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School of Medicine profiles

October 2010 Archives

October 29, 2010

Alan Dow, M.D., M.S.H.A.

Alan Dow, M.D., M.S.H.A.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
Enrique Gerszten, M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

For those who work in medical education, the realities of more trainees, pressures on teaching time, and financial uncertainty can cause despair. How can medical educators possibly manage these competing forces to provide the quality teaching that is so essential, and so rewarding, to students and faculty alike? Well, for an inspirational example of how this can be done, look at just some of Alan Dow’s accomplishments during the past six years:

  • Creator, Theater-Medicine Communication Curriculum
  • Creator, Medicine Admitting Team Resident Learning Experience
  • Creator, Simulation-Based Intern Skills Orientation Experience
  • Co-designer, M3 Electronic Clerkship Management System
  • Course Director, M4 Directed Readings in Internal medicine
  • Creator, Science Systems, and the Patient M3 Longitudinal course
  • Creator, M4 Integrated Critical Care Selective

When you consider that these innovations have taken place in the context of sometimes concurrent roles as Assistant Dean for Medical Education, Project HEART group leader, Foundations of Clinical Medicine small group leader, faculty adviser, ward attending, Fan Free Clinic preceptor, and Associate Residency Program Director, Dr. Dow’s commitment to excellence in education and his achievements are even more impressive.

Stephanie Call, M.D., M.S.P.H., Internal Medicine residency program director, describes Dr. Dow’s approach to teaching: “He takes an interest in each and every learner, focusing on moving each learner to the next level in his/ her development. Dr. Dow has really made his mark in developing and teaching in our residency program hospitalist track. Dr. Dow has taught them not only hospitalist medicine but also key concepts in QI, systems based practice, and healthcare administration. Several residents from this track have been chosen as future chief medical residents and many are considering academic positions, a tribute to Alan’s teaching and leadership.”

Internal Medicine resident Dr. Brenda A. Queen concurs. “My experience mirrors many opinions of students and residents alike — Dr. Dow’s enthusiasm, commitment to teaching and innovative approach to rounds create an exceptional environment for learning and caring for patients in the hospital.” Dr. Terry Siriphatnaboon (M 2010) recalls, “He has fostered my learning in internal medicine and beyond. It was by observing him that I learned how to deliver dire news with compassion, as well as how humor and a positive attitude can lighten the burdens of a weary team.”

The Theater Medicine Curriculum, developed with colleagues from the VCU Theater Department, uses techniques from theater pedagogy to teach communication skills. This innovative approach has been incorporated into teaching in VCU School of Medicine, VCU School of Nursing, and other professional groups and was recognized with the 2008 SOM Teaching Excellence Award for Educational Innovation and Research.

Dr. Dow has been particularly active in promoting professional behavior in the educational environment. He developed a new process that enables M3 students to report instances of unprofessional behavior, allowing SOM administrators to monitor and promptly address issues as needed.

Dr. Dow redesigned the M3 Workshop and M4 Update Weeks to provide more skills-based, small group learning including communication skills and simulation-based learning. As Rachel Whitney (M 2011) notes, “It’s obvious that Dr. Dow shows his continued investment in our education and experience here at VCU by the things he’s done over the past few years, but none of that would be as important or have such impact if he didn’t possess the character of someone who genuinely cares for our well-being as students, and more importantly, as people and eventual peers.”

As Dr. Isaac K. Wood, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education and Student Affairs says, “In my eyes, he is a superstar.” Clearly, that view is shared by Alan Dow’s students and colleagues as he receives the School of Medicine’s highest recognition for teaching.

Mark H. Ryan, M.D.

Mark H. Ryan, M.D.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

Dr. Mark Ryan’s reputation for promoting humanistic teaching and health care is well established. As one of his students says, “He’s the incredibly engaged, supportive and humorous family medicine physician who supports us at our journal clubs, presentations of community projects, and aids in our efforts to provide medical care to the underserved in the Richmond area.” Or, in the words of another student, he is “the doctor I want to be.”

As an M3 and M4 student at VCU School of Medicine, Dr. Ryan was the first student to pilot the rural community preceptorship at the beginning of the International/Inner-City/ Rural Preceptorship (I2CRP) Program, experiencing practice in a rural underserved community. As an M4 student, Mark shared responsibility for teaching a Foundations of Clinical Medicine (FCM) small group. Dr. Ryan completed his residency at the rural Blackstone Family Medicine Residency Program. Following his residency, he practiced in a rural area in Keysville, VA, and served as VCU School of Medicine community affiliate faculty, supervising Family Medicine clerkship students and receiving very positive evaluations. At the same time, Dr. Ryan served as the coordinator for HIV/AIDS Awareness Programs in Central Virginia and pursued medical mission activities in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

In 2005, Dr. Ryan joined the VCU Department of Family Medicine in a full-time position at the Hayes E. Willis Health Center. In this role, he cares for a medically and socially complex patient population; his fluency in Spanish is a great asset in this clinical setting. Additionally, he has been the Medical Director of the William and Mary/VCU Health Project in the Dominican Republic, traveling there twice each year for the past four years to coordinate clinical and medical outreach visits to the community. Dr. Ryan also serves on the board of the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians.

