September 7, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

The State of the College is Sept. 21 at noon
I hope you have marked Sept. 21 on your calendar for the annual State of the College Address at noon in the Lee Auditorium. As we have discussed in these writings, this talk is really about the state of you, about your extraordinary efforts on behalf of MCG and medicine. In fact, this year we will be making some announcements that you will hear first only if you are with us. I don’t want to overshare here but one of the announcements just may be about some important items that will help dress up your fall. That’s all you are getting out of me for now. Please join us.

MCG students find ways to improve function of disaster evacuee shelters
You know you are curious now and that is one of the many great things about you and MCG. Natural curiosity is the driver behind Incubator X, a group open to all university students interested in entrepreneurship. I am pleased to share that four of our students – Safia Siddiqui, Mike Mallow, Kyle Dymanus and Nathan Dillard – who founded this group, also have already developed software called DisasterMed and a company called R6 Industries to help shelters for evacuees of natural disasters function more optimally. This includes better managing and tracking medications that likely will be needed based on past disaster shelter experience and keeping up with emerging symptoms of evacuees to forestall disease outbreaks that can quickly occur in such close confines. You can learn more about their great work here.

The Class of 2020 scores above the national pass rate on Step 1
Here’s a more massive student success. We recently heard back on the pass rates for our Class of 2020 students on Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination. This is a tough one designed to test medical students’ basic science knowledge and their ability to apply what they have learned to wellbeing and illness. For those of you who haven’t had to live through this, it’s typically taken at the end of the second year of medical school to help check out your readiness to start seeing patients. Our Class of 2020 had a 98.63 percent pass rate on this important assessment. The most recent national average was 94 percent. I know you join me in congratulating them on this big step. Please let me say as well again that part of what I first loved about MCG was the great teachers I found here years ago as a new neurology resident. I have a feeling our students will be saying the same thing 30 years from now. Congratulations to you all.

New hospitalist division started in our Department of Pediatrics
Dr. Valera Hudson, 1985 MCG graduate and our Pediatrics Department Chair, would no doubt agree with me on this. She is now part of the legacy of great medical education that is MCG. One of the many things she has already done as chair is start a new Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine to even better meet the unique needs of hospitalized children. It appears that Drs. Robert M. Wachter and Lee Goldman from the University of California, San Francisco, first used the term “hospitalist” in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 1996. They anticipated then, and we are seeing now, a rapid growth in interest and numbers of these physicians who focus on the hospitalized patient. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Hudson for bringing this to pediatrics here and Dr. Nirupma Sharma as the division’s first chief.

Dr. Nirupma Sharma is inaugural chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine
Dr. Sharma actually has been on MCG faculty for a decade, most recently serving as medical director of 4C, one of two medical surgical units in our Children’s Hospital of Georgia. She is a member of the Subcommittee on Perioperative Hospitalists for the American Academy of Pediatrics Section of Pediatric Hospitalists Medicine, the Learning Task Force of the Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics and the Steering Committee of Pediatric Hospitalists for the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy. BTW, have you heard of nocturnist? They are one of the newer medical specialties and pretty much work like hospitalists, but they practice just at night. The Association of American Medical Colleges tells us this is one of medicine’s newest career paths in response to both medical advances and how health care is delivered. Cancer immunologists also are on that list, see five emerging medical specialties.

Dr. April Hartman is new chief of General Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
I wanted to also congratulate and welcome Dr. April Hartman as the new chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Dr. Hartman just arrived this summer after four years as chief medical officer at the multispecialty Columbus Regional Medical Group. She also was on the faculty of Mercer University School of Medicine for the last three years. Dr. Hartman served as a clinical preceptor for the Physician Assistant Program of South University in Savannah for several years and helped start a multispecialty clinic in an underserved area of Augusta while working at the old St. Joseph Hospital from 2001-03. She is a graduate of Meharry Medical College and completed her residency training here in 2001. Some of her special clinical interests include attention deficit disorder, asthma and skin conditions.

Dr. Horuzsko’s team makes key finding about how liver cancer happens
We also love science at MCG and this was some cutting edge and translatable basic science from Dr. Anatolij Horuzsko, longtime reproductive immunologist in our Department of Medicine and Georgia Cancer Center. Let me start with this unfortunate fact. Did you know that liver cancer rates increased about 40 percent from 2000 to 2016 in this country? It also moved up from ninth to the sixth leading cause of cancer death. Dr. Horuzsko, who loves an immunology challenge, has found that some of the major causes of liver cancer like obesity and alcoholism chronically trigger a receptor known to magnify inflammation on cells in the liver called Kupffer cells. These are resident immune cells, or macrophages, best known for their garbage-eating ability but also known to promote inflammation. As with all things, too much inflammation is bad, causing liver fibrosis, which can progress to cirrhosis and then liver cancer. Of course, Dr. Horuzsko is looking at how to stop this progression by targeting the triggered receptor, TREM-1. Check in out here.

Treatment, conditional release of insanity acquittees usually works
Here’s more interesting work in an area you don’t often read about, at least in these writings. MCG forensic psychologist Dr. Mike Vitacco has a published study that looked at individuals found not guilty by reason of insanity and later granted conditional release. One of the many interesting things he found in the Oregon population he studied was that the system of getting these individuals the mental health care they need followed by a structured release program most often works and that they typically do not commit other crimes once released. For comparison’s sake, the National Institute of Justice says that nearly 70 percent of those convicted of committing a crime are rearrested three years after getting out of prison. Dr. Vitacco found nearly 70 percent of those found not guilty by reason of insanity, then treated, had maintained their conditional release throughout the four- to nine-year period of the study. He and his colleagues have found similar good results in other states, including Georgia. In commenting on the study, he notes that people with mental illness are in the minority of those who commit violent or other crimes. See here.

Dr. Selina Smith, former director of IPPH, dies
Finally today, we note the passing of Dr. Selina A. Smith, Curtis G. Hames MD Distinguished Chair in the Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Smith was an expert in food and nutrition and cancer prevention. She earned her PhD in nutritional sciences with an emphasis on epidemiology from Howard University and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in nutritional epidemiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Nearly 20 years after earning her PhD, she earned a master of divinity degree from Emory University and completed a postgraduate fellowship there in health, wholeness and healing in the black church. She was a former associate pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her funeral service was held Aug. 30. She was Deputy Director of the Cancer Research Program at Morehouse School of Medicine before coming to AU in 2013 as the director of the Institute of Public and Preventive Health. We thank Dr. Smith for her commitment to wellbeing for others and our thoughts are with her daughter and other family and friends.

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.

Oct. 30 – Investiture Ceremony, 5:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium. Reception will follow.

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.

Nov. 30 – Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

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.

Jan. 25 – Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

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.

Feb. 22 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

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

March 29 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

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

May 9 – Hooding ceremony.

May 24 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

June 21 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

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