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School of Medicine profiles

September 2011 Archives

September 27, 2011

April Kimmel, Ph.D.

April Kimmel, Ph.D.

April Kimmel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of healthcare policy and research, is interested in the health-related decisions that policy makers must face, especially in settings with limited resources. It’s a path of investigation that arose from an early career experience in South Africa.

Before her training, Kimmel worked for a HIV research group at Massachusetts General Hospital where she was introduced to issues involved in the value for money spent on different HIV diagnosis and treatment interventions. Then, she took the opportunity to attend an international AIDS conference in South Africa — the first time the conference was not held in a high-income country. “That was my aha moment,” she says.

Kimmel earned her Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard and did postdoctoral work at Weill Cornell Medical College. She’s keen not only to understand the value of different health interventions but to plumb the tension between what’s best for an individual patient and what’s best for a population, for public health. For instance, she has studied cost-effectiveness of different treatment policies for HIV-infected patients — first in the U.S. and then in West African settings, where she says, “The questions are very different.”

Leslie Cloud, M.D., M.Sc.

Leslie Cloud, M.D., M.Sc.

Leslie Cloud, M.D., M.Sc., arrived on campus this summer excited to be part of the new VCU Parkinson’s Disease Center. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity, unparalleled really, to focus on Parkinson’s disease and to focus on research,” she says. As an assistant professor of neurology, Cloud will have clinical and teaching duties as well.

Cloud earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia and after her neurology residency at Emory University, she spent three years as a movement disorders fellow there focusing on clinical research. Her research interest, which she brings to the MCV Campus, is the gastrointestinal symptoms that accompany the neurologic deficits in Parkinson’s. “They are very prevalent and very bothersome,” she says, but the causal mechanisms and clinical implications are not well understood.

The GI symptoms also are intriguing because they may result from similar processes that damage nerves in the brain, occurring simultaneously in the nerves that control the gut. “Some people think that Parkinson’s disease may start in the GI tract,” Cloud says. “Gastrointestinal symptoms may thus have something to tell us about the basic mechanisms of onset and progression in Parkinson’s disease.” That means that GI symptoms could potentially help doctors make earlier diagnoses and offer earlier treatment.

John F. Butterworth, IV, M.D.

John F. Butterworth, IV, M.D.

As the new Professor and Chair of Anesthesiology, John F. Butterworth, IV, M.D., brings a long career of studying outcomes and drug responses in patients having cardiovascular surgery and of studying pharmacology and toxicity of local anesthetic drugs.

The fact that cardiovascular surgery often — perhaps 80 percent of the time — leads to mild temporary brain dysfunction is not widely appreciated, Butterworth says. “Early on, neurobehavioral deficits are pretty common,” he says and tells the tale of an elderly colleague who routinely did the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. “Two weeks after coronary bypass surgery, he couldn’t get a single word. Four months later, he was back to doing the puzzle in ink.”

Butterworth has participated in numerous clinical trials testing such things as whether administering certain neuroprotective drugs or providing better blood sugar control will reduce the risk of stroke or neurobehavioral deficits after heart surgery.

Butterworth earned his medical degree on VCU’s MCV Campus and followed that with a research fellowship in the Division of Neurosurgery, where he was part of a team that was studying interventions that might improve recovery from head injuries. “It’s interesting to look back at that now and realize I was studying outcomes research,” he says.

After an internship at the University of Massachusetts and residency and fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Butterworth spent 20 years on the faculty of Wake Forest University, and then six years as the R. K. Stoelting Professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesia at Indiana University.

That’s 31 years away from Richmond, and Butterworth says he’s happy to be back. “This is my home. I grew up in Richmond,” he says. His mother is here, as well as relatives so numerous, Butterworths says, “It would take me hours to tell you about all of them.”

He looks forward to the opportunity that chairing the department offers, which he feels is a very good fit both ways — for him and for the medical school. “This is an opportunity that came up at the right time in my life.”

September 26, 2011

Bob Diegelmann, Ph.D.

Research by day, rescue by night
By Nan Johnson

Bob Diegelmann, Ph.D.

A trip to Walt Disney World could easily be called a “life-changing” event. Especially for a family of seven like the Diegelmanns. But for Bob Diegelmann, Ph.D., it wasn’t seeing Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom that made such a lasting impression nearly 20 years ago. It was being part of a team that saved the life of an elderly man.

“One afternoon I heard someone scream,” remembers Diegelmann, who was a professor of biochemistry. “I went out on the balcony and saw a man on the ground and thought, ‘I need to help’ so I went down, with no experience except knowing the importance of performing CPR and calling 9-1-1.” A nurse joined him at the scene and the two began CPR. An ambulance arrived minutes later. The gentleman survived, and Diegelmann was moved by the experience. But the basic scientist felt insecure about not knowing what to do in an emergency situation.

Back home in Richmond he enrolled in a CPR class offered by the Forest View Rescue Squad, a volunteer organization serving his community. One thing led to another. He became CPR-certified. Next, he did a “ride along” and spent 24 hours with squad members encountering more than a dozen emergencies from traffic accidents to diabetic seizures to fistfights.