In 2009, Dr. Ryan, recognizing the lack of health care services targeted to Hispanic adults, reached out to pharmacy and nursing colleagues to start up Una Vida Sana, free health screening events at locations around Richmond with large Latino populations. Dr. Ryan oversees this interdisciplinary outreach program and provides medical students with an opportunity to become involved in the planning and implementation of the project. He directs patients in need of a primary care home to the “safety net” system of care in Richmond.

Dr. Ryan’s kindness and compassion is evident in all of his patient interactions. But even more unique than his gentle way of caring for patients is his clearly evident respect for them. Whether young or old, English or Spanish-speaking, insured or not, Dr. Ryan acknowledges each person’s independence, intelligence, and humanity. He provides patients with information so that they can participate as equal partners in making important decisions about their medical care. It is no surprise that some of his patients travel over an hour to see him.

Dr. Ryan instills a commitment to lifelong learning and evidence-based practice in his medical students and welcomes students at all levels to train with him at Hayes E. Willis Health Center and CrossOver Ministries. He not only offers detailed and supportive feedback to his students, but also welcomes the same from them in return. Dr. Ryan also encourages students at the undergraduate and medical school level to join him in the provision of medical care and public health development in the Dominican Republic.

Professional, enthusiastic, dedicated, and engaging are only some of the adjectives that could be used to describe Dr. Mark Ryan as a clinician, teacher, advocate, and service leader. He is a model of professional competence and humanism in medicine.

Paul H. Ratz, Ph.D.

Paul H. Ratz, Ph.D.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
Distinguished Mentor Award

How do you maintain continuous grant funding since 1987, publish over 100 papers and abstracts, serve as a reviewer for over a dozen journals, maintain a vigorous commitment to teaching, professional leadership, and service activities inside and outside VCU, and still be the person students and colleagues go to for advice about everything from how to set up a lab to changing career paths? Skill, generosity, honesty, and a rare passion to help those around him “reach for the stars” are some of the qualities described by those who have been fortunate enough to work with Dr. Paul Ratz.

“I honestly have no idea how to express everything that Dr. Ratz has done for me,” declares former master’s degree student Shengsheng (Jack) Guan. “I would come to him…stressed out of my mind, and all he did was stop what he was doing and listen to everything I had to say. He gave me the advice I needed while still telling me the reality of the situation and allowing me to grow and learn from all the things that I was saying.”

Dr. Jeffrey Dupree, Assistant Professor, VCU Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology was first mentored by Dr. Ratz while a young faculty member at another institution. “He quickly became the person to whom I ask everything, including how to write a grant, how to make a request of your chairman, how to deal with difficult situations with graduate students, when it is ok to say ‘no’ …and how to put together an application packet and go through the job search process. As a junior faculty member, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and that success is out of reach. When I reach this point, I know that a few minutes of no-nonsense talking with Paul will energize me and will revive the passion for research that made me pursue this career path.”

Melissa Porter, M.D., now at the University of Louisville, worked with Dr. Ratz during her pediatric critical care fellowship at VCU. She recalls that “He frequently asked about the clinical problems that needed to be solved in the ICU, and how I thought the work we could do in the lab could potentially address those problems. The fact that I was able to both present at a national critical care meeting and publish a quality paper speaks well to Dr. Ratz’s abilities.”

Even a lab tour can become an opportunity for Dr. Ratz to influence a career. In 2003, Dr. Ratz contacted John E. Speich, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at VCU, about some robotic lab equipment repairs, and Dr. Speich’s work was never the same. “Although I have never taken a course in physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, urology, biomechanics, or even biomedical engineering, under Paul’s exceptional mentorship, I have successfully transitioned my primary area of research from robotics to smooth muscle biomechanics. With his guidance, I have published three first-author or corresponding-author papers in the Journal of Applied Physiology, and we have five papers in the American Journal of Physiology.”

Dr. Ratz’s students have gone on to productive research careers around the world, but his influence remains with them. As Melissa L. Bednarek, P.T., Ph.D., now at Chatham University, explains, “In the year since I completed my research and degree, I have become even more aware of the ways in which Dr. Ratz has impacted me professionally. Just recently, I took part in a research collaboration meeting and noticed myself directing others through the research process as Dr. Ratz has directed me on many occasions.”

The profound impact that Dr. Ratz has on his trainees is stated well by Adam Klausner, M.D., Assistant Professor of Urology at VCU, who describes himself and his fellow mentees as “the many children of Paul Ratz.” He elaborates: “Paul Ratz does everything in his power to be sure that you don’t fail. In this regard, he is like a guardian angel, watching from a close distance and always ready to intervene. Indeed, he has been more than a mentor for all of us. Rather, he has been a father figure: supportive, passionate, and involved.”

Richard M. Costanzo, Ph.D.

Richard M. Costanzo, Ph.D.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
Distinguished Mentor Award

“Rich exemplifies the old adage – when you want something done right, give it to a busy person,” says friend and colleague Clive Baumgarten, Ph.D. True — but you will quickly note that most busy people do not accomplish all that Dr. Richard Costanzo does. Over 30 years of NIH grant funding. Nearly 40 graduate student thesis committees. Dozens of teaching awards and recognitions including the 2004 VCU Distinguished Teaching Award and the 2003 School of Medicine Teaching Excellence Award. Hundreds of “committee years” at all levels of the University. And yet, when you talk to people about Dr. Costanzo, what they most often focus on is his ability to develop a personal connection with students and support them as they grow into a higher level of professional performance and accomplishment.

