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School of Medicine profiles

November 2012 Archives

November 13, 2012

Wilhelm A. Zuelzer, M.D.


MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician Award

For an exemplary model of service to our institution and excellence in teaching, research and patient care, look no further than Wilhelm Zuelzer, M.D. Zuelzer completed his residency here at MCV and then went to Ohio State University to complete a fellowship in sports medicine and serve as a faculty member.

Zuelzer returned to MCV in 1990 and is currently professor and vice chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He is also chief of perisurgical services operations for the VCU Medical Center, which includes surgical and surgical support services such as ambulatory surgery, medical services, operating rooms, Preoperative Assessment Communication and Education Clinic, Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, the perisurgical unit and the Preoperative Assessment Clinic.

Zuelzer served on the MCV Physicians board from 2004 – 2010, serving as chair of the Finance Committee for two and a half years during that time. He has a long record of committee service to the university and medical school, currently serving on the Access to Patient Care committee, MCV Physicians Compliance Committee, Pain Management Committee and Resident Life Committee. He also serves his profession on the nominating committee for the Virginia Orthopaedic Society and the Medical Society of Virginia as well as through membership in many scientific, honorary, and professional societies.

Students and trainees look to him as a role model. “When taking care of patients, his motto is truly ‘Do no harm,'” says Victoria Kuester, M.D., former trainee and now assistant professor of orthopedic surgery. “He will only operate when he deems it necessary and best for the patient, and he will tirelessly make sure that the patients are doing well preoperatively and postoperatively.”

A dedicated teacher, Zuelzer has been the program director for the Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Program since 2002, and in 2011, received the Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Program Director Award in recognition of his contributions.

In addition to clinical teaching, Zuelzer has a strong commitment to research training and has mentored residents and Ph.D. students who have been highly productive, thanks to his guidance and encouragement.

Despite his many clinical, teaching, and administrative responsibilities, Zuelzer is known for quickly returning a phone call from a patient, coming to the bedside (even from home) to assist a trainee and promptly responding to a colleague’s question.

Patients appreciate Zuelzer’s approach to treating them as a whole person, not a surgical case. He was voted a 2012 Richmond Magazine Top Doc and received the highest number of votes of any physician in the category of orthopedic surgery.

“I am very thankful for Dr. Zuelzer and all that he has taught me about being a good clinician and doctor,” Kuester says. We are all thankful for Zuelzer’s remarkable contributions and level of dedication to clinical effectiveness and efficiency, and his availability, responsiveness and compassion for patients.

Suzanne R. Lavoie, M.D.


VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Program Director Award

With a nearly 20-year record of excellence in directing residency programs, Suzanne R. Lavoie, M.D., professor and chief, Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Pediatric Residency Program Director, is our 2012 Leadership in GME Program Director Awardee.

“As anyone who has even a passing interaction with Dr. Lavoie would know, she excels in a world of responsibilities,” states C. Greg Childress, M.D., former assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics.

Lavoie has been an active member of the VCU Graduate Medical Education Committee since 1995. She served as program director for the internal medicine-pediatrics residency program from 1995-2006 and is currently serving as interim program director. She has also directed the pediatric residency program since 1999. In large part due to her efforts, the program is fully accredited, has filled for each of the last nine years in the National Resident Matching Program and has seen improved board pass rates.

During her tenure, Lavoie has guided the implementation of the ACGME Outcomes Project as well as Duty Hour Standards. She is an effective advocate for her residents, her program and for GME education in our clinical environment.

“Given the countless changes implemented by the ACGME over the past decade, it has often been a significant challenge for such a large core training program to keep up and maintain compliance with all the ever-changing regulations,” says colleague Beth C. Marshall, M.D., associate professor of pediatric infectious disease. “Despite this, Dr. Lavoie has been able to simultaneously improve the program in the process.”

David J. Friedel, M.D., FAAP, assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine, and associate program director, pediatrics, agrees. “[Lavoie] has always remained uncompromising in her commitment to making intern, resident, and fellow education the leading priority,” he says.

Lavoie is quadruple board-certified, in pediatrics, internal medicine, pediatric infectious diseases and internal medicine infectious diseases. She is also recognized as an outstanding clinical teacher.

“It is hard to imagine that any physician at VCU has contact with learners in more venues than Dr. Lavoie, given her clinical teaching activities as a generalist and specialist, inpatient and outpatient physician, and pediatrician and internist,” Friedel said.

Colleagues describe her as quiet and efficient, a daily inspiration and an outstanding mentor.

“She always makes time in a busy schedule, whether through formal meetings, informal meetings, conversations in elevators or late night emails,” Childress says. “She is sought out for her expertise, breadth of understanding, and wisdom.”

