Jump to content
School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine discoveries


Student milestones and achievements archives


M3 Katie Pumphrey to serve national pediatrics group

A three-year stint as a high school lacrosse coach taught Katie Pumphrey that she enjoys working with teens and tweens.

“I like the type of conversations you get to have with individuals this age,” says Pumphrey, who’s now a member of the VCU medical school’s Class of 2017. “I look forward to addressing specific medical challenges that this population has to deal with.”

The Class of 2017’s Katie Pumphrey.

Knowing she was interested in a career working with adolescents, Pumphrey joined the medical school’s Pediatric Interest Group – also known as PIG – during her first year on the MCV Campus. By her second year, she was one of the co-presidents of the very active group. In addition to lunch lectures, VCU’s PIG hosts an annual conference that draws future pediatricians – attendees come from up and down the each coast and from as far away as New York.

When she saw an opportunity to be more involved on the national level, she jumped at the chance.

Pumphrey has been chosen by the American Academy of Pediatrics as one of 20 student representatives from around the country. She’ll serve two terms as one of two representatives for district IV on the AAP’s medical student subcommittee. Her term began in January 2016.

She’ll produce material and resources for medical students, including writing articles for the AAP medical student newsletter and recruiting others to write about their experiences. She’ll also help plan the medical student programming for the AAP National Conference and Exhibition and develop relationships with pediatric interest groups at the medical schools in her six-state district.

In addition to her work with PIG on the MCV Campus, Pumphrey has also served on the Medical Student Government as vice president of community service – a role that was recognized with VCU’s Outstanding Community Service Award.

The Class of 2017’s Katie Pumphrey.

During her first two years of medical school, she even found a way to put her lacrosse experience to work when she helped organize an inner city lacrosse league for elementary and middle schoolers in collaboration with the Richmond Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities. “It was wonderful to take a break from medical school once a week and volunteer in the community.”

Pumphrey is working toward an MD-MHA dual degree with plans to combine her love of medicine with her interest in administration.

Now in the midst of her third-year clinical rotations, Pumphrey has already completed her pediatrics clerkship. “After completing the clerkship, I am confident that I want peds to be a part of my life and it was fun to get an idea of what ‘Katie Pumphrey medicine’ might look like in the future.”



The Job Hunt: Networking Can Be the Secret to Success for Bioscientists

Melissa Powell’s last job interview was in 2009 during her undergrad years – for a restaurant gig. But when she graduates next year with a Ph.D. in neuroscience, she feels empowered to land a great job in research or academics, thanks to a thorough education and a chance to hone her networking skills.

Melissa Powell (far right) picked up some new networking tips for interacting with potential employers at a recent workshop for graduate students.

Powell and several dozen other graduate students in VCU’s School of Medicine attended Networking 101. The recent event offered tips to meet and mingle with potential employers – and then a chance to practice what they’d learned with members of the Virginia Biotechnology Association (VABIO), a statewide non-profit trade organization representing the life sciences industry.

The event was coordinated by the Graduate Student Programming Board on the MCV Campus in conjunction with Career Services at VCU, said Katybeth Lee, associate director, Health Sciences Career & Professional Development.

“Last year, it became clear that students and post-docs are seeking opportunities to connect with professionals working in the bioscience field. These professionals are looking to connect with the talent we have here at VCU, strengthening the bioscience workforce pipeline in Virginia,” said Lee. “This event was intended to meet both these objectives, capitalizing on VCU’s strong partnership with VABIO, our state bioscience association conveniently located on the MCV Campus.”

Many graduate students feel better equipped for the lab than getting to know potential employers in social situations.

Career Services at VCU’s Katybeth Lee led the networking session, telling students “You are scientists. Consider networking as an alternate form of data collection.”

Sri Lakshmi Chalasani, a Ph.D. candidate in pharmacology and toxicology, noted, “We’re spending up to 14 hours a day on our work said. Sometimes we don’t know what’s happening outside.”

At the networking session, Lee encouraged attendees to use those skills they’ve developed through years of study and labwork. “You are scientists,” she told the group. “Consider networking as an alternate form of data collection.”

She encouraged students to be prepared with engaging conversation starters (“What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened today?”), a knowledge of reception etiquette (“If you’re drinking, hold the drink in your left hand so your right hand isn’t cold and clammy when you shake hands”) and a plan to break into (or out of) conversations with others (“make eye contact with someone already in the group”).

And when it comes to conversation, “The key to networking is finding common ground,” Lee told students.

Graduate students put into practice what they’d learned with members of the Virginia Biotechnology Association (VABIO), a statewide non-profit trade organization representing the life sciences industry.

Networking 101 (also known by the less scholarly name “Biotech and Beer”) is part of VCU’s program to ramp up services to graduate students in health sciences, said Lee. Other components include Ram Road Trips to tour potential employment sites and training in business etiquette.

