August 10, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

President-Elect of the AMA, Dr. Patrice Harris, is here Monday
Opioid addiction is hurting lives and making headlines across our state and nation. Part of what makes MCG great is the tremendous commitment of the individuals here to addressing these kind of issues that matter to the wellbeing of many. That commitment spurred the Opioid Symposium that will be held on our campus this Monday, Aug. 13. The featured speaker is Dr. Patrice Harris, president-elect of the American Medical Association. Dr. Harris is an Atlanta psychiatrist who has served on the AMA’s Board of Trustees since 2011, including a term as chair. She has served and will continue as chair of the AMA’s Opioid Task Force as one of her many leadership roles. Dr. Harris also is a former chief health officer for Fulton County, Georgia, who still sees patients and works to help others improve health care delivery and implement new health policies.

Dr. Harris will address the opioid abuse epidemic at 7 a.m. and noon, Lee Auditorium
Dr. Harris will speak at 7 a.m. and again at noon in the Lee Auditorium. Sheila Pierce, opioid program coordinator and director of the prescription drug monitoring program for the Georgia Department of Public Health, will be with Dr. Harris to provide an overview of this epidemic in our state and our community. I want to thank Dr. Harris and Ms. Pierce for their time and commitment to this important health issue. Please try to attend one of their presentations so that we can all be better prepared to help each other and our patients.

Anesthesiology Department helps take on opioid crisis
Having this great opportunity on our campus comes from great collaborations with groups like the Georgia Hospital Association and Georgia’s Compass Practice Transformation Network, which is part of a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services supported effort to help transform health care and enable us all to focus on patients rather than numbers. The Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine has a leadership role in pain management at our medical school and hospitals, and has been key in bringing the Opioid Symposium to our campus. Let me thank particularly Dr. Sarah Cartwright, a doctor of nursing practice who is the integrated clinical practice strategist in the anesthesiology department, for her steady hand in pulling this together. Dr. Cartwright has worked in the department since 2016 and has worked in and around our hospital for about 20 years, so she is great at figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I thank department chair Dr. Steffen Meiler for his leadership on this critical topic as well. This great team also will be reaching out to our many partners statewide to help provide needed support and information.

Dr. Satish Rao finds link between probiotics, brain fogginess and bloating
In addition to great people, great information is definitely one of our best commodities. Here’s some fascinating information from Dr. Satish Rao, director of the Digestive Health Clinical Research Center. A patient who had been struggling to find out the source of her problems with severe bloating and bouts of brain fogginess after eating led Dr. Rao, who is a natural physician scientist, to figure out what was happening with her, then to also look at whether it was happening to others. It turns out that taking probiotics was the connection for her and other patients he subsequently studied. The bottom line was a study that reminds those of us who are healthy that we likely do not need to take probiotics like some who just finished a course of antibiotics might. He found among these probiotic users an overgrowth in the small intestines of bacteria, including lactobacillus, which was producing D-lactic acid as it fermented sugars and ultimately brain fogginess. See here and this great local TV piece by WJBF-TV’s Ashley Osborne, here.

Dr. Rao will help lead national initiative to find best treatments for fecal incontinence
I am more than pleased to share as well that Dr. Rao is one of four principal investigators on an $18.8 million National Institutes of Health grant that will objectively compare the effectiveness of three currently used treatments for fecal incontinence. This is a tough problem that results from a wide variety of conditions from vaginal delivery of a child to neurologic diseases like multiple sclerosis and stroke to radiation therapy to frankly aging. Dr. Rao and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; The Colon and Rectal Surgery Associates in Minneapolis, one of the world’s largest colon and rectal surgery practices; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are leading this important initiative that will enroll about 600 patients.  The team here also includes Gastroenterologist Dr. Amol Sharma; Dr. Barbara Henley, specialist in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery; Research Associates Rachel Parr and Shashana Fiedler; Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Yun Yan; Administrative Assistant Helen Smith; and Anesthesiology Resident Dr. Akbar Herekar. My congratulations and thanks to you all and definitely more coming as we kick this huge project off in October.