Not only dedicated to training future pediatricians, Lavoie is committed to training future academic leaders and has mentored the personal and professional growth of junior colleagues by guiding them to leadership positions in Pediatrics and in GME. Lavoie also brings her experience to the national level, as an active member in the Association of Pediatric Program Directors, where she contributes to national discourse on the future of GME.

An adoptive parent herself, Lavoie’s advocacy led to the development of the VCU International Adoption Medical Clinic, serving the initial and ongoing medical, developmental and emotional needs of adoptive parents and their children from around the world.

Michael K. Foxworth, II, M.D., a PGY-5 pediatric infectious diseases fellow, reflects on his experience with Lavoie. “I think that being a program director is an extremely difficult position,” he says. “Like a parent, you care for the well-being of all of the residents, knowing that in the moment, it may be difficult for them to see how much you do with only their best interest in mind. Also, like a parent, you don’t do these things with expectations to receive anything in return, except for the joy in seeing their growth and future success.”

Catherine M. Kelso, M.D., M.S.


Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

As associate professor of internal medicine at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center, Cathy Kelso, M.D., M.S., brings her expertise in geriatric medicine and palliative care to a very diverse population not always familiar or comfortable with end of life planning and care.

“Where other physicians might avoid such challenging patients and care situations, Dr. Kelso seeks them out,” Judy Brannen, M.D., M.B.A., clinical director of undergraduate and graduate medical education, VHA Office of Academic Affiliations, says. “Her demeanor is always respectful, calm and reassuring, and her bedside manner radiates approachability to patients, family members, trainees and staff.”

Since joining geriatrics and extended care in 2006 as the medical director of hospice and palliative care, Kelso has worked tirelessly to develop the Hospice and Palliative Medicine program at the VAMC, both locally and nationally. She is a role model for students, residents, fellows and faculty on how to talk to patients and families to address goals of care and difficult end of life decisions.

While observing her talking to families has been described as “a lesson on the power of active listening,” Dr. Kelso goes beyond teaching by example. “Dr. Kelso very deliberately identifies words to use, body language cues and tactics for difficult conversations that make practicing it easier and self-assessment more productive,” Martha Dommisse, M.D., a former geriatric medicine fellow, recalls. “In addition, she gives learners opportunities to practice these skills.”

Since 2006, Dr. Kelso has served as the ethics consultant coordinator at the VAMC, and incorporates medical ethics and professionalism in her discussions with students, residents and fellows. In order to improve her expertise in this area, she completed a Master of Arts in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University in 2008.

A productive academician, Dr. Kelso has received funding through eight grants since 2001, and has developed an innovative approach to pain management that has been copyrighted and used in numerous nursing facilities. Dr. Kelso received a Geriatric Academic Career Award from the Health Resource Services Administration in 2004.

Dr. Kelso’s passion for palliative care is evident in her interactions with students, residents and colleagues. She has enthusiastically taught health care professionals in nursing, gerontology, social work, physical therapy and medicine, and receives accolades for her teaching skills and the supportive learning environment she creates.

“Dr. Kelso was always easy to approach and had not only a great abundance of medical knowledge, but also life knowledge. She was wise and thoughtful when she spoke, especially with families concerning their loved ones,” remembers Erynn Laymon, internal medicine resident.

“I know that she has an immense responsibility building the palliative care program at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center, and yet still when I work with her I feel like her focus is teaching me,” Dommisse says.

Brannen applauds Dr. Kelso’s effectiveness in working with patients and their families.

“She teaches the students and housestaff that sincere and open communication provides a bridge for understanding, negotiating goals and facilitating effective strategies for change and success for all,” Brannen says.

When facing a challenging care issue recently, Brannen says that she often thought to herself, “What would Dr. Kelso do?” With that in mind, she was better able to think through the situation.

As Laurie Lyckholm, M.D., Sidney G. Page Jr. Professor of Bioethics and Humanities, professor of hematology and palliative medicine, internal medicine and director of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program, summarizes, “[Kelso] is ever mindful of the relationships one must build and nurture with patients and families, protective of their vulnerabilities, and is respectful and kind to each person she meets.”

Congratulations, and thank you, to Cathy Kelso for embodying the ideals of the Leonard Tow Humanism Award.

Margaret M. Grimes, M.D., M.Ed


Enrique Gerszten, M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

This is a sample of how students describe Margaret Grimes, M.D., M.Ed., professor of pathology and vice chair for pathology education:

“Dr. Grimes is a wonderful professor who is clear, considerate of her students and makes pathology so relevant and enjoyable.” “One of the all stars of the VCU School of Medicine.” “Bravo to her for being so patient, clear, and thorough.” “Amazing.”

