Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Stanton Royer, the 2021 Outstanding Housestaff Award winner

We talked last time about the awesome honorees this year at our (in-person) MCG Faculty Awards. We also talked about the painful loss of Dr. Walt Moore, a man who defined the love of medicine and teaching. This week I wanted to start with our 2020-21 Walter J. Moore Outstanding Housestaff Award winner, for those who carry on his fine tradition. This year’s winner is Dr. Stanton Royer, who I am happy to say is a 2018 MCG graduate and one of our very first Harrison Scholars, who just completed his emergency medicine residency with us and will be staying with us to do an ultrasound fellowship also in our multitasking Department of Emergency Medicine. In nominating Dr. Royer, Dr. John Barrett, assistant residency director, shares that Dr. Royer is an academically brilliant individual whose “level of discussion when leading journal clubs challenges even the most astute minds of our faculty.” Dr. Royer holds one of the department’s chief residency positions called Chief Resident in Academics, in which he helps manage the extensive educational programs for his fellow residents like simulation classes and guest speakers and picking good patient cases to review and topics for the journal club he is so great at leading. Like so many of you, he is committed as well to serving those in need like the victims of Hurricane Michael who relocated to our city and volunteering at the Druid Park Clinic and the Equality Clinic. Dr. Barrett predicts that Dr. Royer will be a superstar in his field. Sounds like he is well on his way. Jess Langston, residency coordinator, summed him up well: The epitome of professional and pleasant and still humble. That’s a killer combination. Congratulations and thank you Dr. Royer.

Dr. Amir Mian is the new chief of pediatric hematology/oncology

Please also join me in congratulating and welcoming our new chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Dr. Amir Mian. He comes to us from the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock where he was interim medical director of the bone marrow transplant program and chair of the Bone Marrow Transplant Quality Committee. I am happy to say that here, at our Children’s Hospital of Georgia and Georgia Cancer Center, he will be establishing a pediatric bone marrow and stem cell transplant program and working to develop a pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship to train the next generation. Dr. Mian completed his clinical fellowship in hematology-oncology-bone marrow transplantation at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 2005 after completing his pediatrics residency at Beth Israel Medical Center, including a year as chief resident. He chairs the Practice Committee of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology and is a member the Health Care Delivery and Health Care Policy Work Group of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Hematology Oncology. Welcome Dr. Mian.

TR Reddy family and friends make $300,000 gift to COVID research

Late last week, we were privileged to be awarded a $300,000 gift from leaders in our community to support the study we are doing to follow the long-term neurological impact of COVID-19. This great demonstration of benevolence got rolling when longtime Augusta resident and philanthropist TR Reddy read a story about the study in our MCG Medicine magazine. Now he and his wife, Dr. Niranjini Reddy, a psychiatrist and clinical faculty member here, along with Ronnie Powell, the owner of Powell Construction, which builds homes in our community, and his wife Jennifer Christian Powell, office manager with Studio 3 Design Group here in Augusta and good friends of the Reddy family; and Augusta businessman and USG Regent Jim Hull, who chairs the AU Health System Board and who the Hull College of Business is named after, have now all contributed to the study and to the TR Reddy Family Fund for COVID-19 Neurological Research. Others who have committed include the Reddys’ son Arvind, from Atlanta; their son-in-law Dr. Michael Phillips, an infectious disease physician at NYU Langone Health, in New York; and family member S.P. Reddy, who lives in India. Check out this great story about their generosity by Tom Corwin in The Augusta Chronicle. Their gifts will enable us to grow this study that we hope will provide valuable information about a condition most of us had never heard of 15 months ago but has subsequently touched all our lives. Thank you all again for your support, and please let me also thank my invaluable colleagues in this study including Dr. Elizabeth Rutkowski, neurologist, who is really taking the lead on this. Drs. Shaoyong Su and Xiaolang Wang, both genetic epidemiologists at the Georgia Prevention Institute, who are analyzing the information our study participants are sharing with us, information which is already identifying emerging trends. As an example, we are seeing that about one-third of the study participants have persistent sequelae like anxiety, depression, brain fog and fatigue for at least three months. And, Dr. Lynette McCluskey, neuroscientist and taste researcher — I always love to mention the neat irony that husband Dave McCluskey is a chef — whose expertise has been a great help, along with the calm, insightful countenance of our memory disorders chief Dr. John Morgan. Great science is a definite team sport.

