February 16, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Igniting the Dream of Medicine Conference is Feb. 24
Service is a way of life here at MCG and one of the many points that makes me proud to be your dean. As we speak, our already busy medical students in the MCG chapter of the Student National Medical Association along with the Office of Student and Multicultural Affairs are working hard toward the 7th Annual Igniting the Dream of Medicine Conference. This is a daylong venue Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Harrison Commons, for high school, undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students interested in a career in medicine.

Five hundred students interested in a career in medicine set to attend
This great event is a success before it even happens. We already have more than 500 students registered for the conference that will provide everything from financial aid tips to what they need to know about the Medical College Admission Test to mock interviews and real experience doing physical exams and sutures. Please see here. This is an amazing opportunity for these students and for MCG and we thank many committed people for making it happen. This year I especially want to thank SNMA leaders Courtney Flemings, immediate past president; Jeunice Owens-Walton, president; along with Bria Carrithers, Erika Rucker and Brandford Adobaw. I also always thank Linda James, MCG assistant dean for student diversity and inclusion, for her enthusiastic and skilled support of this initiative and MCG students.

New technology enables new insight into biomarkers for disease
While we are on the topic of innovation, our Dr. Jin-Xiong She, probably best known for his pioneering work in type 1 diabetes that we talked about recently, is making a big statement now as well in the emerging field of glycoscience. While it may sound complicated – and it is – the study of sugars, or glycans, in our body, is also fascinating. In fact, their huge relevance to our health has made glycoscience a major initiative of the National Institutes of Health. Long and sweet story short, Dr. She and his team at the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine have developed the Luminex Multiplex Glycan Array, which enables us, on a large scale, to look at antibodies we are making to the natural sugar coating on our cells.

The MCG Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine is at the forefront
Yes, we are all sugar-coated, but the sweet thing about this is that large volume screening can help us begin to make associations between antibodies we are making to the sugars on our cells and different diseases. Dr. She always thinks big so he is really talking about identifying biomarkers that will help us better diagnose and treat a bunch of different diseases, everything from autoimmune diseases, like lupus, to cancer. He also just got another $1.6 million NIH grant to expand the number of blood samples and glycans that can be analyzed. This is more really great stuff.  Dr. Sharad Purohit, biochemist, and many others at the center are critical colleagues in this sweet journey. Congratulations. Check out more here.

Dr. David Terris talks thyroid disease on The Means Report
Speaking of innovators, please take a few minutes to check out this great information by Dr. David Terris, surgical director of our Thyroid/Parathyroid Center, who is a definite star in thyroid surgery. Dr. Terris appeared this week on the talk show of Brad Means, co-anchor of our ABC affiliate, WJBF-TV, to provide a comprehensive overview on thyroid disease and treatment. There definitely isn’t a better choice for that job as you will see right here.

Alumni visits kick off next week with a regional reception in Macon
I also wanted to share that our alumni season really kicks off next week with a regional reception in Macon. It will be great to resume these gatherings. Much like the time I spend with each of you, these gatherings are a reminder of our purpose and our impact as Georgia’s public medical school. Did you know we have about 350 alumni in the Macon area?

Please check out this book on how to build a “team of teams”
From time to time, I also want to share with you some good books that I have read.  One recent definite is Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley A. McChrystal. General McChrystal took command of the Joint Operations Special Task Force in Iraq in 2003.  He had excellent teams under his command, greats like the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, Rangers and Military Intelligence, but they were “siloed” and didn’t communicate with one another. The general soon realized that in fighting Al Qaeda he had to be agile and let his teams make decisions rapidly as situations evolved. The teams also had to talk to one another.

Deconstructing silos helps build the most agile leadership
So General McChrystal began to deconstruct the silos by, for example, pulling a Navy SEAL out of his unit and having him train for months with intelligence units so they knew what each other did and became a true “team of teams.” This is a great example of how a leader should not micromanage rather be a “gardener” that helps prepare and develop teams. In a complex world, like his and ours, individuals and teams closest to the problem should have the best ability to decide what to do about them. McChrystal credits NASA’s success in getting a man on the moon to this approach while the European Space Agency failed due to its siloed structure.  In medicine, from the success of a trauma team to the collaborative nature of science and educating physicians, this team approach is essential. Together we must build MCG’s “team of teams.”

Drs. Dan Rudic, Zsolt Bagi get $2.2 million NIH grant to loosen stiff blood vessels
Here’s a good example of a good team taking on a bad one. Drs. Dan Rudic and Zsolt Bagi, both vascular biologists, have put their heads together to figure out how bad sleep habits translate to stiff blood vessels. It has to do with a connection between a master circadian clock that is not working right because you are not getting enough sleep – or for a few other reasons – and an enzyme, ADAM17, that is working overtime to promote inflammation. The two scientists just got a $2.2 million NIH grant to further dissect this connection with the goal, of course, of eventually making a disconnect.  More coming on this soon to the MCG home page, http://www.augusta.edu/mcg/, where you can always find the latest MCG news.

A tragedy on our campus
Late last Friday morning, our main campus here in Augusta would resonate with the warnings of an active shooter.  While we hear of these kinds of horrors too often these days, it’s one of those moments that I never thought would happen here. We would learn shortly that Jaz-Na O. Timmons, a 34-year-old mother who worked at the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home, had been killed in the parking lot behind this venerable institution. Carlton Deese, the home’s executive director, tells us she had worked at the “Blue Goose” for 14 months as an environmental services technician and that she was a model employee who worked hard for the veterans and for her family.

Faculty and staff provide safety and support
But in these worst of times, the good also quickly surface. We thank our Public Safety Division and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department for their rapid response. We thank Jeff Flowers, director of pastoral care, and Dr. Susan Sato, psychologist and longtime director of the AU Employee Faculty Assistance Program, for ensuring that support was and is provided. We thank Dr. Phillip Coule, a 1996 MCG graduate and disaster medicine expert, who was one of the first on the scene. In the spirit of great teams, the Georgia War has started a fund to help Ms. Timmons’ children with moving forward. If you would like to help, donations can be directed to the Business Office of the Georgia War. Checks can be made payable to Ramona Little, director of business services, or you can call 706-721-2824. And finally, this Friday, we come together as well in the aftermath of the tremendous tragedy that unfolded this week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.


Upcoming Events

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

Feb. 21 – Chinese New Year celebration sponsored by the AU Arts Council and Confucius Institute a noon in the Lee Auditorium. Enjoy singing, dancing and swordsmanship including a vocalist and cultural dancers from MCG. Free fun, food and admission.

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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