This is how colleagues describe Grimes:

“I believe that Margaret is the role model that all faculty should try to emulate.” “In all aspects of her career, Dr. Grimes has been an example for others to follow.” “Dr. Grimes embodies excellence as a teacher.” “The consummate example of an outstanding medical educator.”

It will not be a surprise to hear that Grimes has received the Outstanding Teaching Award in pathology every year. “I honestly feel that the list of teaching awards understates her value to the students,” states Linda Costanzo, Ph.D., professor emerita of physiology and biophysics. “She delivers, and she delivers every single time.” Grimes has received dozens of recognitions for teaching medical students and residents, often receiving “Best Teacher” awards in multiple courses each year.

Students seek out Grimes for her expert knowledge, organized approach and ability to explain difficult concepts as well as for her exceptional patience and respect for learners. Alpha (Berry) A. Fowler, III, M.D., professor and chairman of pulmonary disease and critical care medicine, and Grimes were interns together. He says, “Knowing Dr. Grimes for these many years, I have had abundant time to observe her teaching skills. She is an amazing teacher.”

“Margaret is a tireless advocate for students and residents and is always looking for a way to make their educational experiences more rewarding,” says Betsy D. Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president, American Board of Pathology.

Over the years, we have had the benefit of Grimes’ teaching skills and educational expertise in many venues. She serves as co-director of the M2 respiratory and cardiovascular courses and directed the VCU pathology training program for 13 years, currently serving as associate director. She has served VCU on numerous committees, including two years as chair of the GME committee and three years on the VCU Faculty Senate.

On the national level, she has chaired the Residency Review Committee for Pathology for the ACGME. Grimes has participated in the Association of Pathology Chairs for many years, including service as Chair of the Program Directors section. She is a trustee of the American Board of Pathology (ABP), has served on the Committee on Examinations, Joint Policy Committees for Dermatopathology and Molecular Genetic Pathology, and the Professional Qualifications Committee. She also chairs the ABP’s Finance Committee and the Test Development and Advisory Committee for Pediatric Pathology.

“Significant in her leadership skills is her ability to listen and synthesize issues,” says C. Bruce Alexander, M.D., president of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. ” I, personally, am continually impressed by this skill.”

Grimes’ commitment to teaching is so great that despite her busy clinical and teaching commitments, she pursued and earned a M.Ed. degree in adult learning for medical educators.

“Throughout the two-year graduate education experience, Dr. Grimes was an exemplar of professional practice as an educator for everyone in the room,” states Teresa Carter, Ed.D., the program director and current associate dean for professional instruction and faculty development for the School of Medicine.

Her department chair, David S. Wilkinson, M.D., Ph.D., notes, “On a personal level, I can state without reservation that Margaret Grimes is an individual of tremendous character. She is always thoughtful and respectful. She is genuinely collegial, always seeking the counsel and input of her peers. She cares deeply about the development of our students and trainees.”

For all of these qualities, Dr. Margaret Grimes is most deserving of the School of Medicine’s highest recognition for teaching.

Angela Gentili, M.D.


VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Fellowship Director Award

If you had served as fellowship director of the Internal Medicine Geriatrics Training Program for 15 years, as Angela Gentili, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine, has, you might be tempted to just “do what has worked.”

However, when colleagues and trainees describe Dr. Gentili, you repeatedly hear words like “creative”, “innovative”, “thinks outside the box”, and “constantly trying to improve.”

As Peter Boling, M.D., professor and chair of geriatric medicine explains, “I have known Angela for over a decade and have watched with great admiration and learned from her. Angela has personally invested tremendous amounts of time and energy, has always sought the best possible experience for the fellows, and has repeatedly refreshed the curriculum.”

“She is a dedicated teacher, educator, mentor and tireless advocate for geriatric fellows,” Julie L. Beales, M.D., interim chief of staff at the McGuire VA Medical Center, says.

“[Gentili] doesn’t just do what everyone else has done,” describes a peer fellowship coordinator. “She is creative and truly looks to build her program. She is a well-respected role model for other program directors.”

“She serves as a mentor for many of us in developing templates, new evaluations, new systems,” agrees Stephanie Call, M.D., M.S.P.H., associate chair for education and training program director in the Department of Internal Medicine. During her recent program accreditation review, Dr. Gentili was “informed, skilled, organized and presented a very strong program,” which received full accreditation without a single citation.

A colleague, Hana Ayele, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine, praises Dr. Gentili’s “creative evaluations and feedback, including simulation, patient-based evaluations and mini-CEX (clinical examination exercise) observed experiences.”