“There’s a growing sensitivity that our graduates, both at the master’s and doctorate level, will not all end up in academia. It’s simply a matter of numbers,” said Jan Chlebowski, Ph.D., the medical school’s associate dean for graduate education. “However, the skill sets that these people are developing are very marketable in a wide variety of areas. Our students have a thirst for any kind of information about any alternatives that are out there.”

Allen Owens, a fifth-year pharmacology and toxicology candidate who plans to graduate next year, has been active in programs for career development. “Being a part of these programs has helped me solidify career goals,” said Owens, who’s already gaining experience in an internship at the VCU Innovation Gateway.

After the 30-minute Networking 101 crash course, students were released into a reception attended by dozens of VABIO industry representatives. They shook hands. They chatted. They collected contact info and made plans to stay in touch. VABIO organizations were pleased, said Chlebowski, and hope to keep communications channels open.

“Tonight is not a one-and-done,” Lee reminded students. “You’re here for the long haul.”

By Lisa Crutchfield

Ram Road Trip
See a video recap of a recent Ram Road Trip, part of VCU Career Services’ program to empower health science graduates to find great jobs.
Ram Road Trip


Class of 2018’s Anne Byrd Mahoney authors first-person account for Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter

page 9 20151023_Fall_2015_RAMificat

The Class of 2018’s Anne Byrd Mahoney describes her medical school experience in the fall issue of RAMifications, the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter.

Her mother’s a pediatrician but that didn’t stop a young Anne Byrd Mahoney from rebelling against trips to the doctor’s office. “I can remember screaming and crying when the nurse asked me to read the eye exam chart, thinking that if I stalled long enough I wouldn’t have to get a shot at the end of my visit.”

In a first-person article in the fall issue of the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter, Mahoney recounts her change of heart. Opportunities to shadow a heart surgeon and a family practice doctor during her senior year of high school definitively sparked her interest in a medical career.

She entered the medical school with the Class of 2018 last fall and is now a student representative on the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s board of trustees. In her newsletter article she gives readers a view of what medical school is like today as students face the prospect of a cap on residency positions, medical school debt and uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Despite those challenges, “Each day, the reality that I get to learn and be a part of medicine gives me a jolt of energy that’s more powerful than anything I might buy at Starbucks.”

Mahoney got further confirmation she’s on the right track this past summer when she spent two weeks working in a medical clinic in Peru.

“My experience there made me realize that all of the tough days in medical school are worth it,” she wrote. “Every second spent scrutinizing the minute details of human physiology or of mechanisms of action of this and that drug is worth it. Any uncertainty about what lies ahead was negated by the passion I felt while working with patients.”

Mahoney is a native of Richmond and the daughter of housestaff alumna Rhoda Mahoney who practices with Pediatric Associates of Richmond. You can read Anne Byrd Mahoney’s first-person account in the fall issue of RAMifications, the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter.


M3 Yeri Park and faculty member Mike Czekajlo honored by Medical Society of Virginia


Class of 2017’s Yeri Park.

The Class of 2017’s Yeri Park and Michael Czekajlo, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, were honored by the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation. The pair were presented with Salute to Service Awards at the MSV’s annual meeting in Chantilly on Oct. 24.

Park received the service by a medical student award for her impact on medically underserved communities. She served as the pharmacy chair for the 2014 Honduras Outreach Medical Brigade Relief Effort (HOMBRE) trip to the Dominican Republic that provided preventive care for over 1,000 patients. In addition, Park is co-founder of the Farmworker Health Outreach project on Virginia’s eastern shore that’s focused on the needs of migrant workers, and she also volunteers with the Mattaponi Healing Eagle Clinic, Crossover Healthcare Ministry and the Center for High Blood Pressure.

Park was elected to the post of president of the Class of 2017, and she served as co-president of the Student Family Medicine Association and on the leadership board of the Women in Medicine Student Organization. She is enrolled in the fmSTAT program that nurtures students pursuing a career in family medicine. In a video interview with the MSV, she describes her path into medicine.


Michael Czekajlo, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology

Czekajlo was presented with the service to the international community award. It acknowledges his long-term service and commitment that includes establishing the CPR for Schools program in Poland, which has now trained 1 million school children in the mechanics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He also introduced innovative technology at an interdisciplinary simulation center in Poland that trains about 5,000 each year, teaching Polish health professions students the key aspects of treating heart disease and training American military and first responders on critical care practice.

A Fulbright scholar and director of the simulation center at the VA Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center, Czekajlo has encouraged the growth of simulation in Poland and helped the Polish Minister of Health secure a 60-million euro grant from the European Union to improve and enhance medical simulation in the country. Czekajlo was born to Polish émigrés and his connection to Poland is chronicled in a video produced by the MSV.

The MSV Foundation’s Salute to Service Awards are given annually to Virginia physicians and medical students for their selfless services to others, impact to the health of the population served and commitment to health care excellence.


