June 9, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Kolhe is one of the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s 40 under 40

He is among the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s 40 under 40 this year, which recognizes future leaders of pathology and laboratory medicine. These honorees are pathologists, pathology residents and laboratory professionals recognized for their already significant achievements while still less than 40 years old. Ravindra Kolhe, an MD, PhD, in our Department of Pathology, who is medical director of the Cytogenetics Laboratory and director of the Georgia Esoteric & Molecular Laboratory here, also was honored this year with MCG’s Outstanding Young Clinical Science Faculty Award. Dr. Kolhe, who will be 40 next April, completed his postdoctoral fellowship and residency at MCG and our hospital. His research is focused on providing the discriminating details of cancer that can ultimately lead to better treatment and life for patients and information for the clinicians working hard to help provide both.

His work has already yielded new tests that enable better cancer treatment

Dr. Kolhe’s accomplishments are significant for any age. He has already developed a test that helps distinguish early liver cancer cells from normal liver cells because it’s really hard to tell the difference early on when treatment can be the most effective. He has found a distinct pattern of genetic abnormalities in some 40 percent of leukemia patients previously thought to have normal chromosomes. That information, again can better define these patients’ prognosis and treatment. He helped bring to MCG and the Georgia Cancer Center a test that helps better determine what care breast cancer patients need by assessing their 10-year recurrence risk based on the genetic expression of breast cancer cells. This is helping make important individual choices like whether postmenopausal women with early stage disease will really benefit from chemotherapy.

Now Dr. Kolhe is working with IBM Watson for Genomics to get rapid, comprehensive data

Now he is using the power of artificial intelligence, along with his own, to give patients and their doctors more comprehensive data about all the gene mutations involved in an individual patient’s cancer, then rapidly assessing drugs and clinical studies already out there that target these mutations. He explained to us that if this type of comprehensive assessment were to be done by humans, it would take many of us many days. But by partnering with IBM Watson for Genomics, Dr. Kolhe is helping harness Watson’s huge capacity to search electronic medical databases. Obviously, this will also enable truly personalized and targeted medicine possibly as soon as the next few months. Watson also is a great research partner for this complex disease. You may remember that Watson actually beat two former Jeopardy! prize winners back in 2011. We hope that now Watson will help Dr. Kolhe and so many others here and across the world better beat cancer. See this recent front-page story by Tom Corwin, here.

MCG students Jennifer Wang and Sandy Chat help plan national medical student event

We also are pleased to share that two members of MCG’s Class of 2020 helped plan the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association’s annual meeting underway this week in Chicago. The AMA actually has the largest organization of medical students in the nation. MCG’s Yannan “Jennifer” Wang and Vipawee “Sandy” Chat were chosen as members of the AMA’s Hospitality Committee then worked with a handful of their medical school colleagues from across the country to plan networking events for the meeting. The students recognized this as a great professional opportunity but also as another chance to learn by doing and from others, all for the betterment of themselves, their chosen profession and their medical school. We thank them for their clear commitment on all these fronts.

SEEP program provides learning opportunities, insight to future health professionals

One of my many great privileges, particularly as a new dean, is the ongoing opportunity to experience the impact of our students, residents and fellows, staff and faculty of MCG on the present and future of so many fronts, individuals and communities. Last Friday, we kicked off the 47th installment of our Student Educational Enrichment Program at our main campus here in Augusta. This week, we kicked off our 6th SEEP Savannah program on the beautiful campus of Savannah State University – the oldest public historically black college or university in Georgia –  with students from Chatham County’s two health career magnet schools, Alfred E. Beach High School and Woodville Tompkins Technical and Career High School. SEEP, one of the many programs from the MCG Office of Student and Multicultural Affairs that prepares students for a future career in the health professions through an extensive academic program that includes courses in various biomedical sciences, hands-on labs, clinical shadowing, networking opportunities, and guest speakers.

Fifty-two high school and college students, even a few new graduates participate this year

We have 52 students participating at all levels this summer in SEEP– from rising high school seniors to recent college graduates. Our high school participants represent eight schools from Richmond and Columbia Counties. More than a third of the college student participants are from the southwest and southeast corners of our state, helping us fulfill MCG’s mission to reach those areas of the state as well as individuals who are underrepresented in medicine. Students return year after year for this great program and so do many of our great MCG faculty. This year, 26 MCG physicians have already raised their hands to help SEEP, including Dr. Wayne Lawson in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, who has done so for more than 20 years. We appreciate everyone who makes this great program possible including Linda James, assistant dean for student diversity and inclusion, who has provided boundless SEEP enthusiasm and leadership since 2004.

