“Don’t try to make it funny; try to make it real.”

-Gene Wilder 

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Alzheimer’s and dementia… Take a tremendous toll on individuals and families
This week, the world mourned the loss of the uniquely funny Gene Wilder. This man who brought so much laughter to us, died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and 1 in 3 seniors die with it or another dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association tells us. Here is another staggering statistic from the Alzheimer’s Association: last year, more than 15 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care. That means that all of us have been touched by this disease that robs individuals of their lives by first taking their memories. But per your amazing usual, as another loss to this disease emanated throughout the world, so did the hope of research right here at our medical school.

Dr. Erhard Bieberich just received two NIH grants… To combat this pervasive disease…
Our Dr. Erhard Bieberich, impassioned neuroscientist in our Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, recently received two National Institutes of Health grants totaling about $4 million to better understand this difficult disease. Interestingly, this work ties into a lipid that we covet for its skin-softening ability. But Dr. Bieberich is a pioneer in ceramide’s role in helping steer the astrocytes in our brains – those star-shaped brain cells we have discussed that invaluably support our neurons – to stay focused on taking care of our neurons. Without the proper form of ceramide, astrocytes divert their attention to themselves, begin to divide and ultimately contribute to the hallmark amyloid plaque of Alzheimer’s disease.  Check out more here. Dr. Bieberich has associated this shorter form of ceramide, which sends our astrocytes on a wayward path, with Alzheimer’s and wants to help us make more of the longer, good one.

And published findings that show more about how Alzheimer’s mutes our neurons
In the past few days, Dr. Bieberich’s published work on Alzheimer’s also has been making headlines. He has shown, in fact, another irony of this difficult disease. When neurons start making a lot of the amyloid protein, astrocytes start making little fluid-filled vesicles called exosomes to trap this bad stuff. But, like the best laid plans of mice and men, these sacs can ultimately pile up, further hindering the ability of our neurons to get adequate nutrition and to communicate. As you can imagine, this is a no-win scenario for our brain. The great news is that his finding points toward new targets that will hopefully help tackle this disease. As you all know so well, there is rarely one solution to these types of complex medical conditions, but we are super proud of Dr. Bieberich and of you for taking on and helping take down such impactful medical problems. It’s truly inspirational. Please see the article featured in YAHOO News for more information.

We mark the 125th anniversary of our Alumni Association… This very week 
Like most weeks at your medical school, this one was clearly and definitely bustling, even historic. Because this week we also marked the official 125th anniversary of our medical school’s Alumni Association. How is that for awesome? We have been talking about this important anniversary coming up for a bit, but this past Wednesday, Aug. 31, was the actual start date for our Alumni Association. The true celebrating will be Saturday, Sept. 17 right here at home base for one of the nation’s first medical schools. There will be some continuing medical education on always-topical infectious diseases by our section chief, Dr. Joe Vazquez along with Dr. David Haburchak. Later, there’s a family picnic along with shuttle tours of some historic areas of our medical school and our city that start at our still very new J. Harold Harrison, M.D., Education Commons. An evening of fun at the Marriott on the beautiful Savannah River will feature insight from amazing individuals like our Alumni Association President Dr. David Gose and third-year student and scholarship recipient April Hobbs along with Donald Davis and Mark Zapata, Augusta and Athens Class of 2018 presidents, respectively speaking. University President Dr. Brooks Keel will share his thoughts with us as will Dr. Vanessa Spearman, Class of 2005 and a fine faculty member right here, who is co-chairing this celebration along with Dr. Charlie Wray, Class of 1959.

We had a remarkable regional reception in Athens as well…
Since we are on an alumni roll, this year’s Alumni Association Regional Receptions are off to a rocking great start. The first was held this week at the Athens home of the esteemed Dr. Mark Ellison, Athens urologist and a proud member of the Class of 1982, and his wife Betsy. The Ellison’s are simply terrific hosts for these events and the showing was nothing short of phenomenal, quite literally a packed house. We do appreciate our University President, Dr. Keel’s encouraging remarks emphasizing the bond between Augusta University and University of Georgia with the AU/UGA Medical Partnership doing so well. It was also great to see and hear the Athens community’s support of our new campus leader, Dr. Shelley Nuss.

