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22
2017

Opioids: an American health crisis

Overdose deaths in the U.S. involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety-one Americans die daily from an opioid overdose and more than 1,000 are treated daily in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.

In 2016, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine declared the opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency in Virginia.

At VCU and VCU Health, efforts are underway to combat this public health crisis — through addiction treatment, pain management, health care policy, education and research. The below news articles, videos and continuing education opportunities provide a snapshot of those efforts.

VCU News opioid series

VCU Health Facebook Live opioid series

Continuing medical education

VCU News opioid series

To end the opioid epidemic, VCU health sciences faculty are changing the way pain management is taught
In the School of Medicine, changes mean explaining new CDC guidelines, discussing opioid alternatives and guiding students on how to adjust patient expectations. Students also go through a simulation exercise where they must revive a patient who has overdosed on opioids. “We want students to leave with the idea that chronic pain should be managed primarily with non-opioid medications, which has not been the way of thinking in recent history.”

VCU researchers combat opiate addiction
Researchers are fighting the opioid epidemic by brainstorming more effective clinical approaches, elucidating the biological mechanisms of addiction and developing safer alternatives for pain relief.

VCU Health outpatient clinic treats addiction with compassion and medication
Cathy Wilson greets the diverse group of patients she sees every week with the same line: “If it were easy, I’d tell you to go home and stop using. But it’s not that easy and that’s why we’re here to help you.”

VCU Health Pain Resource Nurse Program adopts ‘never just opioids’ approach for treatment
At VCU Health, nurses are studying alternative pain methods, and being taught how to address varied pain levels, responsibly. In 2013, VCU Health began its Pain Resource Nurse Program, an effort to improve care for those with pain and teach multi-modal treatment of acute/chronic cancer and non-cancer pain and addiction.

VCU to lead evaluation of new state-sponsored substance abuse treatment program
The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services has selected VCU to lead a five-year evaluation of the state’s new Addiction Recovery Treatment Services program. A major statewide initiative that started in April, the ARTS program is intended to address the rise of opioid-related deaths in Virginia by enhancing Medicaid-sponsored substance use disorder treatment services.

Study: Women who fixate on chronic pain more likely to be prescribed opioids
Female chronic pain sufferers who negatively fixate on their symptoms report greater pain intensity and are more likely to have an opioid prescription than men with the same condition, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and led by current VCU medical student Yasamin Sharifzadeh.

New free community series brings VCU experts to Regency Square
An interactive presentation on Wednesday, Sept. 20, will provide an overview of the opiate epidemic in Virginia. Experts will talk about current Virginia statistics and what is happening in local communities. They will also review some of the changes happening to address the opioid epidemic, including increasing continuing education for a variety of providers, community resources and training, and treatment resources.

Heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses kill at least two Virginians every day, VCU reports
Nearly 80 percent of the almost 1,000 fatal drug overdoses in Virginia in 2014 involved prescription painkillers or heroin, known as opioids, according to a new policy brief by researchers at VCU School of Medicine.

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VCU Health Facebook Live opioid series

VCU Health hosted Facebook Live interviews with institutional experts to highlight efforts underway at the health system and VCU aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. Viewers were invited to participate by submitting questions and comments during the interviews. Interviews broadcasted live at facebook.com/vcuhealth.

• VCU School of Medicine professor F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., discusses medical school curriculum changes related to opioid prescribing practices.

• VCU School of Dentistry professor Omar Abubaker, D.M.D., Ph.D., discusses his commitment to learning about the disease that took his son’s life and the educational initiatives at the dentistry and nursing schools that are related to opioid prescribing practices and addiction treatment.

• VCU School of Medicine assistant clinical professor Jenny Fox, M.D., discusses efforts to combat and treat neonatal abstinence syndrome at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

• VCU professor of medicine and health administration Alan Dow, M.D., discusses continuing medical education initiatives hosted at VCU that are aimed at aligning opioid prescription practices throughout the commonwealth with new state and national guidelines.

• VCU School of Medicine professor Mishka Terplan, M.D., discusses the addiction recovery services offered at VCU Health and the newly opened VCU Health Motivate Clinic.

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Continuing medical education

Best Practices in Pain Management – Primary Care and Specialty Collaboration
Sept. 16-17, 2017
Williamsburg, Virginia
cme.vcuhealth.org

Stepping Stones to Excellence in Wound Care
Sept. 28-29, 2017
Richmond, Virginia
cme.vcuhealth.org

Safe Opiate Prescribing
Online Course
safeopiateprescribing.org

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13
2017

Reflections on Pinares as HOMBRE team heads back to Honduras

Medical students travel to Honduras, as part of HOMBRE.

