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Area journalist goes from reporting to participating

John Ogle

John Ogle

School of Medicine students sometimes get a surprise when they hear one of their standardized patients describing his conditions. If the voice sounds familiar, it’s because it belongs to veteran broadcast journalist John Ogle, a frequently heard contributor on WCVE-FM.

Ogle joined the cast of the School of Medicine’s Standardized Patient Program in 2013, inspired after recording a news story on the program for the Richmond-based radio station.

“I’ve interviewed a lot of researchers at VCU, but I didn’t know what to expect when I went there to do the story,” said Ogle. “We went through the new McGlothlin Medical Education Center building, seeing one amazing thing after another.”

One program in particular caught his attention.

Medical students in the Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety were working with standardized patients, learning to diagnose various conditions and to develop physician-patient relationships. The Standardized Patient Program, a collaboration between VCU’s School of Medicine and School of the Arts, allows students a chance to conduct a physicians’ traditional interview, history and physical. For the actors who play the parts of patients, it’s a chance for paid work and, more importantly, a chance to help the next generation of physicians.

After he completed his story about the program, Ogle decided to try to be part of the news-making program himself, so he applied to be a standardized patient. After several training sessions, he joined the program and now fits in sessions around his journalism schedule. He’s learned a lot about medicine as he’s portrayed a variety of patients.

“I’ve been the chest pain guy. I’ve been the spitting up blood guy. It’s really interesting work,” said Ogle.

“It’s fascinating to work with M1s who are young, and then the M4s who are about to be doctors – and they really do look like and act like them. There’s a certain demeanor they gain over the years. They’re very committed and focused on what they’ve chosen to do.

“The students are often thanking standardized patients for doing this” Ogle said. “But I’m finding that it’s rewarding for me, too. The quality of the work that’s done to get these students to be doctors is a reward I didn’t expect.”

Ogle, 70, considered a career as an actor when he was younger, and is enjoying being back on stage – even if the stage now is an examination room. “It’s a little bit like doing the news. The only difference is that I don’t have to memorize the news. But when you get to be my age, a lot of these ailments are familiar anyway.”

It’s also fun when the occasional student recognizes his name and voice. “It’s pointless to deny it. A lot of the students do happen to be public radio listeners.”

– By Lisa Crutchfield


Video produced by senior neurology residents vies for Neuro Film Festival honors

Two senior neurology residents, Alicia Zukas, M.D., and Ken Ono, D.O., have produced a video that’s drawing attention in the American Brain Foundation’s film competition.

Their five-minute video, “Back to Life,” brings awareness to the phenomenon of strokes in young adults through the story of 33-year-old Delanie Stephenson. It is currently one of the top 4 vote getters from among more than 50 competition entries.

Go online before March 27 to select your favorite. You will have to register in order to view the videos and cast your vote.

The “fan favorite” winner will be announced at the Neuro Film Festival at the American Academy of Neurology Meeting in Philadelphia in late April.

One in six people is affected by brain disease. The American Brain Foundation aims to reduce the prevalence of brain disease by supporting research into prevention, treatment and cures. The Neuro Film Festival helps raise awareness about the need for more research. This year’s entries feature a diversity of brain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, autism and Parkinson’s disease.

Zukas earned her medical degree from VCU in 2010, and Ono is a graduate of the NY College of Osteopathic Medicine.


New animated video connects the dots between education and health outcomes


People with less education are living sicker, shorter lives than ever before.

“We all know that a good education is important,” says Steven H. Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., director of the VCU Center on Society and Health. “Less recognized is the impact of education on health outcomes. Americans with a good education generally enjoy better health throughout their lives, generate fewer health care costs, and live longer.”

He points to an eye-opening statistic: even a 1% increase in the percentage of Americans with some college education could save $1.3 billion per year in avoided medical care for one disease: diabetes.

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the VCU Center on Society and Health is raising awareness about the important connections between education and health. Its staff meets with leaders in government and the private sector — at the national, state, and local level — to explore those connections.

They’ve recently experimented with a new medium, producing an animated video that connects the dots between educational attainment and health.

More and more, the Center is looking to communicate in a variety of ways to reach the greatest variety of audiences. In addition to new media tactics like interactive online tools and this video, the Center also continues to make use of traditional media tactics like op-eds and produce more in-depth and academic material like white papers, issue briefs and journal articles.

Learn more about the Center on Society and Health and watch the animated video.


Societies vie for the inaugural Strauss Cup

Strauss cup logo

The Strauss Cup Society Field Day will be held on Saturday, March 22, 2014, at Abner Clay Park.

A year’s worth of bragging rights are at stake.

Over the past seven months, a series of competitions have been waged in the School of Medicine, pitting its four medical student societies against one another in athletic, academic, spirit and community service challenges. Known as the Strauss Cup, the competition takes its name from Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D.

“The Strauss Cup is designed to build both camaraderie within each Society and a healthy sense of inter-Society pride and competition,” says the Class of 2016’s Shikha Gupta, the Medical Student Government’s vice-president of societies.

