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21
2018

The Class of 2019’s Joanne Chiao: Art class with dementia patients shines new light on patient experience

After completing a third-year wellness workshop with Art for the Journey, the Class of 2019’s Joanne Chiao was inspired to volunteer with the nonprofit dedicated to bringing art to non-traditional groups. The dual degree M.D./M.H.A. candidate wrote about her experience for the Association of American Medical Colleges. In her own words:

Silver or gold?

“Silver or gold?” I ask, showing two paint palettes.

A water color painting by an adult artist from a local retirement community

Over the past year, the Class of 2019’s Joanne Chiao spent her Friday mornings volunteering at a local retirement community where she served as a painting partner for adults with early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia. Pictured is one of her adult artist’s creations.

“Silver,” she replies. I place the palette on the table. The artist takes a crumpled ball of foil and dips it into the silver paint. She then presses the foil ball against her canvas creating texture, contrast and depth. At times, the foil ball goes off the page, as if she loses sight of the edge of the canvas. I guide her back to center. When she completes her painting, I ask her, “What would you like to call it?”

“I don’t know,” she says, “What do you think I should call it?” I tell her that it is her artwork. It could be any name. It is abstract art after all.

“How about ‘A Starry Night’?”

“That’s perfect! It reflects the silver texture with the foil paint, the contrast against the darker water-colored background, and the glitter dashed across the page.”

“Well, I meant to do that … that … was what I was thinking.” She takes the pencil in her hand but as she presses pencil to paper, she pauses.

“What was I supposed to do?”

“You are naming your piece and signing your name,” I reply. “Oh, that’s right,” but she pauses again and hesitates. “Can you write it for me?” She asks, “I am not very good at writing this.”

“Sure,” I reply, “I can write the name of your painting, but it’s important to sign your work yourself.” She nods in agreement, and with an unsteady hand, signs her name.

‘Outside of my comfort zone’

Last fall, I did this every Friday morning. My painting partner was an adult artist at a local retirement community. Every Friday morning, since our first session together, I would ask her to sign and name her piece. Every time, she would hesitate, and sometimes, forget what she was doing.

The Class of 2019's Joanne Chiao, who is pursuing a dual M.D./M.H.A.

The Class of 2019’s Joanne Chiao, who is pursuing a dual M.D./M.H.A.

My artist partner has early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia. For 10 Fridays every fall and spring, Art for the Journey, a nonprofit organization located in Richmond, Virginia, offers an abstract art program for adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia called Opening Minds through Art.

An evidence-based program founded by Elizabeth Lokon, Ph.D., at the Scripps Gerontology Center, Miami University, Ohio, OMA aims to restore and maintain quality of life and function for adults experiencing neurocognitive decline. OMA trains young adult volunteers to assist adult artists to help facilitate an inter-generational abstract art-making session. As a volunteer, I do not make any decisions for the artist — I simply provide them the space, time and opportunity to be creative. In taking charge of their self-expression, the artists regain their autonomy, demonstrate their inner creativity, and gain a sense of emotional well-being and achievement.

At first, I found the sessions challenging. Her artwork often deviated from the assigned project and I worried that she would be unhappy with her work. At times, she was frustrated that the watercolors had turned muddy or that the masking tape failed to create the negative space that she intended. By far, what was most challenging was discussing her abstract artwork. As a person who struggles to see and analyze intangible patterns or grasp abstract concepts, commenting and giving feedback about abstract art placed me outside of my comfort zone.

But she did not give up on me. Every week she challenged me in interpreting her abstract paintings. She challenged me to see critically the pigments, shapes and shadows that I would easily overlook. And out from those colors, shapes and shadows, I began to see her feelings of achievement, well-being and peace. I came to embrace that it wasn’t about how close or realistic the final product was, but rather, how the unstructured and intangible interpretation of each art-making task healed and preserved her identity.

Hearing a patient’s symptoms vs. listening to their pain

A few months later, while I was shadowing clinic, a middle-aged woman sought help for excruciating chronic pain, numbness and tingling in her right leg. Each time she described her pain she would become overwhelmed and cry. At the conclusion of her interview, her doctor discussed his assessment, presented the advantages and disadvantages of her options, and gave her time to make a decision. What struck me the most about this encounter was how her pain affected her. Where previously, I would have honed in on the science, the clinical dilemma and its associated decision-making — I saw instead, a person’s frustration, their struggle with a chronic condition. I heard how distressing and debilitating the pain was. I heard, but, even more, saw, how that pain stole her autonomy, function, and above all, quality of life.

