February 10, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Physiology team garners $9.4 million NIH grant

We know that high blood pressure leads to heart attacks, kidney disease, stroke even dementia.  It certainly makes sense to us that the increased pressure can damage cells throughout our body. But there is growing evidence that when injured cells dump their contents, it further fuels inflammation and higher blood pressure. It is our privilege to share with you that the great MCG scientific team focusing on hypertension and these spilled cell contents – called damage associated molecular patterns, or DAMPs – has been awarded a $9.4 million Program Project Grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to further understand this potentially deadly dynamic.

Team members include Drs. Webb, Sullivan, O’Connor, Ergul and Brands

The great team includes Dr. Clinton Webb, our physiology chair, and principal investigator on the grant; Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, pharmacologist and physiologist, and Dr. Paul O’Connor, renal physiologist, both project leads; Dr. Adviye Ergul, vascular physiologist, who is managing the bioinflammation core; and Dr. Michael Brands, cardiovascular-renal physiologist, who is managing the animal use and instrumentation core. Please join in congratulating this great team on obtaining one of these increasingly elusive grants that enable strong minds to put their heads together on such a major health concern. It definitely takes this kind of cohesive teamwork to really make headway and ultimately a better way for us all.

Work provides new insight into pervasive problem of hypertension

Like all great basic science, this will ultimately provide better understanding of and, ideally, better ways to treat a condition that is a major risk factor for so many other major health problems. There is definitely great need for this when hypertension affects about one third of us, and about half of patients don’t have their blood pressure well controlled. We wish this great team great success in this important endeavor. You can read more at http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/2017-01-28/grant-funding-au-researchers-work-blood-pressure and http://www.invasivecardiology.com/news/94-million-grant-helps-scientists-explore-how-cell-death-high-blood-pressure-fuels-even-higher.

New study helps explain diabetes’ damage to the bladder

Of course, like any great story, DAMPs have many angles. Diabetes also damages our cells, prompting release of these DAMPS. Dr. Theodora Szasz, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Webb’s lab for nearly seven years, has been looking at the impact of DAMPs on the bladder. Bladder dysfunction is a problem for nearly half of patients with diabetes and Dr. Szasz just published the first evidence that DAMPS damage the muscular bladder wall that enables it to expand to hold urine and to contract to precisely release it. Dr. Szasz has shown that when Toll–like receptor 4, an immune receptor regularly activated by bacteria, is deactivated, the wall can remain strong and elastic. You can read more here medicalnewstoday.com/releases/315729.php.  Dr. Szasz came to us after completing her graduate work at Michigan State University. Great work done and much great work ahead. Our heartfelt congratulations to this entire team in physiology.

Dr. Sexson receives top educator award from the American Psychiatric Association

It is a great privilege to also share with you that Dr. Sandra Sexson, chief of child, adolescent and family psychiatry, recently was awarded the Vestermark Psychiatry Educator Award from the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Sexson was nominated for this top educator award by her colleagues here as well as Yale University School of Medicine, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and University of Washington School of Medicine for her “untiring and remarkable” dedication to her chosen field for 40 years. Dr. Sexson directs child and adolescent psychiatry at MCG and has been a leader nationally as well, including chairing the Psychiatry Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. This is an exciting and well-deserved honor and we thank Dr. Sexson for her contributions to the wellbeing of children. Please read more at http://adminpsych.us/2017/01/sexson-receives-top-educator-award-from-american-psychiatric-association-eurekalert-press-release/.

Drs. Lyon and Munn honored as innovators

Dr. Matt Lyon, an emergency medicine physician, and Dr. David Munn, a pediatric hematologist oncologist and associate director of the Georgia Cancer Center, both MCG graduates, were honored at the recent Georgia Bio’s 2017 Innovation Awards for their thinking outside of traditional paradigms. Dr. Lyon is a definite innovator on many fronts, including helping make optimal educational and diagnostic use of painless ultrasound. Dr. Munn is helping find new ways to battle cancer, including inhibiting the enzyme, IDO. Dr. Munn and research partner Dr. Andrew Mellor discovered at MCG nearly two decades ago that fetuses use IDO to protect themselves against rejection by the mother’s immune system. They would later learn that tumors also use IDO for protection. Now Dr. Munn and a host of colleagues are trying to disrupt that protection to better attack cancer. Our congratulations and thanks go out to both of these great MCG graduates and faculty members. Please read more http://jagwire.augusta.edu/archives/40721.

