Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Joseph Hobbs retires Tuesday as chair of the Department of Family Medicine

The first born of Helen and Ernest Hobbs seriously considered a career in flight. Astronauts Alan Shepard and John Glenn were making headlines, and science was a regular topic of conversation in the Hobbs household. Growing up in the mid-1900s in Augusta, Joseph Hobbs’ fourth-grade class built a six-foot rocket at the then brand-new and all black Levi White Elementary School. They had starring roles as the planets; Joseph was Mars, called the Red Planet because of the hue it gets from the iron in the soil of its rocky terrain. Their efforts were sufficient to capture the attention, and likely the envy, of Lucy Laney High School up the road. Joseph helped launch the Augusta Rocket Club in the ninth grade, but also started pondering what space flight did to the body. He would soon find himself on Saturday mornings a little further up the road at the Medical College of Georgia, studying the impact with biochemist Dr. William S. Harms. Turns out our 1974 graduate and retiring chair of the Department of Family Medicine actually realized that early dream of flight, not in space, but in a career in which he would be among the second small wave of black students at MCG, in which he and his new friend Dr. Ron Spearman would become our first black chief residents and in which he would become a leader.

Dr. Hobbs is an icon at MCG and in the specialty of family medicine

Dr. Hobbs chose family medicine, a focus that started centuries before with doctors who made house calls for whatever ailed you, but only became a board certified specialty in 1969. Like playing Mars, Dr. Hobbs saw the opportunity to help put family medicine on the map. He would become the MCG Department of Family Medicine’s first black faculty member, soon traveling the state with the likes of Dr. Ohlen Wilson, establishing relationships and family medicine clerkship sites for our students that would be some of the first sites for the diverse medical practice experiences we still tout today as a serious strength of Georgia’s only public medical school. He would eventually secure and sustain federal funding for the family medicine clerkship. He would do far more than we could even begin to cover in these writings, including serving as president of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and of the Association of Departments of Family Medicine. He served on the Executive Committee of the American Board of Family Medicine and many other roles in this credentialing body that was still new when he was new. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Hobbs would become a beacon of what MCG is and what we should and could be; like the best among us, he is a fierce advocate for his alma mater who can still recognize its weaknesses and never back away from working to improve it and us. Dr. Hobbs is retiring the end of this month, which is honestly strange to think about, but he will never really be gone from us. In fact, stay tuned, because he will be starting a new phase in his MCG career soon. Thank you Joseph.

Dr. Jatinder Bhatia retires as chief of the Division of Neonatology

July 1 is the start of a new academic year at MCG and like most new year celebrations, it’s always a mixed bag of emotions because we welcome new faculty and say goodbye to others. This year the goodbyes also go to our longtime chief of the Division of Neonatology, Dr. Jatinder Bhatia. Dr. Bhatia has always been a force for our smallest patients, always ready to do and say what’s needed to ensure that these fragile babies, who mostly are born long before they are ready, have an optimal opportunity to survive and thrive. Like Dr. Hobbs, he is plain spoken about what is good and not, but unlike Dr. Hobbs we cannot claim Dr. Bhatia as our medical school graduate, but he did do his pediatric residency with us before completing a joint fellowship in neonatology and nutrition at the University of Iowa. Dr. Bhatia came back to us in 1991 and became chief in 1994 and vice chair for clinical research in the Department of Pediatrics in 2009. He has done a lot. He would become a member of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee in 1995 and eventually serve as Faculty Senate President. He took on a lot of other hard jobs, like chair of the Post Tenure Faculty Review Committee and our practice plan, Augusta University Medical Associates. He was a prolific reviewer and longtime editorial board member of the Journal of Perinatology and Journal of Maternal Fetal and Neonatal Medicine. He chaired the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition for four years during which he was sought out by nearly every known media outlet on topics like breast feeding. He was honored for his long service to the Southern Society for Pediatric Research, including serving as its president. He would help other forthright children’s advocates like Drs. Charlie Howell and Bill Kanto fine tune one of the nation’s first ECMO programs in the country, a therapy of last resort for often term babies born unable to breathe and who standard ventilation cannot help. Thank you Jatinder.