I never expected an artist to show me how the world of shapes, lines and colors could transfer to an improved ability to understand and appreciate how people interpret and see themselves — how each individual person perceives their health and disease. As a clinician-in-training, it is all too easy to only hear what relevant symptoms indicate what disease, rather than listening to how the symptoms are interpreted by patients. Painting with another person reminded me how important this is for future clinicians. It reminded me to take a step back, tune out the white noise of a bustling, fast-paced ambulatory clinic and dial in to the frame of the patient.

From the sessions, I made a friend who paints and illuminates her world like no other. Through the unique opportunity that I have had in working with Art for the Journey, I gained a better understanding of individuals struggling with dementia not as patients, but as people. On one hand, painting with another person showed how opportunities for artistic expression can rebuild confidence where broken, heal what was shattered and return to others their autonomy through decision making in their own art.

On the other hand, painting with another person has provided a new appreciation and awareness of the often overlooked, unseen, unheard part of a narrative. Who ever thought that a series of simple abstract art-making sessions could so profoundly influence and alter the fundamental way in which I approach interpersonal interactions and serve my future patients?

So pick up a brush and make a choice — silver or gold?

Joanne Chiao’s story was first published by the AAMC; read more first-person accounts on the Aspiring Docs Diaries blog.

08
2018

Recognizing graduate student achievement

At the medical school’s graduate student recognition ceremony earlier this spring, more than five dozen SOM-level awards and 18 departmental-level awards were presented.

At the medical school’s graduate student recognition ceremony earlier this spring, more than five dozen SOM-level awards and 18 departmental-level awards were presented.

On May 11, the Sanger Hall theater was full of graduating students, awardees, mentors, family and friends celebrating the scientific achievements of more than 50 graduate students.

“We’re proud of our students and always enjoy highlighting their accomplishments,” says Michael Grotewiel, Ph.D., the medical school’s interim associate dean for graduate education. “But this year was exceptional because we got to announce that seven students were nominated for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting – and two have been selected to attend!”

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting is an annual gathering of Nobel Laureates and outstanding young scientists. This summer, M.D.-Ph.D. student Chelsea Cockburn and Katie Schwienteck, a Ph.D. candidate in Pharmacology and Toxicology, will attend along with 600 other students, doctoral candidates and post-docs from 84 countries. They will have the chance to interact with 43 Nobel Laureates – more than ever before.

At the medical school’s graduate student recognition ceremony, more than five dozen SOM-level awards and 18 departmental-level awards were presented.

More than two dozen graduate programs in the School of Medicine enrolled about 450 trainees in the 2017-18 academic year. Following the recognition ceremony, 166 students concluded their training with 38 earning doctoral degrees, 54 earning master’s and 74 earning a pre-med graduate health sciences certificate.

The honorees include:

Charles C. Clayton Award established in 1978 to reward outstanding rising second-year graduate students in the biomedical sciences in honor of Dr. Charles Clayton, who served as Professor of Biochemistry and Assistant Dean of the School of Basic Sciences and Graduate Studies. With his own research focused on the area of lipid biochemistry, Dr. Clayton was instrumental in developing the first doctoral programs at MCV. During World War II, the graduate programs had been suspended to devote the entire effort of the faculty to training health profession practitioners in a variety of accelerated programs. After the war he carried extensive teaching responsibilities in all of MCV’s health professions programs.
• Javeria Aijaz, Human and Molecular Genetics Ph.D. program
• Rose Bono, Master of Public Health program
• Nicholas Clayton, Physiology and Biophysics master’s program
• Sarah Dempsey, Pharmacology and Toxicology Ph.D. program
• Ellyn Dunbar, Human and Molecular Genetics master’s program
• Emily Godbout, Master of Public Health program
• Briana James, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Ph.D. program
• Ajinkya Kawale, Molecular Biology and Genetics Ph.D. program
• Eric Kwong, Microbiology and Immunology Ph.D. program
• Pavel Lizhnyak, Neuroscience Ph.D. program
• Elizabeth Lowery, Epidemiology Ph.D. program
• Jean Moon, Pharmacology and Toxicology master’s program
• Christine Orndahl, Biostatistics Ph.D. program
• Rebecca Procopio, Genetic Counseling master’s program
• Sonja Volker, Biostatistics master’s program
• Lauryn Walker, Health Care Policy and Research Ph.D. program
• Jodi Winship, Social and Behavioral Science Ph.D. program

