May 12, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

We join the Class of 2017 in celebrating their graduation
Along with Match Day, this week, when our seniors receive their hoods and today officially graduate, is perhaps the most powerful reminder of the great honor we have in educating physicians at Georgia’s public medical school. There have been many powerful messengers and messages in the past two days, particularly at the Hooding Ceremony, but we must at least share these, which although not coordinated, echoed the same resounding themes. Our keynote, Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, Emeritus Chief Executive Officer of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and a graduate of Cornell University Medical College, shared how he diagnosed himself with type 1 diabetes while a third-year medical student. “There has never been a break, no vacation from it. But, I am more than my blood sugar. Remember that when you are treating patients. When dealing with your future patients, you have to be honest and give them the facts. But the future is never certain and you must leave them with hope,” he shared. He also reminded our students, to take care of themselves and of each other. We echo his sentiments and hope that our graduating seniors will stay connected to each other and to MCG.


MCG senior class reflects MCG’s legacy of educating great physicians
Augusta Class President Dr. Katherine Menezes, of course, made us feel hopeful about both. “I chose Augusta because of you,” she told her classmates. “I knew there were 190 people I wanted to get to know, stories I wanted to soak up and personalities I wanted to learn. I had high expectations and you have soared above them. Even when the days are hard in the coming years, when you feel helpless, remember that you are part of a life in motion. That you are loved.” Dr. Menezes also reminded her classmates that they are a light that their patients will need. No doubt, that light will shine in both directions. “We have trained with great doctors like Dr. Howard Cohen who showed us that our patients, that their disease is the least interesting thing about them,” said Dr. Palmer Feibelman, president of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership class. That takes us back to the great legacy of MCG and to the great doctors we are privileged to educate. Dr. Cohen, an infectious disease physician and associate professor of medicine at the Athens campus, is a 1977 MCG graduate.


Class of 2017 member Anna Sulimirski receives national Excellence in Public Health Award
We also are proud to share today that graduating senior, Dr. Anna Sulimirski, has received the United States Public Health Service’s 2017 Excellence in Public Health Award.  The award is to inspire medical students to pursue a career in public health and recognizes those like Dr. Sulimirski who have already made amazing contributions. Even before starting at MCG, she had volunteered in Nicaragua for three summers, starting puberty and sexual education programs for teenage girls in two rural communities. Recognizing that young agricultural workers in that country disproportionately experienced chronic kidney disease, she examined urinary parameters in native and non-native Nicaraguan men to try to learn more about why. She returned to Nicaragua as a public health intern to help develop and facilitate interactive, culturally relevant preventive health sessions. Like any great lifelong learner and leader, she trained employees of the organization, Amigos for Christ, to carry on the work when she was gone. We congratulate Dr. Sulimirski on this great honor. Like so many of our alumni, we are certain she will continue to make the world a healthier and better place. See here.


Dr. Lin Mei shares his research findings at the International Conference on Myasthenia Gravis
Dr. Lin Mei, chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, is presenting his pioneering studies into two new antibodies that may cause myasthenia gravis next week at the 13th International Conference on Myasthenia Gravis and Related Disorders at the New York Academy of Sciences in the Big Apple. The gathering is for basic scientists and clinicians to discuss new findings and treatment challenges. You may remember that Dr. Mei’s lab has identified two more antibodies that appear causative in this disease. He believes they may help explain why about 10 percent of patients who have clear symptoms of the disease have no sign of the two known antibodies associated with the condition that impacts communication between our brain and muscles. Dr. Mei and clinical expert Dr. Mike Rivner are currently leading a national study in which blood is being collected from patients who are among these so-called “double negatives” to see if they have one or both of the antibodies that Dr. Mei identified. Find more information and webinar options seehere.


