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Grandchildren ensure alumnus’ legacy lives on through scholarship

Joe Smith (middle) meets the Class of 2017’s John Weeks (left), the recipient of the scholarship that bears the name of his grandfather, the Class of 1911’s Henry Clay Smith (right).

Joe Smith (middle) meets the Class of 2017’s John Weeks (left), the recipient of the scholarship that bears the name of his grandfather, the Class of 1911’s Henry Clay Smith (right).

As a young boy, Joe Smith visited his beloved Grandad every year in Burkeville, Virginia. Growing up in a military family, at times living as far west as California, he and his siblings shared fond memories of those annual trips to rural Virginia.

Their grandfather Henry Clay Smith from the Class of 1911 practiced family medicine out of his home and Smith recalls watching patients come over for appointments as the grandchildren played nearby.

“Grandad would see patients at the house and we would watch them come and go,” Smith says.

His grandfather practiced family medicine in rural Virginia for 61 years and was known to be loved and respected by his patients, many of whom he counted as friends. In 1976, two years after the physician’s passing, his children established the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship to honor his life and devotion to medicine.

Each year, the scholarship is given to a graduating fourth-year student interested in providing health care to rural Virginians. Joe Smith recently had the opportunity to visit the MCV Campus and meet this year’s scholarship recipient, John Weeks, M’17.

During medical school, Weeks participated in the International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program, a four-year program for students who declare an interest in and commitment to working with medically underserved populations in urban, rural or international settings.

Prior to medical school, Weeks spent three years as an outreach worker on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He returned to the community during his third-year family medicine clerkship and fourth-year community immersion elective. “People think that to truly find the underserved, you have to go international,” Weeks said of his time on the Shore. “But that’s just not the case. All you have to do is open your eyes and look around you. The biggest similarity of all underserved populations, regardless of location, is access.”

In June, Weeks began his residency at the University of Colorado, Denver, to train in family medicine.

“It’s really rewarding for me to see someone like John receive this scholarship,” says Smith, who has faithfully supported the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship for many years. Earlier this year, the fund also received a substantial gift from the estate of Smith’s sister Elizabeth, who passed away in 2016.

Their gifts ensure that their grandfather’s name will appear on the donor wall in the McGlothlin Medical Education Center at the conclusion of the medical school’s 1838 Campaign. Donors who make leadership gifts to the 1838 Fund or to a new or existing scholarship endowment, like the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship, will appear on the donor will.

For the Smith family, it marks a fitting tribute to a cherished grandfather whose legacy now lives on in educating future generations of physicians committed to serving those most in need.

By Polly Roberts


Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology propels work of Mark G. Malkin

Mark G. Malkin, M.D., holds the William G. Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology.

Mark G. Malkin, M.D., holds the William G. Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology.

Less than 1 percent of neurologists in the country are board-certified in neuro-oncology, a subspecialty that treats patients with cancers of the brain and spinal cord. In Virginia, more than 700 people are affected by primary malignant brain tumors each year, and about 4,000 more face complications from other cancers that have spread to the nervous system.

Mark G. Malkin, M.D., is the only board-certified neuro-oncologist in the Richmond, Virginia, area and one of just three in Virginia. In 2013, he was recruited by VCU from the Medical College of Wisconsin to build from scratch a comprehensive neuro-oncology program at VCU.

Today, that program is thriving. Malkin developed a neuro-oncology program with both clinical and academic elements, enlisting a staff of two more neuro-oncologists, a neuropsychologist and a nurse practitioner. In addition to seeing patients and creating an educational program for medical students, neurology residents and hematology-oncology fellows, Malkin has dedicated much of his time to research.

“Our team is focusing on translational research that takes innovative ideas from bench to bedside,” he says. “We’re able to bring the science that has been developed in the lab and apply it in our own clinical trials.”

In its first year, the team saw 33 patients, with one patient par­ticipating in the division’s single clinical trial. This year, Malkin says, the team is on track to see 294 new patients. In 2016, 19 patients participated in nine clinical trials, including a phase I study of the drug dimethyl fumurate used with standard care for glioblastoma, the most common primary malignant brain tumor.

“The initial lab experiments that suggested we explore this possible treatment further were conducted right here at Massey Cancer Center,” Malkin says. In June, he traveled to Chicago to present the results of the trial at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, where 38,000 oncology professionals from around the world gathered to discuss the latest developments in cancer research.

Endowed chairs and professorships are among the highest forms of recognition provided by a university to a faculty member. These prestigious positions are critical in recruiting, retaining and supporting the work of distinguished faculty. The funding provides the resources needed to take their work to the next level.

Malkin’s recruitment and successes on campus can be attrib­uted, at least partially, to the William G. Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology he holds. Reynolds, former vice president of government relations and public affairs at the Reynolds Metals Co. and former member of the MCV Foundation board of trustees, died from a brain tumor in 2003. In 2006, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation pledged $1 million to support the VCU School of Medicine to establish, in his memory, VCU’s first chair in neuro-oncology.