Among Dr. Gentili’s innovations are a mini-CEX on falls in older patients and a checklist for nursing home admission notes and recertification notes, allowing fellows to make sure they are meeting all of the Federal and Joint Commission requirements. Dr. Gentili also developed a system of chart reviews wherein fellows assess themselves to be sure they are applying what they learn in didactics to the care of their patients.

Former fellow Saima Habib, M.D., now assistant professor of internal medicine, recalls, “Dr. Gentili was outstanding: the most devoted and committed teaching physician that I have worked with,” describing her “pleasant personality, expertise in her specialty, easy approachability and constant willingness to help us excel in our training.”

Dr. Gentili also serves as the course director for Geriatrics Grand Rounds and the Geriatrics Core Curriculum Conference at McGuire VA Medical Center. She received the Outstanding Service Award from the American Geriatric Society in 2008 and 2012 for contributions to the Clinical Practice and Models of Care Committee. The Department of Internal Medicine recognized her with the 2007 J. David Markham Award for Excellence in Teaching as well.

Dr. Gentili is active in the Association of Directors of Geriatric Academic Programs Fellowship Directors Group and the teacher section of the American Geriatrics Society. She presents national workshops to teach geriatrics competencies, cognitive disorders and approaches to falls in older patients.

Lenore Joseph, M.D., associate chief of staff/education at McGuire VA Medical Center, sums it up well.

“Dr Gentili is like a grand and fruitful vine in GME, planted, blooming, and flourishing,” Joseph says. “To meet the needs of patients who collectively are more vulnerable than other patient populations due to the physical and psychological stressors of military service, challenging financial times and multiple comorbidities requires tremendous humanism, integrity and perseverance. This is an even more compelling truth for our elderly veterans. I am delighted to report that Dr. Gentili rises to this challenge every time. She expects no less of her trainees, inspiring them with her day-to-day example of energy, endurance and empathy.”

Therèse M. Duane, M.D.


For her outstanding contributions to the School of Medicine and its students, Therèse Duane, M.D., received a pair of Faculty Excellence Awards at this year’s ceremony:

Distinguished Mentor Award

She has helped define me in a way that no other academic leader has.
The support that she has offered throughout the years has left me speechless.
She taught me the value of service to the School of Medicine, as well as to my specialty.

These are the grateful words of just a few of those mentored by our 2012 Distinguished Mentor Awardee, Therèse Duane. Duane is the vice chair for quality and safety, as well as a professor in the Department of Surgery, the associate director of the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship and the assistant medical director of the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit (STICU). Duane came to VCU in 2003 and quickly established her reputation as an outstanding clinician, productive researcher, dedicated teacher to students, housestaff and colleagues, and an effective advocate for patient safety. Her accomplishments in these areas are detailed in her bio as the WISDM Professional Achievement Award recipient, which can be seen below.

However, among all of her exceptional achievements, Duane is perhaps best known for her mentoring. Colleagues and students relate stories of Duane contacting them after the briefest of introductions, asking if they would like to talk. During these discussions, Duane asked questions about career planning, research interests, balancing work and personal time, and offered assistance and advice in all of these areas that have been, in many cases, life changing.

“I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Dr. Duane eight years ago during my enrollment as a student at the Governor’s School for Medicine and Life Sciences — little did I know what a significant impact meeting her would have on my future,” Holly M. Brown, M.S., recalls. “She motivated me to pursue, first an undergraduate degree in Spanish so that I could better serve my patients, then to continue with my education and obtain a master’s in biomedical sciences. I hope to be able to pursue my own career in surgery, and I too will take high school, college and medical students under my wing to guide and educate them as she did for me.”

“[Duane is willing] to not only give the fellows key pieces of advice, but to sit down with a high school student and go over career choices, or to sit down with a struggling intern in the first year of residency and talk to them as though they had known each other for a long time,” observes Andrew J. Young, M.D., “This is truly incredible. I know of no other like her.”

“With the precious free time she has, she speaks to first- and second-year medical students during lunch, has an endless stream of high school and medical students shadowing her, and counsels residents about career choices and work-life balance,” colleagues Stephanie R. Goldberg, M.D., and Julie Mayglothling, M.D. recall.

Duane places a particular emphasis on helping her students develop productive research careers. She has formally mentored 11 graduate students and five postdoctoral scholars in addition to her clinical trainees. Former VCU resident Tracey Dechert, M.D., now assistant professor of surgery at Boston University School of Medicine, describes her experience working with Duane.

“Because of her mentorship, I have many presentations and publications to show for our work, and I have no doubt that this enabled me to obtain a fellowship spot in one of the best trauma/critical care fellowships in the country,” Dechert says. “The sign of a good mentor, I believe, is someone who is your mentor for life: Dr. Duane continues to be a wonderful mentor and a good friend.”