M.D. /Ph.D. student Alexandra Racanelli says, “I recall countless conversations with him throughout all stages of my training on topics ranging from selecting an adviser, to assembling a committee, to writing a grant proposal, and defending a dissertation; the content of our discussions always included sound advice and honesty.”

Evan Reiter, M.D., Associate Professor, VCU Department of Otolaryngology, states that Dr. Costanzo’s problem solving approach to research and patient care has made him a “more insightful physician.” “Dr. Costanzo has taught me a number of things … importantly, professional, ethical, and caring interaction with research subjects.”

Dr. Edward E. Morrison, Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine, recalls, “When I arrived to join Rich’s laboratory, he made sure that I was a colleague and integral member of the team. The results were outstanding manuscripts and an understanding of how a faculty member should conduct themselves. These experiences with Rich paved the foundation for my success as a faculty member and administrative head of a major academic unit.”

Another former student, Nancy Kosher Kleene, Ph.D., explains, “He maintained that delicate balance of giving me the freedom to follow my conviction in a set of experiments while letting me know that he was there to help. While many students were tempted to be more narrowly focused, Dr. Costanzo believed in a well-rounded education… (which) has made me a more flexible researcher?”

“It was as Rich’s graduate student that I learned the meaning of rigor in science,” says Mark Richardson, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Resident in Neurological Surgery at UCSD. “Following this training, it became clear to me that I should pursue a career in neuroscience. Rich again gave me indispensable advice when I transitioned into the M.D. /Ph.D. program…and it was at his suggestion that I applied for and received a pre-doctoral NIH grant.”

He recognized the “potential that I did not fully appreciate in myself” remembers former VCU Otolaryngology resident Eric Holbrook, M.D., now in practice at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School. “Rich worked with me to develop an NIH post-doctoral F32 research fellowship…the seed that I’m sure helped me in obtaining my current NOH K08 training grant.”

Dr. Costanzo has developed a special relationship with his Japanese colleagues in the field of smell and taste. Masayoshi Kobayashi, M.D., Ph.D., Mie University Graduate School of Medicine, describes Dr. Costanzo as an international mentor. “He is called ‘Dai Sensei’ by his Japanese students, which means ‘great mentor’ in Japanese.” Sayaka Yagi, M.D., Ph.D., Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medical Science, remembers that when she came to the U.S., “I was told ‘you are a member of the Costanzo family’ and he kindly took care of me like his family, as he said. I feel I grew up not only as a scientist but as a human in Dr. Costanzo’s lab.”

Former student Dr. Karen K. Yee, a Research Associate at Monell Chemical Senses Center, sums up the qualities that have made Rich Costanzo such a powerful influence on so many. “Dr. Costanzo represents the qualities that a young graduate student hopes for in a mentor: being approachable, personable, and fair, instilling a sense of curiosity and experimentation, and demonstrating that research can be fun.” As current M2 student and research mentee Vinay Somashekar declares, “Dr. Costanzo’s tremendous impact on my life and that of others is truly immeasurable.”

Barry V. Kirkpatrick, M.D.

Barry V. Kirkpatrick, M.D.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching

“It is not hyperbole to state that Barry Kirkpatrick has had a greater impact on pediatrics in Richmond than any other pediatrician in living memory,” states Dr. Bruce K. Rubin, Jessie Ball duPont Professor and Chair, VCU Department of Pediatrics. Colleague Dr. William B. Moskowitz agrees, “I do not believe any other individual has demonstrated such a consistent level of excellence and passion for teaching.” Dr. Kirkpatrick’s commitment to clinical teaching has resulted in improved education and clinical care in our region for nearly 40 years.

After Dr. Kirkpatrick served as Chief Resident in Pediatrics at MCV, he briefly left Richmond to complete a fellowship in neonatal-perinatal medicine at the University of Florida. Returning to MCV, he served as director of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the first in Central Virginia, from 1973 to 1986. He established and directed the fellowship program in neonatal-perinatal medicine from 1975-1986.

Dr. Kirkpatrick was a pioneer in neonatal education; the field of perinatal medicine was developing rapidly and there was a great need for clinical training about the care of high-risk newborns. With OB-GYN colleague Dr. Robert Petres, Dr. Kirkpatrick developed an annual Perinatal Education Day. Offered from 1978-1986, this regional conference was designed to support obstetricians, pediatricians and hospital- based nurses in learning together, an early example of multidisciplinary continuing education. Over the years, Dr. Kirkpatrick developed a variety of community based education programs for hospital physicians and nurses to improve recognition and management of high-risk pregnancies and newborns.

In 1986, Dr. Kirkpatrick earned the additional title of Assistant Director of Pediatrics at St. Mary’s Hospital, and established an innovative community pediatric clerkship. In 1988 he became Director of Pediatrics at St. Mary’s and continued in this position until he assumed the role of M3 Pediatric Clerkship Director for the SOM from 2004- 2010. Dr. Kirkpatrick serves as Vice Chairman for Pediatrics for Education, responsible for Education and Community Outreach.

