September 15, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Our students, faculty and staff are safe from Hurricane Irma
My thoughts start today with the victims of Hurricane Irma in our country and beyond. I am relieved to share that our Southeast Campus, which was squarely under Irma’s dark shadow, was safely evacuated late last week. We appreciate the leadership of Academic Affairs, both here in Augusta and in Savannah and Brunswick, for helping ensure the safety of students and faculty. Let me add that included working with colleagues here at the main campus and at our Partnership campus in Athens to find clerkship spots for a few days so students never missed a beat. The Savannah location was partially open by midweek this week and Brunswick should be open by Monday at the latest. The impact of the wind and the water was tremendous but so was the response of many.

About 400 individuals from MCG and the university volunteer in Augusta’s evacuee shelters
We and our city both experienced a large influx of people seeking refuge from the storm and its aftermath. That included a dozen premature babies that came directly to Children’s Hospital of Georgia and our great Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Dr. Phillip Coule, a 1996 MCG graduate, emergency medicine leader and the health system’s chief patient safety officer and associate CMO, was on point throughout these busy days ensuring that patient transfers went smoothly and safely from all perspectives. Other evacuees came to our city with chronic medical problems that might need relatively rapid access to medical care at any time. About 400 volunteers from our university and medical school helped ensure these and many other basic needs and comforts at seven Augusta shelters.

Richmond County’s Health Department, Board of Education help lead hurricane relief
“I cannot tell you what an honor this has been. It was a wonderful, collaborative event,” says Dr. Becky Abell, a faculty member in the Department of Emergency Medicine, who led the physician response. Like the dedicated EMS professional she is, Dr. Abell and everyone from here worked collaboratively and closely with colleagues at the East Central Georgia Health District, the Richmond County Health Department and the Richmond County Board of Education particularly.  There were many key players, including Mike Willis, our EMS coordinator, and Joe Webber, director of the university’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response. When more physicians were needed, Dr. Richard Schwartz, emergency medicine chair, reached out again and our faculty and residents were there.

MCG students among those raising their hands to help
The first call for help went out campuswide about midday last Thursday and immediately the offers of assistance began to pour in, said Tina Baggott, the university’s associate vice president for volunteer services. Training started the next day for the volunteers that included faculty, staff, students and residents from MCG and from the entire university, like our College of Nursing and the hospital pharmacy, who helped ensure great round-the-clock staffing at the city’s seven evacuee shelters. “I could not be more proud of this place,” Tina says. Even with Savannah evacuations foremost on her mind, Dr. Frances Purcell, MCG campus assistant dean for curriculum, was helping Tina identify students like four years Nathan Mickinac and Tu Anh Tran, both students at the Southeast Campus who happened to be doing clinical rotations in Augusta and could be very helpful in this effort. Tina tell us that Nathan and Tu Anh even pulled back-to-back 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. shifts.

Dr. Becky Abell, EMS physician, leads the MCG physician response
I agree with Dr. Abell that when there are so many people pulling together – and that definitely was needed here – it’s risky to mention anyone by name so please forgive me for not mentioning everyone. But please also let me say just a bit more about Dr. Abell. She was our third EMS fellow, in fact just finished her fellowship here in June and joined our emergency medicine faculty. She is a graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine, who completed her emergency medicine residency at Brooke Army Medical Center during more than a decade of service in the Army. Dr. Abell was at Fort Benning when she left the military. She worked in Columbus for a few years before coming to MCG to pursue her passion to work as an EMS physician. While the acronym is familiar to all of us, EMS in this case is a relatively new medical subspecialty (approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 2010) that enables physicians to really focus on prehospital care, including frequently being part of the first responders providing care at the scene of an accident or other injury or disaster. Dr. Abell spent much of the first part of her Wednesday this week seeing evacuees back off to their homes.