Duane’s dedication has developed countless individuals for careers in medicine that have advanced the profession in research, clinical care and service. But perhaps the most important thing that Duane contributes to our environment is captured in a comment from an M3 clerkship student: “I always felt like I mattered in her presence.”

What can be more important?

Women in Science, Dentistry and Medicine Professional Achievement Award

Skilled surgeon, gifted teacher, engaged mentor, dedicated wife and mother, inspiring leader, and a true force. All of these are phrases used to describe our 2012 WISDM Professional Achievement Awardee, Therèse Duane. Duane is the vice chair for quality and safety, as well as a professor in the Department of Surgery, the associate director of the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship and the assistant medical director of the STICU.

Duane came to VCU in 2003 and was promoted to associate professor after only five years, and to professor four years later. “She has excelled in every category in academic surgery,” says L.D. Britt, M.D., M.P.H., Brickhouse Professor and chairman, at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Rao Ivatury, M.D., professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Trauma, Critical Care and Emergency Surgery at VCU, agrees. “She emphasizes constantly the roles of self-discipline, self-determination and self-application to be a better physician and a better academic surgeon and to achieve professional excellence,” Ivatury says.

Duane is recognized for her exceptional clinical skills, compassionate patient care and commitment to teaching and mentoring. In her role as vice chair, she has created multiple practice guidelines for infection control with multidisciplinary involvement of STICU staff.

“With her leadership the STICU not only dramatically reduced infection rates, but has become the leader in our institution in terms of ongoing low rates of hospital acquired infection,” declares Ron Clark, M.D., chief medical officer, VCU Health System.

Duane is chair of the VCU Medical Center Infection Control Committee and received the 2010 Shining Knight Award for Excellence in Trauma Care.

Surgery resident Hadley Katharine Herbert describes Duane’s clinical presence: “She commands the trauma bay, and through her leadership, exemplifies an understanding and commitment for medicine that my fellow residents and I hope to embrace as future surgeons. She has inspired me to strive for excellence in all areas of my life.”

Recognized as a gifted teacher and mentor, Duane has received numerous teaching awards. Dynamic, articulate and entertaining, she has the ability to connect to her audiences. To improve teaching in the STICU, she created a weekly conference called “Breakfast and Bullets,” where each member of the STICU team is asked to research and present a clinical question that arose during rounds.

Colleagues marvel at Duane’s organizational skills, her ability to respond to emails almost immediately and work ahead of deadlines for publications and grants. She sets the bar high for surgical residents and attendings with her own punctuality and attendance at conferences.

A prolific researcher and writer, Duane has over 50 peer-reviewed publications, including numerous publications in the highly regarded Journal of Trauma. Her ability to collaborate with others is represented by dozens of oral paper and poster presentations developed with colleagues in a wide range of disciplines.

Duane has served as president of the Virginia chapter of Association of Women Surgeons and the L.D. Britt Surgical Society, and as a member of the WISDM Executive Council and currently serves on eleven VCU committees. She completed the VCU Medical Center Physician Leadership Executive Fellowship program in 2008. Duane played a pivotal role in establishing a national Mentorship Program for Early Career Women in Surgery through the Association of Women Surgeons.

As a surgeon, wife and mother, Duane brings valuable insights to her discussions with her students and trainees that help them to keep sight on the parts of life beyond the hospital and to learn the planning and organizational skills that make work-life balance successful. She is a role model for young physicians, especially women, endeavoring to balance career, academics, teaching, research and family. We are fortunate — and honored — to have Therèse Duane in our midst.

Marjolein de Wit, M.D., M.S.


Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching

If, as a new student or resident, you followed Dr. Marjolein de Wit, associate professor of internal medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, around the Medical Respiratory Intensive Care Unit (MRICU), you might feel you had wandered into an alternative medical version of Hogwarts, with spells and incantations spilling from the teacher’s mouth to the students trailing behind. “Mind the gap!” “How about the yums yums?” “I’m a Tegger?” As others noticed your baffled expression, they would take you aside and say “Don’t worry, de Wit will teach you everything you need to know.” And over the next few days, or weeks or years, she would, as she has for countless learners for the last 10 years at VCU.

“I was first exposed to Dr. de Wit as a fourth-year medical student when I was attending her renowned acid base lecture,” recalls internal medicine resident Joshua Morales, M.D. As an intern, Morales remembers de Wit “explaining the etiology of our new patient’s hypoxemia to my upper-level resident who quickly understood; unfortunately, I was not able to follow. She then effortlessly proceeded to break down her explanation into simpler terms for me to understand, and then did this again for the medical students. In a period of 15 minutes, she was able to teach the same thing at three different levels without breaking stride: a talent that only a few have.”

