December 15, 2017

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

New issue of MCG Medicine magazine is hot off the press
A nice holiday gift arrived this week, the latest issue of our biannual MCG Medicine magazine. While we strive to continuously tell the story of the people and work that define MCG, the magazine is a bit like a friend baking you a cake or sending you an unexpected note in the mail: It’s something you can hold in your hands, consume and come away feeling good about. It tells tales of great work by folks like Dr. Carlos Isales and team on our newest program project grant to preserve the ability of our mesenchymal stem cells to make healthy bone and muscle as we age and to build a better future for us all. It tells tales of our amazing graduates like Dr. Manuel Pena.

MCG graduate Dr. Manuel Pena is a successful surgeon and benefactor
Dr. Pena is a 1981 MCG graduate who practices plastic surgery in Naples, Florida. But his story began in Cuba, where his father was a surgeon and his family was happy and prosperous until the rise of Fidel Castro. The Pena’s would lose their belongings and status but not each other. Like so many, the family would flee their homeland to reclaim freedom and to rebuild their life in the United States. Like so many of you, Dr. Pena never forgot his past. He still gives back to the Boys & Girls Club that helped him learn English. He makes mission trips to provide much-needed surgical care to patients in places like Guatemala, Jamaica and Uganda. I really like this old Chinese proverb he quotes: “It’s better to light one candle, than to curse the darkness.” I thank Dr. Pena – and so many of you – for shining the light. See the magazine here. A more interactive online version should be here next week and we have actual magazines in the Dean’s office now.

Artificial intelligence is producing real benefits for patients
In MCG Medicine you will learn, as I did, a bit more about other work going on right here as well, like that of pathologist Dr. Ravindra Kolhe to bring more information and possibly a new direction and hope to patients and their families and physicians helping them fight cancer. We told you this summer that Dr. Kolhe was working with IBM Watson to develop a system that would use the vast resources at the disposal of this icon of artificial intelligence to provide a more comprehensive picture of the genetic mutations involved in an individual patient’s cancer, and all the options out there for targeting them. In September, he began running these tests on patients. He shared this week the story of a son who lives in California who read about the work and reached out about his mother in India who has stage IV metastatic breast cancer. We ran the test on her tissue sample, Watson made recommendations, her physician agreed and she is doing much, much better. Now that is providing help and hope. Dr. Kolhe presented the Watson work at the Association of Molecular Pathologists meeting last month and he is now working with labs across the country, at places like the Moffitt Cancer Center and Cleveland Clinic, to make the testing widely available.

Dr. Vaughn McCall named Executive Vice Dean as part of organizational change
Hopefully most of you know by now that I have named Dr. Vaughn McCall, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, as our first Executive Vice Dean who will work even more closely with me to oversee leadership of all aspects of this great medical school. Dr. McCall, who also will continue to serve as department chair, is one of those calm yet energetic individuals who accomplishes much, most often with a smile. He is a good listener – some learned and some likely genetics – and a solid thinker and leader, who is accomplished in his own right and desirous of enabling others to also excel. As part of the restructuring, Dr. Andria Thomas, associate dean for evaluation, accreditation and continuous quality improvement, who knows our numbers and our soul, has agreed to serve as interim senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education effective February 1. This position will now lead our Academic Affairs unit. I know you will help both them and MCG continue to succeed.

Dr. McCall’s work in the sleep, suicide puzzle makes a national stir
Speaking of Dr. McCall, his work in the trifecta of depression, sleep and suicide is definitely among the stories we have continued to tell about MCG. We are pleased to share that the editors of The American Journal of Psychiatry just named his work in dissecting the sleep and suicide puzzle among the most compelling they have published this year. As he is wont to do, Dr. McCall and his colleagues took on the difficult issue that the very medicines patients take to help them sleep may increase their suicide risk. Insomnia also is a risk factor for suicide. Therein lies the compelling situation. Please see here. Great work.

The new year brings a revisit opportunity for potential students
As we start closing out the books on 2017 and looking toward the new year (can you believe it) we are looking toward our second-ever opportunity for a second look at MCG by students who have been accepted by us but have not yet made a decision about where they will go to medical school. On March 24 the admissions office will host 150 of these potential students for the Class of 2022. The admission process never really ends at MCG but it technically begins in June, interviews and first visits start in August and last through January (in fact we spotted some potential students on campus this week). Early decision students – which means they only apply to MCG and are Georgia residents – are notified of their acceptance by October 1.

We think they will like what they see
The regular admission process – which the second look visitors are part of – ends in mid-April. This second look lets them hear more from students, faculty and administrators – from Augusta, Athens and our regional campuses – about things like the curriculum, opportunities for research and our statewide educational network. Representatives from student groups, like the Student National Medical Association, for example, will be on hand as well. In fact our SNMA hosts its seventh annual Second Look event for accepted students who are underrepresented in medicine, just the day before. March is traditionally the time medical schools host events like this because April 30 is the national multiple release date, when students who’ve been accepted to more than one medical school decide which one they want to attend. We hope/think that in the fine tradition of many like Dr. Pena, all these great students will like what they see right here at MCG.

Linda James appointed to AAMC Committee on Student Diversity Affairs
One of our many strong and long student leaders, Linda James, assistant dean for student diversity and inclusion, was recently appointed to the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Student Affairs’ Committee on Student Diversity Affairs. Linda will serve a three-year term as the Southern Group on Student Affairs’ representative on the committee that provides guidance on medical student diversity with respect to student recruitment, admissions, enrollment, retention and graduation. We know she will be great for this committee just as she has been for MCG. Linda actually came to us in 1996 as a part-time consultant while working as a biology professor and directing the Health Careers Opportunity and Professional Health Sciences programs at Paine College. She joined our faculty full time in 2004 and her responsibilities now include overseeing the very successful pipeline initiative, Student Educational Enrichment Program, see here. She also helps organize SNMA’s annual Igniting the Dream of Medicine Conference, which brings about 400 high school and college students to campus to learn about how to prepare for a career in the health sciences.

The marvelousness and madness are all part of our distinct mix
I do hope that our magazines, these biweekly writings and MCG news reports help you focus on the great things and people happening right here. I know there have been and continue to be some tough times here as well, primarily with concerns about budgets and the critical and busy recruitment work underway to build and rebuild areas like neuroscience and pediatrics. But I learned a while back something that has been objectively confirmed to me by nearly a year in this office. Much as our bodies are generally similar yet amazingly distinctive, every institution, no matter how iconic, has its distinct strengths and weaknesses, marvelousness and madness. Certainly here the marvelous part includes an abiding spirit that keeps driving you – and MCG – forward.  As I said last time in these writings, I am grateful each day to you all for that and I know that there continues to be no place else I would rather be.


Upcoming Events

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

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

March 16 – Match Day, noon, Christenberry Fieldhouse, Forest Hills Campus.

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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