Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

MCG research provides new insight into suicide prevention
We talked last time about how our basic scientists in the Vascular Biology Center are whittling away at how obesity hurts our cardiovascular system with the goal of finding innovative ways to stop it. Great work taking on the intersection of two major health problems in our state and nation. Well this time I wanted to share how our physician-scientists are doing the same, in this case, by dissecting the intersection of three other pervasive problems in our state and nation: insomnia, depression and suicide. Like obesity and cardiovascular disease, these are clearly connected and also like cardiovascular disease, suicide is a leading cause of death in our state and nation. Our Dr. Vaughn McCall, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, has been unraveling this disabling and potentially deadly relationship for more than a decade to also find optimal points to intervene. His latest paper, in thAmerican Journal of Psychiatry shows that, particularly for individuals with severe insomnia, treating that insomnia with a sedative can reduce suicidal thoughts.

Dr. Vaughn McCall takes on the trifecta of insomnia, depression and suicide
Dr. McCall’s study participants included adults with major depressive disorder, insomnia and suicidal thoughts here and at Duke University and the University of Wisconsin. There are interesting twists to this study, like the reality that sleeping pills are a common method for suicide. While Dr. McCall and his colleagues are not suggesting sedatives for everyone battling this trifecta, they say there is merit in co-prescribing a sedative as antidepressants are being introduced to these patients, especially those with severe insomnia. Many of us understand what it’s like to stare at the ceiling at night when we should be sleeping and the pace of society alone helps us understand why one in seven adults report chronic insomnia, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, Dr. McCall has led previous work, which showed that when a good night’s sleep becomes a hopeless dream, that alone is a risk for suicide. The interest and relevance of this work was clear around the world. In fact, the study received the best quality and quantity of online attention and activity and sharing between researchers of any other article published in the journal in September. Way to go Dr. McCall. Check out this great local coverage by WJBF TV’s Ashley Osborne.

MCG graduate Dr. Patrick Godbey sworn in as president, College of American Pathologists
MCG has definitely been a newsmaker in September. At the College of American Pathologists meeting in Orlando Sept. 21, MCG graduate Dr. Patrick E. T. Godbey, was sworn in as president. Dr. Godbey is a resident of beautiful St. Simon’s Island and he is cofounder, CEO and lab director of Southeastern Pathology Associates and lab director of the Southeast Georgia Health System, our educational partners in Brunswick. Along with 1983 MCG graduate and dermatologist Dr. Sidney Smith, CEO of Georgia Skin and Cancer Clinic in Savannah, Dr. Godbey also helped develop a more efficient communication systembetween physicians taking care of patients and the pathologists with findings about those patients. I think I have mentioned to you that we are working on pieces for the next issue of MCG Medicinemagazine about several MCG graduates who are leading national organizations even as we speak. Like the reach of Dr. McCall’s work, it is a reminder of the reach of MCG and each of you. Thank you. 

Regional alumni reception in Columbus reflects the impact of MCG graduates
I cannot help but share again with you how much I really just enjoy our alumni and what an inspiration they are to me and what an asset they are to their medical school, their communities and to medicine. Last week, I was over in Columbus for the Alumni Reception at Mabella’s Italian Steakhouse (Italian is one of my favorites). I wish some of you could travel with me and see the tremendous support MCG has across Georgia. In places like Columbus and in people like 1984 graduate and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. George McCluskey, a member of our Advisory Board and longtime board member of the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce (formerly Georgia Board for Physician Workforce).  Like 2002 MCG graduate Dr. Champ L. Baker III, an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist who helped take care of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox while he was doing his fellowship at Rush University Medical Center. Like Dr. Karin Baker, his wife and classmate, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist whose focus includes children and adults with disabilities, and who did her fellowship at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Northwestern University. This great couple wrote letters to our Columbus area alums to help stir up interest for this reception.

Columbus-area alumni show their support of MCG
It is always great to see 1962 graduate Dr. Cecil F. Whitaker Jr., an emeritus board member and former chair of the MCG Foundation, past president of the Alumni Association and longtime member of the association’s Distinguished Alumnus Committee. Dr. Whitaker also happens to be a 2011 distinguished alumni honoree for loyalty whose busy, productive life also included three years in the U.S. Navy between medical school and his obstetrics and gynecology residency. It was also great to have 1978 graduate and MCG Foundation Board Member Dr. Sylvester McRae, another lifetime member of our Alumni Association, in this distinguished group. Dr. McRae also is an obstetrician and gynecologist who did his training here and was chief resident in 1981-82. In keeping with the great tradition of MCG and the next generation of physicians we are educating, third-year student Brice Morpeth from Columbus was back in his hometown for a family medicine rotation and to talk with our graduates gathered that evening about the great education he also is receiving at MCG. Brice’s dad, Dr. James Morpeth is a 1995 MCG graduate and otolaryngologist in Columbus.  It was just a great time with amazing individuals and I thank them all for their countless contributions and support.

Two MCG graduates garner top honors for service to their specialties
Here are more. Longtime Athens obstetrician and gynecologist and 1968 MCG graduate Dr. John B. Hill Jr. is the 2019 recipient of the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society’s Distinguished Service Award.  Dr. Hill’s many accomplishments include enabling women to go directly to their obstetrician and gynecologist as their primary care doctor by helping get Georgia law changed. Even in retirement, Dr. Hill helped champion vaccines for women seen in those practices. Our 2017 Distinguished Alum for Professional Achievement, 2018 Hooding speaker and 1982 graduate Dr. Walter J. Curran Jr. received the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s highest honor, the Gold Medal, also in September. Dr. Curran, Executive Director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, was honored for training and mentoring hundreds of oncologists, for his dedication to patients and for his leadership at NRG Oncology, a collaborative, nonprofit National Cancer Institute-funded network to conduct clinical cancer research and communicate findings. Thank you both and congratulations.

Dr. David Walsh is chief of new Division of Hospital Medicine
Finally today we welcome Dr. David Walsh to MCG from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine as chief of the Department of Medicine’s new Division of Hospital Medicine. You may remember when we were talking about the recruitment of medicine chair Dr. Brian Annex, we said hospital medicine was moving from the Department of Emergency Medicine to Medicine. While Emergency Medicine is a great place to be, I think Medicine is a better spot for this emerging specialty. The American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Board of Family Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics all offer hospital medicine certification for this practice which, as the name implies, is all about hospitalized patients. As Dr. Walsh so aptly put it, hospitalists are an “inpatient mirror” to these frontline, primary care providers. Hospitalists literally spend all their time in the increasingly complex hospital environment where patients themselves also tend to be more complex. They can help support a smooth hospital stay for our patients and be great colleagues for their physicians. Dr. Walsh is an internist who trained at the Medical University of South Carolina and some family medicine physicians are among the new division’s staff. Please note that our primary care residency programs will continue to include training in inpatient care. Welcome Dr. Walsh.


Upcoming Events

Oct. 10 – Alumni Association Rome Regional Reception, 6 p.m., The Vogue.

Oct. 14 – AU/UGA Medical Partnership Open House, 5 p.m., Russell Hall.

Oct. 19 – White Coat Ceremony, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium, guest speaker is Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Oct. 28 – State of the College, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Nov. 1 – Body Donor Memorial Service, 1 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

Nov. 4 – Medical Scholars Research Day, Harrison Commons.

Jan. 16 – Alumni Association Savannah/Brunswick Regional Reception, 6 p.m., location TBD.

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