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From the operating room to tiny table saws

David Chelmow, M.D.

Chelmow’s latest completed model is that of an American privateer built in 1780 in Plymouth, Mass. Click the image above to view in more detail.

David Chelmow, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, likes working with his hands. That may come as no surprise for a surgeon, especially one with a focus on wound closure and the prevention of wound complications. But Chelmow puts his dexterity to use outside of work as well – building model ships.

“I love operating, but it’s nice to work on models because I don’t have to worry about pain control and bleeding,” he explains. “It’s much more relaxing!”

Chelmow grew up making plastic models. He continued the hobby until his college years and moved to wooden models after his father once gave him an extra kit.

Today, he works primarily in wood and often mills his own with a tiny table saw.

An interest in ships and history, he says, is a great combination for modeling. Each of Chelmow’s projects takes between four and five years to complete. The latest completed model is that of an American privateer built in 1780 in Plymouth, Mass.

“It was very successful capturing British ships until it was captured by the British in 1783. The British were good about making plans of captured vessels, so the only early American ships we can model accurately tend to be the ones that were captured. The model started as a kit, but the only parts I used were the frame and a few of the castings, gun barrels and anchors in particular. I replaced everything else including the wood, which is boxwood, Swiss pear, holly, ebony and cherry.”

David Chelmow, M.D.

Chelmow’s current project, the schooner Hannah, is a replica of the first armed commission for the Continental Army. Click the image above to view in more detail.

His current project, the schooner Hannah, is a replica of the first armed commission for the Continental Army.

“She was the first schooner purchased by George Washington. It’s the right complexity for me. The next one may be a bit more ambitious. I only do one project at a time, and leave multitasking for work.”

Finding time for his varied interests is par for the course for the Leo J. Dunn Distinguished Professor who led drafting of ACOG’s cervical cancer screening guidelines issued in 2012.

“It’s been a busy few years. I’ve helped start a national organization for academic generalist OB/GYNs and am finishing my term as the group’s first president,” he said.

“Two of my VCU colleagues and I have edited a book about to be published. I’ll have more time in the coming months.”

No doubt he’ll spend part of this extra time working with wood and very tiny table saws.

– By Nan Johnson


New animated video connects the dots between education and health outcomes


People with less education are living sicker, shorter lives than ever before.

“We all know that a good education is important,” says Steven H. Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., director of the VCU Center on Society and Health. “Less recognized is the impact of education on health outcomes. Americans with a good education generally enjoy better health throughout their lives, generate fewer health care costs, and live longer.”

He points to an eye-opening statistic: even a 1% increase in the percentage of Americans with some college education could save $1.3 billion per year in avoided medical care for one disease: diabetes.

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the VCU Center on Society and Health is raising awareness about the important connections between education and health. Its staff meets with leaders in government and the private sector — at the national, state, and local level — to explore those connections.

They’ve recently experimented with a new medium, producing an animated video that connects the dots between educational attainment and health.

More and more, the Center is looking to communicate in a variety of ways to reach the greatest variety of audiences. In addition to new media tactics like interactive online tools and this video, the Center also continues to make use of traditional media tactics like op-eds and produce more in-depth and academic material like white papers, issue briefs and journal articles.

Learn more about the Center on Society and Health and watch the animated video.


Urology Chair Lance Hampton takes advanced surgical techniques to Vietnam


Huế, the ancient capital city of Vietnam

In early March, Chair of Urology Lance J. Hampton, M.D., will carry hi-tech expertise to Huế, the ancient former capital city of Vietnam.

It’s his third trip in five years, traveling as part of an organization called International Volunteers in Urology. Based out of Salt Lake City, IVUmed organizes urologists who volunteer to provide medical and surgical education to physicians and nurses and treatment to thousands of children and adults.

Five years ago, Hampton says, “I chose to go to Vietnam because, at the time, I had never been to that part of the world and wanted to see it. It was also a way to involve my urology residents in the trip as there is a urology residency in Huế, Vietnam.”

Hampton holds the Barbara and William B. Thalhimer Professorship in Urology. He notes that the endowed professorship supports his efforts to advance the Urology program in multiple ways, including opportunities like this one.


Drs. Lance Hampton (left) and Eric Reid, a urology resident from the University of Oregon outside the operating rooms at Huế University. “Note the short scrub pants and open toed plastic shoes!” Hampton points out.

On this trip and the others before it, he partners with physicians at Huế University. He’ll demonstrate advanced surgical techniques developed in our operating rooms in a region of the world that is severely lacking in modern technology and training.

At the VCU Health System, Hampton is medical director of Robotic Surgery, one of the busiest programs in the Mid-Atlantic region. He’s found the Vietnamese surgeons to be very interested in how he performs laparoscopy and endoscopy procedures, which are uncommon in Vietnam.

In Huế, Hampton’s team typically does four or five major open kidney stone cases each day. “With the expansion of minimally invasive surgery for kidney stones, these procedures are extremely rare in the U.S., but are standard practice in Vietnam,” Hampton explains. “This gives my residents and me the opportunity to perform operations that we rarely see anymore.”