Dissertation Assistantship Award Nomination
• Brian Di Pace, Biostatistics Ph.D. program
• Steven Masiano, Social and Behavioral Science Ph.D. program
• Sylvia Rozario, Master of Public Health program

Forbes Day memorializes the pioneering effort of biochemist Dr. John Forbes, who was a pioneer of the Ph.D. training program. Along with Charles Clayton, Ph.D., and Daniel Watts, Ph.D., Forbes founded and grew advanced degree education at MCV, which at one time was among the top 10 producers of Ph.D. graduates in medical centers nationally.
• Outstanding Presentation, Dana Lapato, Human and Molecular Genetics Ph.D. program
• Outstanding Presentation, Kristen Lee, Human and Molecular Genetics Ph.D. program
• Outstanding Presentation, Julie Meade, Pharmacology and Toxicology Ph.D. program
• Presenter, Javeria Aijaz, Human and Molecular Genetics Ph.D. program
• Presenter, Ashley Bennett, Physiology and Biophysics Ph.D. program
• Presenter, Ria Fyffe-Freil, Molecular Biology and Genetics Ph.D. program
• Presenter, Mazen Gouda, Anatomy and Neurobiology master’s program
• Presenter, Rebecca Schmitt, Human and Molecular Genetics Ph.D. program
• Presenter, Lauryn Walker, Health Care Policy and Research Ph.D. program

Marion Waller Scholar Nomination
• Jun He, Biostatistics Ph.D. program
• Carrie Miller, Health Care Policy and Research Ph.D. program
• Esraa Mohamed, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Ph.D. program
• Heather Saunders, Health Care Policy and Research Ph.D. program
• Lindsey Sawyer, Genetic Counseling master’s program
• Theresa Wiziarde, Master of Public Health program

Daniel T. Watts Research Day is dedicated to the memory of Daniel T. Watts, a trailblazer in the world of basic health sciences and a nationally recognized pharmacologist who served as the dean of the VCU School of Basic Health Sciences and Graduate Studies and is credited with establishing the foundation of the research enterprise in basic health sciences at VCU.
• Outstanding Presentation, Sylvia Rozario, Master of Public Health program

Lindau Nobel Symposium
• Attendee, Chelsea Cockburn, Microbiology and Immunology Ph.D. program
• Attendee, Kathryn Schwienteck, Pharmacology and Toxicology Ph.D. program
• Nominee, Ria Fyffe-Freil, Molecular Biology and Genetics Ph.D. program
• Nominee, Erin Garcia, Microbiology and Immunology Ph.D. program
• Nominee, Eric Kwong, Microbiology and Immunology Ph.D. program
• Nominee, Luke Legakis, Pharmacology and Toxicology Ph.D. program
• Nominee, Rebecca Mahon, Medical Physics Ph.D. program

Phi Kappa Phi Academic Achievement Award
• Javeria Aijaz, Human and Molecular Genetics Ph.D. program
• Shannon Baker, Microbiology and Immunology Ph.D. program
• Aaron Barbour, Neuroscience Ph.D. program
• Courtney Blondino, Epidemiology Ph.D. program
• Brian Di Pace, Biostatistics Ph.D. program
• Allison DeLaney, Master of Public Health program
• Natalie Dykzeul, Genetic Counseling master’s program
• Om Evani, Physiology and Biophysics master’s program
• Erin Garcia, Microbiology and Immunology Ph.D. program
• Camille Hochheimer, Biostatistics Ph.D. program
• Hannah Ming, Master of Public Health program
• Kaitlyn Riley, Genetic Counseling master’s program
• Viviana Rodriguez, Biostatistics master’s program
• Vishaka Santhosh, Physiology and Biophysics Ph.D. program
• Lindsey Sawyer, Genetic Counseling master’s program
• Amelia Thomas, Master of Public Health program
• Lauryn Walker, Health Care Policy and Research Ph.D. program
• Siqiu Wang, Medical Physics master’s program
• Tierah West, Master of Public Health program
• Jodi Winship, Social and Behavioral Science Ph.D. program

Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Nomination
• Varsha Ananthapadmanabhan, Human and Molecular Genetics Ph.D. program
• Erin Donahue, Biostatistics Ph.D. program
• John Stansfield, Biostatistics Ph.D. program
• Kate Stromberg, Biostatistics Ph.D. program

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Herbert John Evans Jr. Award
• Melissa Maczis, Ph.D. program

Human and Molecular Genetics’ Lang Kucera Award
• Kaitlyn Riley, Genetic Counseling master’s program

Human and Molecular Genetics’ Roscoe D. Hughes Award
• Navaneetha Bharathan, Ph.D. program

Human and Molecular Genetics’ Roscoe D. Hughes Fellowship
• Dana Lapato, Ph.D. program

Microbiology and Immunology’s Mary P. Coleman Award given in memory of the mother of Dr. Philip Coleman, a professor emeritus in the department, to a graduate student who has demonstrated extraordinary achievement in graduate studies and in research.
• Naren Kumar, Ph.D. program

Physiology and Biophysics’ Certificate of Recognition awarded to select students who display good character and a strong work ethic.
• Brian Ruiz, Physiology and Biophysics master’s program
• Justin Saunders, Physiology and Biophysics M.D.-Ph.D. program
• Jong Shin, Physiology and Biophysics master’s program

Physiology and Biophysics’ James Poland Award given in honor of Dr. James Poland who desired to establish a mechanism to recognize the accomplishments of master’s students.
• Om Evani, master’s program

Physiology and Biophysics’ Robert W. Ramsey Award given in honor and memory of Dr. Robert W. Ramsey, a distinguished muscle physiologist and the department’s first chair, presented to the most outstanding doctoral student in physiology.
• Ashley Bennett, Ph.D. program
• Teja Devarokonda, Ph.D. program

Master of Public Health’s Christopher “Kim” Buttery Award given in honor of the many contributions made by the Division of Epidemiology clinical professor who has been a tireless servant and promoter of public health to a graduating public health graduate student demonstrating excellence in chronic disease epidemiology and bridging research and public health practice.
• Joshua Montgomery, M.P.H. program

Biostatistics’ Student Research Symposium Presentation Award
• 1st Place, Kingston Kang, Ph.D. program
• 2nd Place, Camille Hochheimer, Ph.D. program
• 3rd Place, Brian Di Pace, Ph.D. program

Biopharmaceutical Applied Statistics Scholarship
• Alicia Johns, Biostatistics Ph.D. program

Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award
• Brian Di Pace, Biostatistics Ph.D. program

Mid-Atlantic Chapter American Association of Physicists in Medicine
• Medical Physics Slam Competition – 1st Place Mark Ostyn, Medical Physics Ph.D. program
• Young Investigator’s Symposium – 2nd Place, Mark Ostyn, Medical Physics Ph.D. program

By Erin Lucero

08
2018

More than a game: baseball tour connects father-son alumni, raises money for charity

Neil Rosenberg, M'78, and Ron Rosenberg, M'18, at a Chicago White Sox game

Neil Rosenberg, M’78, and Ron Rosenberg, M’18, at a Chicago White Sox game in April 2018.

Ron Rosenberg, M’18, always knew he wanted to see a game in every Major League Baseball stadium. The lifelong baseball fan even found the perfect time to do it, plotting out a cross-country trip to 30 parks in 60 days between medical school and residency.

Along the way, the Chicago native discovered something special about his tour of America’s pastime. Turns out, it was about much more than baseball.

It was about helping others by raising money for Sportable, a Richmond, Virginia, nonprofit where Rosenberg volunteered during medical school. Sportable provides adaptive sports and recreation opportunities for athletes with physical and visual disabilities.

