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National EMS award named for Emergency Medicine Chair Joe Ornato

Photo of the national EMS award

A national EMS award has been named for Emergency Medicine Chair Joe Ornato, M.D.

The respect Joe Ornato, M.D., has enjoyed over his 40-year career has now taken tangible form.

He was honored this summer at the Pinnacle EMS Leadership Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., with the announcement that a national award recognizing leadership in the emergency medical services field would carry his name.

Triple board certified in Internal medicine, cardiology and emergency medicine, Ornato is professor and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine. He is also medical director of the Richmond Ambulance Authority, Richmond Fire & EMS and Henrico County Division of Fire.

Reporting on the award, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services described him as the “undisputed leader in EMS and ED use of coordinated team resuscitation practices” from induced hypothermia to uninterrupted, continuous-compression CPR and rapid cath lab delivery/intervention.

Edward M. Racht, M.D., H’87, is the first recipient of the Joseph P. Ornato, M.D., Award for Clinical Leadership in EMS.

Ed Racht and Rob Lawrence with event organizers

Ed Racht, H’87 (right), and Rob Lawrence (second from left), chief operating officer of Richmond Ambulance Authority, with event organizers.

“Ed was one of my first trainees,” said Ornato. “I had nothing to do with his selection but was delighted when the selection committee chose him to receive the award.”

After completing his residency with Ornato in 1987, Racht joined the faculty of the medical school and served as associate chief of the medicine section of Emergency Medical Services. During his eight-year tenure on the MCV Campus, he was appointed by two Governors of Virginia to three successive terms on the Virginia State EMS Advisory Board.

Racht is now the chief medical officer of American Medical Response, the largest EMS provider in the nation, and in 2008 he was named a “Hero of Emergency Medicine” by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Ornato earned his medical degree at the Boston University School of Medicine and completed an internal medicine residency at Mount Sinai Hospital and a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center. A member of the Institute of Medicine, Ornato is past chairman of the American Heart Association’s National Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee and also chaired the national steering committee on the NIH Public Access Defibrillation Trial.


Student Family Medicine Association wins national award for sixth consecutive year

Medical students at an SFMA event

Medical students at an SFMA event abandoned practicing acupuncture on oranges and decided to test their skills on each other.

The School of Medicine’s Student Family Medicine Association has been honored for a sixth consecutive year with the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Program of Excellence Award, which honors medical student organizations that generate interest in family medicine. Although the AAFP received a record number of entries for the award this year, the SFMA remained ranked on the list as one of the 10 best programs in the country.

The SFMA offers a wide range of activities designed to provide medical students with the opportunity to learn more about family medicine. The organization sponsors lectures, hands-on workshops and community-service opportunities, along with the chance to attend professional conferences and network with family physicians and residents from across the commonwealth.

“I got involved with the SFMA back in my first year and really enjoyed interacting with the members of the planning committee. I liked how passionate the organization was, from the clinical and procedural workshops to the lectures and community service events,” says fourth-year student and past SFMA co-president Jennifer Tran.

Students working on a farm

Students participate in a community service event at Shalom Farms, a learning lab for volunteers and an abundant source of fresh local produce for communities with low access to healthy food.

The program is continually updated as it seeks to engage more students and teach them about important topics facing family physicians, the broad diversity of practice options available to family doctors and the anticipated improvements in financing primary care. Attracting future physicians to the specialty is a key goal of the student organization.

“The shortage of primary care physicians is well documented,” says Judy Gary, M.Ed., SFMA’s faculty advisor. “SFMA has existed for over 20 years and its enduring purpose is to provide all students with information and experiences that expose them to the specialty of Family Medicine, its value in the health care system and the role of family physicians. Being part of such a dynamic organization affords students the opportunity to better understand family medicine–its breadth and scope.”

The Class of 2018’s Michelle Wagner, current co-president of the organization, is taking advantage of every opportunity she can to learn more about the field.

“I appreciate how varied the SFMA’s efforts are. There have been community service opportunities to collect blood pressures and practice motivational interviews at neighborhood health fairs, workshops on mental health conditions and practicing ultrasound with patients, lunch lectures that align with our curriculum and expand our ideas of what family doctors can do in their practice, as well as conferences and social events that bring students and family doctors together in informal settings.”

