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20
2016

Alumni host basic science students in Research Triangle Park

Jean Kim, PhD’10 (MICR)

Jean Kim, PhD’10 (MICR) welcomed students to RTI International where she is now a research microbiologist. Photography: Carrie Hawes

Career exploration hit the road when 38 students and four post-docs boarded a bus bound for Raleigh, N.C., to take part in VCU Career Services’ Rams’ Roadtrip program.

The graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering spent two days meeting with researchers, publishers and clinicians to learn more about careers beyond the scope of academia. The goal was for students to walk away with a broader perspective on what they could accomplish after graduation.

Rams’ Roadtrip began because members of VCU Career Services noticed that graduate students were leaving VCU without understanding the breadth of available job opportunities. Many Ph.D. candidates overlook non-academic opportunities in favor of a traditional career trajectory that takes them from doctoral study to postdoctoral research to university faculty, a path where opportunities are in decline.

A 2011 study by the journal Nature noted a 150 percent increase in the number of postdocs from 2000 to 2012. At the same time, full-time, tenure eligible opportunities remained constant or declined. Carrie Hawes, the program’s organizer and assistant director at VCU Career Services, believes exposure through Rams’ Roadtrip helps to enhance students’ perspectives on potential career paths.

Basic science students visit Research Triangle Park

Research Triangle Park was the third stop in the Rams’ Roadtrip program that broadens students’ perspective on careers beyond the scope of academia. Photography: Carrie Hawes

North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park is known for its high concentration of organizations focused on pharmaceutical and biological sciences research and development. So it was an ideal destination in October when students visited Becton Dickinson, Research Square, QuintilesIMS and RTI International. They had the chance to tour the facilities, hear overviews of current research and meet with researchers from each organization.

“This was an awesome opportunity for someone like me in their second year of a Ph.D,” said Supriya Joshi, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. “I still have some breathing room to look at opportunities and assess what things work in non-academic careers.”

Jean Kim, PhD’10 (MICR) welcomed students to RTI International where they met with members of the commercialization group to learn about monetizing research. At RTI, students also met Jenny Wiley, Ph.D., an alumna of VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences and a former faculty member in the medical school’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

At Research Square, the students were exposed to careers in scientific publishing, meeting Jennifer Mietla, PhD’14 (BIOC), who is now quality control editor with the organization.

Throughout the trip, the students got a heavy dose of career advice from their hosts related to how to find their first job.

“People really got to see what others who had once worked in those exact same VCU labs are doing now,” Hawes said. “It was neat for the students to see what you can do come to life.”

This is the third time VCU Career Services has hosted the Rams’ Roadtrip program. In September 2015, the group took students to Bethesda, Maryland, for a look at science policy and consulting careers through visits to the National Institute of Health, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Society of Microbiology and MedImmune. Students also visited the University of Richmond to explore teaching-focused careers at a liberal arts university.

Organizers say this hands-on program is providing graduate students networking opportunities and a greater awareness of potential career options. Seven students from last year’s trip found employment with non-academic research organizations after graduation.

By Brian Nicholas

14
2016

Seven dozen student and physicians on hand for 2016 Cheese & Chat

The lobby of the McGlothlin Medical Education Center was buzzing on a Friday evening in October. Fifty-four M1 and M2 students had come out to meet seasoned physicians in 2016’s Cheese & Chat.

 scroll below for pictures from 2016 Cheese & Chat scroll below for pictures from 2016 Cheese & Chat

A speed networking styled event, the format gave groups of two to four students the chance to speak with up to 30 physicians from a variety of specialties.

“The students enjoyed learning about new specialties that they had previously known very little about,” said the Class of 2019’s Amy Hazzard, vice president of WIMSO.

“It was great to hear from physicians who are passionate about their work and positive about what our careers hold for us in the future. A major takeaway from the event for students was to find a specialty that they are passionate about, no matter how long it may take to get there.”

Physician members from the Richmond Academy of Medicine as well as from VCU Health also shared insights on balancing professional and personal responsibilities.

“I believe students are now more excited about the M3 and M4 clinical years of medical school where we will have the opportunity to learn even more about specialties and clinical medicine in general,” said Hazzard.

Held on Oct. 14 the event was organized by the Women in Medicine Student Organization along with the Medical Student Government and the Academy of Women Surgeons.

Click the images below for expanded views.

Story by Erin Lucero; photography by Kevin Schindler.

26
2016

Longtime Microbiology faculty member Deborah Lebman endows scholarship via her estate plans

Deborah Lebman, Ph.D.

Deborah Lebman, Ph.D.

She makes a difference in students’ lives every day. Now she’s laid the groundwork for her impact to continue even after she leaves the MCV Campus.

Associate Professor Deborah Lebman, Ph.D., joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in 1989. A self-proclaimed “fan of our students,” for 18 years she’s directed the immunology course for the medical students and with the advent of the medical school’s new C3 curriculum became co-director of the Infection and Immunity Division.