“That was a lot of activity for a 24-hour period and it was definitely an adrenaline rush,” he said.

It wasn’t long before Diegelmann became a certified emergency medical technician and an emergency vehicle operator course instructor. He joined the Forest View Rescue Squad in 1993, applying his skills as a scientific problem solver for 14 years. Today, as a squad retiree, he holds emeritus status as a lifetime member.

Becoming a part of that world was a natural extension of Diegelmann’s professional life. “I’ve always had an underlying interest in trauma and wound healing,” he said. “My classroom teaching, research and my outside interests are all involved. It all kind of melds together.”

Now an internationally recognized leader in wound healing and tissue repair research, Diegelmann is president elect of the Wound Healing Society, a national organization he co-founded in the late 1980s to improve wound healing outcomes through science, professional education and communication. While with the National Institutes of Health in the 1970s, he co-authored a paper that is among the 20 most cited papers in the American Chemical Society’s Biochemistry journal.

In 2001, he met Kevin Ward, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at the medical school, and became a founding member of the VCU Reanimation Engineering Science Center, a multidisciplinary cross-campus collaborative effort among clinicians, basic scientists, engineering and mathematical scientists.

“If basic scientists were left alone, they’d be doing some very esoteric things,” Diegelmann said. “But when you start to work with clinicians, engineers and other nonmedical disciplines, translational projects quickly become reality. It becomes possible to do unique, life-saving science, making science fiction a reality.”

One such project resulted in the invention of a proprietary hemorrhage control product, which received federal approval in 2007. It was endorsed by the U.S. Department of Defense and selected for the Advanced Technology Applications in Combat Casualty Care Award for the increased insight it brought to stopping the life-threatening hemorrhage that accounts for 60 percent of preventable combat deaths.

Such bleeding was not unlike what Diegelmann had seen throughout his 14-year experience as an EMT. “It’s a challenge for a couple of guys to stop the bleeding from gunshot wounds, stabbings or being thrown through a car windshield from an accident,” he said. “You want to help come up with something in the lab to help take care of these problems.”

The product has been reformulated as a nanopowder and is being successfully tested in humans as a means to control life-threatening gastrointestinal bleeding.

Wilhelm A. Zuelzer, M.D.

Wilhelm A. Zuelzer, M.D.

VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Award
Program Director Award

If there was a GME Program Director Superhero, Dr. Wil Zuelzer could certainly wear the cape. Dr. Zuelzer, Professor and Vice Chair of Orthopedic Surgery, has served as Program Director for nine years and has led the program through two successful Resident Review Committee (RRC) evaluations, receiving full accreditation with commendation. The RRC report complimented program excellence in documentation and evaluation, two areas that can be challenging in a busy surgical setting. While guiding his residents through a rigorous five-year training program, he maintains a busy clinical practice, active service commitment and a productive scientific writing and presentation schedule. Demonstrating his strong commitment to basic science research, he has found time to serve on four Ph.D. committees, three as primary advisor. Residents in his program typically present an average of 11 papers each at national meetings during the year.

With this level of dedication and results, it is not a surprise that colleague Brian Kaplan, Program Director, General Surgery Residency Training Program, can say that Dr. Zuelzer “is revered by both educational leaders and his residents.” Amber T. Cox, C-TAGME, Residency Program Coordinator, agrees, “He is always encouraging and supportive of our residents and staff. He really cares about people and takes the time to ask them how they are doing.”

When Dr. Zuelzer became Program Director in 2002, he incorporated multiple approaches to support resident education, including grand rounds, journal club, morbidity and mortality conferences, in-training examination review, and protected time to focus on learning. He established a weekly basic science lecture to focus on the science behind clinical care and developed a highly productive resident research program.

As Jennifer S. Wayne, Ph.D. Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopedic Surgery, and Director, Orthopedic Research Laboratory explains, “Dr. Zuelzer strongly believes…that whether or not research ultimately becomes a part of the resident’s career, they must have experience in answering important questions in the field, know what it is to perform high quality research, and be able to critically analyze the literature. Residents would often return from fellowship interviews saying their interview focused more on the research they accomplished and the role the resident played in the project, to which they could confidently answer, ‘All of it.'”

Those who have trained with Dr. Zuelzer attest to the influence he has had on their professional and personal development.

  • “During my time as a resident he was an incredibly supportive and wonderful resident director…he really cared about all of the residents as distinct people. He cared about every aspect of our lives, from how we were doing emotionally to how well we were learning.” (Dr. Victoria Keuster).
  • “His expectations of the residents were quite high, but he also displayed a degree of caring for their personal lives…this kind of leadership is the best kind because it stimulates hard work out of respect, rather than fear.’ (Dr. Scott Nasson)
  • “Dr. Zuelzer was an excellent mentor and someone I have strived to emulate.” (Dr. William Mihalko).
  • “What I find even more impressive than the breadth of (his) commitments is the characteristic energy, tenacity, and attention to detail that make him such an effective leader.” (Dr. Rob Neff).
  • “He is vigilant in making sure the rules are obeyed…I have been personally called by Dr. Z at my home to make sure that I was not coming in too early and that I was having the appropriate amount of time between shifts.” (Dr. Andrew Moritz)

Robert S. Adelaar, M.D., Professor and Chairman of Orthopedic Surgery, sums it up well: “When Dr. Zuelzer does something, he puts his heart and soul into the project and the residency has flourished because of that.” Dr. Wil Zuelzer’s commitment to excellence and his personal connection to his resident trainees is most deserving of recognition with the 2011 Leadership in GME Program Director Award.

