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04
2016

Class of 98’s Kenneth Redcross’ new take on the old fashioned house call

Though he keeps his black medical bag handy and makes frequent house calls, Kenneth Redcross, M’98, is anything but old fashioned.

The board-certified internal medicine physician found his calling as a provider of concierge medicine in the New York City area, meeting patients where they are and giving them time, access and convenience – a modern take on traditional medicine.

In concierge medicine, he’s found the kind of career fulfillment he believes all physicians should have. But the career that works for him isn’t right for everyone, he notes. “You’ve got to believe in yourself and know who you are. I had to figure out what was going to work with my spirit.”

It’s a message he shared recently with potential students at a recent Second Look program, which gives applicants who are members of underrepresented minorities a chance to explore the School of Medicine’s programs in more depth.

Dr Kenneth Redcross
Kenneth Redcross, M’98, returned to the MCV Campus to speak at the medical school’s Second Look program for applicants from underrepresented minorities in medicine. While here, he also toured campus with the Class of 2019’s Ifechukwude Ikem and Diana Otoya.

Each year, a weekend of activities is organized by the School of Medicine’s Office of Student Outreach and the MCV Campus’ chapters of the Student National Medical Association and Latino Medical Student Association. The weekend offers opportunities to interact with faculty and students in a more relaxed atmosphere than the usual formal tours and interviews.

Redcross appreciates that VCU’s School of Medicine seeks to attract students from a wide variety of backgrounds and gives them plenty of experiential learning. He expects that will be great preparation for future physicians to find their own calling, whether it’s a traditional practice or something else.

His presentation was designed to encourage them to dream big.

“It takes a little bit of time to figure out who we are as physicians,” Redcross said, who also earned a bachelor’s in biology from VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences in 1994.

“That’s an important thing that has been lost for a lot of people. I think a lot of physicians feel like their destiny has already been decided. But I am one of these spiritual beings who believe that we all have a different song to sing. We come together and sing our songs together and we make beautiful harmony.”

“For me, my passion has always been about the patient experience and I’ve been blessed enough to find a forum that allows me to focus on the patient experience.”

During medical school, Redcross took advantage of the National Health Service Corps’ program that offers either loan repayment or scholarships to medical students in return for an equal number of years’ service in underserved communities. After residency, as part of his NHSC service, he worked with patients who may not have otherwise found health care and later started a retail health clinic. But something was missing.

“It took me some years to realize that in a typical model of medicine, I couldn’t be happy,” he said. “I didn’t feel I could give patients what they deserve, but I didn’t know a way out. Then I started to realize and understand that I could create a different level of health care by being one-on-one with the patient in their environment, where they’re comfortable. I realized how much happier I was. I realized this was the model for me.”

For current medical students – or those soon-to-be – he recognizes that he can’t tell them one way to approach their careers. But he did share some thoughts on finding what works.

He commends the new medical curriculum’s emphasis on collaboration, which, he believes, will ensure better patient care and help develop networking skills. Those skills, which he developed on his own, have helped him land patients for his concierge practice and spokesperson jobs and stints as a media consultant.

“You have to network, learn its importance. The world is a lot smaller than you think. ”
The Second Look program is part of the encouragement and support the medical school offers its diverse student population, something Redcross didn’t necessarily have when he was on campus in the 1990s.

“It’s extremely important to have physicians from diverse backgrounds. Many, many patients want to see a doctor who looks like them. Half of being a good physician is being able to be a good listener, to come from different backgrounds and understand your patients.

“You’ll be really surprised what happens when you really listen. If you listen, you can find a lot of answers.”

By Lisa Crutchfield

18
2016

Pair of M16 marathoners top off four years with personal records

When classmates Amanda Filiberto and Suzanne Giunta stood at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in April, there may have been a sense of déjà vu. They’d raced those same streets two years ago when they were second-year students, and had returned this spring to cap off four years of medical school – and four years of 5 a.m. workouts.