The Societies have earned points in each of this year’s academics, spirit and service challenges. “The Societies were all neck-and-neck until the SOUPerbowl, a week-long Society and Faculty food drive competition benefiting FeedMore and the Central Virginia Food Bank,” Shikha said. “The Baughman Society collected nearly 400 food items, earning them a healthy lead in the Tournament standings.”

The other Societies have plenty of time to catch up. The competition’s inaugural year will culminate in the Strauss Cup Society Field Day to be held on Saturday, March 22, from noon to 4 p.m. at Abner Clay Park, located at the corner of Brook Road and Leigh Street. Points will also be awarded for participation in a Society Spirit Week that will be held in advance of Field Day.

The Field Day will give the four societies a final chance to win points before the Strauss Cup is awarded. The event will include the medical school’s traditional M1/M2 Powderpuff Football game along with tug of war, egg tosses and three-legged races. There will also be Dunk Tank featuring favorite faculty members and student leaders from all the MCV Campus schools.

The Field Day is free of charge and open to the VCU community and their families. Some activities will carry a suggested donation, which will be used to benefit United 2 Heal, a non-profit organization based on the Monroe Park Campus. United 2 Heal provides recycled or discarded high-need medical supplies to developing countries at no cost. The organization was founded by Mohamed Ibrahim, a first-year medical student who died suddenly in November. Admired by faculty and students from both of VCU’s campuses, Mohamed’s life has inspired a number of memorial activities.

The school’s 780 M.D. students are assigned to one of four medical societies according to their career and specialty interests, learning styles and proficiencies. The Baughman, Benacerraf, Harris and Warner Societies each carry the name of an alumnus or faculty member to honor the rich history and tradition of MCV.

Each year, the winning society’s name will be engraved on the Strauss Cup, which will take up temporary residence on that society’s floor in the McGlothlin Medical Education Center until the next victor is crowned.

The Societies’ leaders chose to honor Strauss with the naming of the Cup as a way for the medical student body to show its appreciation for the work he does on their behalf.

“It’s our hope that this tournament will continue long after we all leave MCV, so future medical students will be reminded of Dean Strauss’ legacy,” said Shikha. “As a student leader, I’ve been incredibly impressed both by Dean Strauss’s unwavering support of student initiatives and by his commitment to transparency in communication between students and administrators. The autonomy given to our student leaders by the administration to make decisions and implement programs without direct faculty oversight is a demonstration of Dean Strauss’s faith in the student body’s ability to participate in the process of MCV’s growth and development in a meaningful way.”


M.D. students tutor elementary children in Fulton Hill after-school program, alumnus lends support


About 10 medical students volunteer with an after-school tutoring program for K-12 students from the Fulton Hill neighborhood.

Last year, the Class of 2016’s Arhanti Sadanand was faced with a choice. Part of her responsibilities as a first-year medical student included participating in LINC, or Learners Involved in the Needs of Communities. She knew she wanted working with children to be part of her community service.

She chose to volunteer with the Fulton Outreach Program, where she could tutor school-aged children in the Fulton Hill neighborhood after school. When her first-year LINC commitment came to an end, Arhanti decided to continue volunteering.

“I wanted to remain in touch with the Richmond community,” said Arhanti, who acknowledges it can sometimes be hard to get out from under the books. “I view Fulton as a really great study break. For a couple hours, I can clear my mind of studying and just focus on helping a kid learn about fractions. It’s refreshing.”

Three other M2s were able to commit for a second year, and they’ve joined forces with about half a dozen M1s. Working together, the students are able to supply tutors for two hours a day, four days a week.

Of the 100 school-aged children in the Fulton community, as many as half are regularly involved in the after-school sessions. While most are elementary school aged, students from kindergarten through high school can come for homework help in reading and math. After a first hour of hitting the books, the second is devoted to games and activities.

“Tutoring has made a huge impact on me,” Arhanti said. “I feel that I have made lasting connections with the kids when I hear that they ask about me over the school vacations, and I consider myself lucky that some of them have accepted me as a regular part of their lives.”

Working alongside the medical students are Fulton residents Chavioleytte Crenshaw and Theresa Burrell who are committed to helping care for and mentor the children in the neighborhood. A program coordinator from the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority also assists in running the program.


The first hour of the after school program is devoted to studies and the second is spent in games and activities.

“I think there are often misconceptions about the Fulton neighborhood and generalizations about the kinds of people who live in the projects,” Arhanti said. “After spending time with the kids and exploring the history of the community, I’ve learned a lot about what binds the community together. There are a few amazing women who have invested much of their own time and resources to keep these kinds of enrichment programs alive. Initially, I was surprised by how hard they have pushed to help their own children succeed, and now I am simply in awe of how deeply they care for the entire neighborhood.”

Giving medical students the opportunity to better understand the Richmond community is one of LINC’s goals. The nationally recognized service learning experience serves as a critical link between the school and the community and allows students to experience first-hand the environments in which their patients spend their lives.

“I know that many of us wish we could do more for our community,” Arhanti said. “Realistically, two hours of my time each week isn’t enough to solve big problems, but I find that simply showing up every week, especially for a child who doesn’t necessarily have a stable role model, is undervalued. I’m happy to be part of a medical school community in which others feel the same way.”

