“It’s easy to lie with statistics; it’s easier to lie without them.”

-Frederick Mosteller


Dear Friends and Colleagues,


Let’s Hear It… For Statistics…

Raise your hand if you can whip up a statistic! Okay, we know at least among us medical school types nobody does that better – and other complex figuring like disease incidence – than our Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology! And, while the department name may not reflect it, this is a pretty fun group to boot. And, of course, like you, they are absolutely accomplished. In fact, they have just signed another contract with the American Statistical Association to conduct the biennial salary survey of business, industry and government statisticians in the United States. This big job will be taken on by our chair, Dr. Varghese George; Dr. Sunil Mathur, director of statistical consulting and the Survey Center; and Consulting Center Manager Patricia Hall. The survey is based on a database of about 6,000 non-academic statisticians and data will be categorized by employer type, geographic region, gender, highest degree and years of experience and other stuff. Whew again. This is the fourth time our team has pulled together these fun facts, which will be published in the association’s official publication, the Amstat News, for all to see and use. Congratulations!

Which Help Us Assess…. Everything from Salaries to Health…

By the by, the association also asked our department to conduct the 2014 Annual Survey of Academic Statisticians and Biostatisticians, which was published in the March 2015 issue of Amstat News. We are thinking/hoping we will do this again as well. These numbers absolutely help folks such as us figure out pay rates for these essential data scientists.  We do expect/hope the contract will be renewed for the 2015 Annual Survey and beyond. Great news. So is this. We shared back in May that epidemiologist, Dr. Jessica Schwind, was taking much-needed medical supplies to Nepal in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake. She was headed to that country as part of her studies of international health and in keeping with the complete amazingness of many of you, she resolved to help with the immediate need as well. Well Nepal came to see us this week, or at least the Executive Director of its not-for-profit Center for Molecular Dynamics, Dibesh Karmacharya. This leading public health and wildlife research organization wants to work with other great colleagues here, like Dr. Schwind, on collaborative studies that will make their country and our world better. Now that is an awesome alliance you can help build. For more info, please reach out to Dr. Schwind at jschwind@gru.edu.


And May Even Teach Us a Thing or Two… About Chickens

Now you may wonder what chickens have to do with this but actually it’s plenty. Our Dr. Arni Rao, also in the Department of Biostatistics, is a mathematical modeler who is already doing some important international math. Working with colleagues at The Royal Veterinary College at the University of London, he studied how chickens walk in India and England. He did that because their walk patterns are a great indicator of how much how and how they are spreading non-airborne pathogens. This tale actually leads us back to farmers’ economic health. You see he wants to give farmers a way to detect and take action early against diseases, such as Eimeria, a pathogen that is easily spread among chickens and other farm animals and costs poultry farmers alone billions annually. Interesting work that is a little different than what we are typically privileged to share with you. Check out more here http://bit.ly/1PRwE2b.


Let’s Also Hear a Round of Cheer…. For Thinking Outside the Box… About our Brains…

Since we are already talking some serious math how is n=2-1. Okay, like our Dr. Rao, our Dr. Joe Tsien can absolutely make this interesting and, in this case, super relevant to human health. It’s his brand new, still steaming-off-the-press Theory of Connectivity. Bottom line, it helps us understand a bit about, well, how we understand. If we think about it (pun intended) it’s amazing what our brains process in even a couple of minutes of a boring day. Well Dr. Tsien, like most his fellow neuroscientists in the world, has been doing a lot of work analyzing the brain to try to figure out its many amazing mysteries.  This time, Dr. Tsien did a thought experiment, which led him to his equation, which, (we hope) basically means that some prewiring of neurons helps organize our brains. He says that, while plenty of testing still needs doing, he hopes that understanding this basic brain architecture has lots of therapeutic potential, even helping us develop and test brain drugs and learn more about how disease affects our brains. You can check out more here http://on.fb.me/1kbBSbK. Did you know Dr. Tsien is one of our Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholars? This terrific group, led by Dr. Mike Cassidy, is doing some important math of its own by multiplying the strength of the researchers and research institutions in our state! That is some seriously stellar stuff.


Mounting International Efforts… To Tackle Disasters

Speaking of strengthening, we talked late in the summer about how the National Disaster Life Support Foundation, based right here, had signed an agreement to teach standardized courses that will help maximize disaster support throughout China. Like Dr. Tsien’s efforts to figure out how neurons work optimally together, these courses help frontline disaster folks, from police to paramedics, optimally manage disasters and recovery. Our Emergency Medicine Chair, Dr. Richard Schwartz, worked with colleagues at University of Georgia, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the University of Texas at Houston’s School of Public Health to develop these disaster medicine courses. Well this week, the American College of Emergency Medicine endorsed the courses as the “gold standard” in all-hazards training.  We absolutely agree and thank the college for this important recognition. Did you know the courses have been taught to more than 120,000 people in 49 states? More seriously great math.


