January 19, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Former MCG Dean Darrell Kirch announces retirement from AAMC
You know how some conversations – and people – just stick with you? Dr. Thomas Swift, chair emeritus of neurology here, is definitely one for me. He was chair of neurology when I came here as a resident, served in that role 18 years, if you count his year as interim chair. His dry humor, unique mentoring style, academic acumen and skill as a specialist in neurophysiology were remarkable. So was his bright red office. When Dr. Swift decided he was ready for other things, he asked me what I thought about being chair and I thought it seemed soon for me. The next person to ask me was our dean, Dr. Darrell Kirch. Many of you probably remember Dr. Kirch who was dean here from 1994 to 2000. Dr. Kirch would go from here to Hershey Medical Center at Penn State before becoming president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2006. I say all this – and a little more – to share with you that Dr. Kirch has announced his retirement from the AAMC but it won’t happen until June 30, 2019.

Dr. Kirch has served a dozen years as AAMC President and CEO
His announcement caused me to reflect on what he said to me that day when I was a bit incredulous at the opportunity to be a chair. He told me: “It’s not your age, it is how many miles you have on your odometer.” That stuck with me. It also stuck that he left the same year he made me interim chair! I know you all join me in thanking Dr. Kirch for his tremendous mileage in service to medical education and to medical schools. I must mention here too that Dr. Swift in his “retirement” became the 29th president of the American Academy of Neurology. My now seriously high-mileage odometer and I are eternally grateful for these two great professionals. Please know again that I also am eternally grateful to each of you for always going the distance for the Medical College of Georgia.

Dr. Li receives $1.4 million NIH grant to take on inflammatory bowel disease
Dr. Honglin Li is a great example. This PhD graduate of Wayne State University, who did his postdoc training at Harvard Medical School, came to us a little more than seven years ago from Northwestern University and Children’s Memorial Research Center in Chicago. He’s a prolific cell biologist here in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and an avid educator of graduate students and postdocs. He’s also taking on inflammatory bowel disease, which affects more than 1.5 million of us and is often diagnosed before age 35, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. His target is Paneth cells. These are not immune cells but are in big supply in our small intestines where they help eliminate bad microbes and help maintain homeostasis of the helpful bacteria in our gut. He is making some relevant connections between the health and number of Paneth cells and a gene called UfPb1, see here. He recently received a $1.4 million grant from the NIH to figure out more about their connection with the long-term goal of protecting our Paneth cells and us. Outstanding idea. I know you join me in sending thanks and support in putting these pieces together.

Sylvester pediatrician Dr. Grace Davis among today’s honored educators
Our volunteer faculty also put in tons of miles for MCG and part of the awe is the simple fact that they are volunteers, yet also truly essential to our core mission of educating physicians. Volunteer clinical faculty like Dr. Grace Davis, a Washington University School of Medicine graduate who is a pediatrician in Sylvester, Georgia. Dr. Davis definitely practices and teaches family centered care because our students learn from her, not just about a patient, but about their families and how they live, Dr. Doug Patten, associate dean of our Southwest Campus, tells us. She’s been known to take the students with her on home visits, to stop by local stores and catch up with a parent, even to take students with her to a funeral of a patient’s family member, Dr. Patten says. It’s hard to argue with that approach and great to share it as Dr. Davis so graciously does with our/her students. Thank you, Dr. Davis. She was rightfully among the 32 volunteer faculty – and 141 full- and part-time faculty – honored today at noon with an Exemplary Teaching Award.

Dr. Ghamande named executive vice chair of OB-GYN
Dr. Sharad Ghamande is another great example of those of you who just keep stepping up and onward for MCG. Dr. Ghamande, chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, and associate director for clinical research and trials at our Georgia Cancer Center, is now (also) the executive vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Ghamande is one of those people who makes us tired just trying to keep up with him (and wondering if he ever actually sleeps). But he is an exceptional clinician, investigator and educator who, like Dr. Davis and so many of you, knows what it is to take care of a patient and her family. That includes, of course, innovative studies to find innovative treatments for tackling tough opponents like cervical and ovarian cancer that affect those patients and families. I know you join me in congratulating and thanking Dr. Ghamande. You may remember that in his spare time, he is co-chairing with Biochemistry chair Dr. Vinata Lokeshwar, the search for our new cancer center director. I think that search has gone well and we hope to have some news in the coming weeks.

Pediatric emergency medicine fellow Dr. Hsu receives innovation award
People like Dr. George Hsu, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow here, who is already leading the biotech company Cathaid. Dr. Hsu worked with some of his former Georgia Tech classmates to address infection and unintended and unhealthy movement of catheters. They invented a catheter cover with an antimicrobial medical grade adhesive and a small window that lets health care providers know quickly that the catheter has moved. This is certainly a big problem from a small but commonly used device in medicine that Dr. Hsu and his friends are addressing head on. He’ll receive Georgia Bio’s, see here, innovation award this February for his effort.

Dr. McIndoe honored by Georgia Bio with the Deal of the Year Award
Also honored will be our Dr. Rick McIndoe, associate director of the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, for his leadership of a federally funded national research initiative focused on diabetes complications. We told you more about this national success in September in these writings, and now Dr. McIndoe and the MCG center will be honored with Georgia Bio’s Deal of the Year Award. Hard to argue with that either. Dr. Chris McKinney, AU associate vice president for innovation commercialization, also will be honored with the Community Award for his contributions to our state’s life sciences community. I congratulate and thank them all and look forward to the February celebration.

Drs. She and Sharma provide more insight into type 1 diabetes
Speaking of our Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, its director and founder Dr. Jin-Xiong She is helping lead an international initiative with a catchy name – TEDDY – and the important task of helping better understand how genetics and environmental factors collide to cause type1 diabetes. This is an unprecedented prospective study following about 9,000 children for 15 years to better understand and ideally prevent and/or better treat this condition. This week Dr. She, Dr. Ashok Sharma, bioinformatics expert in the center, and TEDDY colleagues across the globe have published another of their landmark papers. This one provides important direction on identifying more causative genes, which will help refine the identification of just which child will get this disease. This is super complex science with clear relevance for children and their future. Great work all. We know you will keep it coming. See here.

The GRA makes core research facilities at eight universities available to us
Finally today, you know Dr. She is one of our Georgia Research Alliance eminent scholars and I wanted to also share with the scientists among us that the GRA has done some more great collaborating as well.  They have gotten the eight universities they help support, ours, Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Mercer University, Morehouse School of Medicine and UGA, to sign a MOU making the significant core research facilities at each institution available to all of us at the same rate. That definitely enables great science and defines great business. We always appreciate the work of the GRA to support research universities in Georgia and thank them for this latest great effort. Check out more here.


Upcoming Events

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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