It was about family. Rosenberg’s love of all sports comes from his father and fellow alumnus Neil Rosenberg, M’78. In particular, his love of baseball — Chicago White Sox baseball — comes from his dad. It was their trip to Game 2 of the 2005 World Series and the game-winning, walk-off home run by White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik that sealed the younger Rosenberg’s White Sox fandom for life.

Lastly, the trip was about hospitality. Friends and family opened their homes to Rosenberg as he spent two months traveling across the country. Medical school friends joined him for the game in Baltimore. Fans from coast to coast welcomed him to their stadiums as he experienced the unique flavor (and flavors) each park had to offer.

At Marlins Park, Rosenberg’s first stop on the tour, Miami Marlins left-fielder Derek Dietrich even tossed him a ball in the stands between innings.

“That was the first MLB ball I’ve gotten in my life,” Rosenberg says. “He had no idea about my tour. It was totally random.”

If you’re a believer in baseball superstitions, this was a pretty good sign the tour was going to go well.

“The tour was a blast for so many reasons,” Rosenberg says.

He has raised nearly $3,000 for Sportable on his fundraising website … and counting. “It’s made the tour even more fun to combine it with raising money and awareness for Sportable,” Rosenberg says. “I wanted to support a local organization that could feel the impact.”

"The blue seat marks where Paul Konerko landed his unforgettable grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, a game my pops took me to that is still the greatest sporting event I've ever attended," Ron Rosenberg says.

“The blue seat marks where Paul Konerko landed his unforgettable grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, a game my pops took me to that is still the greatest sporting event I’ve ever attended,” Ron Rosenberg says.

Rosenberg will begin his residency in family medicine later this month at Presence St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago. His father, a pulmonologist with Chicago’s Chest Medicine Consultants, points to his son’s Sportable fundraising as an indicator of what attracted him to the medical field.

“I think one of the reasons Ron went into medicine, and is going into family practice, is that he sees you can combine different interests in your career to use them in a positive way,” Neil Rosenberg says. “The idea he could take a passion and combine it with something that benefits the community, and brings awareness and financial support, is a good lesson to learn.”

Neil Rosenberg understands the value of exposure to new people and places. During the summer between his first and second year on the MCV Campus, he and classmate Charles Wilson, M’78, lived in Israel for one month, where Rosenberg worked in a kibbutz, or farm, traveled to Italy and Greece, and met his future wife.

“I always told the kids about the trip, how it’s where I met their mother, how it changed my life,” Rosenberg says. “It made me a better doctor and gave me a little perspective. It was my first time out of the country.” Rosenberg and his wife, Tamar, have four sons, including Ron.

“The most fun of being a parent is seeing your children develop differently and go through their life choices,” Rosenberg says. “You watch them grow, change, mature, make mistakes, change again. That’s the beauty of parenthood. You see everything.”

On April 21, Rosenberg joined his son on his tour for the White Sox game. The team lost 10-1 to the defending champion Houston Astros. But that was OK — it was about more than baseball.

“The only pictures that matter from my stop at the White Sox game are the ones with my dad, who took me to my first baseball game and tossed a ball with me as a kid,” Ron Rosenberg says.

He credits his father for helping him find his path, both in sports and medicine. “He helped me get to where I am today. I’m very thankful to have him.”

By Polly Roberts

24
2018

Inaugural Supper Club connects alumni, students

John McGurl, M'93 (right), hosted the inaugural Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club in April.

John McGurl, M’93 (right), hosted the inaugural Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club in April, welcoming a small group of students to his home to enjoy a meal and conversation.

John McGurl, M’93, remembers well the hustle and bustle of medical school. Days (and nights) were filled with studying, exams, rotations, more studying, group meetings, even more studying. So when he had the opportunity to provide a group of current medical students with a little relief (and mentorship), he didn’t hesitate.

This spring, McGurl volunteered to host the School of Medicine’s inaugural Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club in the Richmond home he shares with Michelle Gluck. The event’s concept is simple: small groups of students can sign up to have a meal and conversation with Richmond-area alumni to share ideas, seek career advice and build relationships.

“It was the most fun we’ve had in a long time,” McGurl says. “We loved spending time with the students, learning their backgrounds, hearing what areas of medicine they plan to focus on, and just getting to know them and what medical school is like today.”

