January 11, 2019

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dermatology becomes a department Feb. 1
It is great for me to share with you that effective Feb. 1, MCG has its 23rd academic department, the Department of Dermatology, and Dr. Loretta S. Davis will be our newest department chair. These two decisions were easy to make. If you Google ‘Department of Dermatology’ you will quickly see that dermatology is typically a department, not a division, in academic medicine.  Our 52-year old program was a department when it started, with the recruitment of the late Dr. J. Graham “Skee” Smith as founding chair. Our residency program began in 1967 as well. The department became a division within our Department of Medicine in 1994. It is well past time to make it a department again so that we can better recruit and retain more great faculty and generally grow to meet the patient and training needs of this much in demand specialty.

Dr. Loretta Davis, division chief, will become department chair
Dr. Davis is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, who joined the MCG faculty in 1992, and became chief in 2011 (interim in 2010) with the retirement of Dr. Jack Lesher, a 1981 MCG graduate, who had served as chief since 1995. She epitomizes efficiency and effectiveness, managing a ton of work with few hands on deck. Even still, dermatology is always in demand by our patients, by our students and we have a full complement of three residents in each of the three years of training, another effort she directs. In fact, we often attract medical students from other medical schools for their dermatology rotation. Right now, two of the three students doing rotations are from other medical schools and one is from MCG.

Regained department status will enable growth, success
We definitely have a handful of other good faculty like Mohs surgeon Dr. Matthew D. Belcher, as well as two part-time faculty, dermatologist Dr. Morgan W. Thakore and dermatopathologist Dr. Daniel J. Sheehan. We also count Dr. Wendy Bollag among this great group for her collaborative basic science work in skin disease and Dr. Adeline Johnson, dermatology service chief at the VA. As we are doing with many other key, in-demand programs, we can now better grow dermatology to ensure we continue to take great care of our body’s largest organ, our skin. Thank you all for your diligence and support in making this happen, including AU Provost Gretchen Caughman, and particularly you Dr. Davis, for your commitment.

Dr. Jeffrey Switzer is the new chair of neurology
This was another easy decision. Dr. Jeffrey Switzer is the new chair of the Department of Neurology. Like Dr. Davis, he is another one of those calm and pleasant individuals who manages to also be a dynamo. He came to MCG as an intern in 2001 and stayed through his neurology residency and vascular neurology fellowship. He and MCG graduate and neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Rahimi co-direct the Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center. He has worked nationally to raise the awareness of stroke symptoms and to improve treatments and access to treatment. He has been honored for his work with residents and medical students. But perhaps most importantly, as we searched nationally for a neurology chair, many members of the neurology faculty and the chair search committee said Dr. Switzer was the man for the job. I am glad he agreed.

Dr. Walt Moore serving as interim chair of medicine
I want to also share that Dr. Walt Moore, senior associate dean for graduate medical education and VA affairs, is now interim chair of the Department of Medicine. Dr. Moore has served MCG since 2000 when he was named chief of the Section of Rheumatology and director of student education in the Department of Medicine. He’s a Georgetown University School of Medicine graduate who came to us after more than two decades of active duty in the U.S. Army that began with his internship at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma and residency and fellowship at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. His many leadership roles also included chief of the Department of Medicine and chief of the medical staff and deputy commander for clinical services at Eisenhower Army Medical Center.  I appreciate Dr. Moore’s service to our country, to medicine and to MCG, including agreeing to step up when needed yet again.

Dr. Mike Madaio, chair for a decade, is now Chair Emeritus
Dr. Mike Madaio, who is now Chair Emeritus, made the decision in June that he would retire as medicine chair effective Dec. 31. He made that decision almost an exact decade after he came to us from Temple University as chair of our largest department. I want to thank him again for his great contributions to medicine and to MCG. He is a true gentleman and scholar, a nephrologist who has continued to pursue novel therapies to protect the kidney from inflammation and has research papers in press even as we speak. His calm countenance will be missed. Dr. Richard Schwartz, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine and Hospitalists Services, is leading the national search for Dr. Madaio’s replacement. We already have a handful of great candidates visiting campus so we hope to wrap up this important search in the coming months. Believe me that I understand it seems like we have been in quite a whirlwind of leadership change, but please also believe me that I continue to feel strongly that each day we better position ourselves for a stronger future.