Dr. Doug Miller, former dean, is Interim Senior Associate Dean for UME
This is great news of another sort that I want to make sure you’ve all heard.  Dr. Doug Miller, MCG dean from 2006-10 who also has served as dean at Canada’s University of Alberta and New York Medical College, returned to us and to his cardiology roots in January. Now he has graciously agreed to serve as Interim Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education. That’s the still-new top leadership job for UME that we decided upon back in February with the departure of former Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Paul Wallach. Dr. Andria Thomas, our associate dean for evaluation, accreditation and continuous quality improvement, stepped up to serve as interim from February until Aug. 1 and I thank her again for her commitment. We are fortunate to have Dr. Miller here and settling in so well in this key role for MCG. He is a proven physician educator and innovator and a general big fan of medical students. I know you join me in welcoming him home.

Alumni Association Events welcome the Class of 2022
My timing for once was great because Dr. Miller was taking on his new job as our freshman class was taking on theirs. We talked last time about how the Alumni Association was making the new students feel right at home with welcome events here at the main campus as well as our campuses in Athens and Southeast Georgia. They were all really fun and inspiring events as we watched one generation of MCG graduates greet the next. Alumni Association President Dr. Alan Smith, a 1995 graduate and an anesthesiologist at Doctors Hospital here, was an inspiration regardless of your MCG generation. He both embraced and challenged the new students, assuring them that they were at a great medical school and that the Alumni Association was not something for their future, but here for them now. He told them of the lasting friendships they would make and outstanding successes they would have. Dr. Matt Rudy, who was president of his Class of 2010 and is now secretary-treasurer of the Alumni Association and practicing emergency medicine at University Hospital, told the students that whoever gets elected class president in the coming weeks will have a seat at Alumni Association board meetings so that these two groups can keep in close touch.

Former Alumni Association presidents welcome students in Athens, Savannah
Over Athens way, Dr. Sam Richwine, 1977 graduate and one MCG fixture that no one would want to update, gave a historical and comical update on that beautiful city along with a bucket list of to-dos. Dr. Mark Ellison, an Athens urologist and 1982 graduate who, like Dr. Richwine has been a fervent force at his medical school ever since, was also with us. This was neat too, Dr. George Miller, a 1961 graduate who retired from his Atlanta dermatology practice then moved to Athens to work even more, was with us and still has his student ID. Down in Savannah, Dr. Buffi Boyd, a 1999 graduate and urologist, and her husband Ted Boyd, hosted about 50 students and alumni at Vic’s on the River. Great fun, food and scenery. Please know that Drs. Richwine, Ellison and Boyd all have served their alma mater as Alumni Association presidents and much more. Thank you all and welcome again to our freshmen.


Upcoming Events

Sept. 21 – State of the College address, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Sept. 23 – MCG Alumni Association Board meeting, 9:30 a.m., Harrison Commons.

Oct. 6 – White Coat Ceremony, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium.

Oct. 10 – Georgia Cancer Center expansion opening. More details to come.

Oct. 11 – MCG Alumni Association Rome Regional Reception, 6 p.m., Coosa Country Club.

 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.

Dec. 7 – AU Alumni Holiday Drop-in, 6-8 p.m., Maxwell Alumni House, Summerville Campus.


2019 Events

Jan. 24 – AU All Alumni Savannah Reception, 6 p.m., Chatham Club.

Feb. 19 – MCG Alumni Association Board meeting, 3:30 p.m., and Macon Regional Reception, 6 p.m., both at the Idle Hour Country Club.

March 7 – MCG Alumni Association Gainesville Regional Reception, 6 p.m., Northeast Georgia History Center.

April 26-28 – Alumni Weekend, Dean’s Reception, 6 p.m., April 26, Harrison Commons.

May 9 – Hooding ceremony.

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