December 1, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

My thanks to you
I hope you all had a great holiday with your family and friends. Thanksgiving is certainly a good time to pause and to remember the many times and individuals we are thankful for. Those of you who work hard each day for MCG and its mission are definitely near the top of my grateful for list. In fact, while much of the world slows a bit for this holiday season, the impactful pace at which you all ceaselessly function is clear for the world to see.

Dr. Ferris authors study exploring the long-term efficacy, safety of HPV vaccine
Definitely hot off the press is a study in the journal Pediatrics that gives a 10-year perspective on the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine. Dr. Daron Ferris, professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and at the Georgia Cancer Center, is first author on this paper that shows the quadrivalent vaccine, which targets the four most virulent strains of HPV, is safe and effective 10 years later in more than 1,600 young people. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in this country, the primary cause of cervical cancer and a contributor to penile and other cancers as well as precancerous changes and genital warts. Dr. Ferris has long been a leader in clinical trials to see if a vaccine against the virus could effectively become of one the first cancer prevention vaccines. The long-term follow up study indicates it can and has, and the other take home message from the researchers is that it needs to be given more widely and early. Great news and great work, Dr. Ferris, see here and here.

Old MCG finding continues to yield new insight into disease and treatment
As I have shared in these writings previously, one of my favorite things about MCG is its long, great history and cumulative contributions to medicine, to science and to taking care of people. One of the great gifts that keeps on giving is the 1998 discovery, led by Drs. David Munn and Andrew Mellor, that the fetus uses an enzyme called IDO to protect itself from the mother’s immune response. The MCG investigators soon realized that tumors unfortunately also use IDO as well and work began to see how we could stop tumors from this affront. Exploration also began on the polar opposite of enabling transplanted organs to use IDO to escape rejection.

High levels of enzyme IDO indicate poor prognosis in acute myeloid leukemia
Making headlines around the world in recent days is the latest IDO-related finding from MCG, this time from Dr. Ravindra Kolhe in the Department of Pathology. His published work shows that patients with acute myeloid leukemia, the most common form of leukemia, who also have high levels of IDO, are most likely to die early. This recent finding has already led to a clinical trial, led here by Dr. Jeremy Pantin, hematologist/oncologist in the Department of Medicine, looking at whether an IDO inhibitor can help patients with AML. The trial also is underway atJohns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Schools of Medicine.  What great examples of commitment, teamwork and ultimately great medicine and science. See here.

Dr. Jillella leads new national study that takes on a rare leukemia
I have (at least) one more timely and exceptional example of this. Dr. Anand Jillella, chief of hematology/oncology, was long ago frustrated by the reality that while reported survival rates of the rare leukemia, acute promyelocytic leukemia or APL, were high, they were actually low in the early days of treatment. This great physician wanted to figure out why and how to fix it. A really long story compressed, Dr. Jillella and Dr. Vamsi Kota, now a faculty member at Emory University (Dr. Kota did his hematology/oncology training here and was on our faculty for a while), systematically developed a checklist of how to best manage those early and sometimes deadly days. It covers things like what to do to avoid intracranial, pulmonary and GI hemorrhages, which are common in these patients.

Goals include dramatically reducing early mortality rates for these patients
An early study that focused on Georgia and South Carolina showed their protocol worked like a charm to dramatically reduce induction mortality. Among 160 patients, they helped decrease induction mortality from an estimated 30% to 6.7%.  Now their efforts have grown into a national cooperative supported by the National Cancer Institute. Like so many of you, these docs quite literally will take a call any time from a physician anywhere with an APL patient. They now have APL experts from Mayo Clinic Jacksonville and Rochester; Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York; Northwestern University in Chicago; and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, to help with this countrywide effort. I am sure we all wish them luck, but I think persistence will ensure their success and better care for patients. See here and here.