Drs. Richard Lee and Kimberly Atianzar hit a heart home run
Here’s a good example of change and growth that’s playing out well. This week, Dr. Richard Lee, see here, the new chief of cardiothoracic surgery I told you about in November, and Dr. Kimberly Atianzar, who joined the Division of Cardiology in August, collaborated to perform our first TAVR procedure, a minimally invasive way to replace the aortic valve.  Dr. Atianzar is an interventional cardiologist who has completed a total of five fellowships in specific areas of expertise, and I am happy to say this first big collaboration with Dr. Lee went great. I really can’t wait to see what these two accomplish together next. Dr. Atianzar came to us right after finishing a structural heart disease fellowship at the Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute in Seattle. That was after an interventional cardiology fellowship at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine in Worcester, an advanced multimodality cardiovascular imaging fellowship at the University of California, San Diego, a cardiovascular medicine fellowship at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans and a cardiac echocardiography fellowship at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles. Again, I cannot wait to see what these two and other great faculty in cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery come up with to better tackle the number one killer in our state and nation. Great going.

MCG science among top science news stories in 2018
Here’s more good news as we roll in 2019. You know I love science and we had a ton of great work to report about this year. A news release about Dr. Paul O’Connor’s early work exploring the potential of baking soda to combat autoimmune disease caused quite a stir, including being the second most popular news release in 2018 on EurekAlert, the science news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. To give that more perspective, 32,000 releases about health, earth and social science, were posted on EurekAlert last year.  It was also among the top five most-shared releases there, see here. The work of Dr. Satish S.C. Rao looking at the association between probiotic use and brain fogginess and bloating, was another definite hit internationally. It was among the top stories in 2018 on Medical Xpress, a major science and medicine news site, and the Fourth Ventricle, which, as you can imagine, focuses on neuroscience news. See here and here. You will see Dr. O’Connor’s work made the Medical Xpress list as well. Lots of fascinating science on all these sites from across the world. My deep thanks to all our basic and clinical investigators. I can’t wait to see what you guys do this year either.

Dr. Phillip Coule selected as VP and CMO for Health System
Finally today, we congratulate Dr. Phillip Coule, a graduate of our medical school and emergency medicine residency program, for being selected as vice president and chief medical officer for our health system. Dr. Coule has held the interim position for almost a year. He is a definite go getter for MCG and for patients. I look forward to working with him and many of you to improve the health of our patients and our health system.

The new issue of MCG Medicine magazine is here
One more thing, the latest issue of MCG Medicine magazine is online this week. If you need actual copies, please contact Laurie LaChance at 706-721-8799 or llachance@augusta.edu.


Upcoming 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, Lee Auditorium.

Feb 23 – 8th annual Igniting the Dream of Medicine Conference, sponsored by the Medical College of Georgia Office of Student and Multicultural Affairs and its chapter of the Student National Medical Association, will welcome more than 500 high school and college student from across the state for a look at what it’s like to apply to and attend medical school.

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

March 8 – Second Look, sponsored by the Office of Student and Multicultural Affairs, brings accepted URM applicants back to campus to spend time with SNMA and other medical students, network with our underrepresented minority administrators and faculty, learn more about our 6-week summer pre-matriculation program, hear about and see firsthand housing options on campus and in the Augusta community, and much more.

March 9 – Revisit Day, hosted by the MCG Office of Admissions, is an opportunity for all accepted applicants to meet institutional leaders, spend more time with faculty and students and participate in hands-on simulation, ultrasound and problem-based learning demonstrations.

March 15 – Match Day, noon, Christenberry Fieldhouse (location may change).

March 29 – Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

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

May 9 – Hooding ceremony, guest speaker Dr. Leah Brown, orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and treatment of the knee, shoulder and elbow. She was an NCAA All American and two-time NCAA National Gymnastics Champion while a student at the University of Georgia. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine and served for two years as battalion surgeon at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in San Diego. She was a Medical Aid Station Director during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Orthopaedic Surgery Department Head during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and has received the Bronze Star and Navy Commendation Medal.

May 24 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

June 21 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.


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