“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

-Henry Ford


Dear Colleagues and Friends,


You may break for spring …

A belated welcome back from spring break! We so hope those of you who had a chance to get away had a great time with your family and friends and we hope you also are glad to be back with your work family right here at Georgia’s medical school. There is little doubt you all function as any great (size and quality definitions both intended here) family would. You build on each other’s strengths, recognize the benefit of “we” and look out for each other and the greater good. Thank you for being such a great group and such great individuals.


But you never brake …

Take our Dr. Mike Rivner. He’s a neurologist specializing in neuromuscular disease who has been here since, well almost forever. He actually did his residency and fellowship training right here and never really left us since finishing that training in 1983. How is that for some staying power! Like many of you, he also has never had a stagnant moment, instead has remained an endless (and excited in his own unique way) innovator, including being an early player in things like exploring the use of botulinum toxin for back pain. Also, like so many of you, Dr. Rivner takes care of patients with a lot of tough problems, such as ALS and myasthenia gravis, and like you, does not like to settle for anything but the best for them. Well about 10 percent of patients with myasthenia gravis, the most common communication problem between our brains and muscles, have classic disease symptoms, such as drooping eyelids, muscle weakness and trouble breathing, but they don’t have either of the antibodies known to attack the neuromuscular junction and cause this disease. That left a big question mark in the mind of Dr. Rivner and his patients that he absolutely did not like.


When it comes … To taking care of patients….

Take Dr. Lin Mei, our first ever chair of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Neuroscience to boot! He hasn’t been here quite as long as Dr. Rivner – he came to us in 2004 from the University of Alabama, Birmingham – but he arrived with and has absolutely maintained his also unique, endless excitement for how our nerves and muscles communicate – he has even found some vice versa talk – and how disease disrupts these vital conversations.  Well, for a while now, Rivner and Mei have been united in their disease battle. Like most productive science, this has been a back and forth thing that actually started in Mei’s lab, then evidence of these two new antibodies were found in patients, and now it’s back to the research lab and to patients. Mei and Rivner, with support from the National Institutes of Health, are leading a national initiative that includes 22 centers and about 600 of these double-negative patients to begin to find how common these new antibodies are, whether these patients have some unique symptoms and whether new treatments are in order just for them. This is an ongoing great job by so many that will lead to a better future for many, many more. Thank you all for this amazing team effort. Learn more here http://bit.ly/1SaMaFH and here http://bit.ly/1quN1I9and in the cover story of our very next issue of MCG Medicine magazine which will be here as well soon!


Finding ways to take even better care of patients …

See what we keep talking about! You all really, truly rock. You care and you work like you care. Remember how we shared recently that our scientists rank 20th in research productivity based on a recent survey results of 58 public medical schools. Well, this week we must share one more example of the who, the how and the why. Meet Dr. Leszek Ignatowicz, an immunologist in our Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine. We were fortunate to have him join us about 20 years ago and are happy to share that he just got two new NIH grants on top of the one he already had. He does it by working hard, by being mega-interested in his work and, well a lot of brainpower doesn’t hurt. Anyway, like Drs. Mei and Rivner’s work, his is super relevant to humans even though it’s some pretty heady laboratory science. As an example, the bottom line of one of his new grants is trying to figure out whether children taking antibiotics before their immune systems have a chance to mature – which happens at about age three – has a lasting impact on their immune system that puts them at increased disease risk, particularly for autoimmune diseases – things like Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis – which we hear so much about. This is just a super-relevant topic and great science. Please keep at it and congratulations on the two new grants Dr. Ignatowicz! Check out more here http://bit.ly/1W0bUHn.


Securing great partnerships …

You know, as our university continues to stretch and make its new way, there will be even more hot topics for education and science around these parts. One is definitely cyber, which focuses on everything from the small computers we carry in our pockets to the large ones that store our health or financial records. Lots of obvious interest and issues here and we are proud that today our university signed an MOU with the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence to also work as one great family/team sharing resources and knowledge to help develop a cyber-trained workforce and discover the next generation of cyber knowhow. How cool and relevant does that sound for us all both on a personal and professional level. None of us wants to read any more stories about health care data – or any data for that matter – being stolen. Our affiliation with Cyber Command, based at our very own Fort Gordon, as well as our existing relationship with health information technology giant Cerner, will absolutely help position our university as a major contributor to this important and dynamic field. Great going.


