Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

New MCG video helps tell our story

We just finished the MCG video that we do periodically and which I hope you will take a few minutes — six minutes and three seconds — to watch. Feel free to fast forward through my parts but what I hope you cannot ignore is the legacy and future of this great medical school and the outstanding individuals — you, our students, faculty, staff and residents — that define MCG. While any piece like this can only feature a tiny sampling of you, each time is a huge reminder of really how great it is to be here. Again, I know there are problems and issues that give us all pause, but when the soul is sound and the mission is so critical it provides such a sense of peace that we are where we should be. Thank each of you for being here and being an essential part of Georgia’s only public medical school. I want to thank again Senior Video Producer Tim Johnson who enabled us to tell our story. The work he does with us is uniformly outstanding.

Nurse Manger Lisa Wilson, Dr. Vanessa Spearman-McCarthy establish clothes closet at our health system 

Here’s living proof of our sound soul. Nurse Manager Lisa Wilson and Dr. Vanessa Spearman-McCarthy, 2005 MCG graduate and medical director of consultation liaison psychiatry, are across the hall from each other on the third floor of our adult hospital and in lockstep on providing great care to patients. They were frustrated at the different, difficult circumstances that often left patients and sometimes even family members with literally nothing to wear. It could be that the patient came to us with nothing but the clothes on their back. It could be rape victims whose clothes are taken as evidence. It could be a husband waiting to hear about his wife after a car accident while covered in her blood. It could be the trauma patient herself whose clothes were cut off in the rapid assessment necessary to save her life. So Lisa and Dr. Spearman-McCarthy organized the Clothes Closet to provide a place within our hospital that could readily meet this ongoing, fundamental need. Their effort was rightly honored with the IMPACT Award from the Center for Patients and Families of our health system just last week. In fact, today Lisa and Dr. Spearman-McCarthy are meeting with the center folks again to work out more details. Hopefully by the next Dean’s Diary we can also tell you how you can help. In the meantime, you can reach out to Lisa at 706-721-0738 or LISWILSON@augusta.edu. I know you join me in thanking Lisa and Dr. Spearman-McCarthy for going these extra miles for others. Great work.

Cancer rural health initiative, student-driven disaster preparedness work to be honored by Georgia Bio

In keeping with the important theme of recognizing tough problems and taking them on, I am proud to also share that the Georgia Cancer Center and a cool collaborative by our students called DisasterMed, R6 Industries will be honored March 13 at Georgia Bio’s Golden Helix & Annual Gala in Chamblee. Both these efforts also are definitely about helping people. 2019 graduate Safia Siddiqui, and third-year students Mike Mallow, Kyle Dymanus and Nathan Dillard developed software called DisasterMed and a company called R6 Industries to help shelters for evacuees of natural disasters function more optimally. If you are thinking this sounds familiar, we talked about this great initiative when it was closer to its launch in 2018, and now it’s getting a Georgia Bio Innovation Award. To be recognized with a Deal of the Year Award is the six-year renewal of a National Cancer Institute-funded initiative to also ensure access to cancer clinical trials to citizens living in more rural regions of our state. Our Dr. Sharad Ghamande, gynecologic oncologist, fearless cancer foe and patient advocate, who is also our chair of Obstetrics & Gynecology, is leading this important charge for people that is currently funded by a $6 million NCI grant.

Drs. Jonathan Murrow and Kent Nilsson in Athens honored for their biotech company

Our great colleagues in Athens also will also receive a Georgia Bio Innovation Award for the biotechnology company Infrared RX, Inc., which develops noninvasive ways to measure oxygen delivery and use in our muscles. Cardiologist Dr. Jonathan R. Murrow, campus associate dean of research for the AU/UGA Medical Partnership, is a company founder and Chief Executive Officer, and Dr. Kent Nilsson, cardiologist, electrophysiologist and associate professor of medicine, is also a founder and chief medical officer. The other key piece of the important biotech equation Infrared RX is Dr. Kevin McCully, a founder and chief scientific officer and expert in skeletal muscle metabolism. Please note that Dr. Chris McKinney, associate VP for innovation commercialization here, is chair of the Awards Committee for Georgia Bio, the state’s life sciences trade association. I thank Georgia Bio for its commitment to life sciences and for honoring these important initiatives.