Dr. Rao coedits two statistics handbooks
Dr. Arni Rao, a mathematical modeler in our newest department, the Department of Population Health Sciences, as well as the Division of Infectious Diseases, is leading coeditor of two new volumes of the Handbook of Statistics series. Dr. Rao worked with the volumesDisease Modelling and Public Health, Parts A and B, which cover the latest in complex topics like theoretical advances in type 2 diabetes and problems with having sufficient data on disease symptoms and epidemiology to do things like make vaccines and public health plans. These works are for a wide audience from students to health care providers to researchers. One of Dr. Rao’s key colleagues on this impactful work is the handbooks’ serial volume editor Dr. C.R. Rao, a professor emeritus at Penn State now on the faculty of the University of Buffalo, who has been called “a living legend” by the American Statistical Association. This is definitely another case of great colleagues doing great work.

Second-year students visit the CDC next week
Speaking of disease epidemiology, no doubt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are kingpins, and our Class of 2020 will be heading out early Monday morning for a visit. It’s part of their public and population health intercession. They’ll be learning more about topics like asthma and air pollution, rural health, state and local emergency preparedness and tropical diseases. They’ll also learn about job opportunities in the important work of the CDC like the epidemic intelligence service and a preventive medicine residency. We wish them a safe and insightful visit.

The first ever MCG Master Chef competition is tonight
Speaking of great students, the Gold Humanism Honor Society is hosting its first- ever MCG Master Chef competition TONIGHT! It starts at 7 p.m. at the Harrison Commons. So if you like to eat and you like to share your opinion about what you eat please be at the door with $7, an appetite and an opinion. See here.

Vote early and often for our children’s hospital
Here’s one time where I hope you will always vote yes. Credit unions across the country – including the Health Center Credit Union here – are prepared to donate money to children’s hospitals across the country. All you have to do is vote for ours in this Credit Union for Kids effort. So please take a few minutes to do just that here, When we last looked, Children’s Hospital of Georgia was number five. Please help us make it the winner we know it is by voting early and often through Dec. 19. The top vote getter will receive $50,000. Also, starting next Thursday for the first time, the annual iHeartMedia Cares for Kids Radiothon and the TV celebration of our children’s hospital are being combined. Dec. 7-9, iHeartMedia stations 104.3 WBBQ, KISS 96.3 and 105.7 The Bull will join News 12 NBC 26 in sharing stories about the children, families and health care professionals who are our children’s hospital. The radiothon will broadcast live from the lobby of the children’s hospital from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. News 12 NBC 26 will have live segments during their regularly scheduled newscasts.

MCG faculty and students star in Student Doctor Network videos
Speaking of stars, our admissions’ leadership and some of our amazing students paired up recently with AU senior video producer Tim Johnson and video producer Jared Bell to make some videos for the Student Doctor Network, see here, which helps applicants to medical school better maneuver the sometimes harrowing waters of this important task. From watching this you will see associate dean for admissions Dr. Kelli Braun, administrative director Dr. Scott Barman, second-year MCG student Courtney Fleming and student Cole Phillips – who is working on his MBA right now before coming back for his last year of medical school – are prepared for anything, even acting. We do appreciate the Student Doctor Network for allowing us to participate in their important initiative for future physicians and other health care providers in the United States and Canada.


Upcoming Events

Dec. 6 – Two lectures on Ethics, Transparency and Trust in Pharma and the Role of the Good Pharma Scorecard. The Good Pharma Scorecard ranks new drugs and pharmaceutical companies on their ethics and public health performance to recognize good practices and incentivize change where needed. The main presentation is at 5 pm. in Room 1210 of the Harrison Commons. A lecture for residents is set for 11:30 a.m. in the Lee Auditorium. The lectures are sponsored by the AU Center for Bioethics and Health Policy and the MCG Leadership Through Ethics Program. The guest speaker is Dr. Jennifer E. Miller, founder and president of Bioethics International and assistant professor of medical ethics and population health at the New York University School of Medicine.

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 10 –MCG Hooding, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium. Reception immediately following at the Old Medical College building on Telfair Street. Featured speaker is Dr. Walter J. Curran Jr., MCG Class of 1982, who is executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Emory School of Medicine.

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

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

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