AHEC’s annual Health Sciences Summer Academy also happened this week

This week we also hosted 30 high school students from across Georgia, many also from rural and underserved areas, at the annual Health Sciences Summer Academy. This weeklong program aims to “demystify” careers in the health sciences by having participants interact with health sciences students, faculty and staff. We can think of no better place for these young individuals to do that than MCG and Augusta University. The students lived on campus all week and participated in exercises in clinical care, including suturing skills and osteopathic manipulative treatment, which involves using the hands to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. They spent their afternoons practicing in simulation centers in both the Dental College of Georgia and our Harrison Commons and learning about things like epidemiology and neurological exams.

Like AHEC, the summer program helps address the health professions shortage in rural areas

A special thanks to second-year students Alexis Watts and Andy Williams who helped lead a session on basic clinical skills, like using a stethoscope and checking reflexes, and to family medicine residents, like Drs. Holly Mahoney and Melanie Vettimattam, who provided enthusiastic education and invaluable insight to these students. See this other great, front-page story by Tom Corwin, here. This late spring experience is a program of the Georgia Statewide Area Health Education Centers Network, which is based here under the direction of Denise Kornegay. Likely better known by its acronym AHEC, this partnership daily works to address the issue of the health professions shortage in more rural areas of our state. We thank everyone for their heartfelt commitment to such an important public health issue for Georgia and our nation.

1990 MCG graduate Dr. Joshua Donner is an inspiring volunteer educator for his alma mater

As we begin to wrap this up today, we leave you with just a few more stories of the educational inspiration and excellence that define MCG. Dr. Joshua Donner, a 1990 MCG graduate, is a pediatric cardiologist at the Rome-based Harbin Clinic. After completing his postgraduate training in pediatrics at Emory University and his pediatric cardiology fellowship at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – then Egleston Children’s Hospital – he went to work at the Harbin Clinic where he has taken care of children with heart problems since 1997. Dr. Donner has been an inspiration to his young patients and their families. His great bedside manner, patience and skill have also made him a favorite among our medical students learning in the northwest corner of our state. In fact, he has received the Northwest Campus Volunteer Excellence in Teaching Award from our students. We can never say often enough that Georgia’s public medical school could not educate the nation’s eighth largest medical school enrollment without great volunteer faculty like Dr. Donner.

Volunteer faculty honored during Statewide Faculty Development Conference

It was my distinct honor to emcee the awards ceremony at our Statewide Faculty Development Conference this past weekend at Jekyll Island, where about 260 of these altruistic educators yet again displayed their commitment. The fact that there were so many greats from which to choose for particular recognition at that event made it all the more inspiring. Dr. Ziad Ahmadie, who went to medical school at Russia’s Rostov State Medical University and practices in the Pediatric Emergency Department at University Hospital, was the honored volunteer educator for the Augusta area. He has been teaching our students adult and pediatric emergency medicine for 17 years. Dr. Cullen Morris, a cardiothoracic surgeon who trained at Emory and now practices in Athens, has been teaching our students since he arrived there in 2008. He is a definite student favorite, known to challenge as he mentors and much appreciated for that and more. Dr. Jay Schecter, a  graduate of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and a neurologist also at the Harbin Clinic, is known for having fascinating patients and being great at teaching students at our Northwest Campus how to do a thorough examination and about the complexities of treatment decisions. He and I were actually undergraduate classmates at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Laura Steelman, who trained at Goryeb Children Hospital in Morristown, New Jersey and practices in Brunswick, is known to share her joy of pediatrics with our students at the Southeast Campus, helping them learn a comprehensive physical exam on children a variety of ages and sharing straightforward handouts on some of the most important concepts. Dr. John Bennett, another MCG graduate who did his general surgery residency at Wright State University, was noted by our students at the Southwest Campus for his clear compassion for his patients and enthusiasm for education. Please let me note what a pure pleasure it is to meet such compelling individuals.

Respectfully yours,

David C. Hess, M.D.

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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

Aug. 2 – First day of class for the Class of 2021.

Aug. 11 – State of the College Address, noon, location to be determined.

Oct. 5 – Fifth Annual Investiture Ceremony, 5:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium, honoring new endowed chairs, Regents’ professors and emeritus faculty.

Oct. 27 – White coat ceremony, details to come.

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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