Students were also eager to hear about McGurl’s experiences as a doctor — from his medical school and residency days to his current job as an internist at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“It was a wonderful event and I’m so glad that VCU School of Medicine is helping its students build their professional network, gain exposure to potential mentors and engage us to be more willing to give back to our school in the future,” one student attendee shared in a post-event survey.

Designed for first- and second-year students, the inaugural supper club’s 10 available slots filled within 24 hours of the invitation’s delivery. Afterward, 100 percent of the students who attended the event said they would like to attend another supper club in the future.

McGurl would be happy to welcome them. “I’d love to host more events like this soon,” he says. “I would have had another one the next day.” The event lasted well past its 8 p.m. end time as the group continued to share stories, some even about life outside of medicine.

“Alumni play a significant role in the student experience,” says Thomas Maness, M.P.A., the medical school’s associate dean for development and alumni affairs. “Connecting with current students and providing valuable guidance can help shape the careers and lives of future fellow graduates.”

Interested in hosting a Supper Club event?
The Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club is a unique opportunity for alumni to engage with their alma mater.

Supper Club events can be held in alumni homes or at local venues near the MCV Campus. Medical school staff will assist with all of the arrangements to make hosting easy and convenient.

To be part of the Medical Student-Alumni Supper Club, contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at (804) 828-4800 or MedAlum@vcu.edu.

Just stopping in town for a visit? Development and alumni relations also can help alumni schedule tours of the MCV Campus or connect with students.

By Polly Roberts

02
2018

Three generations of physicians: Like mother, like daughter

When the Class of 2018’s Cristina Page graduates in May, she’ll be her family’s third-generation of female physicians. She’s pictured here with her mother Lourdes Page, M.D., and grandmother, Florencia Perez, M.D.

When the Class of 2018’s Cristina Page graduates in May, she’ll be her family’s third-generation of female physicians. She’s pictured here with her mother Lourdes Page, M.D., and grandmother, Florencia Perez, M.D.

During World War I, the Medical College of Virginia began admitting women, intended as temporary measure while men were called into battle. But the success of those female students who matriculated in 1918 ensured their permanent place. Now, 100 years later, women make up slightly more than half of medical students nationwide.

No one has a better vantage point on that than Cristina Page. When she graduates from VCU’s School of Medicine May 12, she’ll continue a family tradition, as a third-generation female physician. Her mother and grandmother will be there to proudly watch as she carries on their legacy.

Cristina’s parents, Lourdes Page, M.D., and Paul Page, M.D., are internists in Roanoke. Her grandmother, Florencia Perez, M.D., who lives in southwest Virginia, and late grandfather also were physicians. Various other family members are in the medical field.

Cristina grew up hearing stories of her grandmother’s and mother’s experiences, and marvels how medical school has changed. “Abuelita, my grandmother, says it was like she was an explorer. She still feels inspired by that time.”

Florencia Perez was one of very few women enrolled at the University of Havana’s medical school in the 1950s. As was the norm, each student was responsible for procuring a skeleton to use in anatomy class; often that involved paying a gravedigger to find one at a cemetery. Today, says Cristina, Perez is amazed by the way new technologies, like VCU’s high-tech facilities, have changed how students learn medicine.

At the University of Havana’s medical school in the 1950s, Florencia Perez was one of only a few women enrolled. (She’s pictured here on the aisle of the 4th row.) Now her granddaughter, Cristina Page, is a medical student in an era when women make up slightly more than half of medical students nationwide.

At the University of Havana’s medical school in the 1950s, Florencia Perez was one of only a few women enrolled. (She’s pictured here on the aisle of the 4th row.) Now her granddaughter, Cristina Page, is a medical student in an era when women make up slightly more than half of medical students nationwide.

When Perez graduated in 1954, she and her husband left Cuba to move to the U.S., where they felt they could build their careers, she as a primary care physician and he as an OB-GYN. In the process, they inspired daughter Lourdes to seek a career in medicine.

“I always knew I wanted to be a physician, as long as I can remember,” says Lourdes Page, who also serves on the faculty at Virginia Tech/Carilion School of Medicine. “I made rounds with my mom and dad every chance I could. At 13, I started working in their office. I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. And I’ve loved every bit of it.”

Cristina Page said it took her a little longer to come to the realization that medicine was her future. “I didn’t really think about it until college. But I, too, grew up helping in my parents’ medical office. Mom would take me back to see interesting cases.