Dr. J. Ned Pruitt serves as interim chair of neurology; Dr. John C. Morgan, interim executive vice chair
Just a bit more brain news today. Dr. J. Ned Pruitt II, a 1989 MCG graduate whose first job in the Department of Neurology was working as a lab tech while still a medical student, has graciously agreed to serve as interim chair of the department. Dr. Pruitt was already vice chair of clinical and educational programs and clinical service chief for the department. He has also directed the Muscular Dystrophy Association Clinic here for 20 years and has been medical director for the General Neurology Clinic and so much more. Dr. John C. Morgan, vice chair of research and faculty development for the neurology department, has agreed to serve as interim executive vice chair. Dr. Morgan also is an MCG graduate who additionally earned a PhD in our Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy. Dr. Morgan directs the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence here and is medical advisor to the National Parkinson Foundation. These two individuals, who calmly lead by example, will ensure the department continues to function optimally. We have initiated a national search to identify a permanent new chair, and we thank Psychiatry Chair Dr. Vaughn McCall for his leadership of this search. It’s hard for me to express how much I appreciate each and every individual in the department that has been a second family to me for 30 years.


Search committee formed for new director of Georgia Cancer Center
We have also formed a search committee to help identify a new director for the Georgia Cancer Center. Dr. Vinata Lokeshwar, chair of the MCG Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Dr. Sharad Ghamande, chief of the MCG Section of Gynecologic Oncology and associate director for clinical research at the cancer center, are co-chairing this national search. We thank Dr. John Cowell for his ongoing service as interim director and for helping us continue to move forward. We continue to be excited about the realities of increased collaboration between MCG and the cancer center on all mission fronts. As an example, you know MCG’s research faculty are relatively small in numbers compared with like institutions in the nation but their productivity and enthusiasm are always near the top. Of course the same is true at the cancer center. Check out this recent published paper about a tumor suppressor for liver cancer by molecular biologist, Dr. Satya Ande, here.


Former NFL coach Sam Wyche shares his heart transplant story May 25 at noon
Here’s another great example of collaboration and hard work yielding great results at MCG. Our cardiology and transplant sections have teamed up with the tissue and organ procurement agency Lifelink of Georgia, which has an office here in Augusta, to bring former Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche to our university to share his story. The coach developed heart failure and ultimately needed a heart transplant, which he got last year. The event is Thursday, May 25, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Alumni Center on 15th Street. Lunch will be provided to early arrivers. Please join in this great – and we suspect inspiring – gathering if you can. For more information, call cardiology at 1-4997, and to learn more about Coach Wyche’s story visit here.


We celebrate Nurses Week; Honor the first group of nurses named clinical instructors at MCG
Finally today, we want to recognize the nurses at our hospitals and the faculty at our College of Nursing as we celebrate National Nurses Week. Nurses are essential to everything we are and everything we do, from great patient care to great patient and medical education to great research. Again, it’s hard to know how to properly thank them for such a phenomenal, pervasive role. We did think this would be a good time to share a new and very appropriate way that at least one of their many roles is being recognized at MCG. Dr. Bill Strong, longtime MCG faculty member, a fearless patient advocate while practicing pediatric cardiology and an innovator who helped found the Georgia Prevention Institute, is still contributing a ton, including currently chairing the Medical Ethics Committee at AU Health and directing the Center for Bioethics and Health Policy. He had the great idea of recognizing the important contribution practicing nurses make to medical education by making them clinical instructors at MCG. He is making that idea a reality, starting with three nurse leaders in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. They are nurse manager Sandra Clay and senior staff nurses Aleasha Couture and Margaret Wyman. These nurses are great models of the invaluable role of their profession. Dr. Strong’s efforts are a great example of the soul of MCG.Respectfully yours,




David C. Hess, M.D.
Dean, Medical College of Georgia


Upcoming Events

Tomorrow – Community Celebration recognizing Class of 2017 graduates at the AU/UGA Medical Partnership campus, 10 a.m., UGA Health Sciences Campus, Marching Grounds. Reception immediately following. An outdoor celebration that will move to George Hall in case of inclement weather.

May 18 – MCG Faculty Senate meeting, noon, Lee Auditorium.

June 29 – MCG Faculty Senate meeting, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Nov. 10 – Annual Memorial Service for Body Donors, 1 p.m., Lee Auditorium. Donors’ families and friends are the honored guests.

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