De Wit teaches a wide range of learners, including medical students, residents, fellows, community physicians, pharmacy residents and the interdisciplinary team in the MRICU. Kristin Miller, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, marvels that “regardless of how busy she is, she always makes time to teach students, residents, nurses and respiratory therapists.”

“The worry that comes with any ICU experience as an intern could only disappear as Dr. de Wit transformed the ICU into a living laboratory,” recalls Matthew R. Kappus, M.D., chief medical resident. “From the complex, often highly intense clinical cases, Dr. de Wit broke down material into manageable ‘bites’ and helped the entire team understand the processes that we are helping our patients through.”

In this way, “patients get the best care possible while they are critically ill,” agrees Wendy Amorim, R.N., CRRN, patient care coordinator for the MRICU. In recognition of her skill and dedication, De Wit has received many teaching awards from the Department of Internal Medicine.

de Wit holds a M.S. degree in clinical research and biostatistics, and is extremely effective in incorporating evidence-based medicine into her daily teaching, relating it to bedside patient care. “She is able to explain what constitutes current standard of care for a particular medical problem by describing the evolution of research in that particular area,” John Nestler, M.D., William Branch Porter Professor and chair of internal medicine explains. “She receives high praise from medical students for her ability to teach differential diagnoses and the appropriate tests to confirm or refute these diagnoses.”

In addition to her clinical teaching, de Wit has mentored 14 housestaff in research projects over the past ten years.

de Wit has an exceptionally warm, respectful approach to all around her. She is known for creating a supportive learning environment while pushing people to the best of their ability, a difficult balance.

“Although Dr. de Wit is the best teacher I have had, her most important attribute is her compassion for patients and their families. She speaks to families openly and honestly and with such warmth,” describes internal medicine resident Gary Simmons.

So, if you overhear someone talking about the “Book of de Witicisms,” it is not a book of spells, but it is equally magical — a testament to Dr. Marjolein de Wit’s ability to teach us how to give our patients the best possible care.

Louis J. De Felice, Ph.D.


Distinguished Mentor Award

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

A grateful student chose this quote to describe Louis J. De Felice, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and assistant dean of graduate education for the VCU School of Medicine. As Ph.D. student YooRi Kim says, “Dr. De Felice’s story is not about titles and recognitions: rather, it is about how he has personally influenced the lives of so many students, colleagues and professionals across the world. Dr. De Felice has shown me how to live more effectively, successfully, and happily.”

De Felice came to VCU in 2008, encouraged by Diomedes Logothetis, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. “I could not think of a better mentor, educator, outstanding scientist and colleague than Dr. Lou De Felice to begin my recruitments with,” Logothetis says.

Since he joined the VCU faculty, De Felice has trained one M.S. student and one postdoctoral scholar, and currently trains three Ph.D. students and two postdoctoral scholars. A well-respected researcher, De Felice has an active molecular neuroscience lab and has published more than 85 peer-reviewed original research articles, 31 reviews and book chapters and two monographs. His published work has been cited over 3,900 times.

“Lou De Felice was the key mentor that led me into science — he is very adept at inspiring students to be confident that they can be scientists,” David Clapham, M.D., Ph.D., Aldo R. Castaneda Professor of Cardiovascular Research, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor of neurobiology and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, recalls. “For myself, coming from a non-scientific, small-town family and environment, this was crucial.”

Throughout his career, De Felice has been dedicated to advocating for students who come from disadvantaged or non-traditional backgrounds, and encouraging students who are uncertain they can achieve their dreams. As colleague John Bigbee, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics and director of the neuroscience graduate program, describes, “Lou’s mentoring also extends beyond his own laboratory. He guides the Premedical Graduate Health Sciences Certificate Program and distinguishes himself by his tireless efforts to the program and personal attention to each student.”

Former certificate program student and current VCU student Nick Fuerst agrees. “It’s a difficult task to mentor so many high-stressed students determined to attend medical and dental school; however, De Felice handled this with skill, professionalism and kindness,” he says. “Personally, I can say he has been instrumental in achieving my goal of attending medical school at VCU.”

As co-investigator on the VCU Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity, a research training program for undergraduate students interested in biomedical research, De Felice works with graduate programs in the School of Medicine to support recruitment, admissions and retention of promising young scientists.

Krasnodara Cameron was a mother of two and several years out of the classroom when she first met De Felice in 2009. She was interested in pursuing a research career but unsure of her ability to re-enter school and balance her home life. She enrolled as a Ph.D. student and joined De Felice’s lab in 2011, and can now report that “because of his encouragement and amazing mentorship, I am already a co-author to a manuscript published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, a first author to a manuscript submitted for publication and I have presented our work in six regional and national meetings.”