Medical students travel to Pinares, Honduras, as part of the Honduras Outreach Medical Brigagda Relief Effort.

This June a team of more than a dozen health sciences students head to Pinares, Honduras, as part of the Honduras Outreach Medical Brigada Relief Effort, where alongside faculty they will provide medical services and health care education to the country’s underserved and rural populations.

Nine medical students will travel with this year’s team, led by faculty members Michael Filak, M.D., and Sandra Tandeciarz, M.D., who have a combined decade of HOMBRE experience between them.

“We are ever grateful to our School of Medicine faculty for their volunteerism, as well as mentorship, as exemplified here in this global outreach with our dedicated medical students,” says Peter F. Buckley, M.D., Dean of Medicine.

Team members also include Kate DiPasquale Seelig, M’12, an HOMBRE alumna now returning for the second time as faculty. As a student, Seelig received an Aesculapian Scholarship, made possible through the medical school’s Annual Fund. Even a partial scholarship relieves the burden of debt today’s medical students face and can make it easier for recipients to choose to travel and gain global health experience.

In Honduras, team members will work in health care clinics or on public health projects geared toward improving villagers’ quality of life. On the trip, held June 13-24, medical students gain interdisciplinary experience working alongside nursing, pharmacy and physical therapy students.

After HOMBRE’s summer 2016 trip to Honduras, nonprofit partner Shoulder to Shoulder provided a glimpse into the landscape and people of Honduras, as well as the work of the HOMBRE team. Read on for highlights from the Shoulder to Shoulder blog as this year’s team embarks on a new journey.

As the crow flies

HOMBRE team members provide medical services and education.

HOMBRE team members provide medical services and education to Honduras’ underserved and rural populations.

“As the crow flies …” is a great expression, probably a little bit overused in the U.S. We don’t hear the expression here in Honduras very much. Primarily, I guess, because we don’t have too many crows. We do have vultures, “zopilotes” we call them, and they fly across the mountains with great ease. Perhaps that’s more the reason why the expression doesn’t get used that often here. It is just a little too depressing to think on how quickly a zopilote crosses from one mountain peak to the other, a matter of a minute or two, and then to think that the same trip takes up to an hour or two in a four-wheel drive pickup. It’s just a little bit too humbling to think that nature is that far ahead of human ingenuity. Here, the terrain and the elements of the natural world continue to present tremendous challenges to human dominance. Perhaps not so much in the U.S. Here, we prefer to not remind ourselves how much easier it is to be a crow or a zopilote.

The Frontera is a really small place, less than 700 square kilometers, smaller than El Paso, Texas. But, there are no straight lines and nothing is ever level. One goes north to arrive at a destination to the south, or up in order to go down. This counterintuitive travel is yet worsened by roads that would not merit the designation of a road in the U.S. Steep volcanic mountains are breathtakingly beautiful, but living within them is hardly practical.

San Marcos de La Sierra is the first municipality that one encounters in the Frontera, driving south from La Esperanza. The road here is still at a high elevation and one doesn’t really see any evidence that people live here. Virginia Commonwealth University and Fairfax Family Practices have been coming to this area three times a year for many years. They were just here once again. We dropped them off at the school and clinic in Pinares and we came back about a week or so later to pick them up. If we didn’t know what they do while they are there, we might assume they just hang out and admire the tremendous vistas they are privileged to view. But we do know better.

During HOMBRE, medical students gain interdisciplinary experience.

During HOMBRE, medical students gain interdisciplinary experience working alongside nursing, pharmacy and physical therapy students.

Hiding behind those mountains, across ravines and beyond the treacherous slopes, are about 9,000 residents. Few of them make their way to the health clinic. This is not surprising. They are poor, simple people. They have all they can do to maintain a small home and, if they are fortunate, a small plot of land on which to farm. They travel to a river for water. They collect wood for a fire to cook humble meals. They battle daily with a harsh, unforgiving environment so that they can stay ahead of a mortality curve. They remain unseen, forgotten, abandoned, invisible if you will, except for the zopilote vultures that circle their heads. If anyone is going to know these people, if anyone is going to care for them, treat their illnesses, recognize their dignity, then it demands going to them. They can’t come to us.