Department of Physiology team shows plant-based diet can reduce salt-sensitive hypertension

Speaking of great team science, Physiology Chair Dr. Dave Mattson, physiologist Dr. Justine Abais-Battad and postdoc Dr. John Henry Dasinger, are a happy, productive group of scientists who we were fortunate to attract from the Medical College of Wisconsin two years ago. A major focus of their studies is better understanding and ultimately preventing salt-sensitive hypertension. As the name indicates, that’s sort of a hyper response to high salt intake that affects a significant percentage of us, driving blood pressure up, and increasing our risk for common related problems like stroke, heart attack and kidney damage. You all probably can’t have helped but notice the great push for plant-based food products currently under way on countless media fronts. Well the physiology team reports some fascinating findings that give additional credence to some of its health benefits. They found that in rats, called Dahl Salt Sensitive rats, which are bred to have this hyper response to salt, switching to a plant-based diet appears to protect them from this response and it protects the females, who also are prone to potentially deadly preeclampsia, from that pregnancy related super surge in blood pressure as well. More to come on this highly relevant work probably early next week on our home page and hopefully around the world. You can already learn more here on the front page of The Augusta Chronicle.

Dr. Imran Gani named interim medical director for transplant services

Hypertension is definitely destructive and it affects almost half of us. Along with diabetes, arterial blockages and polycystic kidney disease it’s among the top reasons patients may ultimately seek a kidney transplant at institutions like ours, where we offer both kidney and kidney/pancreas transplants. Dr. Muhammad Saeed was named chief of our Transplant Surgery Section and Carlos and Marguerite Mason Distinguished Chair in Transplant Surgery last year. Now it is my pleasure to also share that Dr. Imran Yaseen Gani, who completed his transplant nephrology fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2017, then joined our Division of Nephrology, Hypertension and Transplant Medicine, has been named interim medical director for transplant services. Dr. Gani’s clinical and research interests include transplant immunology — the essential, delicate balance of ensuring that patients’ transplanted organs are not rejected while their immune systems remain vigilant against disease, the viral infections patients do get as well as cognitive impairment, which is unfortunately common in both patients on dialysis and after transplant. Drs. Gani and Saeed and their colleagues have plenty of patients who may need their help. The National Foundation for Transplants says that 650,000 Americans are facing end-stage renal disease and 468,000 Americans are on dialysis. The first kidney transplant was done on identical twins in 1954 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  

Dr. Christopher Campbell Smith, 1978 MCG graduate, longtime Albany general surgeon, passes

Finally today, we also have talked a lot particularly in the past two dozen months about MCG recommitting to primary care for our state and taking proactive steps to ease the way for our medical students who want this frontline focus. Dr. J. Price Corr Jr., 1977 MCG graduate, a native of Albany, Georgia who returned to his hometown to practice general surgery in 1982, called me last weekend sorrowful over the passing of his dear friend and colleague who had that frontline focus: 1978 graduate Dr. Christopher Campbell Smith. This native of Tifton, Georgia, moved to Albany, the hub of our oldest regional campus, the Southwest Campus, in 1983 after finishing his general surgery residency at Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta. He served this region until his death in late May. His extensive contributions included serving as a clinical assistant professor at his alma mater, who welcomed future MCG graduates into his practice to learn. From this South Georgia town, his impact reverberated as a founding charter member and first president of the Georgia Society of General Surgeons and later as president of the Georgia Chapter of the American College of Surgeons. Our thoughts and appreciation are with Dr. Smith’s family and friends. Please get vaccinated so we can put this pandemic behind us.

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