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16
2015

Two alumni offer perspective on connecting with patients via online communities

The popularity of social media and online communities has created countless web sites offering medical advice. Some physicians wonder what role they should play – or even if they should get involved at all.

S. Larry Schlesinger, M'71

S. Larry Schlesinger, M’71

S. Larry Schlesinger, M’71, of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Brooke R. Seckel, M’69, of Boston, Mass., recently took the time to answer our questions about their choice to be active online. The two surgeons are among the top 100 most influential board-certified dermatologists and plastic surgeons in social media as compiled by RealSelf. The list honors board-certified doctors who are among the most active and highly rated on the online community where the general public poses questions and finds answers about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, dentistry and other elective treatments.

Both Seckel and Schlesinger point to the fact that an increasing number of patients use the internet to find doctors and check their credentials. “Over 68 percent of patients search online to help them make health care decisions,” says Seckel. Schlesinger emphasizes the point, saying “the choice is to engage online communities or be invisible.”

An online presence not only makes finding a doctor easier, but it also allows patients to become more informed about medical procedures and make better decisions about which doctor to choose. Schlesinger points out that although many patients still find doctors through traditional referrals from friends, family or other doctors, “patients are still going to the internet to validate their decisions.”

Brooke R. Seckel, M'69

Brooke R. Seckel, M’69

Seckel says that “patients who come in for consultation after reading on RealSelf are usually very well informed. An informed patient is often more likely to understand their goals, be aware of complications, able to complete a better informed consent and understand the recovery period. This typically makes management of these patients much easier and facilitates communication.”

Patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from online medical communities like RealSelf. By offering their advice to patients online, doctors like Seckel and Schlesinger improve their social network ranking on Google and other sites, increasing the likelihood that patients will come across their names when searching for a doctor online.

Competition for page views and clicks will only increase as more people turn to the internet for medical advice. For now, the surgeons remained focused on educating patients and increasing the quality of care. Seckel says that his goal is to “educate and teach objectively and honestly,” and for his part Schlesinger says that “those practices which are transparent and engage online drive quality and patient satisfaction. The practice thrives and patients benefit.”

Schlesinger offers plastic surgery services in three locations in Hawaii. He was the first plastic surgeon in Hawaii to be chosen as physician of the year by his peers in the Hawaii Medical Association. With more than 30 years of plastic surgery experience, he has performed more than 18,300 plastic surgery procedures.

Seckel practices with Boston Plastic Surgery Specialists and is an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is chairman emeritus of plastic surgery at Lahey Clinic where he founded the Lahey Clinic Department of Plastic Surgery and the Lahey Clinic Residency Training Program in Plastic Surgery.

By Jack Carmichael

12
2015

Graduate students hone communication skills at annual Forbes Research Colloquium

The nine students at annual Forbes Research Colloquium

Nine students participated in the Forbes Research Colloquium: (from left to right, standing) Ali Bonakdar Tehrani, Shiping Zou, Natalie Wheeler, Justin Sperlazza, Kyle Ferber and Jeanine Guidry; (l-r, seated) Anting Hsiung, Wafa Tarazi and Amrita Sule.

The ability to tell the story behind the research can be key to securing funding, presenting findings and raising awareness with peers as well as the general public. The 43rd annual John C. Forbes Research Colloquium gave graduate students in the biomedical sciences the chance to develop both written and oral presentation skills.

Nine students presented research findings in a short talk format on March 12 in Sanger Hall. Selected on the basis of the quality and clarity of a written description of their research projects, the students’ oral presentations were also evaluated by members of the faculty on the basis of how effectively they communicated the research.

