November 10, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

“Silent teachers” play a big role in how medical students learn
Our students have called them their “silent teachers” and “first patients.” Sophomore Class President Miller Singleton admits to being a little nervous about first meeting hers, but total awe and respect as well for the beneficent spirit that placed him on the dissection table before her as a freshman medical student. He died at age 89 and as she and her team did their anatomy studies over the course of nine months, they would learn countless lessons from their teacher about the intricate and amazing details of the body overall and also about his unique pathologies. They would find that he had triple bypass surgery on his heart and dutifully pursue details like how many veins were used in that bypass procedure. They also wondered about his family, whether he had children and grandchildren. Each day as they finished their work, they would cover him with a sheet and close the body bag.

Body donors provide invaluable clues about how we live and die
“As you start dissecting, you develop a relationship with the body donor because you are learning so much about that person,” Miller says. “We always like to say that we think our donors lived a pretty good life.” The body holds so many clues about how that individual lived and died. “I think for you to be able to uncover that story about someone is incredible and is truly a humbling experience,” Miller says. She notes that their longest dissection was disengaging the heart and the opportunity to hold this invaluable pump in their own hands. “It was powerful,” she says. Powerful also describes the memorial service being held today at 1 p.m. in the Lee Auditorium.

Memorial service for body donors is happening at 1 p.m. today
As we send this, MCG students from here and our Athens campus, as well as students from the College of Allied Health Sciences, the Dental College of Georgia, the College of Nursing and The Graduate School, are readying to honor the benevolent souls who have donated their bodies to medicine and to science. So are educators and scientists from our MCG Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy and many families of donors. Miller and her fellow students want particularly the families to know how their loved ones changed them and taught them. I hope you will try to attend this service as well, particularly if you never have. It is a great reminder of what we do here, and of the generous spirit that enables our work. “I don’t think there is any way you can learn anatomy to the extent that we learn anatomy from a textbook,” says Miller, who chaired the student committee for today’s service. “It never does it justice.”  David Adams, who coordinates anatomical services, tells us we received more than 100 body donations this year, another great group of “silent teachers.”

M2 class president among a growing group of students from south Georgia
As we were talking to Miller about this service, we found she also has a powerful story to tell. The oldest child of Angie and Doyle Singleton spent her early summers working on the family farm in Camilla, Georgia, in the far southwestern quadrant of the state near the Florida line. They grow staples like cotton, corn and peanuts and her dad, who like his daughter is lucky enough to really love his chosen profession, spends more than half his time as a “crop doctor” helping his farming neighbors figure out what ails their farms and how to fix it. She grew up eating the fresh carrots and watermelon he brought to the house and some exceptional Sunday dinners. Miller is one of 42 students we accepted into the Class of 2020 from the southern portion of our state, which suffers disproportionately from poor health outcomes and not enough health care.

MCG Class of 2021 includes 53 students from this health-challenged area
This year, I am happy to report that the Class of 2021 has 53 students from that important area of the state. While certainly there are no guarantees that students who come from south Georgia will return there to practice, it is certain that these students, like Miller, truly understand the impact of a physician shortage and the needs of our state. In fact, Miller talks about the given of traveling 30 miles north to Albany and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital or 30 miles south to Archbold Medical Center and Thomasville, when people are sick in her hometown. As Georgia’s public medical school, we and our many partners across the state, including Phoebe and Archbold, are working to correct these inequities. Did you know that nine of our 159 counties have no doctors and seven of those are in south Georgia?

MCG graduates Drs. Pike and Lundy assume national leadership roles
Every week I am reminded of MCG’s long and proud commitment to improving health and educating physicians. Recently Dr. Irving M. Pike, gastroenterologist, 1978 MCG graduate and senior vice president and chief medical officer of John Muir Health in Contra Costa County, California, was elected president of the 14,000-member American College of Gastroenterology. His many accomplishments include serving as founding director of the GI Quality Improvement Consortium Ltd., an educational and scientific group established by physicians to improve GI care throughout the country and beyond. Last week, Dr. Douglas Lundy, a 1993 MCG graduate, was elected president-elect of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, which establishes standards for educating these specialists. Dr. Lundy is co-president of Resurgens Orthopaedics, which has more than 20 practice sites in the Atlanta area. He was elected to the 21-member Board of Directors of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery five years ago, and has served as chair of the Oral Examinations Committee.

MCG part of national study to assess bone marrow transplants for sickle cell
While we are talking about great traditions, MCG also has a strong history in advancing treatment for and information about sickle cell disease. Our contributions have included finding a non-invasive way to identify children with sickle cell disease who are at risk for stroke then changing treatment standards by also showing that regular blood transfusions can dramatically reduce that risk. We were a study site for hydroxyurea, the first FDA-approved medicine for this condition (a second drug was approved only this past summer). Today, Drs. Abdullah Kutlar and Robert Gibson are leading a $4.4 million National Institutes of Health-funded study, which includes trying to determine why nearly two decades later, only a small percentage of patients take hydroxyurea when evidence indicates most would benefit. See here. Now, Dr. Jeremy Pantin, MCG hematologist/oncologist, has enabled us to be part of the first large NIH-funded trial that is exploring whether bone marrow transplants should also be part of the standard of care for these patients. In fact, we recently enrolled one of the first patients in this national study taking place at about 20 sites. We thank Dr. Pantin for his persistence in making this option available to our patients and for continuing to move knowledge and treatment forward. Please see here and here.

Georgia Cancer Center team works to stamp out smoking
I leave you today with a reminder of next week’s Great American Smokeout. This year is the 40th anniversary of the American Cancer Society’s national event. Its earliest roots include Randolph, Massachusetts high school guidance counselor Arthur P. Mullaney asking people to give up smoking for a day and donate what they didn’t spend on cigarettes to a high school scholarship. Can you imagine how much money that would generate now when a pack of cigarettes costs $6 or more? Of course, we know cigarettes costs so much more by significantly increasing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, emphysema and the horrible list goes on. I appreciate the effort of the Office of Cancer Information and Awareness at the Georgia Cancer Center for again taking a leadership role in helping people put down this unhealthy habit, including Commit to Quit Stations on both Augusta campuses from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16 and Tobacco Cessation Services you can access always by calling 706-721-0456. For more details on this collaborative effort see here and here.


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. We are still having some technical difficulties with Sound Cloud so here’s a few more updated links, Medical Minute 12.09.17; Medical Minute 12.16.17Medical Minute 12.23.17

Today, 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.

Leave a Reply