January 5, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Augustan Peter Knox donates $1 million to the Georgia Cancer Center
His timing and intent could not be better. Well-known Augustan, businessman and benefactor Peter Knox has given $1 million to support our new Georgia Cancer Center director. We got official word of this gracious gift right before Christmas and right after our three finalists for the directorship had given their “chalk talks” about their plans and hopes for our cancer center. See what I mean about timing. Mr. Knox’s commitment to Augusta and against cancer creates a discretionary fund that the new director can use to address critical issues like recruitment or retention of faculty. He notes how cancer is a great equalizer that has twice touched his immediate family, including his father. Cancer took the life of my father as well.

The gift supports the new director who should be onboard this summer
But I don’t have to tell any of you that the battles we help patients and families fight both at the bedside and in our labs are tough and far too frequent. Our foes include cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, even the dismantling of our very infrastructure, like our bones and muscle, which comes with age. This $1 million gift will help ensure that for the fight against cancer we can secure a strong and collaborative leader. Our goal is to have the new director in place this summer. We think our timing will be good on that as well since that is about when the newly expanded cancer facilities also should be open. Great opportunities all around. Thank you Mr. Knox.

Physiology delivers not just great science but great giving as well
Giving of your time, passion and other resources is about as noble as it gets, and I wanted to mention here one seasonal offering that happens like clockwork. Since he came to us as chair of physiology in late 1999, Dr. Clinton Webb and his department have given toys to our youngest patients each Christmas. We understand that at one time Dr. Webb even put on a Santa cap, in addition to his generally more sedate attire, when visiting the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. Whatever he looks like, this sounds like more pure goodness and the children and I very much appreciate it.

Study shows high vitamin D doses rapidly decrease arterial stiffness
Dr. Yanbin Dong, geneticist at the Georgia Prevention Institute, and Dr. Anas Raed, research resident in the Department of Medicine, are leads on a recently published study that shows high doses of vitamin D can reduce arterial stiffness in young, and otherwise healthy, overweight or obese African-Americans in just four months. Arterial stiffness is a definite risk factor for the pervasive cardiovascular troubles we just referenced. Dr. Dong is a true pioneer in exploring the true and full health potential of vitamin D and, while he says larger studies need doing, this work shows great promise for a safe and effective therapy that can even be obtained by a short, daily walk in the sunshine. See here and here. There continues to be a lot of international interest in this study. Congratulations to Drs. Dong and Raed.

The Fukais garner $2.7 million NIH grant to improve vascular health in diabetes
While I am on the topic of blood vessel health, most of us know that diabetes is really bad for our blood vessels and dramatically increases our risk of cardiovascular disease. Two of our new great additions to the faculty, Drs. Tohru Fukai and Masuko Ushio-Fukai, both vascular biologists, recently received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to look further at how, in diabetes, copper can pile up inside our cells, hurting our ability to make new blood vessels, even as diabetes is damaging our existing vessels, see here. Really outstanding studies here that focus on the treatment potential of targeting our innate copper transporter, ATP7A. And, guess what? Levels of this natural copper transporter are decreased in diabetes. This creates an unhealthy conundrum that this research team wants to resolve. Dr. Fukai is also the Barbara A. Schnuck Chair in Translational Medicine, an endowed chair started by longtime MCG faculty member and 1968 MCG graduate Dr. Lloyd Schnuck to honor his late wife that ultimately helped us recruit Dr. Fukai from the University of Illinois. Like the largesse of Mr. Knox, this kind of support is essential to MCG’s growth and excellence. We welcome the Fukais again and thank Dr. Schnuck again for his support.

Dr. Alleyne elected member of American Academy of Neurological Surgery
Dr. Cargill H. Alleyne Jr., chair of neurosurgery, was recently elected to membership in the American Academy of Neurological Surgery, a North American group that promotes, sponsors and mentors innovative basic, translational and clinical research to help patients with neurological disease live better lives. That is a mission we share for neurological and many other diseases, including those we mentioned today. Dr. Alleyne was the vice chair for education and research for the neurosurgery department before being named chair a decade ago. He also holds an endowed chair, the Marshall B. Allen Jr., M.D. Distinguished Chair, which honors the previous neurosurgery chair.

Dr. Linder retires from pediatric chairmanship, Dr. Hudson named interim chair
I share with you as well today a change in leadership that came with this new year. Dr. Charlie Linder, a 1963 MCG graduate and longtime division chief of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine here, graciously agreed to step up once again as chair of pediatrics in 2015. As Dean Buckley noted when he announced the appointment, Dr. Linder never really left in-between posts, rather worked as a volunteer faculty member at his alma mater. Well while he has now decided to retire (again), this dean is also happy to share that Dr. Linder will help with the transition to new leadership. While I am very appreciative of this, I really would not have expected anything less of Dr. Linder. He is a true gentleman, physician, academician and diehard MCG fan (even without a football team). I am also pleased to share that Dr. Valera Hudson, chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonology and vice chair of the department, is now our interim pediatrics chair.  The continued commitment and leadership of Dr. Hudson, a 1985 MCG graduate and honored educator who also served as director of the pediatric residency program for 20 years, is also very much appreciated and expected. A national search for a permanent chair is underway.

National Cancer Institute blog highlights Dr. Jillella’s efforts for patients
I wrap up today back at cancer and the National Cancer Institute Cancer Currents blog posted this week, see here, that features the now national efforts led by Dr. Anand Jillella to help patients with the rare acute promyelocytic leukemia. I told you more in early December about this round-the-clock effort by Dr. Jillella and a handful of other experts across the nation to ensure that patients everywhere get the absolute best treatment to help them maneuver the first few critical weeks of their disease path. This is yet another example of giving and giving well. Thank you again Dr. Jillella.


Upcoming Events

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

Feb. 20 – MCG Alumni Association Macon Regional Reception, 6 p.m., Idle Hour Country Club.

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.

March 29 – MCG Alumni Association Athens Regional Reception, 6 p.m., home of Dr. and Mrs. Mark Ellison.

April 13 – The Raft Debate, Harrison Commons, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association.

April 27-29 – Alumni Weekend.

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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