We sometimes look naively upon a just response to inequity and poverty. It would be easy to sit outside the school at Pinares where VCU/Fairfax houses their service team and admire the beauty of majestic mountains. It takes insight, compassion and even sacrifice to gain the view of a zopilote that flies beyond the mountains with ease. For the doctors, students, translators and volunteers, they brave the rough terrain to make their way to unseen, ignored people who live in poverty. They climb into the beds of pickup trucks, squished in among the bins of medical supplies, and bump along to destinations where most anyone would not dare to go. They stare down the cliffs as they go. They stop when they can go no further with a car because the road has fallen down the mountain. They sling their supplies over their shoulders and into backpacks. Then they walk. Perhaps even as they trek along, they wonder about this odd journey: going south to arrive to the north, and up in order to get down. Then they finally arrive in a little village, a place mostly unknown. Maybe they look up and see a zopilote circling their heads. Perhaps they indulge themselves with a knowing smile.

This is how we discover people. We make our way along treacherous journeys. Once again, VCU/Fairfax has made their journey to reach a poor, forgotten, invisible people. The people they have met are happy and grateful for the encounter. For this journey, to have arrived to where the crow flies, everyone has been enriched.

13
2017

For the Class of 2020’s Jay Pham, persistence and resilience earn a second chance

The pride overflows from the Class of 2020’s Jay Pham as he talks about life on the MCV Campus as a first-year medical student.

“It’s been blissful to finally be here,” says Pham, his smile growing wider. “Pure happiness. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.”

At 34, he says he’s finally where he’s supposed to be.

The Class of 2020’s Jay Pham and family

The Class of 2020’s Jay Pham and his wife with four of their five children, ages 5, 10, 11 and 14. Not pictured: their newest addition, a 1-year-old boy.

Five years ago, Pham found himself in a much different spot. He was running his family’s business in Seattle, Washington, having dropped out of college years earlier when he became a young father. He was making ends meet for his family but longed for a sense of fulfillment.

“I saw my children, who were so young and just beginning their lives, as a biological miracle,” Pham says. “The process of life is fascinating. They came out pretty perfectly yet so many things could have gone wrong. I wanted to understand this amazingness.”

So in 2012 the then-father of three went back to the University of Washington, where he had been one political science class shy of graduating, to finish his bachelor’s degree and earn his prerequisites. “This time I knew I had it in me. It was four hours round trip to school. I studied on the bus. I studied while brushing my teeth. It’s amazing what time you can find,” he laughs.

Jay Pham (right) and his father in 2012 before Pham started his post-baccalaureate studies at VCU.

Jay Pham (right) and his father in 2012 before Pham started his post-baccalaureate studies at VCU. “He is truly the one man who understands me completely. Perhaps also my greatest supporter.”

A Vietnamese immigrant who moved to the U.S with his parents and three siblings at age 10, Pham’s parents had always dreamed of him becoming a doctor. “Most immigrant families feel the need to be successful. You have to finish school. Be somebody.”

For much of his life, Pham followed this track. A bright high school student, he took community college classes his junior and senior years, earning his associate’s degree at the same time he graduated from high school. But he resisted his parents’ push toward medical school and ultimately abandoned his undergraduate studies. Eventually he found himself far from the life he’d envisioned.

It wasn’t until someone told him, “You made a mistake, but I believe you can recover from it,” that Pham began to reflect on what he could give back to society. “When you don’t have anything, you appreciate your body and your health. In Vietnam, it was how you could get work in the fields. My family was poor — we were on welfare when we came to the United States — but we had our health.

“I want to be the ‘keeper of health’ for the underserved and the poor,” Pham says. “That’s what I was. Now I want to pay it forward to the next generation.”

But while his career path was now clear to Pham, he had more work to do before being accepted into medical school. On the advice of senior associate dean of admissions Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M’79, he completed VCU’s post-baccalaureate graduate certificate program.

“When I was emailing medical schools, Dr. Whitehurst-Cook was the only one who emailed me back personally and said ‘here are some of the things you could do,’” Pham says. “Other schools sent an auto response but this school, this person, found time to respond. It’s like the kind of doctor I want to be. VCU felt like the right school.”

The Class of 58’s James Darden (left) mentors Jay Pham at CrossOver Clinic

The Class of 58’s James Darden (left) mentors Jay Pham at CrossOver Clinic, Virginia’s largest free clinic where Pham volunteered prior to medical school and continues to give his time.