These achievements only begin to describe Dr. Kirkpatrick’s impact; he has been a faculty adviser for hundreds of trainees. He is actively engaged in clinical teaching, mentoring, and formal and informal didactics every day. He moderates morning report, directs pediatric grand rounds, teaches in the weekly resident conference, and spends every Friday afternoon with M3 students in a preceptor conference. In addition, Dr. Kirkpatrick serves as attending in the Pediatric Group Practice outpatient clinic, supervising residents and M3 students. Dr. Kirkpatrick is faculty adviser for the Pediatric Interest Group, counsels students and writes personal letters of recommendation for each student choosing a career in pediatrics. With such devoted mentoring and teaching time, it is perhaps not a surprise that our medical students choose a career in pediatrics at twice the national average.

Dr. Kirkpatrick has won many departmental awards for teaching and was a “Special Honoree: Teacher/Mentor Award” in Richmond Magazine’s 2008 “Top Docs in Richmond” edition. He has received the Certificate of Merit and Citation for Outstanding Service, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); Certificate of Appreciation, VA Chapter of the AAP; Distinguished Volunteer Leadership Award and the Hall of Fame Award from the VA Capital Area March of Dimes; STAR Award from the MCV Foundation of VCU; and the Hodges-Kay Service Award, MCV Alumni Association.

The words of Dr. Kirkpatrick’s recent students describe his profound influence on their training:

  • “I not only learned a tremendous amount of medical knowledge from this man…but also life and ethical lessons of pediatrics.”
  • “His breadth of wisdom and experience is second to none. Dr. Kirkpatrick is really in touch with the students. He is aware of what each of us is doing and should be doing.”
  • “He always has pertinent logical advice, does not harp on the irrelevant details, does not hesitate to be frank and lets you know when you are wrong (which in and of itself is invaluable).”
  • “MCV Pediatrics would not be what it is today without him.”

Evan R. Reiter, M.D.

Evan R. Reiter, M.D.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Award

Evan Reiter is a person whose name comes up every time a medical education committee needs a member. Despite working in a subspecialty area, his reputation as an outstanding teacher is well known throughout the VCU Health System and the School of Medicine. Dr. Reiter has developed a model competency-based training program in Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery with a curriculum that “program directors across the country utilize as a foundation for RRC compliance,” says Kelley M. Dodson, M.D., Assistant Professor in Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery.

In addition to leading a fully-accredited residency program with a 100% National Board pass rate and full compliance with duty-hour limits, Dr. Reiter provides classroom, clinical, and laboratory teaching for medical students, housestaff, graduate students, and fellow faculty and receives excellent teaching evaluations in all area.

Dr. Reiter founded and continues to organize the annual VCUHS Resident Research Day. Richard Costanzo, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology and Biophysics and Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery explains, “Research Day showcases the research efforts of residents from each of the residency programs and provides a nucleus for new ideas and scholarly interactions among physicians in earlier stages of their training. This event would not exist at VCU if Dr. Reiter had not invested the time and effort to make it happen.” Dr. Reiter himself is a role model for scholarly productivity, with over two dozen peer-reviewed articles, three book chapters, and over 35 abstracts and presentations to his credit.

“Beyond the department, Evan has taken a leadership role in resident education for the entire medical center. He has been a member of the VCU Graduate Education committee since 2003, serving on the Resident Life Subcommittee and this year became the Chair of the Accreditation Committee. Dr. Reiter is also an active member of the VCU Honor Council, the VCU School of Medicine Curriculum Design Committee, and the VCUHS Medical Staff Quality Oversight Committee,” shares Laurence J. DiNardo, M.D., FACS, Professor and Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Reiter also provides leadership in education and training activities at the national level. He has served as a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology, Rhinology and Allergy Education Committee, the Society of University Otolaryngologists, and is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He recently served as President of the Virginia Society of Otolaryngologists and is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors.

When people describe Dr. Reiter, the words “team player” appear over and over again. “He is perhaps the best of the faculty in our department at leading a resident through a surgical procedure without ‘stealing’ the procedure,” recalls recent program graduate Dr. Seth Evans. As another former resident, Dr. Daniel Santos, says, “Perhaps the best example of Dr. Reiter’s commitment to resident education is not the way he treats the residents in his own department but how he treats residents from other departments who rotate through during their own programs. I have had many comments throughout the years from residents in internal medicine, emergency medicine, and anesthesiology regarding Dr. Reiter’s willingness to teach and engage everyone in the process of medical education.”

“Dr. Reiter’s ability to manage all patients within the realm of otolaryngology and to do so at a high level of ability and surgical skill is rare in the academic world where sub-specialization is the norm,” says Eric H. Holbrook, M.D., a former trainee who is now Assistant Professor of the Department of Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School. “Since the beginning of my residency, I modeled my idea of an excellent academic otolaryngologist after Dr. Reiter, which I believe is the highest compliment to any profession. His compassion and sensitivity toward his patients as well as his genuine interest in residency training and advancement of the field are inspiring.”

Samuel M. Jones, M.D.

Samuel M. Jones, M.D.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Award

Our school has a long history of leadership in the field of Family Medicine and Dr. Sam
Jones extends and strengthens this tradition every day. As the Program Director at the
Fairfax Family Medicine Residency program since 1990, Dr. Jones (M.D. ‘79) has trained a generation of family medicine practitioners, and perhaps more importantly, served as a role model for the well-rounded clinician and human being for all of his trainees.

