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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.


Memorial service for Frederick John Spencer to be held on MCV Campus on July 19, 2014

Frederick John Spencer

Frederick John Spencer, 1923-2014

British-born Frederick John Spencer immigrated twice to America: first to complete a residency in New York, and again in 1956 – this time to stay.

A world traveler whose interests carried him two and one half times around the globe, Spencer chose to settle in Virginia with his wife and children. He served the Virginia Department of Health in a number of capacities, including as State Epidemiologist.

In 1964, he was named Professor and Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Medical College of Virginia, a post he held until his retirement at age 61. In a two-decade career on the MCV Campus, he also served as the editor-in-chief of the MCV Quarterly, founder and director of the Health Testing Center and Dean of Students and Admissions. In a sign of his popularity, Spencer was asked four times to be the speaker at the medical school’s graduation.

Spencer was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Public Health as well as other peer-reviewed journals. In addition, he authored two books, one reflecting his professional interests and the second inspired by his lifelong love for jazz.

His death in June was mourned on the MCV Campus, where a memorial service will be held on Saturday July 19, 2014 at 5 p.m. in the Jonah L. Larrick Student Center, 900 Turpin St.

Dr. Frederick John Spencer, 90, of Ruther Glen, Virginia, died peacefully in his sleep at a private nursing home in Glen Allen, Virginia, on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. With the Virginia Department of Health, he served as Health Director of the Rappahannock Region and later as State Epidemiologist. At the Medical College of Virginia, he was the Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Dean of Students and Admissions.

Born in Newcastle, England, on June 30, 1923, Fred Spencer led a remarkable life, as an athlete, physician, soldier, musician, teacher, public servant, historian, author, and civil rights activist.

His ancestors had been farmers for centuries in Northumberland, England, and he grew up working on his uncles’ farms. His father was a career soldier, who retired to be a tea merchant, and he handed down to young Fred his love of the outdoors.

As a schoolboy, Spencer was named a King’s Scholar, an honor bestowed each year on only a handful of students. When the time came to choose a college, he turned down Oxford and Cambridge to stay close to home, attending Durham University.

Spencer was a world-class athlete. At university, he was on the rugby, cricket, rowing, and water polo teams. Rugby was his best sport, and he was named the starting fullback on the All-University team, the equivalent of an All-American. He could have played rugby for England’s international squad, but instead enlisted in the British Army as soon as he finished university.

With a degree in medicine, Spencer was commissioned as a Captain, and he signed on as a paratrooper with the 6th Airborne Division. Serving in Palestine during the British Mandate, he came under fire on several occasions, the worst when he went to retrieve a wounded soldier during a firefight between Israelis and Palestinians.

Spencer loved to travel, and after the army, he moved to Canada to intern at a hospital in Ontario, which he followed up with a residency at a hospital in New York.

In his teens, Spencer had fallen in love with jazz, and he taught himself the drums by playing along with records on a phonograph in the garage. As a young man in New York, he spent many nights watching his childhood idols perform at jazz clubs on 52nd Street, famed as Manhattan’s Swing Street. Whenever he could, he would sit in at jam sessions.

In 1950, Spencer took a job in southwestern Virginia with the State Health Department. A year later, he went into private practice with two other doctors in Christiansburg. He became friends with area musicians and eventually formed a jazz trio with a trumpet player and guitarist. The trio played at shows and college parties in the Blacksburg area and eventually cut an album at a local radio station.

As much as he loved Virginia, it had always been Spencer’s intention to go back to England. In 1953, he sailed on the French ocean liner, the SS Liberté, where he met Norma Spector, an American woman who would become his wife. Spencer would later remark that it was “a shipboard romance that didn’t end on the dock.”

Married in 1954, Fred and Norma Spencer settled in the north of England, where their daughter, Gillian, was born a year later. The young couple missed the United States, and in 1956, they moved for good with their baby girl to Virginia, where Spencer was named Health Director for the Rappahannock Region.

In 1957, Spencer took a leave of absence to attend Harvard and obtain a Master’s of Public Health before returning to Virginia. The Spencers’ son, Tony, was born the following year at Mary Washington Hospital and is now the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Caroline County.

Spencer was promoted to State Epidemiologist in 1962, and two years later, was named Professor and Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Medical College of Virginia, a post he held until his retirement at age 61. Over twenty years at MCV, he became also the Editor-in-Chief of the MCV Quarterly, founder and director of the Health Testing Center, and Dean of Students and Admissions.

Between 1964 and 1967, Spencer traveled to third-world countries for months at a time on a grant from the United State Agency on International Development (USAID). He conducted field surveys of six medical schools, 20 hospitals, and 26 medical centers in Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Papua, New Guinea. His travels carried him 2 1/2 times around the world. Based on his research and interviews, he co-authored with Edwin F. Rosinski a book entitled The Assistant Medical Officer: The Training of the Medical Auxiliary in Developing Countries.

