April 27, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Castresana is the 2018 Outstanding Faculty Award winner
The annual Faculty Awards ceremony last week was as good as promised. As I said at the actual gathering, these are truly great honors because they come from those who really know us best. I thank the MCG Faculty Senate leadership, including Faculty Senate President Dr. Renuka Mehta, President-Elect Dr. Vincent Robinson, Vice President Dr. Thad Wilkins and Secretary Dr. Julie Dahl-Smith as well as Faculty Senate liaison Terry McBride for making this great honor happen. I also want to thank the dynamic staff we are fortunate to have in the Dean’s Office for their invaluable help. This annual rite is always such a great reminder of the amazing talent we have right here.

Dr. Castresana is known as the father of critical care medicine in Georgia
People like this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award winner Dr. Manuel Castresana, professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine and the founder (in 2012) and director of our Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine Fellowship. Dr. Castresana is often referred to as the Father of Critical Care Medicine in Georgia, which is quite a moniker. He in fact was the state’s first board certified intensivist. He has definitely shared his extensive knowledge, training more than 400 residents, 500 medical students, 100 respiratory therapists and 14 critical care fellows in his many days. He’s also served as a critical care medicine certification examiner for the American Board of Anesthesiology.

Dr. Bhatia is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient
Folks like Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, chief of neonatology and vice chair of clinical research for the Department of Pediatrics. This year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award is kind of remarkable on his face because he has such as strong presence yet he takes gentle care of some of our most fragile patients, very premature or otherwise ill newborns. He is a bit of a walking textbook on newborn nutrition, having served as chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, on the Advisory Board of the National Dairy Council and still as chief nutrition editor for eMedicine.com. He’s on the editorial board for a couple of major journals, including the Journal of Maternal Fetal and Neonatal Medicine. He has served as President of the Faculty Senate twice and has been an active member for more than 20 years. We have only grazed the surface on both these fine individuals but you can see they are definitely winners. Check out all the honorees here.

Dr. Johnson joins us Aug. 1 as the new radiology chair
Now that we have talked about a couple of great folks we are fortunate to have had among us for a while, please let me tell you about a couple of new faces. I am pleased to share that Dr. Annette Johnson, vice chair of quality and patient experience in the Department of Radiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, joins us Aug. 1 as the chair of the Department of Radiology and Imaging. She is familiar to us already in that she, like so many of you, is a great leader both at her home institution and in her field. She is a natural educator and mentor, who also happens to be an expert in neuroradiology. She has served and serves in leadership positions in groups like the Radiological Society of North America and the American Board of Radiology. She has been on the faculty at Wake Forest since 2007 and has served as interim chair of the radiology department there. I think she will be an outstanding addition here. I thank Dr. Ramon Figueroa for his also outstanding service as interim chair.

New chiefs of gastroenterology and pulmonology are here or coming
Already here, but just since April 15, is Dr. Kenneth Vega, the new chief of the Department of Medicine’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. This expert in gastroesophageal reflux and ethnic/gender differences in Barrett’s esophagus – which is thought to be caused by long-term gastroesophageal reflux and associated with an increased risk for esophageal cancer – came to MCG from National Jewish Health in Denver, see here.  We also have a new chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Shaheen Islam will be coming to us July 1 from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, where he is director of Interventional Pulmonology. He’s also an expert in lung cancer and critical care who directs the Interventional Pulmonary Fellowship Program there, see here. As we welcome Dr. Islam here, we must also thank Dr. Bruce Davis, who came to us in 1992 from Ohio State, and has given more than a quarter of a century of service to MCG and to pulmonology. Welcome all and thank you again, Dr. Davis.

The Class of 2021 honors their body donors
I probably don’t talk enough in these writings about the great value of giving to our medical school. Financial support from those who know, love and want to help MCG for a wide variety of reasons is critical as we strive to move from good to really great and continue to recruit and work to keep individuals like those we have just mentioned. I was thinking about giving particularly right now because this Tuesday our students celebrated a different type of gift, also of immeasurable value and impact. It was a definite privilege to be there as the members of our Class of 2021 who are here with us in Augusta celebrated the gift of 26 individuals who had donated their bodies to MCG and to their future. The generous gift by the donors and their families enabled unparalleled opportunities for these students to learn gross anatomy and so much more over the course of their first year. At the end of their time with their “silent teachers,” our students have this wonderful tradition of washing and preparing the bodies for cremation, then further honor them with this celebration.

Class President Susan Brands shares the promise that great good will come from the gift
“Different people have told me different points along the way that the gravity of the experience really sunk in with them,” commented Susan Brands, class president. “For some, it was when they held their body donor’s brain for the first time. In your hands, you held the very thing that let this human being wake up every morning, get out of bed and simply be the person that they were. For others, it was when they dissected the hands, something so intimate and human that made you think about the hands they’ve held, the grandchildren they’ve hugged, and the scars and bruises they’ve faced throughout their lives.” Susan then echoed her classes’ promise to do good in the world to honor the good their donors had done. Please let me add my thanks and promise that our students are outstanding individuals today who will change the world, in the fine tradition of MCG alumni.

Alumni Weekend is here
Please also let me remind each of you again that as of today, Alumni Weekend has officially kicked off and I hope that you will take part in some of the real pride and joy our alumni bring. See page 20 here for MCG activities.


Upcoming Events

Starting today – 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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