The Class of 2004’s Danny Avula, M.D., M.P.H., helped get the project off the ground. He worked with Joan Seldon, family and community services manager with the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, to get access to an empty public housing unit in Fulton Avenue to give the tutoring program a home.

Avula, who is the deputy director of the Richmond City Health District, continues to support the program. He stays on the lookout for community partnerships and funding opportunities. He and Seldon teamed up again and were able to secure a small stipend for the program’s coordinator from the Office of Attorney General.

“We think the Fulton initiative is a beautiful example of how committed community residents, paired with dedicated MCV students are making a meaningful difference in the lives of kids in the Fulton neighborhood,” said Andrew Thompson, special projects coordinator with the Richmond City Health District. “And all with essentially zero funding.”

Danny T.K. Avula, M.D., M.P.H., is the deputy director of the Richmond City Health District
You can read about the highs and lows Avula experiences as the deputy director of the Richmond City Health District in a guest column published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch last summer: Healthy family model can make the difference.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Thompson, who also helped in compiling this story.


Tales of a hat: headgear proves a conversation starter

Dean Strauss

Jerry Strauss, M.D., Ph.D.

Professional responsibilities call Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., to all corners of the globe. And on those plane rides and train trips to conferences, advisory boards or gatherings of medical school alumni, he proudly wears his ballcap that proclaims: MCV since 1838. His estimates his hat has racked up enough miles to qualify for frequent flyer status.

Often when he’s waiting to board, he notices people eyeing his headgear. More often than not, those sideways glances lead to conversations.

“When I arrived on the MCV Campus in 2005, I knew I was joining a medical school with a proud tradition. And I’ve loved hearing the stories about what makes us great. This hat has opened doors to those conversations.”

He’s met alumni, former faculty and friends of the school who were emboldened to introduce themselves to learn more about the hat.

On a recent flight through Dulles, he had one of those experiences. He spotted someone staring at the hat.

Leaning over, the man asked: “Does that stand for the Medical College of Virginia?”

The fellow traveler was John Crouch, M.D., who had a story about his own MCV connection. In 1969, he was serving in Vietnam, first as a U.S. Army flight surgeon and later as a combat aviation flight surgeon, earning the Air Medal and Bronze Star.

Crouch relayed the story of how – while he was half a world away – he got a note from his older sister, Nancy O’Bannon, who was writing to let him know she was showing signs of renal failure. She was facing dialysis and her doctors were talking about the possibility of a kidney transplant.

Crouch didn’t know much about the relatively new surgery. So he turned to a surgeon stationed at the nearby Surgical Evacuation Hospital for advice. The two had trained together at Washington University in St. Louis when Crouch was an intern and his colleague was a resident.

“I remembered he was a sharp guy, and he was just a Jeep ride away.” His colleague was, in fact, knowledgeable about the pioneering work being done in the transplant field and told Crouch “There are two places your sister ought to go: to Starzl in Colorado or to Hume at MCV.”

Crouch passed the advice on to his sister who lived in Tennessee. Geography helped make her decision, along with the number of successful transplants MCV had done since its first living-related donor kidney transplant was performed eight years prior in August 1962.

Testing determined her sister to be her best match, and Hume’s transplant team operated on Nancy on May 26, 1971, just two years before his untimely death on May 19, 1973.

The recommendation served her well. At her death in 2011 at age 71, she was one of the program’s five recipients who lived 40 years or more after transplant.

Along the way, she underwent a second kidney transplant in 1983 led by H.M. Lee, M.D., who had also been involved with her first transplant surgery. This time the transplant team decided that her younger brother was the best match despite being a former polio patient, which had caused them to pass him over a dozen years previously. This donor kidney provided 18 years of healthy function.

When the second donor kidney started to fail in 2002, a new diagnosis of Hepatitis C meant Nancy was no longer a good candidate for a transplant. For the last eight years of her life, she underwent weekly dialysis treatment.

But the 40 years she gained after her initial transplant were filled with the things she loved best, says Crouch.

“When she first knew she needed a transplant, she told me ‘We’re just praying I can live long enough to see my children grow up’,” Crouch recalls. “She saw that and more. She saw grandchildren grow up and great-grandchildren born. She got her wish in spades.”

In those four decades, she continued to enjoy overseas travel – she visited 43 countries in her lifetime. A dedicated missionary, she also was active in the life of Lee University, where her husband was a professor. In 2002, the institution honored the two of them with the naming of the Robert H. and Nancy O’Bannon Residence Hall.

“My sister was always a great fighter,” says Crouch. “She loved to live life, loved to travel and especially loved showing young people the can’t-miss sights of different cities.”

Crouch, who is immediate past president of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, is a family medicine physician by training. He chose the then-fledgling specialty after returning from Vietnam. As soon as he completed residency training, he was recruited onto the faculty and has worked in medical education ever since.

Now based a in Tulsa, Okla., Crouch does a good deal of traveling himself as executive director of In His Image, a faith-based family medicine residency program that prepares trainees to practice medicine in a wide variety of settings, focusing on medically underserved populations in the United States and overseas.

Read more about the history of the Hume-Lee Transplant Center.