Urology Chair Lance Hampton

His residents have benefitted in other ways as well from this cultural exchange, Hampton said. “It has helped each of them to foster a philanthropic spirit, dedicating themselves to ultimately what draws all of us to medicine – the desire to help others.”

IVUmed provides scholarships to residents who participate, and School of Medicine has also sponsored residents on the trips. On previous visits, Hampton and his team of residents have met up with other urologists in training from Duke, Northwestern and the University of Oregon. This year, a resident from the University of Miami will join them.

Hampton acknowledges that he’s been surprised at how much he enjoys traveling to Vietnam. “I have now spent over a month of my life in Vietnam and I always enjoy it immensely. The people are friendly and welcoming. They love having visitors to their country and sharing with you their culture and their lifestyle.”

In some ways, Hampton can’t help but stand out. “One thing I enjoy about traveling to Southeast Asia is that, even at 5’11″, I’m one of the tallest people in the country. Their scrubs are made for someone 5’6” or so,” says Hampton as he explains a picture of him outside a Vietnamese operating room wearing short scrub pants and open-toed plastic shoes. “The shoes are just what they are used to. They tend to not be very clean and are probably size 8 or less, but having bare feet help keeps you cool in their 85 degree operating rooms. When in Rome…”


Newspaper profiles life and times of Surgery’s Szabolcs Szentpetery


Szabolcs Szentpetery, M.D.

The front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s March 10 Health section featured Szabolcs Szentpetery, H’75.

The story describes the life and career of the Hungarian native who emigrated to the U.S. in 1965. He’d been training at MCV for only about a year when he was drafted to Vietnam, where he worked at one of the war’s busiest evacuation hospitals. The experience convinced him to dedicate most of his career to serving veterans, he told the Times-Dispatch.

The newspaper story also details his return to America and his connection with heart transplant pioneer Richard Lower, M.D., that grew into Szentpetery starting the heart transplant program at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“Saint Pete” or “Saint Peter,” as he’s sometimes called by his patients, estimates he’s performed more than 300 transplants – the majority at McGuire. Read more about his 30-year career in the Times-Dispatch story, Pioneering heart surgeon dedicated to care of veterans.


Biostat’s Roy Sabo publishes book for non-statisticians


Roy Sabo, Ph.D.

Roy Sabo, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics, has authored the book Statistical Research Methods: A Guide for Non-Statisticians. His co-author is Ed Boone, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Statistics and Operations Research at VCU.

Sabo explained that the idea for writing the book grew out of the need for an acceptable textbook for the courses BIOS 543 and STAT 543 that enroll graduate students and academic professionals in non-statistical fields. Sabo and Boone aim to help students learn, use and communicate results from many commonly used statistical methods.

“There has been a struggle for years to find a book that fits our needs,” said Sabo. “The market is saturated with texts that explain the concepts we cover, yet they invariably speak from a statistical perspective, which is not useful for the students.”

In response, Sabo and Boone wrote a series of lecture notes that they felt spoke in a language the students could understand, helping them to use data to make informed judgments and develop a process of critical thinking for statistical analysis that underlies all scientific research. While the authors didn’t over-simplify the material, they set out to not make it unnecessarily challenging. Their lecture notes have now been polished, published and made available to a wider audience.

In addition to graduate students in non-statistics disciplines, the text could also be a resource for advanced undergraduate researchers and research faculty in the health sciences. The text describes the entire data analysis process from hypothesis generation to writing a manuscript to communicate the results, including real-world examples and sample write-ups for the methods and results sections of scholarly papers.


Ken Kendler honored with 2013 Thomas William Salmon Award in Psychiatry


Kenneth Kendler, M.D.

The New York Academy of Medicine has honored Kenneth Kendler, M.D., the Rachel Brown Banks Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and professor of Human Genetics, with its 2013 Thomas William Salmon Award in Psychiatry.

In making its award, the academy noted “his brilliant and determined quest to illuminate the etiology of schizophrenia, substance abuse, and personality disorders. … Dr. Kendler’s research has truly revolutionized our knowledge of the foundations of mental health. His academic work and translational contributions to the field have set the stage for the next chapters of research and practice in the science of psychiatry.”

Each year The New York Academy of Medicine’s Salmon Committee on Psychiatry and Mental Hygiene recognizes a prominent specialist in psychiatry, neurology or mental hygiene by presenting The Thomas William Salmon Award for outstanding contributions to these fields. On the same occasion, The Thomas William Salmon Lecturer, chosen from among the nation’s most talented investigators, is invited to share his or her research with the New York area psychiatric community. Kendler was honored as the Thomas William Salmon Lecturer in 2001.

The Salmon Lecture, first given in 1932, and the Salmon Medal, first awarded in 1942, are presented in memory of Thomas W. Salmon (1876-1927), a gifted and beloved physician whose contribution to the cause of the mentally ill and distressed was one of the most notable of his generation.