Standing Up… And Taking the Lead…

Speaking of making national waves, our Dr. Stil Kountakis, chair of the Department of Otolaryngology and Edward S. Porubsky Distinguished Chair in Otolaryngology, is the recent recipient of the, drum roll time again, Golden Head Mirror Award from the American Rhinologic Society. This is particularly cool because this prestigious group doesn’t honor someone every year with its top award for service, teaching, clinical and research contributions to the society itself, as well as members, residents and fellows. But after looking over his contributions to just this group, who could argue? He has been, take a deep breath before reading, the society’s president, a member and a consultant to the Board of Directors, first vice president, second vice president, president-elect, and, of course, past president. He has chaired and co-chaired its Program Committee, chaired the Audit Committee, chaired its Nominating Committee, and, our personal favorite, its Committee on Committees. Anyway, you get the idea. Again, this is just a sampling of what he does on the national stage. Our absolute congratulations and thanks to Dr. Kountakis.


While Also Knowing How to Work… As A Team

One more absolute cause for celebration this week. We have submitted our accreditation application to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. While the work is hardly over, this is a huge, huge step in this all-important process that really culminates with the LCME site visit in January. We must thank here again our Academic Affairs team, particularly Drs. Paul Wallach and Andria Thomas, for its leadership in this mammoth undertaking. While there are many, many others to thank, at this juncture we also must publicly thank Drs. Kelli Braun and Bill Pearson for serving as our faculty leads. Our Dr. Vaughn McCall and Amyn Rojiani have been our chair leads. As we have said time-and-time again, and absolutely love repeating, our medical school absolutely has the best of the best – that means you – and we could not be more proud or appreciative. Thank you.


And For Caring About Each Other… And Our World

Unfortunately today, we must again leave you on a very somber note. We join our university in mourning the tragic loss of one of our students, a pre-biology major, this past weekend. We join in mourning as well our colleagues at Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma and the citizens of Stillwater where, over this past weekend, the joy of a homecoming parade was shattered when a car was driven through it. At that single moment, about 50 people were injured, many of them children. Four died. At these most difficult times, there is such solace in the amazing compassion and passion of purpose for making lives better that each of you bring to our medical school. Thank you.


Upcoming Events


The Alan Roberts, M.D., Mini-Medical school runs through Nov. 3, 6-8 p.m., Health Sciences Building, EC 1204, see gru.edu/ce/medicalce/minimed/ or call continuing education at 706-721-3967.


Oct. 30 – Alpha Omega Alpha Induction Ceremony, Lee Auditorium, 4 p.m.

Nov. 2 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., JSAC Ballroom, Summerville Campus.

Nov. 3 – The performing arts return to the Health Sciences Campus, as GRU Arts Council presents the Noon Arts concert series, see /calendar.gru.edu/event/noon-arts-concert-1/. Join Dr. Kevin Frazier, master of ceremonies, as he welcomes performers from across the university and health system to the Lee Auditorium. Free admission. Light snacks and drinks provided. You can also enter a drawing for a pair of tickets to The Peking Acrobats performance at The Maxwell Theatre on March 4.

Nov. 13 – Body Donation Memorial Service, 1 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

Nov. 13 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Health Sciences Building, EC 1210.

Nov. 14 – The GRU Faculty Club presents the Oldies Dance at Forest Hills Club House, 7-10 p.m. Dance and enjoy pizza, salad and good fun.

Nov. 18 – Faculty & Staff Service Recognition Dinner honoring employees with 20, 25, 30, or 35 years of service, Legends Club, 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 19 – Great American Smokeout Commit to Quit, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., JSAC Breezeway, Summerville Campus; Harrison Commons lobby; Children’s Hospital of Georgia lobby. For more information visit gru.edu/tobaccofree/.

Nov. 20 – After Hours gathering by the GRU Faculty Club, 5:30 p.m., Oliviana’s at Surrey Center. No reservations required just informal fun.

Dec. 6-8 – Liaison Committee on Medical Education Mock Site Visit

Dec. 7 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., EC-1222, Health Sciences Campus.

Dec. 10 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium

Jan. 11 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., JSAC Ballroom, Summerville Campus. 

Jan. 12 – Town Hall meeting with students, noon-1 p.m., Harrison Commons, GB 1220A.

Jan. 22 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Jan. 24-27 – LCME Site visit

Feb. 1 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., EC-1222, Health Sciences Campus.

Feb. 18 – MCG Faculty Senate meeting and Awards Ceremony, 5:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

Feb. 25 – MCG Alumni Association Board Meeting, Macon, Idle Hour Country Club, 3:30 p.m.

March 7 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., JSAC Ballroom, Summerville Campus.

March 18 – Match Day, location TBD!

March 25 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

April 11 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., EC-1222, Health Sciences Campus.

April 15 – MCG Alumni Association sponsors the Raft Debate. More to come.

April 29 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

April 29-May 1 – Alumni Weekend.

May 6 – Dean’s State of the College Address, noon, Lee Auditorium.

May 12 – Hooding 2016, Keynote speaker, Dr. Claire Pomeroy, President, Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, location and time TBD.


Have a safe and happy Halloween!

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