“The respect that Sam has garnered from his residents is legendary,” states Dr. Anton Kuzel, Harris-Mayo Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine. “He is a master of making us younger, lesser-experienced doctors feel like colleagues and not underlings,” recalls Dr. Winston Liaw, Fairfax Family Practice class of ’09. “He holds the learner in such high regard that I feel comfortable asking him any question — no matter how insignificant. His patients are all proud to have him as their doctor, and I am proud to have him as my teacher.”

Dr. Jones’ easy-going manner and ability to be fully “in the moment” with others creates a supportive environment for his patients and resident learners alike. Dr. Emily Faltemier, Chief Resident, found as she met Dr. Jones’ patients that, “the way they speak of him is exactly how I hope my patients will someday speak of me as a family doctor.“

“As a leader, he leads by example. He is always the first to offer to help when the situation arises. He is the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. No matter what other issues may need his attention, if a faculty member or resident comes to him with a problem, he immediately shifts his priorities to focus on that individual and their needs.” shares Dr. Susan H. Burroughs, Associate Director of the Fairfax program.

Dr. Jones has recently been preparing his Fairfax practice to achieve the highest certification by the National Center for Quality Assurance. As part of this process, residents learn tools to create innovation and high standards in their own practices. One key feature of the Fairfax program is the faculty’s commitment to research in family medicine. Evidence-based practice is emphasized and residents create original research and have the opportunity to write papers and present at conferences.

Dr. Jones recently completed his term as President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors during which he focused on the theme of the “New Model Practice.” He is involved at the national level as co-chair of the P4 Project, Preparing the Personal Physicians for Practice, a facet of the TransforMED program of the American Academy of Family Practice. He recently received the Innovator Award from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine in recognition of his leadership on the P4 project. Dr. Kuzel writes, “Sam continues to be a leader and role model for the other Family Medicine Residency Directors in the state. He is respected for his wisdom and candor, and is frequently consulted on difficult problems.”

Dr. Faltemier provides a fitting summary of why Dr. Jones has earned this honor:

“Then of course, there are the intangibles. The way you know, not only through your experience, but through your sixth sense, that someone has integrity, a sense of fairness, and dedication. It is in the way Sam treats his colleagues, in the tireless hours he works, in his open-mindedness to new solutions, and in the way he talks about his family. It is in his good humor, in his optimism, and in his tireless efforts on behalf of our program and our discipline.”

Diane M. Biskobing, M.D.

Diane M. Biskobing, M.D.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Award

Innovative. Dedicated. Inspiring. Effective. These are the words colleagues and students use to describe Dr. Diane Biskobing, Director of the Endocrinology and Metabolism Fellowship Program since 2003. Beneath her quiet and calm exterior, Dr. Biskobing is always actively and enthusiastically planning and implementing ways to improve the educational experience for her fellows, with remarkable results.

One key innovation that Dr. Biskobing has developed is a highly regarded core competency based curriculum combining didactic learning and clinical experience. The endocrinology case conference “is one of the experiences that they value most in their training,” says Dr. Stephanie Call, Core Program Director for Internal Medicine. “They describe the learning climate of this weekly conference as one in which they are challenged, yet supported to push their knowledge and skills to the next level by engaging in dialogue, discussion and debate with each other and with their faculty members.”

In partnership with colleagues at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), Dr. Biskobing developed a Women’s Health endocrine track. Fellows rotate through clinics that focus on endocrine problems particularly relevant to women including osteoporosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and thyroid disorders.

Helping fellows learn to better support patients with chronic conditions like diabetes goes beyond them learning how to address physical symptoms. In the “Living with Diabetes” module Dr. Biskobing developed along with colleagues Linda Thurby-Hay, R.N., and Dr. John Clore, fellows wear insulin pumps and learn to monitor their diet, blood glucose levels, and deliver insulin. “This program really helped me better understand what patients go through every day and made me a better physician in understanding, counseling, and educating patients with diabetes,” states Dr. Kelsey E. S. Salley, a former fellow now practicing in the community.

Reflecting her commitment to excellence in clinical teaching, Dr. Biskobing has organized a 14 hour faculty-fellow integrated Stanford Clinical Teaching Skills seminar with Dr. Stephanie Call to improve teaching skills in the endocrine division. This program “brought together faculty and fellows in a small group setting…and gave me the tools to proceed forward as a clinician educator and to feel confident in my new role,” says Elizabeth Reilly, M.D., a current Endocrinology Fellow.

This year, Dr. Biskobing is implementing training in motivational interviewing, a technique designed to enhance doctor patient communication and positive behavior change in patients, especially those with difficult chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus. All of these initiatives have created a rich, engaging and effective training program. “Testimony to her success as leader of this program is the fact that the pass rate for the endocrinology certifying exam has been 100 percent for our fellows since she took over the program director position,” states Dr. David Gardner, Professor of Medicine.

With such results, Dr. Biskobing could continue her fellowship in much the same way each year, but as her colleague, Dr. Edmond P. Wickham, comments, “Her constant receptiveness to input from fellows regarding their concerns and their ideas on how to improve the training program supports her assertion that feedback ‘goes both ways.’”

In addition to her fellowship director duties, Dr. Biskobing has a long record of service to the School at the highest levels and her talents have been recognized on a national level as well. She has served on the USMLE Step 1 Physiology Item Writing Committee and since 2004 has been active on the Competency Committee of the Association of Program Directors in Endocrinology and Metabolism.