Student participants represented more than a half dozen programs in the medical school:

  • Kyle Ferber, Department of Biostatistics
    Modeling Censored Discrete Survival Time in High-Dimensional Settings
  • Jeanine D. Guidry, Department of Social and Behavioral Health
    On Pins and Needles: How Vaccines Are Portrayed on Pinterest
  • Anting Hsiung, Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
    CMYA5, a Candidate Gene for Schizophrenia: Expression in the Brain and the Effect of a Functional Variant on Binding
  • Justin Sperlazza, Cancer and Molecular Medicine
    Depletion of the Chromatin Remodeler CHD4 Sensitizes AML Blasts to Genotoxic Agents and Reduces Tumor Initiation
  • Amrita Sule, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    A PP2A-ATM Protein Complex Regulates the DNA Damage Response and Pro-Survival Signaling
  • Wafa W. Tarazi, MHPA, Department of Healthcare Policy and Research
    Medicaid Expansion and Access to Care among Cancer Survivors
  • Ali Bonakdar Tehrani, Healthcare Policy and Research
    Closing the Medicare Doughnut Hole: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Prescription Drug Access, Utilization and Spending
  • Natalie A. Wheeler, Neuroscience
    The Autotaxin-LPA Axis Mediates Changes in Gene Expression and Histone Acetylation during Oligodendrocyte Differentiation
  • Shiping Zou, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology
    Oligodendrocytes Are Targets of HIV-1 Tat: NMDA and AMPA Receptor-Mediated Effects on Survival and Development
John Forbes, Ph.D.

John Forbes, Ph.D., a pioneer of VCU’s Ph.D. training program

“The event memorializes the pioneering effort of John Forbes who organized our institution’s entry into advanced degree training over 80 years ago,” said Jan F. Chlebowski, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate education at the VCU School of Medicine. “He was the first advisor of graduate students at what was then the Medical College of Virginia.”

John C. Forbes, Ph.D., is one of the pioneers of VCU’s Ph.D. training program. Along with Charles Clayton, Ph.D., and Daniel Watts, Ph.D., Forbes founded and grew advanced degree education at MCV, which at one time was among the top 10 producers of Ph.D. graduates in medical centers nationally.

Forbes joined the MCV faculty in the Department of Biochemistry in 1927. He grew to be internationally recognized as an authority in cholesterol-atherosclerosis research and alcoholism. During his tenure, Forbes became the first chairman of the Committee on Graduate Studies in 1934, supervising the first two graduate students receiving their degree from MCV. Because of his insight and dedication to the advancement and excellence in research and as a pioneer in graduate education, the School of Medicine recognizes Forbes in its continuing awareness and promotion of those students who are dedicating their lives to the advancement of science.

The medical school’s Office of Graduate Education coordinates the annual event, which is supported by a fund established by the Forbes family.

19
2015

Tony Kuzel takes presidency of Association of Departments of Family Medicine

Anton Kuzel, M.D,. M.H.P.E.

Anton Kuzel, M.D,. M.H.P.E.

Anton Kuzel, M.D,. M.H.P.E., was installed as president of the Association of Departments of Family Medicine during the organization’s annual winter meeting in Savannah, Ga. in February. Kuzel is a professor and the Harris-Mayo Chair in Family Medicine and Population Health in the School of Medicine.

At the meeting, he delivered the first address of his one-year tenure, taking the opportunity to focus on the importance of the triple aim of better health, better care and better value through lower costs.

“Changing how primary care is financed – moving away from fee-for-service towards comprehensive primary care capitation – will be essential for primary care to reach its full potential in helping us achieve the triple aim,” Kuzel told his audience. “Large, self-insured employers are already doing direct contracting with primary care practices because their workforce ends up being healthier, more productive and less costly in terms of health care. I see them as our natural partners to achieve true health care reform in the U.S.”

The ADFM represents chairs and senior administrators of 150 family medicine departments across the United States. In the coming year, Kuzel expects it to continue its partnership in a national effort backed by all the family medicine organizations called Family Medicine for America’s Health.

With the tagline “Health is Primary,” the initiative’s goal “is to engage the public and important stakeholders in moving us to a system of health care that focuses on prevention and keeps people healthy and productive, rather than one that rewards treatment of complications of advanced disease,” Kuzel said.

Kuzel earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois and completed his residency training in family medicine at MacNeal Memorial Hospital in Berwyn, Ill. He is associate editor for Qualitative Health Research and co-editor of two books on qualitative and health services research. Kuzel joined the VCU medical school’s faculty in 1984, first at the VCU-Fairfax residency program site before coming to the MCV Campus in 1990.