October 13, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Gina Piazza on the Las Vegas tragedy
In this past two weeks, my thoughts and yours I know have often been on the tragedy that occurred Oct. 1 in Las Vegas. As 58 individuals lost their lives and hundreds more were injured in a matter of minutes, it was a stark reminder of both the tenuousness of life and the tenacity of people. As Dr. Gina Piazza, an emergency medicine physician at MCG and section chief of emergency medicine at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, told CNBC the day after the shooting, “It’s horrendous.” But as Dr. Piazza, co-chair of the High Threat Task Force of the American College of Emergency Physicians, also said, the hospitals, physicians and other health care providers of our country continue to work to optimize care and minimize loss in these sorts of dire circumstances, see here.

MCG plays a critical role in managing disaster response here and beyond
This work accelerated after 9-11 and continues today with incredible contributions by professionals right here, like Dr. Piazza and our chair of emergency medicine, Dr. Richard Schwartz. Dr. Schwartz has helped lead development of disaster preparedness courses used across our country that enable a cohesive, logical and effective response by emergency response and health care providers alike. The administrative home for these courses lives here, the National Disaster Life Support Foundation.

Frontline roles include a recently accredited paramedic-training program
MCG has strengthened its impact on the frontline of these kinds of manmade and natural disasters in many ways, including with the establishment of an EMS Academy, that helps educate an array of frontline providers such as EMTs and more recent additions like the paramedic program and flight paramedic certification review. In fact, our paramedic program, which started in 2014, has just received initial accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Like so much of what we do here at MCG, this program has a high retention rate as well as pass rate for the national exam. I thank program director Jeff Garver and others who have helped ensure that patients get the best care possible as soon as possible. That includes our EMS physicians who are part of the first-response team for some of the worst incidents in our community and the fellowship program to train more of these valuable physicians.

MCG has served as the region’s Level 1 Trauma Center for nearly 40 years
I cannot talk about optimal response to accidents and injuries without saying as well that our hospital and MCG are home to the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Center. In fact, we are home to the state’s first designated Level 1 Trauma Center, thanks to the concerted efforts many years ago by individuals like Dr. Arlie R. Mansberger Jr. Dr. Mansberger is a former MCG surgery chair who also helped start the Trauma Center at my alma mater, the R (no period intended) Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland, and Dr. Richard Treat, our first chief of trauma. Today individuals like Dr. Colville Ferdinand, chief of trauma, carry on this lifesaving tradition. Please see this great piece in the New York Times about the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, that state’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, here.

Georgia Board for Physician Workforce on campus Oct. 25 and 26
As Georgia’s public medical school, we have many important frontlines, including ensuring that our entire state has great physicians. We have much work to do and many great partners in this effort, in hospitals and physicians across our state. We also have the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce, a state agency that shares our commitment to supporting and developing medical education programs with a special emphasis on the state’s 109 rural underserved counties. I am happy to share that the board will hold one of its regular meetings on our campus, Thursday, Oct 26. I am also happy to share that 1989 MCG graduate Dr. Thomas L. Hatchett, an OB/GYN practicing in Demorest, Georgia, was recently elected vice chair of this group.

State agency shares our focus on ensuring great physicians for Georgia
The board, chaired by newly elected Dr. Antonio Rios, an internist and chief physician executive for the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, is charged with identifying physician workforce needs in Georgia and working with groups like the University System of Georgia, Georgia Statewide Area Health Education Centers and hospitals throughout Georgia, to meet them. The board’s initiatives include the Physicians for Rural Access Assistance Program that provides up to $25,000 a year in loan repayment to physicians who choose to practice in these medically underserved areas. It also hosts practice opportunity fairs for residents to help them and Georgia communities make good connections. In fact, the board will hold one their great fairs right here Oct. 25 from 11-2 p.m. at the Alumni Center on 15thStreet, see here.