Class of 1979’s Rebecca Bigoney returns to campus to talk medical ethics with incoming first-year students

Rebecca Bigoney, M79

Rebecca Bigoney, M’79

When students first arrive at medical school, they expect to dive right into the hard science that will form the basis of their medical knowledge. This year, Rebecca Bigoney, M’79, got the chance to show incoming first-year students another side of medicine that is equally important, yet often overlooked by students early in their medical education. This fall she returned to the MCV Campus to talk about medical ethics and the puzzling dilemmas the members of the Class of 2019 will assuredly encounter at some point in their careers.

Bigoney has confronted a wide variety situations involving medical ethics over the course of her career, which includes 18 years in private practice and a term as vice president of medical affairs at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va., where she now works as chief medical officer.

She shared some of her experiences with students as a guest speaker for the “Patient, Physician, and Society” curriculum. Her talk illustrated the complex situations that doctors can encounter at what Bigoney called “the intersection of ethics, liability, policy and reality.”

She told the stories of a patient who declined kidney surgery because a travelling preacher told her she had been cured, factory workers exposed to dangerous heavy metals with no protections from their company and a wife who tried to interfere with her husband’s treatment because of the race of his doctor.

These types of situations, Bigoney explained, require doctors to weigh medical, ethical and procedural decisions to arrive at acceptable, though often imperfect, conclusions.

For many of the assembled students these were new situations and questions they hadn’t previously considered. Students asked frequent questions throughout Bigoney’s presentation, wanting to clarify the decisions she’d made to resolve certain situations. At a student’s prompting, she walked the class through her logic in a hypothetical mass casualty situation — which patients would receive priority, how limited hospital resources might be divided up and how legal liability factors into such decisions.

Bigoney made sure to remind the students that “the ethical problems you face most likely will not be catastrophic or dramatic like the ones I’ve described, but you’ll encounter ethical challenges every day.”

Mark Ryan, M’00, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine, was also on hand to help facilitate the presentation. He praised Bigoney for showing students that “being a good doctor is more than knowing biochemistry or physiology — it is about learning to work with people, and the often complicated and difficult situations in which they find themselves.”

Even after the presentation was over, students lined up to ask her questions one-on-one. Although they may be years from having their own patients and making ethical decisions on their own, the Class of 2019 showed Bigoney that they intend to fully explore these complex questions so that they too can make the right ethical decisions when the time comes.

By Jack Carmichael


Medical student Lex Tee one of 30 nationwide to be selected for AAFP leadership program

Alexandra “Lex” Tee

The Class of 2018’s Alexandra “Lex” Tee

The Class of 2018’s Alexandra “Lex” Tee is part of the inaugural class of the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation’s Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute. She was one of 30 students selected for the program, which is designed to give leadership opportunities to family medicine-minded medical students and residents who demonstrate leadership potential.

As an M2, Tee is still exploring what the different fields of medicine have to offer and is eager for any experience or mentorship she can get along the way. “I decided to apply because I would get to attend AAFP’s national conference and work with a mentor and a project of my choice. I always enjoy learning from physicians and older students and residents, and this opportunity seemed like the perfect environment for growing and learning.”

The Institute offers three tracks that participants can choose from: Policy and Public Health Leadership, Personal and Practice Leadership and Philanthropic and Mission-Driven Leadership.

Tee is pursuing personal and practice leadership and hopes she will learn how to handle increased levels of responsibility as she continues her education and career. Both the national conference in Kansas City, Mo., and the institute offer exceptional opportunities for her to network and continue learning about the field.

“I think it will be helpful for me because I am so early in my medical training and this track emphasizes remaining effective and focused as I transition to greater levels of responsibility, autonomy, power and expectations. I hope the program will foster my commitment to lifelong learning and teach me more about growing and excelling in the practice of family medicine.”

Group photo of inaugural class of the AAFP’s Emerging Leader Institute

As part of the inaugural class of the AAFP’s Emerging Leader Institute, the Class of 2018’s Alexandra “Lex” Tee traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to develop her leadership skills and learn more about family medicine. (She’s on the far left, middle row)

As she looks for mentors who can counsel her through choosing a specialty and applying to residency, she is quick to acknowledge the people who have guided her thus far. Lex completed her undergraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied public health. Her favorite professor also worked as a physician, and he encouraged her to pursue medicine, so she began shadowing physicians in the San Francisco community.

The more she learned about family medicine, the more she liked it.

“My interest in family medicine grew because the physicians that I shadowed worked in schools and in areas of the community that they cared deeply about, and they were willing to give me some valuable mentorship.” Now on the MCV Campus, she’s part of the fmSTAT program that nurtures students in their pursuit of a family medicine career. Tee lists the relationship she has developed with her fmSTAT mentor, Phil Sherrod, M’74, H’77, as one of the highlights of medical school.

By Jack Carmichael