June 8, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Trauma can disrupt cell powerhouses, trigger a major immune response
One of our body’s many amazing wonders is that the powerhouses that fuel our cells actually have DNA that is different from our own. That’s all great until injury or disease spills the contents of these mitochondria and then, not surprisingly, it can trigger an immune response much like bacteria would. When there is a lot of spillage, it can result in a body-wide, life-endangering response. What is also not surprising – but still amazing – is the great collaboration right here pursuing the best strategy for what to do about it because, despite the commonalities, antibiotics just don’t work for this. General surgery resident Dr. Patricia Martinez Quinones is right in the middle of the studies that already have yielded evidence that a research drug that cleaves, and so neutralizes, peptides that get the attention of our immune system when they escape, may offer a great solution.

Surgery resident Dr. Martinez Quinones is presenting the research at the Shock Society meeting next week
Dr. Martinez Quinones is presenting this great work Tuesday during the Shock Society’s annual conference in Scottsdale where she also will be honored with that prestigious group’s Diversity Enhancement Award. This work has shown up as well at other impressive gatherings like the Experimental Biology meeting in April. Like any great work this results from many great colleagues working hard together, and in this case that includes Dr. Camilla Ferreira Wenceslau, research scientist in the Department of Physiology, who is part of the ground floor of this work, and interim trauma chief Dr. Keith O’Malley, who deals with the consequences of this in patients. Of course, the basic science work is happening in the lab of Physiology Chair Dr. R. Clinton Webb, a renowned expert on damage associated molecular patterns, or DAMPs, which is what these spilled peptides become.  I wanted to add here that Dr. Martinez Quinones, who is loving science, recently enrolled in the PhD program in physiology here. She just may blaze a trail for MDs to get their PhDs after their residency training. A bunch of wins on this one for science, scientists and patients. Thank you.

Dr. Sullivan honored with two national scientific awards
Here are plenty more wins on those important fronts about the also pervasive problem of hypertension, and one determined foe, Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, pharmacologist and physiologist also in our Department of Physiology. As you know, hypertension can be a tough nut to crack and treat. Dr. Sullivan’s work primarily focuses on sex differences driving hypertension that will ultimately enable more targeted treatments, which are sorely needed for this condition. In fact, she is another great collaborator of Dr. Webb’s and, one of her many explorations is about how male and female cells basically explode differently in response to the high pressure placed on them by hypertension. And yes, cells in females appear to make less mess when they explode. Dr. Sullivan’s many efforts and successes earned her two recent distinctions. She is the inaugural recipient of the John Laragh Research Award from the American Journal of Hypertension for exemplary work by an investigator under age 45. She also has been selected for the Mid-Career Award for Research Excellence from the American Heart Association’s Council on Hypertension. While I am not one who is big on titles, this is definitely one time when the titles pretty much say it all. Congratulations Dr. Sullivan and thank you for your commitment against hypertension.

Dr. Filosa’s new NIH grant helps explore what hypertension does to the brain
Since we are on a science – and physiology – roll, here’s one more fascinating, impactful achievement that also keeps us on hypertension. While Drs. Webb, Sullivan and others are looking at exploding cells, Dr. Jessica Filosa, neurovascular physiologist, is looking at the squeeze hypertension puts on the small blood vessels in our brain. She is doing some fascinating – and complex – work on how high blood pressure in our bodies appears to disrupt a normal neuroprotective communication in our brain that enables a healthy balance between the blood flow available to and the activity of our neurons. The disruption appears to be a factor in how high blood pressure hurts cognitive function, contributing to what we call vascular dementia. Dr. Filosa recently received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to parse out just how hypertension can lead to cognitive impairment. I want to congratulate and thank her as well for her steadfast efforts to understand just how one leads to another so we can one day better intervene.

Ortho on Demand is ready for your after-hours orthopaedic injuries
Here’s another way to improve patient care.  Have you ever had your child limp home after playing hard all day with her friends? Or maybe you tripped over your own two feet and twisted your aging ankle. Well our Department of Orthpaedic Surgery now has a great after-hours option for you. Ortho On Demand is a walk-in clinic open Monday through Thursday from 5-9 p.m. at 1220 West Wheeler Parkway, Suite A where, as the name implies, you can just show up with your after-hours orthopaedic injuries. Department manager Mark Lewis tell us they are in the process of recruiting an additional physician assistant that will enable us to also be there on Fridays and Saturdays, probably within the next couple of months. Dr. Beau Gedrick is the enthusiastic medical director. Great concept here that gives patients what they need when they may need it most. It also helps take some of the pressure off emergency departments. Another win-win.

The no-smoking ordinance passes in our city
So is this. In our community this week, the Augusta Commission voted to pass, effective with the new year, an ordinance that strengthens no smoking policies, including banning smoking in bars and most public workplaces. As a neurologist who sees the impact of smoking on our bodies and brains, I believe this is a good decision for our future. I wanted to thank BreathEasy Augusta, the coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses that led this initiative for their passionate efforts on this front. I particularly want to thank our own Dr. Martha Tingen, a tireless advocate for helping adults quit smoking, for keeping children from starting and for looking out for the wellbeing of our community.

MCG graduate, longtime educator Dr. Bill Chew dies
Finally today, I wanted to note the passing of Dr. William Hubert Chew Jr., a 1958 MCG graduate and 30-year faculty member in our Department of Medicine who was granted professor emeritus status in 1994.  Like so many of you, Dr. Chew made our students and residents his focus and they, in return, loved and respected him. I appreciate his service to his alma mater and to the profession of medicine. Please see here.


Upcoming Events

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

July 30 – Freshman Reception, 5 p.m., Harrison Commons, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association.

August 1 – Freshman Lunch, noon, AU/UGA Medical Partnership campus, Athens, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association.

Aug. 10 – MCG State of the College, noon, Lee Auditorium. 

Nov. 9 – The annual Memorial Service for Body Donors will be held at 1 p.m. in the. Lee Auditorium. Donors’ families and friends are the honored guests. The service is conducted jointly by the students, faculty, and chaplains from the Medical College of Georgia and its Athens campus, the AU/UGA Medical Partnership, the Dental College of Georgia, the Colleges of Allied Health Sciences and Nursing and The Graduate School.