50th anniversary desegregation event a success

In our first edition of the new MCG Dean’s Diary on Jan.27, we talked about this week’s signature event honoring the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of MCG. The event came off so well, with an over-full house for the impactful presentations by some of MCG’s first black students, the inspiring music of the student a capella group, the SeroTONEins, and our keynote speaker Dr. David Satcher, the 16th U.S. Surgeon General and founding director of Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Leadership Institute. While this was another real group effort and success, we wanted to particularly thank here Laurie LaChance, administrative assistant to the MCG Chief of Staff, for her dedication and drive. Ms. LaChance is one of those individuals who sees what needs to be done and makes it happen. We also send a public note of thanks to Jay Jefferies, meteorologist at WFXG Augusta. Mr. Jefferies was an engaging and entertaining master of ceremony for us Tuesday night even after a very early start both Monday and Tuesday morning this week helping launch his station’s new morning show. A video link to the event should be available next week on the Photo/Video tab on the MCG home page,augusta.edu/mcg/.

$1 million gift from MCG Foundation for scholarships will strengthen MCG student diversity

As the celebration was drawing to a close Tuesday night, we would hear more that provided hope for a more diverse and stronger future for MCG. Dr. Kimberly Vess Loomer, associate dean for student and multicultural affairs, reported a 294 percent increase in black students from the Class of 2016 to the new Class of 2020 and an 86 percent increase in Hispanic students in that same period. The news drew spontaneous applause from the audience. Finally, one of MCG’s early black graduates, Dr. Ronald Spearman, a 1974 graduate who is a spinal cord injury physician at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and a member of the MCG Foundation Board, announced a $1 million gift for scholarships to further enhance MCG’s diversity. There were again applause, arms and thoughts linked, and individuals brought to their feet by the greatness of the trailblazers who helped get us here and the promise that we hold together.


Upcoming Events


For more about Black History Month activities at Augusta University, please see http://jagwire.augusta.edu/archives/40636.

Feb. 17 and 18 – The Biomedical Student Association’s Third Annual Art for Heart fundraiser, an art sale and live music event with hors d’oeuvres to raise money for the American Heart Association, 6-9 p.m., Friday Feb. 17 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 at The Book Tavern, 963 Broad Street, in the JB White Building in downtown Augusta. The students have gathered great art and music for this event so please support them and the American Heart Association.  Contact ssharman@augusta.edujepierce@augusta.edu or bsa.aug@gmail.com 

Feb. 21 – MCG Alumni Association Board meeting, Idle Hour Country Club, Macon, 3:30 p.m., followed by Regional Reception at 6 p.m.

Feb. 24 – MCG Faculty Senate, Noon, Lee Auditorium.

Feb. 25 – Igniting the Dream of Medicine Conference, a daylong program for high school and college students from across Georgia with a focus on groups underrepresented in medicine, sponsored by the Office of Student and Multicultural Affairs and the Student National Medical Association, Harrison Commons, see augusta.edu/mcg/students/ignitingthedream.php. Early registration by Feb. 10 is $20; late registration is $25.

March 16 – The first G. Lombard Kelly Lecture, overseen by graduate students in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, noon, Harrison Commons, 2006 Nobel Prize Winner for the discovery of RNA interference in gene expression, Dr. Andrew Fire, professor of pathology and genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine.

March 16 – Gainesville Regional Reception, MCG Alumni Association, Northeast Georgia History Center, 6 p.m.

March 17 – Match Day, noon, at the Harrison Commons.

March 20 – Reception welcoming Dr. Doug Patten, the new associate dean of MCG’s Southwest Campus, and honoring inaugural Southwest Campus Associate Dean Dr. Iqbal Kahn, 5-7 p.m., Southwest Campus Offices, 1000 N. Jefferson St., Albany. Sponsors include campus faculty, the MCG Alumni Association, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and MCG Interim Dean Dr. David C. Hess. RSVP to Elaine Blankenship, eblankenship@augusta.edu.

March 24 – Health Sciences Education Day, Educational Innovation Institute, starting with Education Grand Rounds at 8 a.m., first floor, Harrison Commons. Dr. Stephen Chew, chair of physiology at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., will discuss “What Learning Science Says (and Doesn’t Say) About Developing Critical Thinking,” at 9 a.m., followed by a workshop, see http://www.augusta.edu/mcg/academic-affairs/eii/upcoming-events.php.

March 30 – Columbus Regional Reception, MCG Alumni Association, home of Dr. and Mrs. George McCluskey, 6 p.m.

April 14 – The Raft Debate, 6:30 p.m., Harrison Commons, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association.

April 20 – MCG Faculty Senate Awards, 5 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

April 27-30 – Alumni Weekend, Dean’s Reception, April 28, 6-7 p.m., Harrison Commons, followed by MCG Alumni Association Banquet and Distinguished Alumni Award Presentations. Class Reunions for Classes of 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, April 29, Augusta Marriott. Reception starts at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. More details to follow.

May 11 – Hooding, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium, reception following at the Old Medical College building.