AU facilities personnel quickly erase the signs of a hurricane
Let me go back for a moment to the power of teams. While most of our community had an easier time of it than so many more in the direct path of Hurricane Irma, we all know there was still a lot of mess and damage associated with it around here. Still, Tuesday morning when I came in to catch up on a few things, the campus looked like nothing had happened. I learned that is because this work also started before the storm did. Not unlike the preparation that occurred to ensure good care of people, our campus facilities employees started battening down the hatches on Wednesday. The vast majority of employees were back on the job Monday and again Tuesday while the campus was closed. They were cleaning up the significant debris, even worked with the city to remove a huge piece of a large oak tree that was blocking part of RA Dent Boulevard near the Stoney Building. During the downpours, facilities employees were walking hallways to see if we had sprung any leaks so they could catch them before they became a disaster. Grounds clean up started as soon as the weather permitted and work continued into the night, James Grigg, director of facilities operations tells us. In fact, about 90 percent of facilities employees were working to get and keep things right, some at a time when they did not even have electricity at their own homes.

You can help point out building and grounds issues that need attention
James came to us about 10 months ago by way of the Citadel and Georgia Southern. One of his many goals is to make a difference every day, and he’s honest and open in his approach to what is getting done and what needs doing. Since each of you are the most frequent eyes and ears around the health sciences campus, please help him and the other great individuals in facilities operations know what issues need attention. Building and grounds issues, he tells us, can be reported to Work Management here or or in cases of an emergency or after hours problems by calling here (706) 721-2434. They have maintenance staff on site 24-7 to respond to small emergencies and can call in extra staff for larger issues like a looming hurricane. If you want to find out who your building coordinator is, check it out here. 

Dr. David Terris receives top award from the American Academy of Otolaryngology
Last time in these writings, we shared several national accolades for our MCG faculty and today we are pleased to share another great honor. Dr. David Terris, Regents’ Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and a pioneer in thyroid and parathyroid surgery, has received a 2017 Presidential Citation from the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. This is the academy’s highest honor and Dr. Terris was recognized at its annual meeting this week in Chicago. Dr. Terris was honored for his selfless leadership in endocrine surgery and for quite literally changing the face of his field. His many accomplishments include significantly reducing the neck incision size for thyroid surgery and, in fact, developing a surgical approach through the hairline that eliminates any visible scar for some patients. In fine MCG tradition, Dr. Terris is helping steer the next generation of great endocrine surgeons by directing the Endocrine Surgery Fellowship Program here and he is a member of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Residency Review Committee for Otolaryngology. Congratulations and thank you, Dr. Terris.

The Southeast Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy & Inflammation Research Retreat
Next week our campus is pleased to host the Second Southeast Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy & Inflammation Retreat at the Alumni Center on 15th Street. The Sept. 21-22 retreat will provide the latest in the rapidly evolving endeavors that can help our immune system better target and fight disease as well as better understand the immune system’s role in driving disease. The Georgia Cancer Center, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina are partners in this collaborative that is bringing scientists together, see here. The keynote is Dr. José R. Conejo-Garcia, chair of the Department of Immunology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, who will discuss the role of the protein Satb1 in driving the immune response in ovarian cancer. We particularly thank Dr. Esteban Celis, interim leader of the Cancer Immunology, Inflammation and Tolerance Program, and associate professor Dr. Lisa Middleton, for their work in putting together this topical assembly.


Upcoming Events

Sept. 16 – MCG Alumni Association Augusta Regional Reception, Augusta Marriott, followed by a board meeting at the Harrison Commons on Sept. 17.

Sept. 22 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Sept. 25 – Medical Scholars Research Day, noon-2:30 p.m., Harrison Commons. Dr. Marie A. Tonette Krousel-Wood, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and associate provost for health sciences, Tulane University School of Medicine, gives the keynote address, “Medicine, Miracles and the Role of the Physician Scientist.”

Sept. 28 – MCG Alumni Association Albany Regional Reception, Doublegate Country Club.

 Sept. 30 – The Medical Partnership campus invites students, alumni, faculty, staff and family to a celebration of the Georgia VS Tennessee football game, from noon to 7 p.m., at George Hall on the UGA Health Sciences Campus, 1425 Prince Ave, see here.

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

Oct. 17 – MCG Alumni Association Rome Regional Reception, Coosa Country Club.

Oct. 19 – MCG Alumni Association Savannah Regional Reception, the home of Dr. Melvin Haysman (Class of 1971) and Mrs. Roberta Kamine-Haysman.

Oct. 27 – White coat ceremony, Class of 2021, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium, RSVP here. Reception immediately following.

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

Dec. 7 – Augusta University All Alumni Savannah Regional Reception, Chatham Club.

Jan. 19 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Feb. 23 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

March 23 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

May 25 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

June 22 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

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