Innovative surgery enables 2-year-old to hear mother’s voice for the first time
There has been lot of great news out there in the world in recent weeks about the great work of our physicians and scientists. The impact of all is significant but the emotion with this one is pretty hard to beat: a two year old hearing his mother’s voice for the first time. In a first at our hospital, Dr. Mohammad Seyyedi, MCG otologist/neurotologist, simultaneously implanted two cochlear implants in the child. While getting two implants has become more the standard based, on evidence that many patients just hear and communicate better with two, the ability to place both at once remains less usual. We thank Dr. Seyyedi for changing this family’s life and Kyse Sims and his mother for sharing their joy. Please see here.

The science of Drs. Norman Pollock and Yuqing Huo give new insight into common conditions
A great finding from Dr. Norman Pollock and his team at the Georgia Prevention Institute and Department of  Population Health Sciences that includes medical students Mary Ellen Fain and Mary K. Douthit as co-first authors. They found that 14-18 year olds who consumed little vitamin K, found in green leafy vegetables like cabbage and kale, were at greater risk to have an enlarged left ventricle than those who consumed more of the vitamin. The findings were independent of other factors that might produce these changes like high blood pressure and low physical activity. This was the first study of its kind and really a concerning and surprising finding for people so young. It received tremendous interest across the world, see here. Also, very translational work was published recently by Dr. Yuqing Huo, chief of vascular inflammation at the Vascular Biology Center, who has identified a potential new treatment target for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in working age adults, see here.  My congratulations to you all.

Dr. John Barrett returns to MCG as interim chair of radiation oncology
It is often great to see a familiar face and some of you may have seen Dr. John Barrett is again among us. This National Cancer Institute-trained radiation oncologist returns to us after about a decade at the Watson Clinic LLP, Center for Cancer Care & Research, Inc., in Lakeland, Fla., part of the Moffitt Oncology Network. He returns to us as interim chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, to honestly help the department regain direction and focus and to aid the all-important task of faculty recruitment and more. Welcome back, Dr. Barrett.

Head of CDC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control on campus Oct. 19
Later this month we welcome Dr. Lisa C. Richardson, director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to campus. She will discuss “Perspectives on Challenges to Cancer Equity” at the College of Allied Health Sciences Dean’s Research Seminar, Oct. 19, noon to 1 p.m., EC 1218. Click here to RSVP.

MCG participating in statewide Georgia Alzheimer’s Project
As we finish up today, I wanted to also share that we are part of a developing statewide network that will aid the early diagnosis and treatment of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Our state has about 140,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s and some areas of Georgia, like the south central portion, have a perceived prevalence of cognitive impairment as high as 15-17 percent, so this is a major concern for our state and for most of us. The state Department of Human Services received $4.12 million from the Georgia General Assembly this past legislative session to make the Georgia Alzheimer’s Project a reality. Emory University, an NIH-designated Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, is the project’s hub. The series of centers across our state will help improve screening, care and accessibility. While early on there is not a research component, data collected by the centers will go into the Department of Public Health Alzheimer’s Registry to help us all get a better handle on this and related conditions. Dr. John Morgan, director of the MCG Memory Disorder Program, is director of this new Memory Assessment Clinic. Our other academic partners in this project include Mercer University School of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. We thank the leadership of our state for taking this important step.


Upcoming Events

Check out MCG research highlights on the Medical Minute with MCG Family Medicine Chair Dr. Joseph Hobbs (Class of 1974) every Saturday and Sunday at 8:16 a.m., 1:20 p.m. and 5:18 p.m. on Georgia Public Radio stations across our state and archived here.

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

Oct. 20 – President Brooks Keel’s first state of the university address, noon, Maxwell Theatre on the Summerville Campus.

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

Nov. 8 – Kick off of the Noon Arts Live at the Lee concert series of the Augusta University Arts Council. All are welcome. Dr. Kevin Frazier, vice dean and professor at The Dental College of Georgia, is the master of ceremonies. The free concert series showcases performers who play instruments, recite poetry, dance, sing and more, including MCG’s own SeroTONEins.

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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