Doctoral student Tyler Steele, speaks for many when he says, “Dr. De Felice shaped my career at a time when I felt lost and wasn’t sure where to go. Moreover, he did it without hesitation or obligation.”

How fortunate VCU School of Medicine is to have De Felice to mentor our next generation of biomedical scientists.

Lelia E. Brinegar, M.Ed. and Christopher M. Woleben, M.D.


Educational Innovation Award, for their work with the Learners Involved in the Needs of Communities program

In these times of increasing rules and regulations in medical education, it is easy to become jaded and resentful and only work to meet these to the minimum required. Or, if you are this year’s Educational Innovation Awardees, Lelia Brinegar, M.Ed., director of the School of Medicine Curriculum Office, and Christopher Woleben, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, you can enthusiastically take on a new challenge and create a nationally-recognized educational experience that enhances VCU’s relationships with the community and our students’ understanding of the practice of medicine.

Learners Involved in the Needs of Communities, or LINC, started in large part due to a new accreditation requirement for service learning experiences for medical students. In two short years, this program has become a required experience for all first-year medical students that “not only fulfills the LCME requirements, but also develops a critical link between the school and the community it serves, and allows students to experience first-hand the environments in which our patients spend their lives,” explains Isaac “Ike” Wood, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and student affairs.

LINC includes several components. Students meet monthly in small groups to explore topics including the history of Richmond, socioeconomic factors, and health disparities and a fall community fair allows students to learn more about the range of service learning
opportunities available across the Richmond area. During the community service phase, students complete a minimum of 20 hours of service in settings such as the Central Virginia Food Bank, Gilpin Court Outreach Team, Church Hill Area Tutoring and school health fairs. To help students learn and consider how to apply their experiences, students participate in oral and written reflection exercises during the year.

Examples of LINC projects include science courses for students in low-resource areas, providing fresh produce and healthy snacks at sites with little access to affordable and healthy food, and tutoring and mentoring students of all ages.

“In my opinion, LINC sets a new national standard for medical education curricula that aim to prepare culturally- and economically-sensitive physicians,” states Lynn Pelco, Ph.D., director of VCU Service-Learning. “In particular, I have been impressed by the care and consideration [Chris and Lelia] have put towards developing and stewarding collaborative relationships with community partners to ensure that LINC meets community-identified needs while still providing students with innovative and engaging learning experiences.”

Tina Carter, the director of the Mary and Frances Youth Center’s “Lobs and Lessons” program that serves more than 100 third- to fifth-grade students, says, “The afterschool program provided LINC students with an opportunity to assist on and off the court with life-skills curriculum, tennis instruction, homework, and activities that expose students to higher education. All of the volunteers were professional, energetic, and several volunteered beyond their required service hours.”

Priscilla Mpasi, School of Medicine Class of 2014, says LINC helps students “develop their communication skills to interact with community members of all demographic markers and also attain the knowledge and skills necessary to educate community members on how to improve their overall health status.”

“Service learning has certainly enhanced my medical school education and I am confident that my experiences will also make me a more compassionate and caring physician in the future,” shares M3 student Katie Good.

As Catherine W. Howard, Ph.D., vice provost for the Division of Community Engagement, summarizes, “Chris and Lelia have certainly created an innovative educational program that embodies the spirit of VCU’s Quest for Distinction and will certainly serve as a stellar example of VCU as a model of community engagement and regional impact.”

For rising to the challenge with creativity and commitment to strengthen our students’ ability to help our community, Lelia Brinegar and Chris Woleben are most deserving of this recognition.

Donna Barrett


VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Program Coordinator Award

All of us hope to have a colleague that helps to keep everything together and moving forward, is incredibly efficient and competent and detail-oriented, and is great to work with. The OB-GYN residency program is fortunate to have just such a person in Donna Barrett. After serving as residency program coordinator for the Department of Pediatrics for five years, Barrett took on the challenge of becoming the program coordinator for OB-GYN just as a new program director took over the program and with an accreditation internal review rapidly approaching.

Within a month, she got all of the records up to speed, duty hours in order and developed a wonderful relationship with the faculty and students,” explains Nicole Karjane, OB-GYN program director.

Administrative chief resident Sarah Milton describes the contributions that Barrett has already made in her short time in the position. “She brought with her unique ideas that have already resulted in drastic improvements within our department,” Milton says. “For example, she suggested streamlining our schedule using an online schedule template, which has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the communication between administrators and residents with regard to scheduling and has eased the transition from one academic year to the next.”