After earning his certificate and a 4.0 GPA, Pham spent 2016 volunteering at CrossOver Ministry in Richmond under the mentorship of James Darden, M’58. Seeing the patients at CrossOver, Virginia’s largest free clinic serving more than 6,000 individuals, reinforced his desire to become a doctor and work with the underserved.

Whitehurst-Cook says Pham’s persistence and hard work showed he would be successful at VCU and as a physician.

“We saw a real passion in Jay for helping others,” she says. “He is a great role model. He’s learned a lot from his life’s journey and can share it with other students and help others develop cultural sensitivity, not just to his heritage, but to his path to medical school. Resilience is so important.”

Since arriving on campus, Pham’s path has been made a little easier as a recipient of the Lillian H. and Steward R. Moore Scholarship, which partially funds his tuition. “I’m very proud to be worthy of a scholarship and appreciate any amount that I don’t have to borrow. It’s tremendous.”

Providing meaningful scholarship support for students with financial need is the goal of the medical school’s 1838 Campaign. Full and half-tuition scholarships are most urgently needed. They are one of the medical school’s best resources for recruiting and rewarding deserving students like Pham.

The now married father of five is a leader in his class — other students affectionately call him “Pappy”— and in his family, where he and his children often study side-by-side. “It’s easy to tell them to study when they’re always seeing me study,” he laughs. “We are students together.”

It’s not the path to medical school Pham may have chosen, but he’s shared the ups and downs of his journey with his children, ages 1 to 14. He tells them while it’s OK to make mistakes, sometimes there is a better way.

“Do things right the first time,” he says. “Fixing it is hard.”

But as Pham eyes his second of year of medical school, he knows better than most that it’s possible.

By Polly Roberts

30
2017

Aspiring vascular surgeons bring research to national stage

Class of 2020's Meg Reeves at national VSIG conference

M2 Meg Reeves presents her research poster at the Society for Vascular Surgery’s annual meeting. She was one of eight students from the medical school whose work was presented at the national conference.

In less than two years since its founding, the Vascular Surgery Interest Group at VCU is already making its mark on the national scene. Eight students had their original research presented at the Society for Vascular Surgery’s annual meeting, held May 30-June 3 in San Diego.

“We had the most medical student presenters of any institution,” says VSIG faculty adviser Michael Amendola, M’02, H’07, F’09, associate professor of surgery, VCU School of Medicine.

The Class of 2020’s Meg Reeves was among the student presenters. President of VSIG at VCU and a Rebecca Clary Harris M.D. Endowment Fund scholarship recipient, she presented at the moderated poster session.

“As a medical student who just recently completed my first year of school, this was my first conference (let alone national conference), first time presenting my research, first time to California — a whole lot of firsts,” she wrote in a blog for VSIG’s website. “But it was also an incredible learning experience.”

Amendola worked one-on-one with each student who had his or her poster presented at the national meeting. He also coordinated with Jeanine D. Guidry, who recently earned her Ph.D. from the medical school’s Department of Health Behavior and Policy and with whom he has ongoing research projects. As part of their collaboration, each student created recordings explaining his or her research project.

The students then included a code on their posters that meeting attendees could scan with their phones and listen to the audio recording, allowing them to hear about the research in the student’s own words (even if the student wasn’t present). VCU was the only school at the meeting to incorporate such an interactive technology.

Exposing students to vascular surgery and research opportunities early in their medical school careers is critical, Amendola says, as more integrated residencies require students to decide on a surgical specialty when they enter the residency match process in their fourth year of medical school.

“I want them to make the right career choice,” Amendola says. “It’s important that clinical faculty get involved very early on. It’s essential to the students’ development as scientists and physicians so they can make informed decisions related to their career choice.”

That’s where VSIG at VCU comes in, helping to connect students with vascular surgeons who can serve as mentors and answer questions about the field. Other chapter priorities include educational seminars, research and community outreach. The chapter’s success led to an invitation for Amendola to speak at this year’s annual meeting encouraging other medical students from around the country to start their own VSIG organizations.

“We are fortunate in the School of Medicine to have dedicated faculty who understand the value of sharing their wisdom and experience with the next generation of physicians,” says Peter F. Buckley, M.D., Dean of Medicine.

Amendola credits the organization’s grassroots beginnings — it was the brainchild of Grayson Pitcher, M’16, during his fourth year — for its popularity.

“It’s grown out of student interest,” he says. “All I’ve done is fanned the flame. These are students who do great work. It’s fun to mentor them.”

