Jump to content
School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine discoveries


Featured archives


The Class of 2017’s Trina Chakrabortty uses yoga to promote a balanced life, connect with classmates

Trina yoga

Trina Chakrabortty demonstrates the “Tolasana” or scale pose.

After running her first marathon in 2008, Trina Chakrabortty decided the time was right to incorporate yoga into her daily exercise routine.

“My father encouraged it,” said Trina, who just completed her first year of medical school. “Something immediately clicked for me. I noticed I had more energy and my running got better.”

A few years later, she enrolled in a 200-hour teacher certification program so she could share her newfound love with others. Today, Trina teaches two to six classes a week on the MCV Campus at the Larrick Student Center, as well as several other locations around the city, including the Robinson Theater Community Arts Center in Church Hill.

Many of her students are classmates looking to escape the stresses and demands of medical school.

“Trina is fabulous,” said Kate Waybill, a member of the Class of 2016. “Medical school is all consuming, and Trina understands the stresses we go through. She is so good at helping us let go of everything around us. When I leave, I feel relaxed and rejuvenated.”

For Trina, the benefits have proven even more life-changing.

“Yoga keeps me sane,” she said. “It’s really all about balance, which is hard to keep in medical school. Yoga has helped me keep it all in perspective. There’s that mental clarity – the clearer and more focused you are, the better able you are to handle stress.”

At 29, Trina is not your traditional medical student. After graduating from the College of William & Mary in 2006 with a degree in neuroscience, she began to doubt her desire to become a doctor. Her father is a family physician, and Trina always thought that would be her path too.

Trina yoga

Trina Chakrabortty

“I had to take a detour first to get there,” she said with a laugh.

That change in direction took her west, where she earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California. She worked on campus in university admissions, where her work with prospective students and faculty in the School of Public Policy exposed her to the obstacles within healthcare and medicine. A short time later she traveled to India, her parents’ home country, and recommitted herself to medicine.

“That trip really opened my eyes,” she said. “There are a lot of parallels to the health care issues in this country – most notably the lack of access to health care in certain settings.”

Detour over. She started prepping for the MCAT, completed a one-year graduate-level certificate program and was accepted into the VCU School of Medicine. Since then, she’s been focusing not only on her studies, but also on her new duties as the Class of 2017’s wellness representative, chosen by her classmates to help them maintain a balanced life.

“Yoga is a great avenue to promote overall health and well-being with my classmates,” she said. “To help them is a real honor. Since I began teaching here, my classes have been packed. Some even ask if I can teach more often. To me, that is very humbling.”

Despite her busy schedule, Trina finds time to volunteer for Project Yoga Richmond. She also finds ample opportunity to promote health and wellness while assisting with planning the MCV Student Government Association Community Health Fair.

After graduating, Trina hopes to incorporate both yoga and medicine into her career.

“If I am going to tell patients to manage their lifestyle well, I need to do that myself,” she said. “To me, teaching people about good health at any level is what it is all about. Yoga has done a lot to enrich my life, so it only makes sense that I empower others to enrich their own.”

By Janet Showalter


Medical school unveils resource to help teachers inspire students

Kenneth Warren, Ed.D.

The medical school has debuted a new resource, iTeach in Medical Education, to help faculty meet the challenge of satisfying adult students’ need for small groups, case-based problem solving and simulation. The website is an online toolbox of podcasts, videos, presentations and news to help them create their own course content.

Hand in hand with the McGlothlin Medical Education Center’s 2013 opening came a new innovative approach to medical education. The most significant renovation to the VCU School of Medicine’s curriculum in more than 30 years, it’s designed to satisfy adult students’ need for small groups, case-based problem solving and simulation.

Such a complete curriculum redesign, though, calls on faculty members’ ability and willingness to abandon ineffective approaches and embrace new technologies and teaching methods.

