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15
2017

Former Dean Dr. Jerry Strauss receives international honor

Jerome F. Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., accepted the 2017 Arnaldo Bruno Prize for Gynaecology.Jerome F. Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., accepted the 2017 Arnaldo Bruno Prize for Gynaecology, one of the highest international honors conferred by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.

In Rome on June 15, Jerome F. Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., was awarded the 2017 Arnaldo Bruno Prize for Gynaecology. The award is one of the highest international honors conferred by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and was presented at its closing ceremony of the academic year.

The oldest scientific academy worldwide, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei was founded in 1603 and counts Galileo among its earliest members. Since 1992, the academy has served as the scientific consultant to the president of the Italian Republic. Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, was in attendance at the June 15 ceremony, and Strauss had the opportunity to meet him beforehand.

“In science, you don’t expect to be honored with awards and prizes,” Strauss says. “But to be recognized by a scientific academy with the stature and longevity of the Accademia is undeniably exhilarating. I’ll remember this day and especially the setting – the Accademia building is beautiful, filled with art and, of course, history.”

Similar to the National Academy of Science in the U.S., the Italian academy promotes and disseminates scientific knowledge, conducts research and publishes reports and opinions that guide public authorities. It also awards prizes for literature, music, physics and mathematics among other disciplines, and in that way has a larger scope, much like the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Arnaldo Bruno Prize was created in 2001 in memory of the Italian gynecologist, Arnaldo Bruno. Past winners are distinguished investigators and clinicians from around the world.

A professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Strauss has authored more than 300 original scientific articles and holds 12 issued U.S. patents for discoveries and therapeutics. He is senior editor of Yen and Jaffe’s “Reproductive Endocrinology,” the major textbook in the field of reproductive medicine. He was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine (now called the National Academy of Medicine) of the National Academies of Science at age 47, and chaired two committees that issued reports on contraceptive development and the state of ovarian cancer research. Strauss also served as a member of the Discovery Expert Group for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and chaired the Board of Scientific Counselors of the NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“Our congratulations to Dr. Strauss on this remarkable recognition,” says Peter F. Buckley, M.D., Dean of Medicine. “We are fortunate that Dr. Strauss is leading such a stellar funded research program in developmental biology and endocrinology at VCU.”

By Erin Lucero

08
2017

Gerry Moeller selected as Wright Distinguished Chair

F. Gerard, “Gerry” Moeller, M.D.

F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., Director of the Wright Center and inaugural C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chair in Clinical and Translational Research

F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., Director of the Wright Center, has been appointed as the inaugural C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chair in Clinical and Translational Research.

Commenting on his appointment, Moeller said, “It is a great honor to be selected to hold a Chair that bears the names of C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright. Mr. Wright is one of the most magnanimous donors supporting clinical research at VCU, as was his wife before her passing. I personally owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Wright as does the Center that bears his name.”

In addition to directing the Wright Center, Moeller is internationally known for his translational research on impulsivity and addictions using brain imaging as a tool for medication development. He is principal investigator of a center grant funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop novel treatments for cocaine and opioid addictions.

At VCU, Moeller has worked to enhance the culture of translational research.  Approximately four years ago, he was appointed Director of the VCU Institute of Drug and Alcohol Studies, and two years ago, was appointed Director of the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research and Associate Vice President of Clinical Research.

Francis L. Macrina, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Innovation, called Moeller a physician-scientist who is a translational research exemplar. “Gerry ‘s appointment to the first Wright Distinguished Chair is a fitting tribute to his  accomplishments in addiction science and to his visionary leadership of the Wright Center,” Macrina said.

The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Foundation has established a total of six Distinguished Chairs totaling $12 million. The remaining five endowed chairs will be awarded to faculty whose work promises to catalyze continued growth in translational research in the decades to come.

Courtesy of Krista Hutchins, the Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

28
2017

American Association of Neurological Surgeons Names Alex B. Valadka, MD, FAANS, as Organization’s President

Alex B. Valadka, H’93, has been named president of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. The association announced his appointment during the 85th AANS Annual Scientific Meeting held in Los Angeles, April 22-26, 2017.

Alex Valadka, M.D.In addition to serving as professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at VCU, Valadka is also a director of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and, most recently, served as the AANS treasurer. He has also served as chair of the Washington Committee for Neurosurgery. Prior to joining VCU, he served as chair and chief executive officer of the Seton Brain and Spine Institute in Austin, Texas, the largest and most comprehensive neuroscience program in Central Texas.

