“Freedom lies in being bold.”

-Robert Frost


Dear Colleagues and Friends,

We welcome our new residents…

It’s that time of year! For the moment at least, we are not talking about the Fourth of July, rather a celebration of a different sort that also happens now as a fresh group of residents begin their training at our medical school and hospitals. It is truly such a privilege to have physicians come to us for their graduate medical education from across our state and nation, and even a few from more distant lands such as Canada and Trinidad. In fact, this very day, 177 new residents start in 40 specialties and subspecialties from anesthesiology critical care to endocrinology to pulmonary critical care to family medicine. The scope of GME programs we provide thanks to the work of so, so many of you also is amazing, not only because of the great job you do in helping residents learn but in just being the kind of physicians and health care teams that the next generation want to learn from. We welcome all of our new residents to the MCG family.  By the by, this is a second welcome for quite a few because the group includes 44 graduates of our medical school, most of whom just finished school this year. We absolutely love that. One more by the by, a well-sourced rumor has it that our third-year students also started their clinical rotations this week! Truly exciting times.

We celebrate your successes…

Speaking of sweet inspiration. We wanted to share the good news that the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs has awarded full accreditation to our super-important Human Research Protection Program. We want to thank the terrific staff including Ivy Tillman, Adrianne Stevenson, Angela Toole, Tiffany Coleman, Gabriela Ortiz, Erin Smith, Melissa Toomer, Casey Glover, Heather Wilson, Rebecca Fasano, and Courtney Roberts and so many more for ensuring the protection of individuals who choose to participate in clinical trials, which of course are essential to moving treatment forward. Of course, patient safety should always be top of mind for us all, but certainly there is an extra edge here when the treatment is still under study and the patient, in the hope of helping others and hopefully themselves as well, chooses to take the very important step to participate in a clinical trial.

Your commitment and your drive…

The patients, no doubt, are inspirational. And so are the health care teams that also choose to go where others may not yet have been. That is the kind of innovation, drive and commitment we were just talking about that makes medical and PhD students, residents, postdocs and more choose our medical school. Here’s just one example of this kind of important clinical work and inspiring individuals. Electrophysiologist Adam Berman and his group are part of a national study to figure out whether the very latest in robotics or the steady hands of the likes of Dr. Berman are best at ablating the highly lethal heart arrhythmia ventricular tachycardia. We salute our patients, our physician-scientists and our staff who make these types of extraordinary efforts to answer important questions and move treatment and maybe even prevention ever forward.

We celebrate as well…

So, no surprise to all of you who work at one of our nation’s medical schools, that innovation typically starts in the lab, with basic scientists, often huddled with their clinical colleagues, in the important pursuit of knowledge about our brains and bodies. Well, one of the many super cool things about this great medical school is that our leaders are great examples of never putting aside this important quest and just, well, administering. They want to keep their hands and brains in the thick of the exciting pursuit of knowledge. This helps keep them better grounded and makes them better mentors and leaders, we think. And, of course, here’s more great examples. Our Dr. Lin Mei, chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, absolutely has his fingers on the pulse of just how our neurons work, whether it’s in hooking up with our muscle cells or each other. He has yet another super study published that shows some common ground in a molecule called LRP4. This one seriously takes us to the stars, or at least to star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes. Dr. Mei and his team, which includes postdoctoral fellows Drs. Xiang-Dong Sun and Lei Li as the study’s co-first authors, found that astrocytes also have LRP4 on their surface and, complicated story made way-shorter, this hard-working molecule helps ensure good levels of a brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, that enables learning and memory. How is that for a great idea?  Did you know that helpful astrocytes are the most common type of brain cell?

Those who lead by example… And work hard because they love it

Okay, let’s stick with the head region for a moment and another one of our amazing chairs, Dr. Sylvia Smith from the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy. She is absolutely bound and determined to tackle some tough vision-robbing diseases that destroy what she often calls the beautifully stratified retina. We are glad that she if fighting this good fight. She just had another fascinating paper that shows more about how the pain medicine (+)-pentazocine helps preserve vision in a model of severe retinal degeneration, which occurs in problems such as macular degeneration. She tells us this drug is a great activator of the sigma 1 receptor that, in turn, increases activity of a protein we all have that helps combat oxidative stress. We tell her: Please keep at it. She also tells us, in typical Dr. Smith fashion, that this painstaking work would not have been possible without colleagues like Dr. Alan Saul, an electrophysiologist of the PhD-kind in our Department of Ophthalmology, who performed the visual function testing on mice that was pivotal to determining benefits of treatment; Dr. Jing Wang, assistant research scientist, and Penny Roon, research manager. We say great teams make great science, health care and medical education and that great leaders, like Drs. Mei and Smith, are the best kind of enablers of all three. More.

We look forward to a future with you…

Of recent note as well was the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that upholds some forms of affirmative action by university’s in admitting students. “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the ruling.  Dr. Darrell Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges and our former dean, wrote in response to this action, “Diversity is a vital component of excellence in education, clinical care, and research at the nation’s medical schools. In light of this decision, U.S. medical schools may continue their institution-specific efforts to ensure that graduating physicians are prepared to practice medicine in an increasingly diverse society, and to address the disparities that exist in today’s health care system.” Georgia’s public medical school will certainly continue to strive to select and help educate the very best possible students to help meet the divergent health care needs of our expansive state and beyond. Read more from Dr. Kirch.


That gives us even more cause… To celebrate

Finally today, we are pleased to share another addition to the Philips team that is helping ensure we have the absolute best technology and processes available to support our care of patients, and really all that we do. Dr. Priya Devapriya is joining us as Director of Innovation. He comes to us from Geisinger Health System, where he most recently has served as system director for health care re-engineering. We absolutely welcome him and his terrific skill set in thinking outside the box to find solutions and new opportunities.  Dr. Devapriya will work closely with the Philips Innovation Director already on site, Lisa Hubbard. Together they will look for opportunities to improve workflow and enhance the patient experience within our hospitals today and tomorrow. Great news!


Upcoming Events


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

Aug. 15 – Career Development 101 Workshop for Early-Career Investigators, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., Room 108 of the Greenblatt Library. The event will highlight research related resources, provide networking opportunities and career development skills. Contact Dr. Lisa Middleton by July 15 to attend. Sponsored by the Georgia Cancer Center, Educational Innovation Institute, Office of Leadership Development and Office of the Senior VP for Research.

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. 18 – Charbonnier plaque presentation ceremony honoring the memory and legacy of Bowdre and Meta Charbonnier Phinizy, establishers of the Professor L.H. Charbonnier Fund in 1931.  Reception immediately following.  J. Harold Harrison MD Education Commons, 1st floor lobby, 5:30pm

Oct. O25 – Alumni Association Rome Regional Reception. Coosa Country Club, 6 p.m.

Have a terrific and safe holiday weekend.

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