“Forever is composed of nows.”

-Emily Dickinson

 

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

 

Our hospital opened 60 years ago …

We do love to time travel a bit now and then, and there is so much to revisit when our history dates back nearly 200 years. So think if you would of that warm Augusta day in June 1956 when we opened Eugene Talmadge Memorial Hospital – what is today our AU Medical Center – to patients. “It was a great affair,” reflected our Dr. Lois Ellison, medical historian-in-residence extraordinaire who had graduated from our medical school just a few years earlier in 1950.  The crowd that gathered to open the teaching hospital for our medical school was resplendent with dignitaries like Herman Talmadge, son of the hospital’s late namesake, who himself was a governor and had been elected to his first of four terms in the U.S. Senate that same historic year. Dr. Rufus Payne, an amazing 1933 graduate, was the dean of hospitals. Dr. Payne had previously led the state tuberculosis sanatorium in Alto, Ga. and the larger tuberculosis center, Battey Hospital at Rome. Construction of our hospital began in 1953 and the state approved $10.5 million in revenue certificates to help finance it. Dr. Payne estimated that it would cost about $3 million a year to operate the new hospital.

 

With some fanfare and much promise …

Dr. Payne was adamant that the facility needed to be a true teaching hospital because, together, the medical school and hospital would become a true academic medical center, a haven for education, research and service, Dr. Ellison shares. “It was an extremely exciting thing that was taking place,” she says. The first residents moved in July 1, shortly after the first patients. They included the likes of our Dr. Joseph P. Bailey, class of 1955, who would become a rheumatologist and our long-time section chief, and the late Dr. Gordon W. Jackson, a 1952 graduate, who was becoming an obstetrician gynecologist who would practice for years in the Macon area and just loved to help keep his fellow alums over that way interested in their medical school.  Folks such as the famous Dr. Virgil P. Sydenstricker would be named head of medicine and Dr. William Moretz head of surgery. The old research wing of the hospital was added a few years later and the Sydenstricker Wing, a major addition, opened in 1976. The new children’s hospital opened 22 years later, and so the story continues to be told. It would be great to be able to be a fly on those early walls and to see and hear those movers and shakers quite literally building this place we respectfully call home today. Did you know that University Hospital served as our teaching hospital prior to the 1956 opening of the Talmadge Hospital? Just so much history to celebrate.

 

Today each of you … May not always think fanfare …

No doubt, some pretty solid footing was laid in those days and, we do believe, that today so many of you express that same commitment and pioneering spirit to go and do and make our medical school and well beyond just better. Folks like our Dr. David Fulton, director of the Vascular Biology Center, and Dr. Scott Barman, pulmonary vascular biologist and vice chair of education for our Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. This pair seem to have an easy-going exterior, but a hard-hitting scientific core. They are terrific colleagues in the fight against the chronic and potentially lethal pulmonary arterial hypertension, in which the intricate vasculature of the lungs remodels, becoming stiff and unresponsive, which, as you can imagine, quite literally makes it hard to breathe, can cause chest pain, exhaustion and eventually heart failure. The treatments are not as effective as we’d like and apparently do little to address the dangerous blood-vessel remodeling.  Risks are diverse and include genetics; heart problems, including congenital heart disease; drugs like methamphetamines, obesity; even being a woman. Well these two have a potential new treatment target and a new $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to absolutely further check out its potential. Great going guys. See Tom Corwin’s terrific story that was the centerpiece on the newspaper’s metro section front this week.

 

But you never forget the promise …

No doubt, you all are amazing patient advocates. Even when, like Drs. Fulton and Barman, you don’t actually see patients, it’s ever so abundantly clear, as we’ve said, that you have them in your hearts and minds. Our breast pathologist Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, as another great example, mostly sees patient samples. But he was frustrated nonetheless because he wanted to give patients with breast cancer and their clinicians better information about whether chemotherapy would clearly be of benefit. Simply put, this new test for which he strongly advocated at our medical school and cancer center, enables analysis of some 50 genes differentially expressed in patients with low- and high-risk of disease recurrence. Without this kind of additional information, the tendency is to err on the side of giving chemotherapy. Because, under the microscope, which breast cancer is most likely to recur is not always clear. Dr. Kolhe, who went to engineering school before he went to medical school, happily admits he loves the integration of technology and medicine. We say our patients must also be glad to have this additional insight into the disease they battle. We so thank Dr. Kolhe and our entire Department of Pathology for ensuring we get the best information about our patients so we can help them and their families make the best decisions about care. Learn more here.

 

The commitment to serve and lead…

As we wind down this holiday week, we circle back to, maybe not some of our first residents, but definitely some more of our standouts. Dr. Robert Mackey, a fifth-year resident in diagnostic radiology, has been elected as the education liaison for the Executive Committee of the American College of Radiology. And, our Dr. Bryan Rabatic, chief resident in our two-year-old radiation oncology residency, has been elected the Executive Committee’s radiation oncology representative. Talk about leadership. We understand our Dr. Mackey will provide the college’s Commission on Education input from his colleagues-in-training on needed new educational programs and feedback on what’s already out there. Our Dr. Rabatic will help increase the participation of other residents in his chosen specialty in the college, which is the main organization of radiologists, radiation oncologists and clinical medical physicists in our country. Of course these two – like you – were already mega-accomplished. Dr. Rabatic is already a PhD and Dr. Mackey has an MBA in health care management. Seriously, the busy definitely get more done! Thank you both for representing medicine, your chosen specialty and our medical school so very well.

 

To better this world…

These two hard-working members of the next generation were absolutely in great – and familiar – company at the American College of Radiology’s recent 2016 annual meeting. Two of our alums were among the three radiologists recognized for outstanding achievement. How is that for awesome? These amazing honorees were Dr. Walter J. Curran, a 1982 graduate, who is executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University, and Dr. Charles D. Williams, a 1966 graduate and specialist in pediatric radiology and breast and diagnostic imaging who has served nearly 50 positions with the ACR including vice president. Again, you leave us breathless at times with who you are, what you do, and how you absolutely do it. Thank you for your service to medicine and to patients.

 

Upcoming Events

 

June 16 – Investiture Ceremony, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

Aug. 12 – New date for the State of the College address, noon, Lee Auditorium!

Nov. 4 – Body Donation Memorial Service, 1 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

Nov. 5 – White Coat Ceremony, Bell Auditorium, 3 p.m.; reception to follow at the Old Medical College building.

Sept. 1 – MCG Alumni Association Athens Regional Reception, home of Dr. and Mrs. Mark Ellison, 6 p.m.

Sept. 17 – Alumni Association 125th Anniversary Celebration, Marriott Augusta, 6 p.m. cocktails, 7 p.m. dinner.

Sept. 24 – Augusta University Day of Service

Oct. 6 – Alumni Association, Albany Regional Reception, Doublegate Country Club, 6 p.m.

Oct. 13 – Alumni Association Savannah Regional Reception, Savannah Golf Club, 6 p.m.

Oct. 25 – Alumni Association Rome Regional Reception. Coosa Country Club, 6 p.m.

 

Have a wonderful weekend.

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