Valadka has a strong clinical and research interest in neurotrauma and critical care as evidenced by his research funding and publications. He has been an investigator and co-investigator on 18 research grants, including serving as initiating investigator on a $33.7-million Department of Defense research consortium on mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). He is author or co-author on more than a hundred scientific papers, as well as dozens of book chapters. He co-edited the textbook “Neurotrauma: Evidence-based Answers to Common Questions.”

“Health care delivery is changing very rapidly,” said Valadka. “Too much emphasis is being placed on cutting costs and piling more and more burdensome regulations on practitioners. Education and research are under assault. Worst of all, it has become too easy to lose sight of the enormous privilege of being a neurosurgeon. Even while we are fighting to preserve our patients’ access to the highest-quality neurosurgical care, we need to remember why we chose this profession: the opportunity to serve others.”

“Because the AANS has evolved and grown very rapidly over the past few years, we initiated a careful strategic planning process last year. Starting in April, we will implement the plan, ensuring that we continue to provide the highest level of service to our members and, most of all, to their patients.”

Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons

05
2017

Whitehurst-Cook and Jackson selected for Hall of Heroes

An admissions office routinely recruits and processes applications with an eye toward building a strong class. But a pair in VCU’s School of Medicine have been lauded for going above and beyond, supporting students before, during and after medical school.

The Student National Medical Association has honored Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M’79, and Donna Jackson, Ed.D.,

The Student National Medical Association has honored Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M’79, and Donna Jackson, Ed.D., for their work to increase the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.

Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M’79, senior associate dean of admissions, and Donna Jackson, Ed.D., assistant dean of admissions and director of Student Outreach Programs, were tapped for induction into the Hall of Heroes of the Student National Medical Association.

The Hall of Heroes distinction is SNMA’s most prestigious recognition, honoring administrators, physicians and others who champion the cause for a diverse physician workforce. SNMA says its mission is to support current and future underrepresented minority medical students, address the needs of underserved communities and increase the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.

Whitehurst-Cook and Jackson, nominated by current and former students, were unanimously elected about a year ago, but won’t be formally inducted until this year’s SNMA conference, April 12-16, in Atlanta. Both said they were surprised to find they’d been selected – and it took some time before they realized that the other also had been. That the nomination came from students was especially meaningful. “You never know how you touch someone,” Jackson says.

The two have worked together for more than a decade, and share a common philosophy and priorities.

“Our goal is always to have a diverse class,” says Whitehurst-Cook, who also serves as associate professor of family medicine and population health. “It’s not just about minority status, but bringing together a new class each year of individuals who’ve done awesome things in their lives. They will be sharing their upbringing, their culture and their varied experiences.”

Ultimately, she says, that leads to a richer experience for students and better medical care for patients, as physicians-to-be learn to relate to diverse populations.

But diversity alone doesn’t ensure success, so inclusion is equally important. With so many different backgrounds converging in a high-stress environment, it’s important to offer support and encouragement, Whitehurst-Cook says. “We’ve worked hard to enhance our diversity here and to support students once they get here. You can recruit a medical student, but you want all of them to be happy and to thrive. “

On the MCV Campus, offerings for minority students include the SNMA and the Latino Medical Student Association. The two student organizations team up to present the “Second-Look” program that gives accepted students and potential recruits opportunities to interact with faculty and students in a more relaxed atmosphere than the usual formal tours and interviews. At VCU, underrepresented minority students are defined as African-American, Latino, Native Americans, Alaskans and Pacific Islanders.

What’s needed to enroll more diverse students, though, is an increase in scholarship money, and Whitehurst-Cook and Jackson are hoping that in the near future, they’ll be able to offer assistance to more students.

Plenty of potential students are on the admissions radar while they’re still in high school or undergraduate programs. Whitehurst-Cook and Jackson help those students – and often their parents – find a path to success in medical school, whether that’s at VCU or elsewhere.

When they’re building a class for the medical school, Whitehurst-Cook and Jackson agree that students should show a commitment to nonclinical community service by helping people. “In addition to a passion for medicine, we want them to show compassion,” Whitehurst-Cook says. “In other words, we want them to be smart – and nice.”

The admissions office has an open-door policy, so students, potential students and graduates who need a place to unwind can find a friendly ear, advice and occasionally some free pizza.