“The Boston marathon is electric,” says Filiberto, a member of the VCU School of Medicine’s Class of 2016. “There is no other race like it. There are volunteers and people cheering for a full 26.2 miles. There is something about the entire experience that makes those 5 a.m. runs in the snow, sleet, rain, wind or whatever so worth it.”

For Giunta, Boston was the eighth marathon she’s run since beginning medical school. Like Filiberto, she was a runner in college.

“I ran varsity cross country and track at the University of Rochester, then transitioned to marathon running once beginning school at MCV,” says Giunta. “It’s been quite a ride balancing my studies with my training, but I’ve loved having running as my stress reliever and have been lucky enough to see significant improvement in my times throughout the last four years.”

Giunta and Filberti Boston marathon 1 crop

Classmates and training partners Suzanne Giunta (left) and Amanda Filiberto at the finish line of the 2016 Boston Marathon in April.

The Boston Marathon was a personal record for her with a time of 3:06. She averaged 7:05 minutes a mile, which placed her in the top 1.4 percent of all Boston’s female finishers.

“Ending medical school with such a great performance was incredible and I was very happy with my time.” She says that the best part of the weekend, though, was having two of her best friends come to watch the race and getting to start the race with her training partner, Filiberto.

Filiberto has run five marathons and six half marathons while in medical school. Her time in Boston this year was 8 minutes faster than her 2014 time – coming in at 3:16. Though it was a personal record, she wasn’t satisfied with that, “because I trained really hard and knew that I was in excellent shape and could run faster.”

So she quickly signed up for the Long Island Marathon near her hometown of Northport, New York. Running it just two weeks after Boston, she turned in her best time ever – 3:03:59 – and finished first among the women.

“I was a sprinter/middle distance runner for four years at Brown University, and once I graduated I never thought I would run competitively again,” says Filiberto. “Suzanne was actually the one who got me started on the whole distance running thing and encouraged me to run the Richmond half marathon in November of our first year of medical school. I still remember the very first 8 mile run we went on together – and ever since then I’ve been hooked.

“Having a training partner to hold you accountable has made it so much easier to train, and those long runs have been a good way to catch up and de-stress from the rigors of medical school. Running has been such a huge part of my life for so many years, and despite starting residency in July, I hope to keep it that way!”

Filiberto will begin her general surgery residency training at the University of Florida College of Medicine-Shands Hospital this summer. Giunta is headed to the state of Washington where she’ll train in family medicine at Swedish Medical Center.

By Erin Lucero

18
2016

Dean Jerry Strauss honored for mentorship

Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Medicine, was honored in March with the 2016 Frederick Naftolin Award for Mentorship. Presented by the Society for Reproductive Investigation, the award recognizes the contributions of a society member to training and career development of investigators in the field of reproductive and women’s health.

Strauss has always placed a priority on mentoring young scientists and has found time to nurture those relationships even during his nearly 11 years as dean.

Eun Lee, Ph.D., one of Strauss’ mentees, was on hand for the ceremony at the SRI 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting in Montreal, Canada.

Strauss_Dist_Scientist
SRI President Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., presented the Frederick Naftolin Award for Mentorship to Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., at the SRI 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting in Montreal, Canada.

An assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Lee met Strauss almost four years ago. At that time, “I was in a unique situation because I had taken a hiatus from research due to my family situation. It was very difficult to return to the work force, especially with the current funding climate and as a woman with three little children. But he saw the potential in me and offered me the position I am currently in now. I will always be grateful for Dr. Strauss believing in me and continuing to support me in my research.”

The two have weekly meetings and exchange emails at all hours of the day, says Lee. She shares with Strauss an interest in preeclampsia, which is a leading cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality in the United States.

“His interest in all our projects is amazing. He gently leads us to the right path and gives us the intellectual freedom to explore on our own to make discoveries. His suggestions and feedback have made our projects successful.”

The Frederick Naftolin Award for Mentorship was established in 2003 in honor of the former president of SRI who was a staunch advocate for creating a mechanism for the society to celebrate outstanding service to the scientific community through excellence in mentoring.