More information about VSIG at VCU is available on the organization’s website, where students post podcasts, blogs, research and other news for aspiring vascular surgeons on the MCV Campus and across the nation.

By Polly Roberts

19
2017

Servant leadership promotes academic excellence

Dr. Peter Buckley’s Philosophy has Brought Him to the Medical School as Its New Dean

Peter F. Buckley, M.D., has arrived on the MCV Campus as the 24th dean of the VCU School of Medicine and executive vice president of medical affairs for VCU Health. A psychiatrist and expert in the neurobiology and treatment of schizophrenia, Buckley is a national leader in academic medicine and recognized internationally for his research. Most recently, he served for more than six years as dean of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, where he had been recruited in 2000 to lead the psychiatry department. During his tenure as dean, the medical school expanded to become the ninth largest by class size, grew to encompass five regional campuses, built a new medical education home and acquired new endowed chairs and scholarships, including a $66 million gift to the medical school.

This story first appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.

His previous academic appointments include serving on the faculty at Case Western Reserve University, where he rose through the ranks to become professor and vice chair of the psychiatry department. While in Ohio, he also served as medical director for Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare and its three state inpatient psychiatric facilities, leading it to become the best-rated psychiatric hospital in the state.

With 500 original articles, book chapters and abstracts to his credit, Buckley is senior author of a postgraduate textbook of psychiatry and also has authored or edited 16 books on schizophrenia and related topics. He serves as editor, associate editor or as a member of the editorial boards of more than a dozen psychiatric journals.

DEAN PETER F. BUCKLEY, M.D. SAYS …
The MCV Campus and VCU are gems in the commonwealth of Virginia, so I’m very pleased to join you here. Of course I’ve known about the School of Medicine and its reputation for many years. And specifically, a few years back, I had the opportunity to learn about it in much more depth, and I was very impressed by the talented faculty here.

Moreover, when I was dean at the Medical College of Georgia, I was involved in planning for a new curriculum and new facility, and so our team naturally visited Richmond to take a look at the remarkable McGlothlin Medical Education Center. They returned to Augusta and reported that it more than lived up to its reputation as a pioneering learning environment, and we built our facility and curriculum based on what we learned.

I’m Irish by birth, and traveled to the U.S. with my wife, Leonie, in the early 1990s. We’re very proud to be American citizens. As part of that, we feel a great onus to give back, and, in this instance, to work as dean of this great medical school to help improve the health of the citizens of the commonwealth and beyond.

Q: You’d been at Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia since 2000 and had served as dean there for the past six years . What led to your move?
We enjoyed our time in Augusta and were well involved in the community. But life’s a journey, and it was time for us to take the next stage of our journey together. We were really drawn to Richmond and to this community. We’re energized by the medical school’s great collaborative spirit as well as by the science, both the basic science and the clinical translation science.

The impact of any academic medical center should be best felt in its own community. There’s not a better medical school or a university than this one to display how a university can positively impact the health care of the people in the region and the overall population’s wellbeing.

These attributes as well as the vibrancy of Richmond and warm welcome of the community drew us to enthusiastically make our new home here.

Q: What is your vision for the School of Medicine?
This school is extremely well poised, in terms of both its research profile as well as the foundation of funding, to increase its rankings in federal funding. I will be working with my colleagues to try to broaden the research portfolio and broaden the focus on community-based research that’s meaningful, that’s impactful, within the local region.

Presently, I am meeting people from our institution and community as I gain an understanding of the institution, its culture and our environment. It’s really a labor of love at this stage, and enjoying the support and help of others as I focus in on the strategic growth and development opportunities here into the future.

Q: Your own specialty is psychiatry. What shape has that taken over your career?  

I have specifically focused on schizophrenia because I consider the condition itself very disabling, as well as very intriguing from a neuroscience point of view. I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to work with some great colleagues over the years as we looked to try to understand its basic science. Can we predict how people relapse and what factors affect it? We’ve been fortunate to do work on how medications can forestall relapse and try to predict which medicines work better as well as understanding their
side effects.

More recently we have been studying the neurobiology of schizophrenia. Presently, we make an artificial distinction based upon symptoms as to whether someone might have a mood problem or schizophrenia. Some of our more recent collaborative work has suggested that there may be an underlying substrate that delineates these conditions in a different manner. We are working on federally funded collaborative research with major centers across the country to tease out the neurobiological “signature” of psychosis.