“I think it’s important that we try to make all of our students feel like they’re part of a family. We really do care about what they’re going through,” Jackson says. The feeling is mutual, she said, as a large contingent of SNMA members attended her son’s Eagle Scout ceremony.

“I think they feel like we are more than student and administrator.”

By Lisa Crutchfield

12
2016

M4 Andrew Percy honored with scholarship carrying name of surgeon Jim Brooks

The Class of 2017's Andrew Percy (left) met Stephen Yang, M'84, H'94

The Class of 2017’s Andrew Percy (left) met Stephen Yang, M’84, H’94, at the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association annual meeting in November. Yang helped establish the James W. Brooks Medical Student Scholarship in memory of his mentor, and Percy is the latest recipient.

Ask Andrew Percy, M’17, the key to a successful future and he will sum it up in one word.

Mentorship.

“No matter what field you go into, it helps to have someone guiding you,” he said. “Mentors have always been a special part of my life.”

That bond continues today. Percy was one of two students in the country to receive the James W. Brooks Medical Student Scholarship, which enabled him to attend the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association (STSA) annual meeting in Naples, Florida, Nov. 9-12.

“I was very humbled to be associated with an award in Dr. Brooks’ memory,” Percy said. “He was an important mentor to a lot of people. That’s the spirit of this scholarship. It inspires me to become a better clinician, researcher and person.”

Jim Brooks, M’46, H’55, joined the MCV Campus in 1957 as a thoracic and vascular surgeon and trained hundreds of residents and students. Even after retiring from the operating room, he continued to go into work each day to teach and serve on the admissions committee, communicating his love for the school to all the applicants he met. Appointed emeritus professor of surgery in 2000, he was active on campus until his death in 2008. He was the 23rd president of the STSA.

Jim Brooks, M'46, H'55

Longtime faculty member Jim Brooks, M’46, H’55. Courtesy of Tompkins-McCaw Library’s Special Collections and Archives

“Dr. Brooks had this aura about him,” said Stephen Yang, M’84, H’94, who trained under Brooks and now holds the Arthur B. and Patricia B. Modell Endowed Chair of Thoracic Surgery at Johns Hopkins. “You just loved the man. One of the things that impressed me the most was how much time he spent with his patients. He touched so many lives.”

To honor his memory, Yang helped establish the STSA fund in 2010 that supports the Brooks Scholarship.

“How do you repay the past?” Yang asked. “You want to honor those who trained you, who mentored you.”

Even though Percy never met Brooks, stories about the surgeon still abound on the MCV Campus. Percy has heard enough of them to know he would have loved him, too.

“It sounds like he was a remarkable individual,” Percy said. “He had a great sense of humor.”

Brooks is warmly remembered for not only his compassion, but his quirks. He wore his scrub pants backwards; his glasses hung near the end of his nose; a white towel was draped around his neck; and a bar of Dove soap was always at the scrub sink.

The stories also emphasize how Brooks valued mentorship.
“That’s so important,” Percy said. “I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without mentors.”

Percy’s parents and later his high school cross country coach provided guidance early on. While studying biology and philosophy at Bates College in Maine, Percy spent his summers doing research for the chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Yale. The two have published several papers together since then, and they are currently working on a research project focused on redefining the size cutoff in which surgery is warranted for aortic aneurysms. Percy is also writing a book chapter on the medical management of aortic aneurysms.

After graduating in 2008, Percy worked in research for four years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School and earned a master’s in medical sciences from Boston University. He has also conducted research in oncology and urology.

“I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in very interesting research projects across different disciplines because of mentors I had who gave me generous opportunities that they were under no obligation to give,” Percy said.

He found that same spirit at the STSA meeting, where he got to know some of the country’s leading cardiac surgeons, including Joseph Coselli, M.D., chief of adult cardiac surgery at the Texas Heart Institute, and Andrea J. Carpenter, M.D., Ph.D., president of the STSA and director of cardiac surgery at the UT School of Medicine in San Antonio.

“They were all so generous with their time,” Percy said. “I want to emulate that and become a mentor to others. I want to make a positive impact. One way to do that is by reflecting on all the help that you received along the way and then paying it forward throughout your career. ”

Do you want to help pay it forward? Learn more about our 1838 Scholarship Campaign aimed at increasing the number and size of available scholarships for the School of Medicine.

By Janet Showalter

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.