For several years, Lebman has been a member of the medical school’s admissions committee where, she says, she sees what a great need there is for scholarships.

Earlier this year, she decided to take action and made provisions in her estate plans to create a medical student scholarship.

“I believe that our greatest impact comes from what we give to others,” said Lebman. “Creating a scholarship fund serves the dual purpose of expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to teach the next generation of physicians and giving someone else the opportunity to leave a mark on society.”

Her bequest was featured in the July edition of VCU’s philanthropy email newsletter, Black & Gold & You, that described how bequests can promote academic excellence and strengthen VCU as a diverse premier urban research institution.

The newsletter outlines some benefits associated with bequests:

• Easy to make — You retain your assets throughout your lifetime.

• Revocable — You can make changes to beneficiaries of your estate throughout your lifetime.

• Flexible — Your bequest can be directed to support the university as a whole or a school/program that is important to you.

Photography by Will Gilbert

05
2016

Student group to receive national honor for promoting the scope of family medicine

VCU’s Student Family Medicine Association

VCU’s Student Family Medicine Association is one of 17 student interest groups in the nation to be honored this year.

Each year, the American Academy of Family Physicians honors student-run Family Medicine Interest Groups for their outstanding activities in generating interest in family medicine.

VCU’s Student Family Medicine Association is one of 17 FMIGs to be honored this year. They’ll accept the Excellence in Promoting the Scope of Family Medicine award on July 29 during the AAFP National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in Kansas City, Kansas.

The SFMA on the MCV Campus is one of the oldest and most active student organizations in the medical school and in the state of Virginia. Annually it organizes workshops as well as community and clinical experiences to give medical students a chance to learn more about the role family physicians play within the field of medicine and in the greater community. In addition to a variety of lectures, this past year it coordinated health screenings and sports physicals in medically underserved communities as well as volunteering opportunities and workshops.

“Our SFMA does an exceptional job of finding ways to demonstrate for their classmates how dynamic and diverse family medicine is,” said faculty advisor Judy Gary, M.Ed., assistant director of medical education in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health.

SFMA Workshop

SFMA organizes workshops for practicing physical exam skills as well as bringing in community physicians to address hot topics like vaccines and palliative care.

“They organized workshops for practicing physical exam skills as well as bringing in community physicians to address hot topics like vaccines and palliative care. And each time, the physician speakers discussed the field, their experience practicing in a variety of settings and how they incorporate special interests like sports medicine, women’s health, geriatrics and integrative care into their practice.”

The AAFP’s Program of Excellence Awards recognize FMIGs from around the country for their efforts to promote interest in family medicine and family medicine programming.

“Attracting medical students to the specialty of family medicine is critical to addressing the ongoing primary care physician shortage,” said Clif Knight, M.D., senior vice president for education at the AAFP. “Excellent FMIGs such as these award winners are an important component in these efforts. They’re essential to helping medical students understand the professional responsibilities and satisfaction of being a family physician.

The AAFP has posted SFMA’s winning application online as an example of best practices and programming ideas for FMIGs nationwide.

29
2016

“Nothing is more addicting than the thrill of discovery” Study abroad invigorates professor, students

Premed student Rosellen Provost

Premed student Rosellen Provost traveled to Italy with four fellow honors students for a three-week course that’s convinced her to pursue a career in medicine.

The little boy looked apprehensive as the male nurse approached to tend to his broken arm.

“You aren’t going to cry in front of all these girls are you?” he asked, smiling reassuringly. With a renewed sense of bravery, the child replied with an emphatic, “No!”

Standing nearby in the Italian emergency room, Rosellen Provost and her premed classmates smiled, too, as they watched a new friendship unfold before them.

“I always thought I might want to go into medicine, but after this experience, I have no doubt,” she said. “This is fueling me.”

Rosellen, a sophomore, was one of five undergraduate students from VCU’s Honors College to travel to Italy for three weeks this summer to explore the importance of research and learn what medical science looks like outside the United States. The trip was led by Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D. H’07, who holds the James C. Roberts, Esquire Professor in Cardiology in the VCU School of Medicine and serves as associate chair for research in the Department of Internal Medicine.

“It was fantastic,” Abbate said. “The kids had the joy of discovering, researching and caring for patients.”

The trip was part of Abbate’s brainchild: Discover Medicine in Italy, which included two three-credit courses, Introduction to Translational Research and Introduction to Medical Semiotics. Abbate, a native of Italy and a UCBM graduate, taught both courses. His wife, Vera Abbate, Ph.D., instructor in the School of World Studies, served as course director, and Salvatore Carbone, instructor of medicine, assisted Abbate with the program and classes.

The students were paired with five Italian medical students and shadowed physicians. They took day trips to hospitals in Rome and observed molecular biology experiments.

Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D. H’07

A native of Fondi, Italy, Cardiology’s Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., returned this summer to lead Discover Medicine in Italy. The course invigorated Abbate along with the Italian and VCU students he was teaching.