“I had wonderful role models who had rewarding careers. It was easy to know that medicine would be a good fit and a good life and rewarding work.”

Susan R. DiGiovanni, M’84, H’87, F’89, senior associate dean for medical education and student affairs, appreciates the role models in Cristina’s life. The varying perspectives they’ve exposed Cristina to, DiGiovanni says, will serve her well as she cares for patients. “Whether it is diversity of gender, race, ethnicity or religion, people just feel more comfortable seeking health care from people they feel understand them better.”

Cristina chose to attend VCU’s School of Medicine because of its engagement with the community and commitment to underserved patients. Fittingly, she was a member of the school’s Mary Baughman student society, named for one of the first women who entered the school in 1918. After graduation, she along with her fiancé and classmate Tanner Hurley will begin residencies in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Cristina is excited to carry on the family tradition. “I think some may hesitate, have an idea that it’s a hard career for women or that they may not be able to balance all the parts of life that they want.

“But I am so fortunate to have a couple of generations of women ahead of me who showed me that it’s all possible. There is nothing holding me back.”

By Lisa Crutuchfield

02
2018

From ion channels to Twitter: Medical Student Research Day

The Class of 2020’s Hameeda A. Naimi

The Class of 2020’s Hameeda A. Naimi – Photo by Joseph V. Morris

With 54 medical students participating, the 2018 Medical Student Research Day showcased more posters than ever before.

“We saw everything from ion channels to Twitter,” says Michael Donnenberg, M.D., senior associate dean for research and research training.

View the 2018 Student Research Day Poster Titles >>

With topics covering both basic and clinical sciences, the students’ posters were reviewed by a panel of judges for originality, understanding, clarity and discussion. Three presentations emerged as the winners.

Top prize went to the Class of 2020’s Hameeda A. Naimi for her presentation, “Characterization of bladder sensation event descriptions during non-invasive oral hydration in healthy adults.” Her first place finish comes with an award of $1,000, made possible by the G. Watson James III, M.D. Scholarship Endowment.

The endowment carries the name of James, a 1943 graduate of the medical school who went on to become chairman of the Division of Hematology in the Department of Internal Medicine, explains retired professor Gordon Archer, M.D., who oversaw Medical Student Research Day during his tenure as senior associate dean for research and research training.

“Dr. James established the first Laboratory of Clinical Investigation at MCV,” says Archer, who personally knew James. “An outstanding scientist and the quintessential physician, clinician, scholar and teacher, he was also a fisherman, sailor and student of the piano. At his death in 2001, Dr. James’ friends and family established the scholarship that goes to the medical student who wins the research competition, a fitting legacy for the outstanding physician-scientist.”

Naimi conducted her research as part of the Dean’s Summer Research Fellowship Program. The student-initiated eight-week projects take place between students’ first and second years of medical school. The number of fellowships is limited, and the application process is, therefore, very competitive. Selected projects like Naimi’s are supported with a $2,500 research stipend.

Adam P. Klausner, M.D., professor of surgery in the Division of Urology, served as Naimi’s research mentor.

“Hameeda has been a superstar and a fantastic addition to my research team,” says Klausner, who holds the Warren Koontz Professorship of Urologic Research and also serves as the Department of Surgery’s associate chair for clinical and translational research.

“Her research project also won first prize in the clinical essay competition at our national meeting, the Society of Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine and Urogenital Reconstruction, beating out many established clinicians and scientists.”

The second place prize went to the Class of 2020’s Dong Jin Suh, who holds an Aesculapian Scholarship made possible by the School of Medicine’s Annual Fund. His presentation was titled “The Effects of Curcumin/Melatonin Hybrid on Synaptic Plasticity following Traumatic Brain Injury.”

The third place finisher was the Class of 2020’s Alvin J. Chang and his presentation, “Effects of Ruthenium Red on ligand-activated TRPV2 Channel Gating.”

In addition to the top prize of $1,000, the second and third place posters are awarded prizes of $500 and $250, respectively. The students were also recognized at the medical school’s Kinloch Nelson, M.D. Student Honors Day on April 20.

By Erin Lucero

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Updated: 04/29/2016