“We believe that William G. Reynolds Jr. would share our enthusiasm for the pioneering work being done in his memory by Mark Malkin,” says Richard S. Reynolds III, the foundation’s president and cousin of William Reynolds. “We are very excited with his work and know that his achievements will only grow in importance as he continues in that field.”

Until now, the next nearest neuro-oncology specialist was located at the University of Virginia Health System in Char­lottesville, Virginia. Ashlee Loughan, Ph.D., who specializes in neuropsychology on Malkin’s team, says that many of their patients can’t drive because of physical or cognitive side effects of their treatments and depend on family members or friends to get to their appointments.

“So many of our patients have commented on what a relief it is to have more convenient care,” Loughan says. “Our team is committed to doing anything we can to reduce the burden on our patients and their families.”

Malkin says none of this progress would have been possible without the generosity of the Reynolds Foundation. He sees endless opportunity for the program’s continued development. In addition to holding clinics at hospitals in downtown Rich­mond, Stony Point and South Hill, Malkin is now focusing on increasing the program’s reach into the community by expanding as far as Williamsburg, Virginia, to make expert care even more accessible to patients in need.

This story by Brelyn Powell first appeared in Vol. 11 of Impact, VCU’s quarterly publication that shares stories about how philanthropy makes an impact for students, faculty and programs.


M86 alumna Colleen Kraft: A voice for all children

Colleen Kraft, M'86, H'89, takes the reins as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Jan. 1.

Colleen Kraft, M’86, H’89, takes the reins as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Jan. 1. Earlier this year, she spoke at the 39th Annual Pediatrics at the Beach CME conference in Virginia Beach.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then Colleen Kraft, M’86, H’89, might say it takes a pediatrician who knows that village to heal one.

Spending time in the community is what opened Kraft’s eyes to the daily issues and concerns facing the children and families she cared for in the office. Nothing, Kraft says, can replace the education you receive when you observe a child’s everyday environment. Some of her greatest insights came during conversations at the park, visits to the local library, school nurse’s office, daycare centers and church nurseries.

“Kids spend 15 minutes in the office but they live in the community,” she says. “Your investment in the community is what really makes a difference.”

Kraft counts herself as someone who’s been on the receiving end of community investment. Growing up near Akron, Ohio, she was part of the inaugural class of Head Start in 1965. It was there that the seed to become a doctor was planted.

“One of the teachers said, ‘You’re so smart. You could be a doctor when you grow up,'” Kraft recalls.

She carried those words with her throughout her years as a student and trainee. They continued to inspire her when she embarked on a career as a pediatrician, founded the pediatric residency program at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and taught on the medical faculties of the MCV Campus and the University of Cincinnati.

She carries them with her still as she prepares to take the reins in January for a one-year term as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As part of her new role, Kraft served as the keynote speaker for the 39th annual Pediatrics at the Beach conference in Virginia Beach in July. Hosted by the VCU Department of Pediatrics, the continuing medical education course regularly attracts attendees from all over the country and Canada, and sometimes as far away as Saudi Arabia. This year’s 300-plus attendees marked the conference’s largest turnout ever.

Kraft encouraged the gathering of physicians, nurses, medical assistants, medical students and others to be a voice for all children.

“We’re the advocates,” she said. “We know what children need.”

Whether that translates to lobbying for Medicaid funding or working to address bias and discrimination concerns, she reminded the group of another adage about children: they’re always listening.

“We’re in an age with a lot of talk and rhetoric,” she said. “Watch what you’re saying. Children are always listening and they are looking for heroes. That’s where we come in.”

For Kraft, community involvement has no borders. She has worked at hospitals in India, researched neonatal mortality in Ghana and trained nurses in South Africa.

“As pediatricians, we care about kids all over the world,” she says.

In addition to working to improve children’s health, Kraft also aims to improve the health of pediatricians in her role as AAP president. Finding ways to address physician burnout is critical, she says, and advances in technology and team-based care can help.

It’s all about making more time in the day for patients, and spending less time on paperwork and charting. She advised conference attendees to try scheduling a follow-up appointment using telemedicine or hiring a medical assistant to room patients and serve as a scribe as ways to reclaim time that’s been lost in present-day practices.

“We can’t do it by ourselves but we can do it with team-based care,” she says.

It’s the same team philosophy that she applies when talking to members of the community and what inspired her to co-author the book “Managing Chronic Health Conditions in Child Care and Schools,” a resource guide that emphasizes how conditions from asthma to autism are best cared for through partnerships among families, health care professionals and schools.

Sharing pediatric knowledge with these partners results in an empowered community, Kraft says. And that’s how to ensure families and communities, “Go to their pediatrician before Google.”

By Polly Roberts

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Updated: 04/29/2016