Drs. Dan DeLoach and Scott Bohlke serve on key physician boards in our state
We sign off today with just one more alumni notable. You know that graduates of our medical school can be found throughout Georgia and well beyond improving the lives of patients, communities, and more. As with so many of you, that includes providing a ton of service. We are pleased to share that our Dr. Dan DeLoach, a plastic surgeon and 1974 graduate of our medical school, has been reappointed by Gov. Deal to serve on the Georgia Composite Medical Board, which licenses and monitors nearly 50,000 physicians and other medical professionals, such as perfusionists and physician assistants, in our state. Talk about one important task and benefit to our state, and our Dr. DeLoach is vice-chairman of this effort. Our Dr. Scott Bohlke, a family medicine physician in Brooklet, Ga., and 1992 graduate, has been newly appointed to the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce. This 15-member volunteer group, also appointed by the governor, looks at the physician needs for our state then helps support the programs that will help meet those needs. Seriously, these two groups are essential to the wellbeing of our state and we could not be more proud than to have our graduates front and center. And, in that full circle we really like to draw, they are both past presidents of our 125-year-old Alumni Association. Thank you Drs. DeLoach and Bohlke for living your commitment.

Upcoming Events

Sept. 8 – Augusta University 6th Annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit, Marriott Convention Center. Register here.

Sept. 14 – Career Development 101 for Clinical and Teaching Faculty, 1:15-4:30 p.m., Room GB 1120D in the beautiful Harrison Education Commons. Participants will learn more about teaching strategies to promote learning in clinical and other settings, identifying campus resources related to scholarship and research; and describing a timeline for promotion and expectations for tenure and non-tenure tracks. Cosponsored by the MCG Office of Faculty Development and the AU Educational Innovation Institute. RSVP to EDI@augusta.edu.

Sept. 17 – Alumni Association 125th Anniversary Celebration, Marriott Augusta, 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. dinner, click here for more information.

Sept. 24 – Augusta University Day of Service.

Sept. 26 – Medical Student Research Symposium, noon to 2 p.m., Harrison Commons.

Sept. 26 – Student/Resident Research Symposium, 5-7 p.m., second floor of Russell Hall, Augusta University – University of Georgia Medical Partnership.

Sept. 27 and 29 – Recognition of Dr. Hervey Cleckley, the famed former MCG psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of psychopathy. The showing of “The Three Faces of Eve,” 5:30 p.m., Sept. 27, Harrison Commons, GB-1110; Lecture, “Dr. Hervey Cleckley: The Medical College of Georgia’s Renaissance Man,” with Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, 5:30 p.m., Sept. 29, Harrison Commons, GB-1110, reception follows in the Harrison Commons lobby.

Sept. 30 – Ice cream social for medical students and residents, noon-1:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

Oct. 1 – The 2nd annual Pink Pumpkin Party, a family and community event by the Georgia Cancer Center to raise breast cancer awareness and education and honor survivors. Check out the Pink Pumpkin Party and the Pink Pumpkin giving page for more information.

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 – Reception and plaque presentation honoring Bowdre Phinizy and Meta Charbonnier Phinizy, whose generous gift in honor of Meta’s father, Leon Henri Charbonnier, marked the inception of MCG’s very first endowment, 5:30 p.m., Harrison Commons.

Oct. 18 – A Service for the Healing of the Mind and Spirit, 7 p.m., St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, 1420 Monte Sano Ave., a communitywide event for those whose lives have been touched by mental illness, sponsored by the Coalition for Mental and Spiritual Health Ministries and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Augusta.

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

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.

Have a great, safe Labor Day weekend.

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