They also spent time in the lab and had to come up with their own concepts for future research projects. Rosellen’s project focused on a clinical trial for a vaccine that stops heroine from being synthesized and going to the brain, thus making a drug user immune to a physical high. Others explored new devices and dementia treatments.

Abbate was impressed with all the students’ work, and said, “their excitement for discovery was contagious.”

Even Abbate got recharged. His own love for research got its start when he was a medical student in Italy. As the years passed and administrative duties grew, he could feel the burn out coming. He wasn’t sure he wanted to encourage young students into the field. Then he read the book, “The Vanishing Physician Scientist,” and found a new perspective.

“As busy as we can be, I think sometimes we forget how beautiful research work is,” Abbate said. “This trip gave me time to reflect and to really appreciate what we do. Spending time with the students and sharing with them my passion, seeing their eyes light up, reinvigorated me. Nothing is more addicting than the thrill of discovery.”

Abbate got the idea to organize the study abroad opportunity after the University of Rome invited him on campus as a visiting professor last year. He said he would only accept if he could get something out of it that would be of value to VCU students.

He contacted the Honors College because he wanted to reach out to premed students. Those interested attended an orientation, filled out an application and secured their passports. The college pitched in with the finances, offering each student $2,500 toward the cost of the trip.

“To get a global perspective on healthcare is an enriching experience,” said Jacqueline Smith-Mason, Ph.D., associate dean of the Honors College. “Study abroad can be life-changing.”

During their time in Italy, students got a taste of what universal health care is like. They saw how medicine – from procedures to patient interaction – differ abroad. They also visited Fondi, where Abbate grew up, Pompeii and Sperlonga.

“What a beautiful country,” Rosellen said. “But what I loved most was the theme of service there. They live to serve other people. That’s exactly what I want to do.”

By Janet Showalter

05
2016

All time high for Medical Student Research Day

Medical Student Research Day

The Class of 2018’s Stephanie DeMasi took first place at Medical Student Research Day. The judges reported that the quality and quantity of her research was exceptional given the limited time period in which the research was conducted, and particularly so given that this was her initial experience with a bona fide research project.

The 2016 Medical Student Research Day featured poster presentations from both the basic and clinical sciences, with students tackling topics as diverse as dengue and chikungunya viruses, surviving melanoma and hand hygiene in the operating room. There were also several research projects that examined medical education topics like encouraging compassion and learning to place intravenous catheters.

With 49 medical students participating, Jan Chlebowski, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate education, noted it was the largest number of presenters in the event’s three-year history.

“Having M.D. students gain some type of research experience during their training has been a point of emphasis by the medical school’s dean, Dr. Jerry Strauss, and also by the LCME, the accrediting body for the M.D. program,” said Chlebowski.

Student interest in research has been steadily growing over the past eight years, and the introduction of the M.D. program’s new curriculum has provided more opportunities for students to build research experience over the course of their training.

Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., was on hand to review the research and speak with the presenters.

“It was an impressive show of talent! The research projects were diverse, and the students who walked me through their posters were extremely knowledgeable,” said Strauss. “This was a truly exceptional year in terms of the number of participants, and the quality of the work presented. I am particularly grateful to the research mentors who invested significant time and effort in making these research experiences productive and rewarding.”

The posters presented at Medical Student Research Day are eligible for prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250. A panel of judges reviewed the presentations’ originality, understanding, clarity and discussion.

Stephanie DeMasi with Jack Haar, professor emeritus of anatomy and neurobiology, who established the James D. Popp Summer Research Fellowship that made DeMasi’s research possible.

Stephanie DeMasi with Jack Haar, professor emeritus of anatomy and neurobiology, who established the James D. Popp Summer Research Fellowship that made DeMasi’s research possible.

This year’s winning entry was the Class of 2018’s Stephanie DeMasi, New Platinum Agents, Triplatin and Triplatin NC, Suppress Advanced Breast and Pancreatic Cancer. With financial support from the James D. Popp Summer Research Fellowship, she conducted the research under the guidance of Kazuaki Takabe, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery.

“The judges felt that the quality and quantity of the research achieved by the winner was exceptional given the limited time period in which the research was conducted,” Chlebowski said. Their interactions with DeMasi during her presentation provided convincing evidence of her immersion and understanding of the complex nature of the study..

“This was compounded by the report that this was her initial experience with a bona fide research project.”

The judges also awarded:
– Second place to the Class of 2017’s Mashya Abbassi and Reza Nabavizadeh, co-presenters and classmates, and
– In a tie for third place: the Class of 2018’s Christopher Bednarz and the Class of 2018’s Imran Khatri.

Many of the research findings described in the poster presentations were products of the Medicine Student Summer Research Fellowship Program. The student-initiated eight-week projects take place between the students’ first and second years of medical school.

“Students submit a proposed project and have to identify a faculty mentor on their own,” explained Chlebowski. If the project is approved, students receive a $2,500 stipend to support their research.

By Erin Lucero