Spencer and Rosinski’s book set out a program for training medical officers to serve in the villages of the Third-World, to treat minor maladies and recognize more serious cases that required transport to a hospital. The authors proposed that such officers would serve as the front line in discovering and containing the outbreak of potential epidemics. In 1967, Spencer and Rosinski presented their suggestions to the White House Conference on Health, and the United States adopted their ideas as a centerpiece of its World Health policy. Over the last five decades, medical auxiliaries in developing countries have been instrumental in isolating diseases like the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

Active in the civil rights movement during the Sixties, Spencer served as Vice-President of the Urban League in Richmond, where he worked toward ending racial discrimination in the former Confederate capital.

Popular with the students at MCV, Spencer was asked four times to be the speaker at the medical school’s graduation. In 1984, he retired from MCV as a Professor and Dean Emeritus. He stayed active, as the co-owner of a second-hand bookstore and as a lecturer on jazz and medicine at Elderhostels, and he went cross-country skiing every year until he turned 80.

At the age of 79, Spencer published a second book, Jazz and Death, in which he examined the lives and deaths of great jazz artists. The book was critically acclaimed and enjoyed modest sales in area bookstores and on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

In addition to his two books, Spencer was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the American Journal of Public Health, and Modern Medicine, among other publications.

Spencer was preceded in death by his wife, Norma Spector Spencer; his father, George Edward Spencer; his mother, Josephine Florence Spencer (née Hodgson); and his brother, Peter Spencer. He is survived by his daughter, Gillian Spencer, of Baltimore; his son, Tony, and daughter-in-law, Danielle, of Ruther Glen; his sister, Mary Fulton, of Saltburn-by-the-Sea, England; and his four grandchildren, Lauren Spencer Meyer, Nicholas Spencer Meyer, Josephine Spencer, and Charles Spencer.

In accordance with his wishes, Dr. Spencer’s remains were cremated. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 19, 2014, at 5:00 p.m., at VCU’s Larrick Student Center, 900 Turpin Street, Richmond, VA 23219, with a catered reception at the Larrick Center to follow immediately after the service. The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Ladysmith Volunteer Rescue Squad, P. O. Box 186, Ladysmith, Virginia 22501.


M3s learn the ropes for clinical years

M3s learn ropes

Rising third-year students participated in half a dozen workshops during orientation week. Perioperative education instructors taught them how to scrub, gown and glove to establish and maintain a sterile field in the operating room.

In the course of earning a four-year medical degree, transitioning from the preclinical to clinical years is an important milestone. This summer, 193 third-year students marked that transition in a week of orientation activities.

The Class of 2016 participated in nearly a half dozen workshops – 167 students on the MCV Campus’ Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety and 26 of their counterparts at the Inova Campus’ Claude Moore Health Education & Research Center. They practiced clinical skills like drawing blood, intramuscular injections and inserting catheters. They also learned how to scrub, gown and glove to establish and maintain a sterile field in the operating room.

“Preparation for a career in medicine demands the acquisition of a large fund of knowledge and a host of special skills,” said Jerry Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the medical school.

Strauss spoke at the school’s annual Student Clinician Ceremony. Sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine, the event is designed to provide guidance, information and support to medical students as they move into the clinical years.

“In the coming year, medical students will be pressed to demonstrate high standards of skill and performance,” Strauss said. “The Student Clinician Ceremony reminds those students and our faculty of the challenges and imperatives to providing humanistic care to patients at the same time.”

M3s learn ropes

A career in medicine requires a host of special skills. During M3 Orientation Week, small teams of students practiced inserting catheters in one of nearly a half dozen simulation sessions.

At the ceremony, Chris Woleben, M.D., F.A.A.P., the medical school’s associate dean for student affairs, reminded the students of the days when they first entered medical school. At that time, they were told they would hold many peoples’ hearts in their hands as they’d been called to the service of healing.

“During this year you will see many faculty and residents treating very seriously ill and, at times, difficult patients,” Woleben said. “This year will be one filled with awe, inspiration and obstacles to fulfilling your calling.” He encouraged the students to nurture those things that inspire them, rise above obstacles and develop their identities as physicians.

At the Student Clinician Ceremony, the medical school also recognized outstanding residents through the Gold Foundation’s Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award. Current fourth-year students chose six residents who exhibited particularly strong teaching skills and were role models for compassionate, relationship-centered care during the students’ third-year rotations.