Susan R. DiGiovanni, M.D.

Susan R. DiGiovanni, M.D.

VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Award

Sometimes being a Fellowship Program Director can seem like an invisible job. Fellows are few in number, somewhere between trainee and faculty. While expected to take on increasing responsibility for their own professional development, fellows must meet ACGME competencies for education and training. It takes someone with truly exceptional skill to balance the educational and clinical skills needs of fellows, successfully meet accreditation requirements, and earn not only the respect of colleagues, but national recognition. Susan DiGiovanni, M.D., Nephrology Fellowship Program Director, Assistant Dean for Medical Education, and Professor and Eminent Scholar in Internal Medicine has achieved this and more since assuming leadership of the Nephrology Fellowship Program in 2004.

Since then, Dr. DiGiovanni has transformed the program, adding a board review program, journal club, and renal grand rounds to increase the focus on education. She is always accessible for teaching. “She met with the fellows on a weekly basis before their clinic to go over clinical cases and board type questions,” explains Todd W. B. Gehr, M.D., Chair of the Division of Nephrology and Professor of Internal Medicine. During her tenure, the fellowship has expanded to four competitive fellowship slots, remarkable in a time when some fellowships struggle to fill available vacancies.

Dr. DiGiovanni’s efforts have resulted in two successful accreditation cycles and her program has become a model for others. In 2007, Dr. DiGiovanni was asked to chair the VCUHS GME Accreditation Committee. As Stephanie Call, M.D., Internal Medicine Training Program Director says, “This is a tough role, requiring review of multiple documents and requiring strong leadership as the committee strives to keep programs in line with ever-changing accreditation requirements, yet still support the focus on education.” Evan Reiter, M.D., Associate Professor and Program Director, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the new chair, is thankful to have had Dr. DiGiovanni as his predecessor. “Dr. DiGiovanni provided outstanding leadership and insight … she helped to strengthen and streamline the role of the committee, which has helped me in assuming the reins of such an efficiently working body.”

Dr. DiGiovanni has achieved local and national recognition for her teaching skills, and serves on the American Society of Nephrology test item writing and test review committee for the Nephrology In-Training Exam. She has been granted designation as a VCU Eminent Scholar for achieving national eminence in a discipline as judged by her peers on the evidence of effective teaching and productive scholarship.

In 2010 Dr. DiGiovanni was named Assistant Dean for Medical Education, and is playing a key role in the ongoing undergraduate medical curriculum redesign. She also coordinates the M2 Renal Course and nephrology core lectures for internal medicine residents and “therefore she has been an influential educator and mentor for many physicians across the training spectrum,” says Dan Carl, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, former fellow and current faculty member and current Nephrology Program Director.

Diane Biskobing, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Program Director, Endocrinology and Metabolism describes Dr. DiGiovanni’s influence: “For me, as an associate subspecialty program director, her strong advocacy for her fellows is inspiring. She has served as a strong model for new program directors and is an example to all of us.”

Colleague Anna Vinnikova, M.D., agrees. “I find Dr. DiGiovanni’s organizational abilities astounding. She is able to juggle an array of responsibilities with the appearance of effortless grace, which in reality requires unrelenting self-discipline, hard work, and sacrifice of personal time.”

We honor Dr. Susan DiGiovanni for being, in the words of her Chair, Dr. Gehr, “a great clinician and scientist, dedicated mentor, extraordinary teacher, the perfect person to direct the education of our young physicians to be.” Dr. DiGiovanni’s positive impact on her fellows, students, and colleagues is clearly visible to all of us.

Mark A. Wood, M.D.

Mark A. Wood, M.D.

MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician Award

In today’s high-tech world of medicine, you might picture a cardiac electrophysiologist at work completely surrounded by advanced machinery, engrossed in printouts, monitors, and the other medical technology required to make accurate diagnoses and provide state of the art patient care. In contrast, here is how the colleagues of Dr. Mark Wood, 2011 MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician of the Year describe him at work:

“He is never looking at his cell phone, or being distracted by a smart phone or other electronic distractors. When he is with a patient, he is completely and totally focused on them. He is a marvelous listener. He makes his patients feel that they are the only one that matters, the only one in the room and that all of their concerns are appreciated and heard.” says Dr. Ken Ellenbogen, M.D., Hermes A. Kontos Professor of Cardiology and Chair of the VCU Division of Cardiology, Pauley Heart Center.

“It is my great fortune to be in the clinic at the same time as Mark and to share patients with Mark on a regular basis. His patients view him as a caring and compassionate clinician.” shares Dr. Michael Hess, M.D., Professor of Cardiology and Chairman, Division of Cardiopulmonary Laboratories and Research. “He is both a joy to work with and an excellent physician in his care for patients.”