Colleagues from the Department of Pediatrics are happy to share their experiences with Barrett during her tenure there. “She has touched the lives of every resident who has passed through this program,” says Gauri Gulati, M.D., associate program director for the pediatric residency program. “One of our current residents attributes Donna’s presence as one of the major factors in her decision to match at VCU.

“[Barrett] is willing to take on any challenge, no matter how big or small. Improving the residency program was not
a job for Donna but more of a personal goal in which she took great pride.”

Former chief resident in pediatrics, Susanne Appleton, M.D., recalls, “I started referring to her as ‘the eternal
chief’ in my own head given that she seemed to not just be the one on top of all the background tasks that it takes to make a residency program run, but, even more importantly, seemed to be the go-to person for me and many other
residents when it came to needing a motherly friend so far from home.”

Indeed, the new Class of 2016 already describes
Barrett as “a great asset to the OB-GYN department” and describes how she has “gone
out of her way to make our transition go as smoothly as possible. We truly
appreciate all she has done for us, even at such an early time in our residency

Colleagues in both pediatrics and OB-GYN
describe Barrett as leaving no detail to chance: learning how to pronounce new
residents’ names and coaching others so the new residents would feel welcome,
working long hours to be sure every facet of recruitment, from paperwork to
food, was perfect, and coordinating multiple educational activities smoothly,
from conferences to rotations to re-certifications and retreats.

Despite juggling numerous important
responsibilities, Barrett remains an excellent role model. “No matter what task
she is assigned, she tackles it with enthusiasm, dedication and humor,” Milton
says. “Her attitude is contagious and working through the trials of scheduling
and interdepartmental communication all seems to occur with ease in her

Fidelma Rigby, M.D., associate professor
and OB-GYN clerkship director comments, “She is the nicest, most generous
coordinator I have known in my 23 years in association with academic medicine.”

For her longstanding dedication to
excellence in residency training, it is an honor to recognize Donna Barrett for
her leadership in graduate medical education as the recipient of the LGME
Program Coordinator Award.

November 8, 2012

Adam Rosenblatt, M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry
Last post: Johns Hopkins University

At Johns Hopkins University, Adam Rosenblatt customized his practice and research in psychiatry to focus on patients with major neuropsychiatric disorders. On the MCV Campus, he’ll direct the VCU Medical Center’s Geriatric Psychiatry Program and co-direct the Huntington Disease Program at the VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center. Rosenblatt loves to teach and will also focus on developing a geriatric neuropsychiatry fellowship in collaboration with the McGuire VA Medical Center.

Of his unusual mix of disciplines, Rosenblatt said, “Many people don’t have enough experience working with geriatric populations, for example, as an on-call psychiatrist at a nursing home.” These patients may have medical issues, such as multiple diagnoses and greater sensitivity to medications and their side effects. In addition, they may not have a strong support network or have trouble communicating.

On the Huntington’s disease front, Rosenblatt is interested in its long-course treatment as a neurological disease that also has a psychiatric component. “It’s a fairly uncommon disease, but it’s devastating and fatal,” he said. “And it strikes in the prime of life.” He says while the genetics of the disease are straightforward, the treatment of affected patients has plenty of room for improvement. He’ll team up with neurologist Claudia Testa, M.D., Ph.D., to focus on Huntington disease, offer a regional center for patient care and begin clinical studies.

Egidio G. Del Fabbro, M.D.

Del Fabbro
Associate Professor of Internal Medicine
Last post: MD Anderson Cancer Center 

Egidio Del Fabbro first became interested in palliative care as a practicing
internist, when he recognized certain deficiencies in his training. “I
wanted to become more accomplished at treating pain symptoms,” he said.
He felt managing patients’ symptoms in a supportive way was crucial to
caring for them.

So Del Fabbro, who earned his medical degree in
South Africa and did residencies in the UK and the U.S., headed to MD
Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for a palliative care fellowship. “Six
months into the fellowship, I realized there was a real gap in
knowledge with regard to palliative care,” he said. “There was an
opportunity to do pioneering work.” He stayed on as faculty, helping to
direct the palliative care program and co-founding a clinic for patients
with cachexia, also known as wasting syndrome. His research studies
have included testosterone replacement for fatigue and melatonin
treatment for patients whose lack of appetite results in weight and
muscle loss.

Del Fabbro became program director of palliative
care at the Massey Cancer Center last May. Initially drawn to the MCV
Campus for its comprehensive palliative care center, he’s since been
impressed by the knowledge and integration of palliative care both in
and outside of oncology. Del Fabbro says that’s a great setting in which
to do meaningful research.

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Updated: 08/19/2008