Dr. Arni Rao using math to stop spread of diseases like flu, coronavirus

Here’s more. Dr. Arni S.R. Srinivasa Rao, a mathematical modeler in the Department of Population Health Sciences who directs our Laboratory for Theory and Mathematical Modeling, and his colleagues are helping lead the charge on tough, and sometimes scary, issues about how infectious diseases spread, that will help public health folks better predict a disease path and population and prevent it. This time of year diseases that can spread between us acutely get our attention and the coronavirus has likely heightened that this year. Dr. Rao says newer models that look more comprehensively at who does and does not get infected can help paint a more meaningful picture of risk, and so better define prevention targets, which he calls clusters. See this recent article in The Augusta Chronicle by Tom Corwin. Dr. Rao is a consultant to the Indian government on HIV and the avian flu and is talking with the CDC right now on how to apply this method to their data. In fact, at this moment he also is developing an artificial intelligence-based system for diagnosing the coronavirus. More complex work intended to protect us all. Keep it up. 

Drs. Michael Clemenshaw, Michelle Lee are new radiology section chiefs

We welcome to MCG two new division chiefs in our Department of Radiology and Imaging who should definitely fit right in as solid, hardworking souls. Dr. Michael Clemenshaw came to our Section of Nuclear Medicine from Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas where he was chief and academic chair of the Department of Radiology since 2016. He is an honored leader in the U.S. Army who reached the level of colonel (now retired) before coming to us. His awards include three meritorious service medals and a global war on terrorism medal. He is a civilian leader as well, including a recent term as president of the Southwest Chapter of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. Dr. Michelle Lee comes to the Section of Breast Imaging from the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she was program director of the breast imaging fellowship where she finished her own specialty training in 2008. She also served as assistant program director for Mallinckrodt’s radiology residency for the last two years.  Dr. Lee has also chaired the Society of Breast Imaging Fellowship Match Working Group and served as a member of the American Roentgen Ray Society Abstract Review Committee for the past two years. We welcome these great new recruits and thank Dr. Annette Johnson who has diligently worked to strengthen our department since she came to us as chair in August 2018.

Linda James selected to serve on selection committee for AAMC Nickens scholarships

Finally today, we celebrate the achievement of a long-timer whose commitment to our present and future will never fade. Linda James started out as a biology instructor at Lucy Laney High School just down the road after finishing her master of science degree in microbiology at a joint program of Alabama A&M University and the University of Alabama. She was director of the Health Careers Opportunity and Professional Health Sciences programs at Paine College, another neighbor, when she first came to us in 1996 as a consultant to our Student Educational Enrichment Program. She was named director of SEEP, our now 50-year-old summer pipeline program for young people interested in the health sciences, and director of Diversity Outreach in 2004. I say all this to say Linda, still director of SEEP and now also our assistant dean for student diversity and inclusion, is absolutely attuned to what it takes to make a great doctor and to helping young people recognize and prepare for it. Linda has now been selected to serve as one of five members of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarships Selection Committee. Like Linda, recipients of these prestigious scholarships show leadership in eliminating inequities in medical education and health care. What a perfect job and honor for her. An important BTW, we have had two Nickens scholarship recipients, third-year student Bria Peacock who received a scholarship last year, and has started innovative programs to prevent STDs and pregnancy in teens, and Dr. Lashon Sturgis, a 2014 MCG graduate who also earned a PhD in physiology here, is on the faculty of our great Department of Emergency Medicine and director of our Clinical Skills Program.  More great days ahead with individuals like all these and you.

Upcoming Events

Feb. 13 – MCG Faculty Senate meeting, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Feb. 29 – Ninth Annual Igniting the Dream of Medicine Conference, 7:15 a.m., Harrison Commons, a daylong conference hosted by Academic Affairs for high school and college students to give them a glimpse of what medical school is like.

March 19 – MCG Faculty Senate meeting, noon, Lee Auditorium.

March 20 – Match Day, noon, The Miller Theater, 708 Broad St.

April 17 – The Raft Debate, the annual fun, educational deliberation of which type of doctor should get the only raft on a sinking ship, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association, 6:30 p.m., Harrison Commons.

April 29 – MCG Faculty Senate Awards, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

May 7 – Hooding, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium. Reception follows in the Old Medical College building on Telfair Street. 

May 8 – Graduation, 2 p.m., James Brown Arena

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