A native of Memphis, Dr. Wood came to MCV for his residency training and three fellowships in research and clinical cardiology as well as cardiac electrophysiology. He completed an additional fellowship at U.Va. before returning to VCU as Assistant Director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology (EP) Laboratories and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine in 1991, rising to the rank of Professor in 2004.

In addition to being a skilled and compassionate physician, Dr. Wood has been a pioneer in patient safety. Dr. Ellenbogen recalls that “Mark introduced me and all our partners and trainees to a method for caring for our patients that involved developing a “checklist” manifesto for performing clinical procedures. In other words, Mark decided that all of our patients should benefit from an organized and thoughtful approach to a complex procedure.” As Dr. John Nestler, William Branch Porter Professor and Chair, Department of Internal Medicine explains, “Mark is an internationally acknowledged expert in his field…and has instituted quality systems and processes that have resulted in a remarkable 0% procedural complication rate in the EP laboratory over the past ten years.” Dr. Wood also instituted a daily meeting when all patient providers, including physicians, fellows, nurses, and students participate and discuss patients to improve communication and support the best patient care.

Dr. Wood’s accomplishments include a long history of federal and private industry funding, authorship or co-authorship of over 300 research papers, serving as editor for five textbooks, and recognized excellence as a teacher, with nearly 200 presentations locally, across the country, and around the world. His students have awarded him the Clinical Cardiology Fellows Faculty Teaching Award in 1998, the Department of Medicine Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award in 2004 and the Outstanding Teacher in the Cardiovascular Course Undergraduate Medical Education Award from the second year medical students for six years.

Dr. Wood’s philosophy of clinical practice is that at every encounter, the patient deserves your undivided attention. “Sit down, listen to the patient, and before acting, ask, ‘Is this what I would want for myself and my family?'”

Isn’t this approach what all of us would want for ourselves and our families? His rare combination of patient-centered care, compassionate bedside manner, and masterful clinical and technical skill make Dr. Mark Wood most deserving of the 2011 MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician Award.

Lenore M. Buckley, M.D., M.P.H.

Lenore M. Buckley, M.D., M.P.H.

Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine Professional Achievement Award

If you’ve been in the School of Medicine for a while, there’s a good chance you have been at a committee meeting or case conference when a woman, sitting towards the back of the room if possible, will raise her hand to make a comment. As people recognize her calm, familiar voice, they turn – and listen. They know that Dr. Lenore Buckley, Professor of Pediatrics and Elam C. Toone, Jr., Professor of Internal Medicine, this year’s WISDM Professional Achievement Award honoree, will have something insightful to say that will enrich the conversation.

As colleague Betty Anne Johnson, M.D., Ph.D, Professor of Medicine, explains, “In former days, we used to refer to “triple threat” faculty members who excelled in research, teaching, and clinical activity. Dr. Buckley merits classification as a “quadruple threat” faculty member as she not only excels as a researcher, teacher, and clinician, but as an administrator.”

Dr. Buckley served in leadership roles in the MCV/VCU Women in Medicine Faculty Organization from 1996-2005, and as a member of the SOM Committee on the Status of Women and Minorities (COSOWAM). Dr. Buckley led the 1997 SOM Faculty Survey on Needs for Career Development and Mentoring, which led to annual evaluations of chairs by faculty, salary equity review, and greater recognition of the impact of mentoring. Dr. Buckley helped to develop the VCU SOM Faculty Mentoring Guide, used by institutions around the country.

Dr. Buckley was the first woman appointed to the MCV Hospital Authority Board, where she served for 8 years. She serves as a member of the MCV Physicians Board. In 2008-09, Dr. Buckley chaired the SOM Promotion and Tenure Policy Revision Committee and facilitated the policy that includes recognition of clinical service toward promotion.
Dr. Buckley has focused her research on the effects of inflammatory arthritis and its treatment on bone health and ways to identify high-risk lupus patients for early preventive treatment. Dr. Buckley has 30 peer-reviewed publications and has served on numerous national committees in the area of drug safety. She recently served as a reviewer for the Institute of Medicine report on Calcium and Vitamin D intake.

An exceptional teacher, Dr. Buckley has served as Medical Director of the Rheumatology Teaching Clinic for 16 years and has been honored four times with the Department of Internal Medicine Teaching Excellence Award.

As a rheumatologist board-certified in adult and pediatric rheumatology, Dr. Buckley treats patients from childhood through adulthood. As Wendy Klein, M.D., Associate Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine, OB-GYN, and Senior Deputy Director Emeritus, VCU Institute for Women’s Health states, “She is compassionate and caring in meeting the needs of patients and families whose disorders often present complex, multi-organ challenges. She is kind, caring, attentive and humble, with a calm demeanor that puts everyone at ease.”

A tireless patient advocate, Dr. Buckley is active in the Arthritis Foundation and The Lupus Foundation of America. She was awarded the 2007 Robert S. Irby Award for Volunteer Leadership from the Virginia Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. In 2006 she received the MCV Physicians Clinician of the Year Award, the highest award given for clinical expertise at VCU.