Adrianne Colton, M.D.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
2012 graduate of VCU School of Medicine

Sasa Espino, M.D.
Department of Surgery
2011 graduate of the VCU School of Medicine

Inna Garber, M.D.
Department of Psychiatry
2012 graduate of New York College of Osteopathic Medicine

David Jared Kobulnicky, M.D.
Department of Internal Medicine
2013 graduate of VCU School of Medicine

Brian Le, M.D.
Department of Plastic Surgery
2009 graduate of VCU School of Medicine

Pete Meliagros, M.D.
Department of Internal Medicine
2012 graduate of VCU School of Medicine


Class of 2017’s Michael Krouse chosen for national leadership program in primary care


Michael Krouse, Class of 2017

Even before enrolling in medical school, the Class of 2017’s Michael Krouse has been committed to reducing health disparities and improving access to care for the underserved. He’ll spend this summer in Seattle, Wash., where he’ll be part of a program that aims to address the critical shortage in primary care providers.

Earlier this year, Michael was chosen for the GE-NMF Primary Care Leadership Program and its $7,000 fellowship. At Seattle’s HealthPoint Community Health Centers, he’s working alongside primary care physicians to provide patient care and is undergoing leadership training with the centers’ administration and board of directors. As he learns how HealthPoint is funded and operates, he’ll conduct an independent project evaluating patients’ use of a recently launched web-based portal.

“HealthPoint has recently launched a web-based portal that allows its patients to communicate with their providers over a secure messaging system in addition to having access to their patient plan, lab results, and referrals,” explains Michael. “However, not much is known about which patients are logging in and how they are using the portal.”

Patient portals and electronic health records hold great potential for improving care of chronic illnesses and promoting shared decision making by patients and health care providers. They could even help to overcome health care disparities if barriers that discourage patients from accessing the portal are identified and eliminated.

Michael will investigate which of HealthPoint’s patients are using the portal and if there are any trends in users’ gender, race or insurance status. He’ll also analyze which of the portal’s functions are most popular and what kinds of information patients communicate via secure message so that HealthPoint can enhance that function.

“I hope this project will be a step toward ensuring that all of HealthPoint’s patients benefit equally from the portal’s resources,” Michael says.

Michael was born and raised in New Orleans, La. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and philosophy. He also became interested in health disparities after leading two mission trips to an orphanage for mentally and physically handicapped children near Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Once on the MCV Campus, Michael continued to serve vulnerable populations as a member of the International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program. Through the I2CRP, he’s provided health screenings for the homeless at the CARITAS Clinic and primary care at Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services with Melissa Bradner, M.D., M.S.H.A., associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health.

Michael says those experiences have been great preparation for his summer fellowship. He credits Mark Ryan, M.D., Steven Crossman, M.D., and Mary Lee Magee in the Department of Family Medicine for developing a robust program that exposes students to current topics in community-oriented primary care.

“The didactic sessions, panels and site visits in I2CRP increased my awareness of the challenges many communities face with regards to the social determinants of health,” Michael says. “The impetus for applying to the Primary Care Leadership Program was an expression of the lessons I learned in I2CRP and a desire to apply them.”

At its core, the six-week GE-NMF Primary Care Leadership Program is a service-learning rotation that aims to enhance the students’ training by combining clinical experience, site-specific projects and leadership training. In doing so, it aims to increase the pipeline of doctors, nurses and physician assistants who have the professional knowledge, cultural competency and commitment to provide quality healthcare for all members of a diverse society. Launched in 2012, the leadership program is made possible through a partnership of the General Electric Foundation and National Medical Fellowships, Inc. This year, 78 medical, nursing and physician assistant students are studying at nearly a dozen sites nationwide.


MPH student Elise Glaum hosts webinar for national public health association


MPH student Elise Glaum drew on her experience with the Shot@Life campaign to host a webinar for health care professionals interested in using social media to connect with their community.

This spring, masters of public health student Elise Glaum conducted a webinar in conjunction with the American Public Health Association’s Health Communication Working Group. Her webinar, “Incorporating Social Media into Your Professional Life,” highlighted tips for health care professionals interested in using social media to connect to a community and on promoting business goals to an online audience. She also discussed how to navigate the institutional barriers and challenges health practitioners sometimes face when using social media.

Elise’s advice and tips stem from her experience working at the United Nations Foundation. She served as the online communications associate dedicated to overseeing the social media strategy for the Shot@Life campaign that promotes child vaccinations worldwide. Her work with Shot@Life connected her to over 150,000 online campaign supporters and contributes to her breadth of knowledge.

One of Elise’s webinar tips to health care professionals was to establish a voice and to remain relevant and interesting on social media. Elise described how she posted photos and updated stories of campaign volunteers abroad to promote the Shot@Life campaign. By sharing unique stories, Elise was able to garner greater support and attention for the campaign and to connect in an interesting and unique way with her online community.

Elise’s webinar “Incorporating Social Media into Your Professional Life,” is available online.
To learn more about the Shot@Life campaign and how you can volunteer or contribute to the cause, visit www.shotatlife.org.

Elise, who will graduate from the MPH program in the spring of 2015, will intern this summer with the Richmond City Health District.

by Eleana M. Legree