“When I think of leadership, I immediately think of Dr. Biskobing,” says Dr. Douglas A. Johnson, a former fellow now in community practice. “After my two years in her training program, I can say without a doubt that Dr. Biskobing is the standard to which all program directors at VCU should strive when it comes to excellence in leadership in graduate medical education.”

Peter A. Boling, M.D.

Peter A. Boling, M.D.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician Award

In 1984, Dr. Peter Boling completed primary care internal medicine residency at VCU and started work as a faculty member, spending mornings in the general medicine clinic and making house calls in the afternoons. Seeing an unmet need, he focused his career on home based care and in 1986 obtained hospital support to expand the VCUHS House Calls program. He found himself increasingly engaged in enhancing geriatric clinical services and geriatric education for medical students, residents, faculty, and other health care team members at VCUHS and in the community. In 1990 he received a certificate of added qualifications in Geriatric Medicine reflecting dual expertise as a generalist and geriatrician. He has spoken and written extensively about home care and in 1997, he published a single author text, “The Physician’s Role in Home Health Care.” In 2000 he received the Nascher-Manning Award from the American Geriatrics Society for career-long accomplishments in improving geriatric care. In 2010 he received the David Markham award for excellence in general internal medicine at VCU.

Dr. Boling’s roots in geriatrics stem from House Calls which is a unique, Joint Commission accredited community program, providing longitudinal primary care for home-bound, frail adults. VCU House Calls has served more than 5,000 people, and provides an evidence-based setting for teaching 300 learners per year, including all VCU medical students. Dr. Boling has helped plan and start several other clinical service innovations, including: the Commonwealth Care of Virginia IPA in the early 1990’s, once 180 physicians strong; the VCUHS Nursing Home Practice in 1996, now serving nearly 400 patients throughout metro Richmond; the post-hospital Transitional Care program in 2000; the inpatient geriatric consult service in 2002; and in 2009 a partnership with Riverside Health System at their Richmond sites for the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly or PACE. Each of the geriatric teams is working toward a true continuum of care.

In 2001, Dr. Boling led the VCU effort to obtain a 1.8 million dollar grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which increased geriatric education for thousands of medical students, residents and practicing professionals, always with the goal of improving geriatric care. Since 2001, the MCV Campus Geriatrics Section has also grown from three to eight physicians working with eight nurse practitioners and five support staff.

Seeking a national house calls renaissance, Dr. Boling was instrumental in doubling the Medicare fee schedule for house calls in 1998 and more recently he worked tirelessly with a small group of colleagues and members of U.S. Congress to design and pass the Independence at Home Act of 2009. This law amends title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide frail high cost Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions access to in-home, coordinated, primary care medical through an interdisciplinary team, while lowering Medicare costs. This truly patient-centered medical home model is a demonstration pilot in the Affordable Care Act signed into law in March, 2010. During 2009 Dr. Boling’s work drew national media attention to VCU, including the NBC Nightly News, “Making a Difference” segment, and late in 2010 he will also be honored by the Virginia Alzheimer’s Association as Advocate of the Year.

Currently, Dr. Boling leads the 52-member Division of General Medicine and the VCUHS Geriatric Medicine program and devotes 30 percent of his time to team-based clinical practice of several hundred patients. Some patients have seen him for more than a quarter century. His work includes office-based primary care and geriatric consulting, nursing home care at several facilities with one medical director role, leading the House Calls team, being a back-up for inpatient geriatric consults, and serving as teaching medicine ward attending one month per year.

Dr. Boling has dedicated his career to creating and championing high quality, compassionate, and cost-effective care to older adults. He works each day to ensure that the next generation of clinicians and other health care providers are trained to provide such care. His dedication to excellence in clinical service makes him most deserving of the MCVP Distinguished Clinician Award.

Joann N. Bodurtha, M.D., M.P.H.

Joann N. Bodurtha, M.D., M.P.H.

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine Professional Achievement Award

“She is often seen in the halls between her Sanger Office and the Dalton Clinic, the small but mighty dynamo with the oversized backpack, consulting with physicians and students… (sharing her) personal brand of wisdom, humor, and pragmatism.” To those who have been fortunate enough to train and work with Dr. Joann Bodurtha, this description conjures up a familiar set of seemingly contradictory images. Calm and passionate. Challenging and supportive. Straightforward and unfailingly kind.

As a teacher and mentor, Dr. Bodurtha is known for her encyclopedic knowledge of human genetics as well as for challenging students to develop their own core values and sense of commitment to patients and their families. “She has an amazing ability to connect with patients. I am constantly trying to remember key phrases she uses to counsel patients and key cues she picks up from patients to aid not just in medical diagnosis, but in patient communication.” says John Quillin Ph.D., M.P.H., a former student who is now a departmental colleague.

Her abilities as a teacher and clinician have been key to her leadership success as the Director of the Va- LEND (Virginia Leadership in Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) program since its inception in 1995. Va-LEND has trained 136 students in 18 different disciplines in leadership skills to better enable them to advocate for children with special health care needs and their families.

Deborah J. Bowen of the Boston University School of Public Health echoes many others when she states that Dr. Bodurtha “steps up to the plate, in terms of taking on the biggest burden for her team, her department, and her field.” With VCU SOM Dean Strauss, she Co-Directs the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Program of the VCU Institute for Women’s Health, an NIH funded-program to mentor and promote career development of researchers studying women’s health issues. As a successful researcher responsible for $15 million in funding, and an author on over 100 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Bodurtha is a valuable mentor for those beginning and growing their academic careers.