Dr. Buckley is highly valued by colleagues at all levels for her accessibility, wisdom and thoughtful guidance. Florina Constantinescu, M.D., M.S., Ph.D., FACR, Director, Rheumatology Resident Education, Washington (DC) Hospital Center, recalls, “She taught me how to disentangle and manage the very busy life of an academic career, the balance of a medical practice, teaching, research, self-education, and the dedication to family.”

We honor Dr. Lenore Buckley for her contributions that continue to improve knowledge, clinical care, and faculty life in the School of Medicine.

William O. McKinley, M.D.

William O. McKinley, M.D.

Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

“The physician should not treat the disease but the patient who is suffering from it”
— Maimonides

Dr. William McKinley, Carl W. LaFratta M.D. Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Director, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency Program, the 2011 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Awardee, clearly exemplifies this adage.

As a family member of one of his patients describes, “Dr. McKinley has been there for us the entire way through my sister’s injury. He has been a source of information, comfort and hope as the entire family has struggled with the changes and uncertainty. He is patient with our questions and has a calm, quiet, reassuring manner that makes it easy to trust him and his team and that she will get the very best care imaginable to make her as independent as possible again. You can tell he cares about his patients by his questions and you can tell he cares about how they will be doing once they leave his hospital. We all know spinal injuries often have lifelong effects and Dr. McKinley’s concern and caring goes beyond what is happening in the early stages of recovery.”

Dr. McKinley has long been recognized as an outstanding clinician in his work with patients and families to face the challenges of spinal cord Injury. Since he completed his residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at VCU in 1989, he has dedicated his career to advancing the art and science of rehabilitation. He has served as the Director of the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Rehabilitation Medicine Service for 20 years. His expertise in spinal cord injury, electrodiagnosis, and musculoskeletal rehabilitation have contributed to clinical research in SCI and pain assessment to improve patient care. Dr. McKinley served as Principal Investigator for ten years in a federally-designated VCU Model System of Spinal Cord Injury recognizing the excellence of care his service provides. His research publications have earned numerous awards from academic societies and journals. Richmond Magazine consistently designates Dr. McKinley as a “Top Doc” in PM&R.

Dr. McKinley also serves as the Director of the PM&R residency program and Medical Student Electives Coordinator/ Preceptor. In this capacity, as a teacher and mentor, he instills into the minds of his students the values and principles associated with his mission to restore hope, function, and quality of life for individuals with SCI. He furthers this goal by consistently demonstrating behaviors that reflect integrity, compassion, and respect. His skill in and dedication to teaching have been repeatedly honored with the annual PM&R Faculty Teaching Award.

David, a patient, commented “I don’t know what I would have done without Dr. McKinley. He has helped me recover when I didn’t think I could. Dr. McKinley helped me understand that what I do now will have an impact on how strong and well I will be when I get back home and into the future. He did not try to sugarcoat my situation, but was supportive and direct. I appreciate that.”

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation initiated the Humanism in Medicine Awards in 1991 to recognize students and faculty members who best demonstrate the Foundation’s ideals of outstanding compassion in the delivery of care, respect for patients, their families, and healthcare colleagues, as well as demonstrated clinical excellence.

As attested to by students, family members, colleagues, and above all, the patients who entrust their futures to him, Dr. William McKinley is a most worthy recipient of this honor.

Pawan Suri, M.D.

William O. McKinley, M.D.

Educational Innovation Award

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat” — Anonymous

Since Dr. Pawan Suri, Assistant Professor and Chairman of the Division of Observation Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine, joined the VCU faculty in 2008, he has embraced every opportunity to improve patient care and clinical teaching. Board certified in Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine, he was recruited to develop an Observation Unit and Observation Medicine program. Designed to provide care to patients requiring treatment best not performed in the Emergency Department but not requiring in¬patient admission, the Clinical Decision Unit (CDU) started at five beds and will soon grow to 18 beds. Developing this unit was no small undertaking. As Joseph Ornato, M.D., Professor and Chairman of Emergency Medicine explains, “developing the CDU required clinical and educational interactions with all major medical services of the medical center to develop safe, effective, and efficient pathways allowing for extended diagnostics and therapeutics of acute complex patients in less than 24 hours. The CDU has dramatically changed admitting and care practices of MCVP faculty for patients presenting to the Emergency Department.”

Dr. Suri recognized the benefits for patients of providing care in a more appropriate setting, but he also recognized the educational opportunities the CDU provided for his residents and developed the country’s first required Observation Medicine rotation. The rotation provides residents with “experiences in medicine, surgery, neurology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases and many other disciplines that they would not otherwise obtain” says Timothy C. Evans, M.D., Emergency Medicine Program Director. The program “allows them to see the evolution of a variety of disease states, to understand the consequences of actions or inactions taken in the emergency department on patients’ outcomes, and to appreciate more fully the needs of consulting physicians.” Veronica K. Sikka, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.A., M.P.H., current resident, agrees, “We are actively involved in the admission, rounding, and discharge process and are seamlessly incorporated as part of the CDU team.”

Dr. Suri routinely receives outstanding teaching evaluations and is revered by his residents for his dedication to learning. He often refers to the saying, “The eyes do not see what the mind does not know” and he makes sure that he and his trainees know as much as possible. As resident Anthony Fields, M.D., explains, “He is a veritable walking search engine when it comes to medical literature and is a huge proponent of evidence-based medicine and its practical application.”

Colleagues look to Dr. Suri for guidance as well, explains Julie Mayglothling, M.D., Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine. “He is my go-to guy with most medical (and non-medical) questions. He is approachable, articulate, and never the least bit condescending.” Kirk Cumpston, D.O., Assistant Professor of Clinical Toxicology, describes Dr. Suri as skillfully balancing his teaching of “facts, diagnostics, differentials and therapies, with compassion, empathy and the highest ethical and moral standards.” Dr. Suri’s personal commitment to lifelong learning is exemplified by his role as one of VCU’s first Physician Informaticists and his recently completed VCU Executive Fellowship in Physician Leadership.

Dr. Suri’s tireless efforts have resulted in the country’s first formal University-approved Division of Observation Medicine. He is also the first Program Director for the new VCU Emergency Medicine/Internal Medicine residency program, the 12th such program in the nation. This program combines training leading to Board eligibility in both specialties. Dr. Suri also serves as Chair of the American College of Emergency Physician’s Section on Combined EM-IM training.

As Dr. Evans summarizes, “He has made our students, our residents, our department and therefore our medical school and hospital better as a result of his efforts.” For his efforts to go beyond his successes and continuously improve care for our patients and teaching for his students, we honor Dr. Pawan Suri with the 2011 Educational Innovation award.

Daniel H. Conrad, Ph.D.

Daniel H. Conrad, Ph.D.

Distinguished Mentor Award

Excellent mentoring involves a fine balance between guiding and letting go. Daniel Conrad, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and recipient of the 2011 Distinguished Mentor Award, has clearly mastered that balance.

“A good mentor is both kind and strong; friend and leader,” states Sarah Norton, M.S., Ph.D., Candidate. “As I have progressed, I always know Dr. Conrad will be there when I need him, yet he recognizes that I no longer need him to help me with everything I do.”

Jamie L. Sturgill, Ph.D., agrees, “Dr. Conrad allowed me the creative freedom I so desperately desired in a research setting while providing me with the necessary guidance required for a successful dissertation project.”

Dr. Conrad joined the MCV faculty as Assistant Professor in 1978 after completing a NIH postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Medicine. He moved to Johns Hopkins in 1981 and returned to VCU as Professor of Microbiology in 1989. Dr. Conrad has authored over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles, earned continuous NIH funding for his research on IgE receptors, and taught students in medicine and dental hygiene, all while supervising students at all levels in his lab. Dr. Conrad makes an exceptional impact on the students in his laboratory through his good humor, unending support and enthusiasm, and careful guidance.

As doctoral student Sheinei Saleem, explains, “One of his mentoring philosophies and favorite lines is, ‘You are the expert, not me.'” The respect and encouragement this approach conveys is greatly appreciated by students. David Gibb, M.D./Ph.D. student, recalls, “Dr. Conrad’s sincere enthusiasm for progress of my research reinforced my own confidence and motivation. On countless occasions, he would stay late to review results of an experiment or call me for status updates…Somehow, although he was the boss, it felt like we were a team.”

Learning to network and interact with other researchers is an important skill necessary for building a successful research program. Dr. Conrad offers his students career-building opportunities to participate in presentations and grant applications and often funds his students’ travel to national meetings while he stays at home. Former student Jill W. Ford, Ph.D., now Postdoctoral Fellow, David H. Smith Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology, University of Rochester Medical Center, recalls, “When he was hosting a scientist, he frequently invited me to join them for dinner so that I could discuss my research and further develop my networking skills. He also encouraged me to foster collaborations with other investigators, both at VCU and outside of the university. This resulted in several fruitful publications for me, including one high impact co-first author publication at Nature Immunology.”

Dr. Conrad’s influence continues once his students graduate and move on to developing careers of their own. As former student Dania Rabah, Ph.D., currently Senior Scientist and Head of Immunopharmacology for Biogen Idec explains, “Although I have had a number of great mentors since my Ph.D. years, Dr. Conrad is still the only person I go to for advice on career choices, scientific questions or any sort of advice.”

Joel Matthews, Ph.D., now in a research fellowship at Harvard School of Public Health, echoes this experience. “As I move on with my career, with the goal of running my own laboratory, I can see myself saying, ‘What would Dr. Conrad have done in this situation?’ I will be forever grateful for his friendship and his example.”

Dr. Conrad is the first faculty member to receive the same Teaching Excellence Award twice; he also received the Distinguished Mentor Award in 2001. The field of microbiology and immunology and the School of Medicine have benefitted from another ten years of Dr. Conrad’s dedication to supporting his graduate students personally and professionally through their years of training and professional practice.

Frank A. Fulco, M.D.

Frank A. Fulco, M.D.

Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching

When you hear faculty members talking about going “on service”, they are anticipating an incredibly busy few weeks, with days full of patient care and teaching residents and students. The time commitment is so intense that many faculty plan to accomplish little of their other activities during this time. Even dedicated teachers breathe a sigh of relief when they go off service and return to their usual, somewhat more manageable, schedules. So imagine being ward attending six months of the year. Receiving consistently outstanding evaluations from residents and students for teaching, bedside manner and clinical expertise. Accumulating a wall full of teaching awards. And, doing it all with seemingly endless energy, enthusiasm, and a smile. Frank Fulco, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Hospitalist, McGuire Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, and Associate Program Director, VCU Internal Medicine Training Program, and the 2011 Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching awardee, has accomplished all of this in ten years as a faculty member in the School of Medicine.

Dr. Fulco came to VCU as a trainee in the Med/Peds joint residency program and became Chief Resident in 2000 before joining the faculty in 2001. His teaching skills won quick recognition and he has won the Outstanding Teaching in the M3 Internal Medicine M3 Clerkship award three of the past eight years, as well as the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Internal Medicine Residents six times.

Dr. Fulco constantly works to improve teaching and patient care by implementing innovative teaching strategies. He developed a training program for conducting safe and effective patient handoffs. He was instrumental in development of the Acute Care Cardiology rotation at the V.A. Dr. Stephanie Call, Associate Professor and Director, Internal Medicine Training Program explains that “Dr. Fulco led the curriculum development, supported the clinical teachers, evaluated the rotation on a daily basis, led efforts for improvement and led that rotation to be one of the top two rotations in our GME training program in the past year.”

Dr. Fulco does all of this while creating a challenging, yet safe space for learning. Former medical student and current colleague, Aaron Fox, M.D., recalls, “I have never found another attending as adept at creating a positive learning environment as Frank Fulco.”

His current students agree:

“Cheery disposition allows people to admit deficiencies, so one can improve!! More attending and residents should display this feature.” “Dr. Fulco’s bedside manner is outstanding. He is so kind and patient… If an award were to be given for best doctor-patient relationship, it would have to go to Dr. Fulco.” “The two weeks I worked with Dr. Fulco were the 2 best weeks I experienced during my two inpatient months on medicine…He made our learning environment so comfortable and made us medical students feel like an important part of the team.” “Probably the best teaching attending I had for all of inpatient medicine.”

Dr. Fulco is not only a role model for his students, but for his colleagues as well. Lenore Joseph, M.D., Associate Chief of Staff/Education at the Richmond V.A., describes Dr. Fulco as “one of the best and brightest internists I have ever encountered. He not only imparts great clinical wisdom to his trainees, he walks the walk of excellence in his own clinical practices. He leads by example in patient interactions, discussions, evidence-based and patient-centered management and documentation.”

“All of us who work in clinical medicine should strive to match Frank’s success in educating the next generation of physicians” states Jeffrey Kushinka, M.D., Associate Internal Medicine Clerkship Director. For those who worry about the future of clinical teaching, you need only look to Dr. Frank Fulco’s shining example to see how to achieve excellence in teaching and patient care.

Craig E. Cheifetz, M.D.

Craig E. Cheifetz, M.D.

Enrique Gerszten, M.D., Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

In 2005, 24 third-year medical students arrived in Fairfax, the first group of students to train at the new Inova Campus of the VCU School of Medicine. Craig Cheifetz, M.D., Assistant Dean for Medical Education and Student Affairs for VCU School of Medicine and Director of Undergraduate Medical Education for Inova Health System, had already been at work for three years preparing for their arrival.

Dr. Cheifetz’s charge: develop educational programs for 24 third-year and 24 fourth-year students at the Fairfax campus that provide comparable educational experiences to those available in Richmond, while taking advantage of the learning opportunities inherent in Inova’s community hospital setting and diverse patient population.

In addition to the considerable task of developing student support services and teaching facilities on site, faculty needed to be trained to teach students to meet the competencies expected of VCU medical graduates. Dr. Cheifetz took steps to assure that students would have an outstanding educational experience. As two of these first clerkship directors, Samantha Buery-Joyner, M.D., (OB-GYN) and Alita Mishra, M.D., (Internal Medicine) recall, “When he saw the needs of the young medical school campus, he immediately helped to create resources on site to further develop our volunteer faculty.” Dr. Cheifetz applied his training from the Stanford Faculty Development Program in Clinical Teaching to create a Faculty Development Course on Clinical Teaching for Inova faculty which has trained over 130 attending physicians to date. Dr. Cheifetz also instituted an Educational Grand Rounds series which was cited by ACGME and Inova Health System as a “Best Practice.”

As the curriculum progressed, Dr. Cheifetz saw needs and enthusiastically developed programs to meet them: a pre-residency “boot camp” to prepare M4 students for internship; learning experiences to prepare new clinical students for their M3 year; a “Positive Teacher-Student Alliance” developed with Dr. Buery-Joyner, to support a safe learning environment; new research opportunities for interested students; integration of simulation training; new “Quality and Safety” and “Cultural Competency” courses; a “Residents as Teacher” program to improve teaching skills and confidence; these and other programs create an atmosphere where students and faculty both feel supported in their roles.

As Dr. Buery-Joyner and Dr. Mishra describe it, Dr. Cheifetz “nurtures a family atmosphere where students feel safe and can readily confide struggles and work on creating action plans to ensure a successful future.” Marjorie Hermes, M.D., Family Medicine Clerkship Director, applauds Dr. Cheifetz’s “endless encouragement, open door policy and tireless work ethic.”

Current and former students speak of Dr. Cheifetz with the highest praise. “Dr. Cheifetz has shown himself to be not only a gifted and motivated educator, but also has demonstrated leadership skills to weave an entire web of support for us at Inova”, states Pooya Jahanshahi, M’12. Jessica Klein, M’10, needed help before her first residency interview. Dr. Cheifetz answered her frantic email and scheduled a coaching session via telephone for the next day, even while his own child was sick and in the hospital. “The simple act of kindness he demonstrated by taking a minute to write me back and calm me down when he had a sick child…is one I will never forget.” Yukli Elliott, M’11, remembers that Dr. Cheifetz “took time to personally review all of the student personal statements for residency application as well as to talk over goals and aspirations.” As William Yoon, M’11, says, “What makes Dr. Cheifetz exceptional is his understanding and respect for us students. He is a fearless and relentless advocate when circumstances demand.”

This dedication resulted in praise from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) for the richness and diversity of the Inova Campus learning environment. Dr. Craig Cheifetz, our 2011 Enrique Gerszten, M.D., Faculty Teaching Excellence awardee, has truly achieved excellence in all aspects of medical education; teaching, mentoring, innovation, and leadership.

Abir Mukherjee

Abir Mukherjee

Ph.D. candidate
Evans Award Winner

The medical school has one of the largest cadres of graduate students in the U.S. This spring, for instance, 175 students earned advanced degrees and 46 of those were doctoral degrees. Size is a good thing if it supports all aspects of graduate training and encourages collaboration and shared learning experiences. However, with so many classmates, it can be difficult to stand out in the crowd.

The Herbert John Evans Jr. Award in Biochemistry is named for the late medical school professor and was established by his colleagues to honor the most outstanding senior graduate student in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Abir Mukherjee studies lipid signaling in cancer and how a particular lipid, lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), might contribute to progression of disease. He’s linked the metabolic effects of LPA to a specific receptor that is overexpressed in many human malignancies, which has implications for potential therapies. As Mukherjee says: “If we can block LPA receptor 2 mediated signaling, we may thwart cancer progression.”

Mukherjee works in the laboratory of Frank Fang, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry, who has been impressed with his student’s motivation, general knowledge, broad interests and commitment to cancer research. Indeed, Mukherjee hopes to find a postdoctoral position in a different research field so that he can broaden his scientific experience.

Mukherjee was particularly happy to receive the Evans award, because it meant being recognized as the most outstanding student of the year. But he also is grateful for the opportunities that a large graduate program has offered him during his studies. “Collaborations are key here,” he says. “We talk to each other, students and faculty alike. It really enriches your experience.”

Sarah Norton

Sarah Norton

Ph.D. candidate
Coleman Award Winner

The Mary P. Coleman Award in Microbiology was established with a $10,000 bequest from the mother of Phil Coleman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology. Two students received the prize this year, one of whom is Sarah Norton, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory of Daniel Conrad, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology. Norton has been investigating a truly novel way to treat asthma, using tiny carbon buckeyballs. The high-tech molecule is being developed by a Virginia company called Luna Innovations, and Norton was responsible for testing its therapeutic and potential side effects in a mouse model of asthma. Norton received an American Heart Association award to fund her research efforts.

The Coleman Award is meaningful to Norton. “In science, there’s a lot of rejection,” she says. “So it’s nice to be recognized.”

Conrad takes it one step further. “An award like that indicates your work is being very well received by the scientific community,” he says, and that kind of recognition will only help Norton get a good postdoctoral position.

Beth Zha

Beth Zha

M.D.-Ph.D. student
Coleman Award Winner

The Mary P. Coleman Award in Microbiology was established with a $10,000 bequest from the mother of Phil Coleman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology. Two students received the prize this year, one of whom is Beth Zha, an M.D.-Ph.D. student who is investigating the side effects that occur with HIV therapy. Protease inhibitors cause metabolic changes, including insulin resistance, atherosclerosis and changes in body fat composition, Zha says, “all of which increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.” The virus itself also increases these cardiovascular risks, so the infection and the treatment together “is like a double hit,” she says.

Zha, who will defend her dissertation in a few months and enter the final clinical phase of her training, has long envisioned a career as a physician-researcher. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to really learn about the scientific process including scientific writing and grant writing — all the things, not just bench work,” she says. She hopes to specialize in infectious disease, but one result of her basic science research training has been a new appreciation for studying all aspects of a treatment. “I always thought I would work on the diseases themselves,” she says. “Now I see that focusing on therapies is also important. It’s a new perspective on how I can help patients with a disease — by managing their treatment as well.”

“I think she’s the most hard-working student I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Zha’s mentor, Huiping Zhou, Ph.D., an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology. With her dedication to her work and a few first-author papers under her belt, Zha is a worthy recipient of the Coleman Award.

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Updated: 08/19/2008