Strauss is a past president of SRI and in 2006 was honored with its Distinguished Scientist Award, the society’s highest honor for contributions to the field of women’s health research.

An accomplished researcher, Strauss has authored over 300 original scientific articles and holds 12 issued U.S. patents for discoveries in diagnostics and therapeutics. An elected member of the Academy of Medicine for more than two decades, he currently chairs the Board of Scientific Counselors of the NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He is senior editor of Yen and Jaffe’s Reproductive Endocrinology, the major textbook in the field of reproductive medicine and has served as a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science.

By Erin Lucero

18
2016

M3 student Nehal Naik shares his experiences on national surgery blog

M17 Naik,Nehal _MG_3615 (3)
The Class of 2017’s Nehal Naik

A Friday evening in Ecuador gave the Class of 2017’s Nehal Naik a first-hand view on how a break down in emergency communications can impact patient care.

As an M1 observer, he was slated to spend time that evening in the city of Cuenca’s 911 call center as well as at Hospital Vincente Corral Moscoso, the region’s only trauma center. So he was on hand when the call came for an ambulance in the aftermath of a motor vehicle collision.

“En route, the patient was determined to be a critical trauma patient,” Naik recounted in a first-person essay published by The Academic Surgeon, the official blog of the Association for Academic Surgery.

“Little communication had been made to either the dispatchers or the receiving hospital, so the trauma team I was working with found themselves with a critical head trauma and no prior preparation. Despite the best efforts of the trauma surgeons at HVCM, the patient died from the traumatic head injuries. Many on the trauma team felt that if the patient had arrived earlier, with adequate preparation she may have been saved.”

Naik’s road to Ecuador began nearly three years ago when he joined the International Trauma System Development Program as a first-year student in the VCU School of Medicine. That opened an opportunity to visit Ecuador and study the South American country’s emergency response system.

His unforgettable Friday evening as an M1 observer was just the first day of his summer experience, and it laid a foundation for a quality assessment and improvement project on trauma communication between Cuenca’s pre-hospital and hospital providers.

Working with him on the project was the Class of 2016’s Michael Rains and four medical students from Liga Académica de Trauma y Emergencias. The work began with a close look at the Richmond Ambulance Authority, a model EMS system in Richmond, Va.

But, Naik points out, “Like many global development projects, it was imperative to have local leaders guide the mission of new projects.” So he and his collaborators also met with Ecuadorian EMS and 911 teams as well as hospital staff to better understand the problems they faced.

While Naik initially struggled with professional level of medical Spanish spoken by his peers and mentors, their patience, local language classes and the Latin-rooted medical jargon he knew from medical school filled the gaps in his proficiency.

His team’s partnership reached beyond the research they performed. “We shared on-call nights in the emergency department learning basic emergency care. During down time, we had impromptu lessons from our trauma surgery mentors.”

Naik also joined his teammates at events where they taught basic first aid and trauma care to non-medical students, churchgoers and even driving school participants.

M17 Naik,Nehal LATE first aid

While in Ecuador, Naik worked with students from the Liga Académica de Trauma y Emergencias to teach basic first aid and trauma care to non-medical students, churchgoers and even driving school participants.

The Ecuadorian student group’s commitment to service and teaching have inspired Naik to emulate their programs on the MCV Campus. Students involved with VCU’s International Trauma System Development Program are modeling offerings after what Naik saw in Ecuador, with programs like a hands-only CPR class for locals.

Naik reconnected with his teammates last August at the Panamerican Trauma Society 2015 Congress in Bolivia where they presented their findings. They also discussed continuing the project and what opportunities there might be for further collaboration.

The experience has convinced Naik how valuable international experiences are for networking with likeminded student leaders in other countries. “Future physicians in nations that face a growing burden of disease from trauma and other surgical diseases can benefit from a global network for exchange and collaboration.”

Naik is chair of the student subcommittee of the Panamerican Trauma Society. He hopes to pursue a career in emergency medicine and continue working in global health, focusing on sustainable development of emergency health infrastructure, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

By Erin Lucero