Peter Buckley, MD, and family>Q: What do you want the alumni body to know about you?
Several things. Firstly, Leonie and I are very pleased to be here and we have great respect and appreciation for the traditions of medicine. The impact of this university, and specifically the medical school on the community stretches back to 1838. It’s an amazing history and it also influences us daily and into our future. I see an excellence today in both research as well as in clinical care that makes me excited about the school’s remarkable momentum.

Of course, there are challenges now that weren’t here in 1838. Obviously, the finances of running a medical school that’s interconnected with a health system is a very complex situation of its own. It’s further complicated as we move to more value-based care.

But an opportunity comes with that, too. One of the things this university and this medical school have done fantastically is to train doctors and health care providers as a group. The MCV Campus’ enviable collection of schools provides an environment to train health care teams in a collaborative group. That’s essential today, and our impressive new curriculum earned flying colors from last year’s accreditation visit. Quality is not a singular doctor, or a nurse or an allied health provider. It’s a team event. In medicine, we are moving ever increasingly towards more team-based learning and team-based practice of care. To that end, we were also recognized this year as recipient of the Baldwin Award from ACGME, acknowledging our excellence in training, quality and humanism.

We have a great medical school: a remarkable legacy and an impressive momentum and future direction. There is much to do and we will do it together as we advance our medical school’s 179-year legacy of being innovative at the forefront of research, education and excellence in clinical care.

12
2017

Biostatistics alumnus returns to campus, shares stories from the pharmaceutical industry

Biostat alumnus Tony SegretiWhat can you learn about a career in pharmaceuticals from America’s pastime?

Plenty, says Anthony Segreti, PhD ’77 (BIOS), a card-carrying member of the Society for American Baseball Research, the organization that has developed sabermetrics, the empirical analysis of baseball statistics. (Think about the 2011 Brad Pitt film, Moneyball, depicting a general manager who built a stellar team of undervalued players using sabermetrics.)

Baseball and pharma have some things in common, said Segreti. “Baseball teams draft and sign a lot of players to contracts and, of that number, only a few are going to make it to the major leagues. In the pharmaceutical industry, there are a lot of contenders but not a lot make it to the approval stage.

“You can have a lot of notoriety and expectations, but what really matters is how you perform on the field – or in the clinical trials. Everything is based on evidence, just like everything is based on how a player is able to succeed on the field.” And as in baseball, you can’t always win, he said. That’s part of the game.

Segreti joined the pharmaceutical industry in 1979 at Burroughs Wellcome Co., and remained there through mergers with Glaxo and SmithKline, until leaving in 2006 to work at two contract research organizations for a few years. He then joined biotechnology firm Targacept and remained there until his 2014 retirement.

To use another baseball analogy, Segreti made it to the show. At the Department of Biostatistics graduation ceremony on May 12, he shared stories of some big wins.

Those include being in the lineup in the development of some highly successful drugs, including Acyclovir, an antiviral drug that started a new era in herpes treatment; Zidovudine, for HIV treatment; and epoprostenol sodium, a game-changer for pulmonary arterial hypertension. “Drug development is a team sport,” he noted.

And that’s where his training on the MCV Campus especially came into play.

“I always felt that VCU was a real springboard to my career. There’s a wonderful opportunity for graduate students to interact with researchers and solve real world problems and learn a lot of the activities you don’t learn in a textbook. You learn to be an effective consultant, researcher and how to get along with those who don’t see the world the way that you do.”

Because recruiting new talent to the field is important, he remains active in the Biopharmaceutical Applied Statistics Symposium (BASS), a forum where researchers and scholars in academia, government agencies and industries to share knowledge and ideas. He’s chairing this year’s meeting and working to support the next generation of biostatisticians who attend.

In addition to sharing his time and expertise with the Biostatistics Department and its students, Segreti and his wife, Wendy, have made several generous donations to the university. “There’s nothing I’d rather spend money on – outside my family – than giving something back to the university that really helped my career.”

He fondly recalls his years on the MCV Campus and how the biostatistics graduate students would exercise together during lunch. For two years in a row they won the intramural basketball championship of their league. “The joke was that nobody under 6 feet would get a scholarship,” he said.

Like many players, Segreti eventually worked as a manager, leading between 15 and 40 statisticians. Those professionals, he said, tend to like to work independently, so he knew he needed a special strategy.

Naturally, he looked to sports for a management philosophy, taking a cue from a famed baseball manager. “Tommy Lasorda said, ‘Managing is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it; not hard enough and it flies away.’”

By Lisa Crutchfield

Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine
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Updated: 04/29/2016