, Kasirajan was selected to be the lead investigator of a national clinical trial for the Freedom Driver, a small, portable air compressor that keeps artificial hearts pumping and allows patients to leave the hospital.

Kasirajan earned his medical degree at Madras Medical College, Madras, India and completed his internship and residency at Government General Hospital in Madras. His postgraduate medical education and training continued at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, in Cleveland, Ohio, as chief resident in general surgery, followed by a fellowship in cardiothoracic transplantation and mechanical assist devices and appointment as administrative chief resident in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery.