March 30, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Some of our students don’t even break for spring
Spring break is here, and I hope that you will have the opportunity to take a well-deserved break or at least slow your pace a little as this really nice time in Augusta arrives. Of course, I recognize that stopping/slowing is not natural to most of you and that tendency to keep working hard starts with our students. Rather than head out for a week at the beach or even a famous golf course, some of our students, for example, are traveling but to help others. Sixteen of our first-years and three second-years are heading to Asheboro, North Carolina to work with several worthy community service projects there including Habitat for Humanity and Victory Junction, a year-round camp for children with medical conditions provided at no cost to the families that was started by the Petty family of NASCAR fame. Taylor Glenn and Dalton Sherwood, from our Class of 2020, are the current presidents and leaders of this annual sojourn called Alternative Spring Break. I appreciate our students, their enthusiasm and their efforts always.

122 potential medical students take a second, up-close look at MCG
As we head toward finalizing our Class of 2022, we had more than 100 potential students here last week from 32 colleges and universities for Revisit Day with our Admissions Office.  This is pretty much what it sounds like, an opportunity for some students who have not yet made up their minds where to go to medical school, to take a second look at us. They definitely got a taste of the MCG magic, which is primarily our accomplished, supportive faculty and staff, as well as innovative curriculum offerings like incorporating ultrasound studies and use into all four years of medical school. They even heard the sound of MCG from our a capella group, The SeroTONEins, and got to visit with some of the great students already here. Our Office of Student and Multicultural Affairs also welcomed 22 additional potential students for their longtime Second Look program. They had lunch with folks from the Junior Medical League, the Student National Medical Association and Latino Medical Student Association.  Then Dr. Barbara Robinson Henley, who works with our Admissions Committee, is an expert in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery and, like me, a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, opened her home to these potential students for dinner. Students like these who got multiple medical school offers will be making their decision by the end of April. I know you join me in wishing them the best and promising them that the best is what they will get right here.

Dr. Khilen Patel talks about a unique benefit of clinical trials
Meanwhile, last week third-year obstetrics and gynecology resident Dr. Khilen Patel was giving the Society of Gynecologic Oncology a taste of MCG. Dr. Patel presented to the group’s annual meeting on women’s cancer his study that indicates participation in clinical trials can help overcome health disparities in the treatment of advanced or recurrent ovarian cancer, see here. He looked at what happened here from January 2004 to June 2017 and found that survival rates for white and minority patients were more similar when both groups participated in clinical trials. The rates were more disparate when neither participated.

A larger percentage of our minority patients take part in clinical trials
Because of the great work of individuals like Drs. Anand Jillella and Sharad Ghamande, we are bringing more cancer clinical trials here for patients. In fact, Dr. Patel also shared that at MCG and the Georgia Cancer Center, about 25-30 percent of our minority patients with a gynecologic malignancy participated in clinical trials, compared to a national average of 6-7 percent. As you likely know, we are one of a dozen minority National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Programs in the nation. Thank you, Dr. Patel, and so many others for your efforts for all patients.  Dr. Patel intends to pursue a gynecologic oncology fellowship.

New study shows the bad, rapid impact of a single high-fat meal
There is increasing work at MCG on many fronts that is giving us more information and options for healthier lives. I thought this was an intriguing and, unfortunately, very relevant study by our colleagues that include Drs. Neal Weintraub, Julia Brittain and Ryan Harris. They looked at just what happens to red blood cells and blood vessels after healthy, young individuals eat just one super high-fat meal. In this case, the meal was a milkshake, and while this milkshake was concocted here, plenty of fare with a similar fat content is out there at a drive in or dinner table near you. Four hours later, about the time it takes to digest a meal, they saw some pretty awful results like red blood cells that looked and functioned differently, blood vessels less able to relax and an immune response that was not very different than one an infection might bring about. Dr. Weintraub, a Georgia Research Alliance Herbert S. Kupperman Eminent Scholar in Cardiovascular Medicine who is a cardiologist and associate director of the Vascular Biology Center, shares that while these effects are likely transient in these young healthy males, they provide more clear evidence that we are just not supposed to eat this way. It may also help explain reports of heart attacks and death right after consuming something that may taste pretty good but does absolutely no good. Great work. See here.

