August 4, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,


Welcome to the MCG Class of 2021
Let’s start this off right by warmly welcoming the MCG Class of 2021, another great class of 230 future physicians. We had 3,074 applicants for our newest freshman class, which is just slightly up from last year. Class members come to us from eight states, 45 Georgia counties and 53 colleges. We have 64 biology, eight biomedical engineering and one avian biology major among this great group. They include two MD/PhD students and have an overall and science GPA of 3.7 and a mean MCAT – the Medical College Admission Test – of 510. The highest possible score is 528. One of our new classes’ first experiences here included a great welcome reception by our Alumni Association, which included greetings from association president, Dr. Mason Thompson, Class of 1973. I believe this early opportunity for some of our more seasoned graduates to meet with our freshmen is a win-win for both and I appreciate and welcome them both.

The State of the College address set for noon, Friday, Aug. 11, Lee Auditorium
I am hoping this will be another great gathering opportunity for our newest students and for all of you as well.  Please join me next Friday, Aug. 11 at noon in the Lee Auditorium for the State of the College Address. This is obviously my first address as your dean but, as has been said in these updates in the past, this annual gathering is not really about the dean. At MCG, as much as any place I know, what we accomplish is because of the exceptional efforts of you, our faculty, staff, students and residents as well as great supporters like our donors, Alumni Association and MCG Foundation. The sum of our whole is definitely great. So I hope you will take a few minutes out of what you are doing this coming Friday at noon to reflect with me on the great work you already have done and what lies ahead for us at MCG.

Dr. Abigail Cline actually won FIRST place in the recent Lasker competition
One of our many major bragging points at the State of the College, or any gathering of course, is the students, residents and fellows we are privileged to help educate. They are our core reason for being and a clear inspiration to us all. Last time in these writings, we shared some of their exciting recent accomplishments, including Dr. Abigail Cline, a 2017 MCG graduate who is now a first-year resident in internal medicine, writing a winning essay on how to help science be a bigger part of the world’s conversation. We reported that she won second place in the 2017 Essay Competition sponsored by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation but later learned from the foundation that she actually placed first. Either place is stellar and we again congratulate and thank her for extraordinary efforts and the Lasker Foundation for supporting such healthy competition. Here’s the link again to her piece, here.

Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemele chairs international symposium
Again, I really appreciate and share Dr. Cline’s enthusiasm for science. Much as with teaching, it is exciting yet also very humbling to think about having an impact on the future well-being of others. Here is a great example of both playing out. This week in Brazil, Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemele, physiologist in the Vascular Biology Center and Department of Medicine, is chairing an international symposium during the 28th World Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences, on the therapeutic potential of targeting the hormone aldosterone and its receptor, mineralocorticoid receptor, in cardiovascular disease. There is obviously a lot of translational potential here but Dr. Belin de Chantemele’s focus is the mounting evidence that drugs that directly block aldosterone’s receptor might be best for helping women control their high blood pressure, see here.   This appears to be a great message about an often tough-to-treat and common medical problem. Interestingly women have less problem with high blood pressure than men before the age of menopause, the rates pretty much even out then, but at age 65 it’s more common in women.

Drs. Jessica Faulkner and Thiago Bruder do Nascimento get AHA fellowships
In keeping with our commitment to the next generation, Drs. Jessica Faulkner and Thiago Bruder do Nascimento, postdocs on Dr. Belin de Chantemele’s team, both were awarded American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowships this year. Dr. Faulkner is further pursuing the aldosterone-mineralocorticoid receptor issue in women. The function of the lining of our blood vessels is altered by too much aldosterone and the theory is that the mineralocorticoid receptors on the endothelial cells that comprise the lining mediate the dysfunction and hypertension seen in obese female mice. Dr. Bruder do Nascimento is looking at the other end of the spectrum, lipodystrophy, when you almost have no fat, which also puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease. Since fat secretes the satiety hormone leptin, which activates both aldosterone and the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight mechanism), two major drivers of blood pressure, they are looking more closely at what happens to the cardiovascular system in this scenario and with the standard treatment of giving leptin supplements to try and restore a normal, physiologic level. They are finding that vascular tone abnormally increased in these mice – and humans with the disorder – but for different reasons than their obese counterparts. In this case, yet another mechanism kicks in to increase their blood vessel constriction. The good early news is that the leptin therapy appears to help avoid cardiovascular problems in this scenario. Congratulations to these great postdocs and to Dr. Belin de Chantemele.

Southern Translational Education and Research Conference here Sept. 21-22
It’s easy to see the great translational aspect of all these studies and we wanted to remind you all of a great opportunity to show off yours. The 2017 Southern Translational Education and Research Conference is set for Sept. 21 and 22 at the Marriott on the Savannah River in downtown Augusta, see here.  This is the eighth of these conferences sponsored by the University of Georgia and our university, including MCG, the Center for Pharmacy and Experimental Therapeutics and the Office of the Vice President for Research. This year the realistic and relevant theme is Public/Private Partnerships for Translational Research. Keynotes include the esteemed scientist and stem cell and biotech entrepreneur Dr. Steven Stice, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar who directs UGA’s Regenerative Bioscience Center.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am honored to be the other keynote. We will share the tremendous benefits as well as the pitfalls of working with private industry partners to help scientific findings make the important leap from our labs to patients.

The STaR conference provides opportunities to share translational research
This gathering is a great opportunity as well for students, postdocs and faculty to put their research out there. We hope there will be poster presentations by many of you and oral presentations will be made by select top young investigators. Awards will be given to top students, postdocs and young investigators. Perhaps more importantly it’s a chance to meet more like-minded individuals who are excited about improving lives by developing new therapies that better combat disease. I thank Drs. Susan Fagan and Adviye Ergul, both true translational scientists themselves, for their commitment to this important gathering and to translational studies. I hope to see you there.

Pink Pumpkin Party Saturday, Sept. 30 offers fun and opportunity to fight breast cancer
Finally for today, there is one more date in September I hope you will mark on your calendars: Sept. 30. The Georgia Cancer Center is sponsoring the third annual Pink Pumpkin Party as a way to certainly have fun but also to raise dollars for a program to provide free mammograms for women who need them that we are developing. Pink Pumpkin is happening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that Saturday rain or shine at our Harrison Commons. Prizes this time go for things like pumpkin decorating and best pink attire. There will be a selfie station, breast health information and a lot of great fun for a great cause. For more information, contact Christine O’Meara at and visit here.  Please help get this important party started.


Upcoming Events

Aug. 11 – State of the College Address, noon, Lee Auditorium.

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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