And lively discussions

Seriously, the future just offers so many great things at our medical school and university. But what if you had to choose between a few of them, and we mean in this case the ultimate choice, as in if we don’t pick you, you don’t survive. Well, that may not sound very nice but that scenario actually turns out to paint a whale of a time at the annual MCG Alumni Association Raft Debate! Yet, it is absolutely coming to us this very evening at 6:30 p.m. in the Harrison Commons. Seriously, with a sinking ship and a one-person life raft, you can help decide who makes it: an internist, a pediatrician, or a surgeon. These amazing good sports are Dr. Shilpa Brown, internist (a 1994 MCG graduate); Dr. Brian Stansfield, neonatologist (a 2004 MCG graduate!), and from our Athens campus, surgeon/urologist Dr. Nancy Hockley (who also happens to be chair of clinical sciences up that way!). The calm, collected Dr. Kathryn Martin, associate dean for regional campus coordination, will also coordinate this debate. Matt Homen, clerkship coordinator, will be the ever-present devil’s advocate. You know you want to be there because this is some serious fun. Have we mentioned lately that we love our alumni?!



That brings us to some sad news on the passing of another great alumnus, but great news on a life so well lived. Dr. John T. Harper Sr. was the eldest of of LueBirda and Johnnie Harper’s five children, who worked as hard on his family farm as he did in school. He was valedictorian of Hancock Central High School in 1963 in Sparta, Ga. He was a biology major at Morehouse College, taking a math course at Spelman College, where he met his wife Agnes Louise Houston. This great couple would come to Augusta where Dr. Harper, along with Dr. Frank Rumph, would make history at our medical school as the first two black students to graduate in 1971. Dr. Harper was doing general surgery training at Emory University, when he was drafted into the United States Air Force and went to serve his country as a flight surgeon. He would return to Emory to complete training as an orthopaedic and hand surgeon. Dr. Harper would practice for many years in the Atlanta area, retiring in 2008. Again, this is one of the times when the right words are tough to find, but we thank Dr. Harper for his contributions to medicine, to society and to his medical school. Some seriously amazing, brave and innovative individuals have walked before us here at our nearly 200-year-old medical school. Certainly, Dr. Harper is among them. Our thoughts are with his family.


Update on your State of the College

Finally today we wanted to make sure you know that your annual State of the College Address has been moved from the usual close-of-the-academic year date in May to the start of our new year. The new date is noon, Aug. 12, in the Lee Auditorium. Again, this annual update of your amazing accomplishments will, we hope, like these writings, help remind you of the impact you have each day as individuals, as at team, and as a great medical school. We hope to see you there.


Upcoming Events


April 15 – MCG Alumni Association sponsors the Raft Debate, Harrison Education Commons, doors open at 6 p.m., debate begins at 6:30 p.m.

April 24 – AU President and First Lady host A Toast to AU: A Celebration of our History and a Look to our Future at the Fountain at Main Entrance of the Summerville Campus, 4-5:30pm

April 26 – Daylong President Research Symposium, Lee Auditorium, will focus on the significant contributions of Dr. Virendra Mahesh, Regents professor and chair emeritus of endocrinology, http://calendar.augusta.edu/event/presidents-research-symposium-celebrating-the-impact-of-our-history-spotlight-on-endocrinology/.

April 27 – Inaugural celebration and investiture of President Brooks Keel, 2 p.m. at The Augusta Convention Center, 901 Reynolds Street. Reception immediately following.

April 28 –Spring Induction Ceremony, AOA Honor Medical Society, 4 p.m., 1210-B Harrison Commons, 1968 graduate Dr. Charles Rice will discuss, “The Gold Headed Cane, Its Origin and Meaning.”

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

April 29-May 1 – Alumni Weekend. On April 29, Department of Neurosurgery 60thanniversary lunch and CME, noon-4 p.m., BI3079; MCG Dean’s Reception, 5:30 p.m., Harrison Education Commons followed by MCG Alumni Association Banquet, 6:30 p.m., also at the Harrison Education Commons. April 30, MCG Alumni Association Board Meeting, 9:30 a.m., Harrison Education Commons; President’s Cookout, noon-2 p.m., at president’s home, Twin Gables, 920 Milledge Road; MCG Class Reunions, starting at 6:30 at the Augusta Marriott for Classes of 1946, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006. May 1, MCG Emeritus Club Breakfast, Augusta University Alumni Center on 15th St., 9:30 a.m.; Memorial Service, 10:30 a.m., Alumni Center.

May 12 – Hooding 2016, Keynote speaker, Dr. Claire Pomeroy, President, Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, “The Physician’s Call to Justice: Healing Patients, Healing the World,” 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium, http://www.augusta.edu/mcg/students/hoodinggraduation.php.

May 13 – Graduation, 2 p.m., James Brown Arena.

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

Have a terrific weekend.

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