To help that along, the medical school’s Office of Faculty Affairs has created a website, iTeach in Medical Education, to give faculty a toolbox of podcasts, videos, presentations and news that’s relevant and useful for creating their own course content.

On the site, they’ll find monthly features on faculty members like Peter Haar, M.D., Ph.D., a 2006 graduate of the medical school who is now on faculty in the Department of Radiology. He expanded the traditional gross anatomy course by providing CT scans for all 32 cadavers. He taught students how to analyze and interpret the scans with the help of a series of screencasts – online videos that combine computer screen displays with audio narration. The students could watch the videos any time, any place and on any device.

The site also currently features Alan Dow, M.D., and the Class of 2017’s Scott Hirsch. From the perspective of faculty and student, the two talk about how the school uses case-based learning to help students apply basic science knowledge to clinical scenarios.

Kenneth Warren, Ed.D.

Kenneth X. Warren, Ed.D.

“The site is designed to enable faculty to innovate their teaching methods, illuminate their best practices and inspire their learners,” says Kenneth X. Warren, Ed.D., assistant professor and instructional technologist for medical education. “It serves as a central location to share inventive strategies, faculty narratives and multimedia resources related to medical education.”

One of his goals is to promote faculty fluency in digital media and technology, and so the iTeach site serves as its own model in that regard. Powered by VCU WordPress, the easy-to-use publishing platform incorporates content like podcasts, YouTube videos and presentations. With Warren’s support, the faculty development group helps faculty manage information overload by curating the flow of information relevant to medical education and re-tweeting what’s most valuable.

In addition to disseminating information, Warren wants to build community among teaching faculty who are spread out over the MCV Campus, the McGuire VA Medical Center and the medical school’s Inova Campus in Fairfax. The site’s online forums will allow them to discuss their experiences with new methods and strategies.

Since its April launch, the site has been accessed nearly 2,000 times. Over the course of six weeks this spring, a quarter of the site’s visits came from outside of Virginia. So far, the resources from the teaching strategies modules are proving most popular with videos that include internal medicine’s Residency Program Director Stephanie Call, M.D., who shares perspectives on the value of team-based learning and Assistant Dean Michael Ryan, M.D., on the importance of writing meaningful learning objectives.


Geriatrics course developed at VCU to be licensed to other universities

Peter A. Boling, M.D.

Peter A. Boling, M.D.

With a reputation for one of the most advanced programs in web-based geriatric education, VCU’s latest course offering is now being licensed to other universities across the nation.

The innovative system for interactive web-based interprofessional education was first designed in 2010. By the end of the 2015 academic year, more than 1,500 senior students from VCU’s Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Social Work will have trained in this semester-long program.

Working in interdisciplinary teams of eight, the students are assigned a fictional scenario of a complex geriatric case, with each student receiving only the information typically available to that student’s discipline. They must use an electronic record simulator to share information, and they determine the best course of care on a discussion board which helps the team answer 65 challenging multiple-answer questions that reflect real world situations.

“In an actual healthcare environment, physicians, nurses, social workers and pharmacists have different perspectives on any given patient,” said Peter A. Boling, M.D., professor of internal medicine and chair of the Division of Geriatric Medicine. “Interprofessional training is becoming a national priority because healthcare, especially for complex cases, requires an interactive team of professionals from multiple disciplines. The LCME has made it a specific item upon which medical schools are now surveyed.”

The course was created with support from a $1 million grant from Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. VCU was just one of 10 institutions in the country selected to receive the four-year funding. Two medical school programmers, Chris Stephens and Joel Browning, designed the course’s computer program.

Boling and the course’s co-creator Alan Dow, M.D., presented the program at the national meeting of the Reynolds Foundation grant recipients where it was well-received by an audience of 250 seasoned educators. The program is now being licensed to other universities for geriatric interprofessional training. The first users in 2014 are the University of North Texas in Fort Worth, the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Kansas University in Kansas City.

“We want everyone who graduates from medical school and other professional schools to understand geriatric medicine and team-based care,” says Boling.