Dr. Ryan Harris gets $3.3 million NIH grant to look at the cardiovascular risk of young women with type 1 diabetes
Back to Dr. Ryan Harris, an exercise and vascular biologist at our Georgia Prevention Institute who readily shares his expertise with many other investigators at MCG in diverse fields of study. Meanwhile, he maintains a strong focus on his own work. He recently received a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to further pursue another unfortunate reality: Young women with type 1 diabetes appear to lose the cardioprotective benefit that high estrogen levels typically afford before menopause. Dr. Harris wants to know why this disparity happens with his eye on what can correct it. He has early evidence that in the face of type 1 diabetes, estrogen actually contributes to cardiovascular disease rather than protecting these women from it. More to come soon on this (and other MCG news) on our home page,, and we hope well beyond. Congratulations and thank you, Dr. Harris.

Viagra may help reduce risk of colorectal cancer
This also truly translatable work is out there already. Dr. Darren Browning, cancer researcher in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has a special interest in colorectal cancer. He has recently shown that a small dose of Viagra, about the same dose given babies for pulmonary hypertension, can cut polyp formation in half in an animal model that is genetically engineered to get this common and often deadly cancer. Polyps are the growths on the intestinal lining that can become cancer. Dr. Browning notes that the drug does not affect existing polyps, but that it could have great potential as a preventive drug in high-risk populations like those with a strong family history or who have had a lot of polyps already. He and Dr. Ghamande, whose many jobs include associate director for clinical research and trials at the cancer center, are having early conversations about such a trial right here. This is great news on many fronts, because Viagra is already widely and safely used in patients. See hereand here.

Georgia’s allopathic medical schools have $8.8 billion economic impact
Here’s a different kind of impact of medical schools and their hospitals. The Association of American Medical Colleges announced this week the state and national economic impact of medical schools and teaching hospitals. In Georgia, where the allopathic medical schools also include Emory University School of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine and Mercer University School of Medicine, the medical schools added $8.8 billion to the economy last year. The national number was more than $562 billion in economic impact. The 6.3 million associated jobs correspond to 3.3 percent of the U.S. workforce, the AAMC tells us. I say again that it is great to be part of a place that contributes so much to so many important bottom lines.

Dr. Tom Huff, Professor Emeritus, died March 19
Finally today, I wanted to note the passing of one of our great emeritus faculty members. Dr. Thomas Allen Huff Sr., Professor of Medicine Emeritus, died March 19. He had a uniquely soft but impactful presence. Before any of us were lecturing about patient centered care, he was absolutely patient focused. He was also a focused educator of our students and residents. He was a 1961 graduate of Emory University School of Medicine, did his internal medicine residency at Grady and his endocrinology fellowship at Duke. He came to us in 1971 from Duke and was named Professor Emeritus in 2000. He was the father of four and married to Anne Hixon Huff since 1959. Our thoughts and appreciation are with his family.


Upcoming Events

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

April 19 – Faculty Awards Ceremony, 5:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

April 27-29 – Alumni Weekend.  MCG activities begin with the Drs. Robert and Lois Ellison Lectureship in the Lee Auditorium from 2-3 p.m. Friday, April 27. Dr. Jay Yadav, interventional cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic and Piedmont Health, will discuss “Information: The Cure for Our Ailing Healthcare System.” The dean’s reception is 6-7 p.m. Friday at the Harrison Commons followed by the Alumni Association banquet, where distinguished alums will be honored and the new Alumni Association president will be installed. Festivities resume Saturday morning with a campus tour starting at 9:45 a.m. The president’s cookout also is that day, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Harrison Commons Quad. The weekend concludes Sunday with a 10:30 a.m. service at the Alumni Center for graduates who have died over the past year.

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. His topic is “The Long Road Home.”

May 11 – Graduation, 2 p.m., James Brown Arena.

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

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


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