Dr. Bodurtha was President of WISDM, then called Women in Medicine (WIM), from 2000-2003. Wendy Klein, M.D., Associate Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine & OB GYN and Sr. Deputy Director Emeritus, VCU Institute for Women’s Health, states, “She has been at the helm of the ongoing effort to foster the professional development of women faculty, and to address the many systemic challenges facing women in academic medicine.”

Among the honors Dr. Bodurtha has received are the 2009 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and serving the community at-large; the 2008 Genetic Alliance Art of Listening Award; the 2006 VA Breast Cancer Foundation Sherry Kohlenberg Health Service Award; the 2006 State Council of Higher Education for VA Dominion Outstanding Faculty Award; the Dean’s Recognition for Outstanding Leadership and Service, 2003; and the first SOM Innovation in Teaching Award, 1999.

Her role-modeling extends to how she balances work and family. James Levenson, MD, Vice-Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Surgery states, “She is an exemplary role model for women (and men) faculty regarding how to manage a two career marriage, with both working in academic medicine, as well as being parents.’

In the words of a colleague: “Joann has demonstrated to all how to be a renaissance woman: a wife, a mother, a superb physician and a citizen of the world.” By never expecting less of herself than others, and for backing her values and wisdom up with effective action, Dr. Bodurtha daily exemplifies the qualities and accomplishments celebrated by the WISDM Professional Achievement Award.

October 28, 2010

Molecular Diagnostics Unit

Molecular Diagnostics Unit

Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
Educational Innovation Award

As the field of molecular medicine developed, its concepts and tools were applied to a growing range of scientific disciplines. In the early 1990s, there were few opportunities for academic physicians to learn about this area in a format suitable for a busy faculty member, and with enough hands-on experience that the information could be effectively applied to one’s work. Originally developed by Carleton Garrett, M.D., Ph.D., now Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Andrea Ferreira-Gonzalez, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Chair, Division of Molecular Pathology, as a one-week seminar series for the College of American Pathologists, the Practicum, as it is called, developed into an intensive two-week program offered here at the VCU Medical Center each month. Now co-directed by Dr. Ferreira-Gonzalez, Ph.D., and Catherine I. Dumur, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pathology, the Practicum is also required for all Pathology residents as part of their training.

The Practicum includes hands-on training in all aspects of molecular diagnostics testing, including scientific principles, testing methods, interpretations of results, quality assurance, and laboratory management. The Practicum was also an early model of multi-disciplinary education, attracting medical students, residents, fellows, laboratory technologists, researchers, physicians, and other professionals from a variety of fields.

“The success of this unique program is due to the collective knowledge and dedication of an outstanding academic unit,” states Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology, David S. Wilkinson, M.D., Ph.D. “The Practicum faculty and technical staff provide a depth of knowledge and experience that make this program the finest of its kind in the world.”

“In the two week course, we learned new skills that have enabled us to remain NIH funded for over a decade now,” says Dr. Alpha A. “Berry” Fowler, Professor of Medicine. “During the 15 plus years of its existence, the Practicum has always provided VCU faculty, fellows, and students with a unique engaging learning experience in molecular medicine…and has been a critical “lynch pin” to the educational mission of the School.” Student Michelle Alabek’s praise of the program is typical. “The Practicum exceeded my expectations. The equipment we trained on was top notch, the faculty who gave us lectures was outstanding. It is one of a kind. I will recommend it to everyone who is interested in molecular pathology.”

As the reputation of the program has grown, it has attracted attendees internationally and nationally, from academic, state and federal regulatory agencies and the private sector.

One participant, Thomas Hearn, Ph.D., Acting Director, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, enthuses, “The team really found the right way, in short order, of bringing scientists like me – – who do not typically reside in the realm of molecular technology and its multiple applications – – up to speed…the Unit’s method certainly goes against the grain of conventional classroom settings and laboratory instruction. And the unit’s method works!”,

Beyond providing excellent, effective training for learners, the Practicum has helped to create relationships and collaborations with high-profile professionals from other institutions, which in turn have raised the visibility of the VCU School of Medicine at the national and international level.

“I believe this Practicum is perhaps the highest quality, best known, and most innovative program of its type in the U.S.,” states Steven Gutman, M.D., M.B.A., Director, Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety, Food and Drug Administration. “VCU is very fortunate to have a work group with the commitment to have developed this gem and to keep it polished. I can think of no programmatic activity better suited for recognition as relevant, high quality, innovative and important to public health.”

October 26, 2010

Danielle Dick, Ph.D.

Danielle Dick, Ph.D.

The Research Society on Alcoholism recognized Danielle Dick’s work with its 23rd annual Young Investigator award at its annual meeting this June in San

Dick, an associate professor of psychiatry, psychology, and human and molecular genetics with the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, joined the medical school’s faculty in 2007.

