Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Igniting the Dream of Medicine happens Feb. 29

As you probably can tell, I think a lot about what MCG is and what it will be. One thing that I hope always carries forward is its humanity. It was kinda neat on our MCG Facebook page where we posted the new MCG video we talked about last time that Connie Smith, who worked for a long time in medical records for our Health System, posted in response that it definitely is true that people make a difference here. You really do. It’s almost like a city where everybody is not the same but they do have in common a goodness that permeates. Here is some of that. We wrap up heart month with the annual Igniting the Dream of Medicine Conference on Leap Day, Feb. 29. This great event started in the heart of Dr. LaShon Sturgis, a 2014 MCG graduate who also earned a PhD in physiology here in 2007.

More than 500 high school and college students from across Georgia expected

Dr. Sturgis, now a faculty member in the Department of Emergency Medicine who directs our Clinical Skills Program, was president of the MCG Chapter of the Student National Medical Association when this great event for high school and college students started in 2011. Dr. Sturgis said several years back how many young people think maybe they want to be a doctor but don’t really have anyone they can reach out to about what being a doctor really means or what it takes to be one. Igniting the Dream, a joint effort of the SNMA and the Office of Student and Multicultural Affairs, gives these young people an opportunity to come to Georgia’s only public medical school and get those important questions answered. I can’t imagine there is anywhere better to come for this. This year we are expecting more than 500 participants, and from what I hear Dr. Sturgis likely will be right there with them.

American Academy of Pediatrics president to visit her alma mater

In keeping with the idea of looking out for young people, Dr. Sally Goza, a 1984 MCG graduate and practicing pediatrician in Fayetteville, Georgia for more than 30 years, is definitely doing that as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Goza will be coming back to her alma mater for an Institute of Public and Preventive Health lecture March 5 at 3 p.m. in the small classroom (BC1030) of the Auditoria Center, to discuss the important topic of helping children overcome the hardships of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. When these horrific things happen to children, everything from rape to abandonment, the immediate effect is awful and the impact can be lifelong, raising everything from their blood pressure and risk of related diseases to their risk of suicide. The American Academy of Pediatrics, like many of you, is taking this tough issue on. If you want to be there for the March 5 talk, please RSVP the IPPH at IPPH@augusta.edu. Dr. Goza also will be giving Department of Pediatrics Grand Rounds the next morning at 8 a.m. in the department’s first floor conference room (BT1810) in the children’s hospital. We hope she likes those visits because she also has graciously agreed to be our Hooding Speaker May 7.  Thank you Dr. Goza on behalf of children and MCG.  

Student a cappella group raises spirits, funds to help children

Speaking of great hearts for children, have you ever heard our amazing a cappella group the SeroTONEins? As someone who cannot even sing with (loud) music, I am frankly amazed by their rhythm and harmony.  This is an all-volunteer group of usually about 20 MCG students who sing because they love it and people love it when they sing. Recently they did need a little financial help for usual costs like equipment and travel, so the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, they were charging a small fee to help make these important ends meet. Well in typical MCG student style they decided at some point to split what they raised with Child Enrichment, which helps abused children overcome their experience and rebuild their lives, and which is already a favorite charity for several of our classes. Rightly their efforts on all fronts have gone viral. Dr. Doug Patten, Southwest Campus associate dean, sent one of their song-grams to Academic Affairs, which Angie McMurry, a clerkship coordinator in the Office of Student and Multicultural Affairs, posted on her Facebook page where the love started and where it has now been viewed more than 42,000 times and shared 700 times.  You can check it out on the MCG Facebook page. Check out this great story by Brooke Zauner at WRDW-TV. Great work SeroTONEins.

Dr. Han-Fei Ding receives $1.8 million NCI grant to battle neuroblastoma

Dr. Han-Fei Ding, cancer biologist at the Georgia Cancer Center and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, also is looking out for children. Dr. Ding learned a lot about the evils of neuroblastoma when he was a postdoc at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He has been working diligently since on finding out more about the inner workings of this rare cancer of the sympathetic nervous system that affects mainly children, oftentimes surfacing before the age of 5. Like so many of you, he wants to better understand how it works so better treatment can be found. I am happy to share that Dr. Ding recently received a $1.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute that will help him better understand how this cancer works so diligently to sustain itself, in this case by producing cholesterol. While most of us start thinking about heart disease when we hear cholesterol, this cancer actually is proficient at making cholesterol which it uses to enable its often deadly proliferation. The oncogene MYCN plays a big role in this cancer and Dr. Ding has great evidence that includes helping produce cholesterol, which it needs for essentials like the membranes of all the cancerous cells its making. More on this in the coming weeks on our MCG homepage and elsewhere, but Dr. Ding wants to shut down, or at least cripple, this cholesterol factory.

Drs. Mattson and Abais-Battad provide new insight about salt-sensitive hypertension

It was right about this time last year, we were sharing the good news with you here that Dr. Dave Mattson had been selected as chair of our Department of Physiology. Dr. Mattson is a leader in hypertension research and an all-around good guy who fits in well with our theme that people really do make the difference here. Salt-sensitive hypertension is a particular focus for this Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Hypertension. As we wrap up today, I wanted to share that Dr. Mattson and his colleagues, including physiologist and first author Dr. Justine M. Abais-Battad, just published a study that provides more insight into how salt-sensitive hypertension raises our blood pressure and hurts our kidneys. Cutting to the chase, in what Dr. Mattson calls an “inappropriate” immune response, they have found that a crowd of immune cells they have watched gather in the kidneys starts spitting out free radicals which do the damage, including causing our kidneys to hold onto even more salt. They think it’s actually a problem with the kidney holding onto too much salt that starts the vicious cycle of higher pressure causing damage which attracts the immune cell crowd and you see how this plays. The great news is the findings also provide a new treatment focus — which they also are pursuing — for often tough-to-treat hypertension. Dr. Abais-Battad was a postdoc with Dr. Mattson at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who we now also are fortunate to have on our faculty. We are glad you are both here.

Upcoming Events

Feb. 25 – Macon Alumni Regional Reception, 6 p.m., Idle Hour Golf and Country Club.

Feb. 27 – 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.

March 24 – Athens Alumni Regional Reception, 6 p.m., Home of Dr. Mark and Betsy Ellison, 1982 graduate and Athens urologist.

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 24-26 – Alumni Weekend featuring the MCG Dean’s Reception and Alumni Association Banquet, 6 p.m., April 24 at the Augusta Marriott; Campus Discovery Tours, 9:45 a.m., April 25, starts at the Summerville Campus; President’s Cookout, noon, April 25, D. Douglas Barnard Jr.  Amphitheater, Summerville Campus; Reunion Dinners, 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. dinner, 9 p.m. Alumni After-Party, Augusta Marriott; MCG Emeritus Club Breakfast, 9:30 a.m., MCG Alumni Memorial Service, 10:30 a.m., both in the J. Harold Harrison M.D. Education 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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