Students participating in a physical exam workshop

The SFMA sponsors events like this physical exam workshop to help students learn more about family medicine. Events like this helped the SFMA win a national award from the AAFP for the sixth consecutive year.

The SFMA’s award win allowed some of the student members to join an already large contingent from the School of Medicine that was headed to Kansas City, Mo. for the AAFP’s national conference. Among the cohort of nearly 20 students were Tran, Wagner and Alexandra “Lex” Tee, M’18, who was one of 30 students chosen nationally to participate in the AAFP’s Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute.

In the end, says Gary, the award win reflects the consistent strength of the school’s students over the past years. “The students are the key to SFMA’s success. It’s a privilege to work with interested and dedicated leaders who generate great ideas to help themselves and their classmates explore the specialty of family medicine and what family physicians do.”

By Jack Carmichael


A trio of Physiology alumni speak with current students about connections and collaborations

Clockwise from top: Sayak Bhattacharya, PhD’12; Robert Vick, PhD’86; and John Kennedy, PhD’84

Clockwise from top: Clockwise from top: Sayak Bhattacharya, PhD’12; Robert Vick, PhD’86; and John Kennedy, PhD’84

Soon after Chair Diomedes Logothetis, Ph.D., arrived in 2008, he instituted an annual retreat for the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Now in its seventh year, it’s proved to be a great venue for current students to learn from alumni who’ve gone before them into the fields of research, academia and industry.

In June, three returning alumni shared lessons learned from their careers.

Both Robert Vick, PhD’86, and John Kennedy, PhD’84, arrived on the MCV Campus in the 1980s. They compared stories about what it was like in an era of time-consuming hands-on science.

“Before so many resources were available for purchase, you had to make them,” said Vick, an associate professor of biology at Elon University where he’s twice served as chair of his department.

Three decades of scientific progress mean that scientists can now buy materials like monoclonal antibodies, but Vick emphasized that the theme of steady change is the take-home message. “The technology you’ll use in 20 years doesn’t exist now.”

John Kennedy, PhD’84, agreed, encouraging the students to be adaptable and willing. For the majority of his career, Kennedy was a funded investigator building a research program in muscle development. More recently, the associate professor of physiology and biophysics turned his attention to teaching. He’s now director of physiology education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“You have to rely on the people around you,” Kennedy said. “You’ve got to reach out. It’s those connections that make it interesting and lead to new directions. At each step of the way, if I hadn’t used the people and resources around me, it would have been much more difficult.”

Continuing the theme of collaboration and connections, Sayak Bhattacharya, PhD’12, described how – early in his career – he’s honing his networking skills as well as his laboratory techniques.

A post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology at Ohio State University, Bhattacharya arrived on the Columbus campus at the same time as his post-doc advisor. Because of it, he gained experience in setting up a lab from the ground floor. He’s now exploring whether he’d like a career in industry.

“Social media is a great tool, but you have to use it judiciously to brand yourself,” he said. “It’s one route for reaching out. I’ll ask for an informational interview about a job I might be interested in, and people are happy to help.”

Bhattacharya described how he is also pursuing a masters of business administration from Fisher College of Business to further his goal of getting his foot in the door of the biotech industry.

For students considering a teaching career at a liberal arts college like Elon in North Carolina, Vick shared his view, gained from the challenge of making his physiology class fresh for a new set of students – even for the 75th time.

“It’s a chance to pique their interest. That is why I love doing it. It’s their first exposure, and it will hopefully propel them on to a health professions or science career.”

A fan of teaching, Vick is also a visiting scholar with Duke University’s Preparing Future Faculty program, but he noted there’s no place like an undergrad campus for rubbing shoulders with a truly diverse set of faculty.

During a Q&A session with the students, Kennedy recalled what it had been like to be in the shoes of his audience.

“You have successes, failures and screw-ups. I came to grad school not very confident in my abilities. I almost quit because I thought I didn’t have the chops. But, slowly, I got past the first semester. It took the faculty’s support to get me through.

“There’s no one who doesn’t hit a roadblock. But when you do, look close to home. You have more resources than you realize in the faculty and students around you.”