Dick said she initially grew interested in psychiatric disorders as a pre-med student at the University of Virginia. She went on to study the genetics of schizophrenia before being drawn to the complexities of alcohol dependence, in which genetic and environmental factors play out along with developmental issues.
In her work focused on risk pathways for alcohol dependence, she has found that children who carry genes associated with adult alcohol dependence display many other behavior problems long before they ever use alcohol, such as aggression and more serious rule-breaking.
“What ultimately hooked me is that studying the development of alcohol dependence represents so many of the challenges that make psychiatric conditions fascinating,” she said. “Different people can end up with the same disorder through different pathways, and it’s our job to figure out what those risk pathways are, so that we can better prevent these debilitating disorders.”

David Gibb

David Gibb

M.D./Ph.D. Candidate Presents Research in Japan
By Isshin Teshima

David Gibb’s research began as an attempt to understand allergies and ended up explaining a key element of cancer.

An M.D./Ph.D. candidate in the School of Medicine, Gibb’s research focuses on the enzyme ADAM10, which has several different roles, including regulating the formation of antibodies that promote allergic reactions.

At the microscopic level, different elements can often be responsible for several different functions, said Gibb. In Gibb’s case, ADAM10 also was responsible for the control of the differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells — the precursor to white and red blood cells.

Gibb’s research concluded that too little ADAM10 in tests meant that these stem cells would not develop into important antibody-producing cells, resulting in a highly weakened immune system. Too much of the gene and the cells would develop into myeloid cells, influential in the development of cancer.

“Researchers have labeled this enzyme as a target in cancer therapy, and many have been interested in blocking ADAM10,” said Gibb. “They will have to be aware of some of the consequences of those actions which may or may not be beneficial.”

His findings were published in a paper in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine. And in August, Gibb presented his findings at two conferences in Japan, including the 14th International Congress on Immunology. Gibb’s academic adviser, Daniel Conrad, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, says that “David has demonstrated the ability to both do his own studies and make collaborative contacts with other laboratories, here in the United States as well as in other countries.”

In addition to being invited to present his research, Gibb was also awarded a travel grant. “Travel awards and speaking invitations mostly go to postdoctoral or junior faculty candidates,” said Conrad. “It is a measure of the importance of the studies that has resulted in both the travel awards as well as the invitations to present.”

David Cifu, M.D.

David Cifu, M.D.

Herman J. Flax professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation National director for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ PMR Program

One of Cifu’s favorite roles is that of educator and advocate, inspiring medical students and residents to devote themselves to the rehabilitation specialty that he loves.

But a chairman’s schedule is often dominated by research, patient care or administrative duties, and it can be hard to find the time to mentor your field’s youngest members. Even when it’s your favorite thing to do.

For Cifu, the Flax Professorship makes it possible.

When Herman J. Flax graduated from MCV’s medical school in 1940, physical medicine and rehabilitation was not yet a recognized specialty. Nevertheless, he threw himself into learning about rehabilitation. Visiting World War I veterans, polio survivors and the geriatric set, he began training with physicians who would become giants in the emerging field.

Cifu recalls meeting Flax in the late 1980s. By then, Flax had established himself with a 40-year career spent in Puerto Rico growing the rehab field from obscurity into a recognized specialty. Cifu was just at the start of his own career, completing his residency training at Baylor. Nevertheless, Flax spent time with the young resident, and Cifu recalls the inspiration he took from that exchange.

Flax established the professorship that carries his name in 1996. Cifu is its second holder. The Flax Endowment’s annual payout makes it possible for Cifu to set aside time that he devotes to teaching and mentoring students and residents. “The fund that Dr. Flax established provides the financial resources that make this possible,” said Cifu. “But he also provided me with the motivation to follow his example when he made time for a young resident back in the 80s.”

For students and residents, the time spent with Cifu gives them a unique view into the rehabilitation field. In addition to his responsibilities as professor and chair in the medical school, Cifu also serves as national director for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ PMR program. In that role, he provides guidance, leadership and oversight to 150 VA hospitals and to the 3,500 employees involved in providing rehabilitation care to veterans and active-duty service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These soldiers come to the VA with multiple disabling injuries including traumatic brain injury. Shaping systems of care for these polytrauma patients, as they’re known, is a priority for Cifu. The medical school has a longstanding partnership with the nearby McGuire VA, where Cifu has created a clinical laboratory of sorts. Now considered the VA’s premiere polytrauma program, McGuire tests approaches to healing these difficult to treat patients and then shares what works throughout the VA system.

This national and international perspective is what Cifu shares with his students and residents as he seeks to close the circle that Flax set in motion. “I believe in investing time with students and residents who’ll one day be the leaders of our field. Dr. Flax and my chairman supported me when I was at the beginning of my career.”

Research has potential to direct treatment decisions

Cifu is principal investigator on two Department of Defense grants totaling nearly $4 million. The first will follow 750 active duty service men who have sustained mild brain injury. In the civilian world, 97 percent of such patients would return to full function within a year. In this first-of-its kind study, the military will learn whether a blast-related initial injury dictates a different outcome for servicemen who have received what amounts to a mild concussion.

The second grant funds a study of the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen, which is thought to have the anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects needed to promote healing for brain injuries. Even though it has not been proven effective for brain injuries, some service members have pursued this avenue of treatment. Cifu’s pilot study will enroll 60 active-duty Marines who have suffered the effects of a mild brain injury for more than three months. In an example of intra-service cooperation, the Marines will travel to the Navy’s largest dive center, the Pensacola Naval Institute, where they will receive two months of treatment in the institute’s eight-person hyperbaric chamber.

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