Dr. Larry Devoe, former OB/GYN chair, really is retiring this month

You know we have been fortunate to have a lot of these forces at MCG. That also includes people like Dr. Larry Devoe, a high-risk pregnancy expert, who is really retiring this time. I say “really” because like so many of the best among us, he has been hesitant to actually leave. Larry, who also happens to a very funny man with a phenomenal memory, came to us in 1983, became section chief the next year and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1996, a job he kept for a decade. In fact, he continued as maternal-fetal medicine section chief about half the time he was chair and went back to that job two more times when we needed him. You see he sticks with it. Like Dr. Bhatia, Dr. Devoe is a longtime member of the Faculty Senate. He is also a longtime editorial board member of the Journal of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. He has been a member of the National Institutes of Health Special Study Group on Fetal Behavior since 1996 and NIH Study Section on Small Business Innovation Research/Technology Transfer nearly that long. We know you have “only one gear” Dr. Devoe, but we hope this time you can downshift a little. MCG and many mothers and babies thank you.

New academic year brings a sea of change that includes nearly 40 new faculty

Our other retiring greats also include Dr. Greg Harshfield, director of the Georgia Prevention Institute, a pioneer in understanding how and why salt-sensitive hypertension happens. Dr. Ted Kuhn, co-director of international and ultrasound fellowship programs in the Department of Emergency Medicine, who knows a lot about how to make the most of scant medical resources and what to do for a tropical disease. And Dr. Manuel Castresana, director of the anesthesiology/critical care fellowship, who has trained more than 500 medical students, 400 residents and fellows, and 100 respiratory therapists in his many days with us. But there also is this influx of new blood and energy and expertise we welcome who ideally will become the next generation of greats like these.

New recruits include Drs. Danielle Nicole Rosema, Hanping Wu

This academic new year the new blood includes nearly 40 faculty like Dr. Danielle Nicole Rosema, a 2017 MCG graduate who is just finishing up her pediatric residency with MCG and the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, and who has already served on recruitment and selection committees to help us find more great residents. She was honored last year by our students with the Resident Teaching Award and has been a counselor for Camp Twin Lakes for children with a variety of illnesses. I have to add that I first met Dr. Rosema when she was a child living in my neighborhood. And Danielle’s mom, Pam, has worked in anesthesiology and taught our medical students much about ventilators and respiration. And Dr. Hanping Wu, a vascular and interventional radiologist who just finished his fellowship at the University of Michigan Medical Center, has completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at Case Western, has done research on new clinical approaches in liver cancer and has been honored multiple times during his training by the Radiological Society of North America.

Pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. James D. St. Louis returns

While he won’t be here next week, I should actually say rejoining us, is pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. James D. St. Louis. He is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine, who completed his general surgery and cardiothoracic residencies at Duke University Medical Center, including two years as a NIH surgical research scholar, and then completed his pediatric and neonatal cardiac surgery fellowship at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.  Dr. St. Louis, who was here from 2003-08, had progressively increasing responsibility at the University of Minnesota and its Amplatz Children’s Hospital where he went next. Those appointments included directing The Heart Center, Pediatric Cardiac Surgery, Pediatric Cardiac Transplantation and the ECMO program. He went back to Missouri and to the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine, where he is surgical director of pediatric cardiac transplantation and director of the congenital cardiac surgery fellowship program. We are glad to welcome Dr. St. Louis, who also happens to be a solid Boston Red Sox fan, back to Augusta and to MCG this summer, where he will be chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic and Congenital Cardiac Surgery. I owe him a Carl Yastrzemski baseball card.

Dr. St. Louis has led pediatric cardiac surgery, transplant surgery and ECMO programs

In keeping with our statewide mission, Dr. St. Louis will help us expand the cardiac services offered to Georgia’s children, recruit a second pediatric heart surgeon, and expand learning opportunities in his field for students and residents, with a long-term goal of a fellowship program. He has published and presented extensively in his field on topics like the importance of international databases for children with heart defects and how to otherwise maximize their treatment. He is active in the Congenital Heart Surgeons Society and Society of Thoracic Surgeons, including serving on the congenital group’s Research Committee and the thoracic surgery group’s Workforce on Congenital Heart Surgery and Workforce on Research Development. We are glad he is coming back to MCG and to our children’s hospital. He is joining a great group of individuals looking out for children.

Great new faculty join great MCG faculty and staff

I could go on and on about the great new talent coming to us, and there will be more to come as folks get here and get going. But particularly with all the upheaval and uncertainty of the last few months related to COVID, I really wanted you to stop for a moment in your busy lives to acknowledge again the great good you continue to do here every day and to see that more outstanding people are coming to help. We will continue to get through this together because that is what we do.

Dr. Michael Hocker is new senior associate dean for GME

Our core reason for what we do is, of course, medical education at the undergraduate and graduate level, teaching great students across our state in that distributed education model that Dr. Hobbs helped us establish long ago, and in the 51 resident and fellowship level programs at our medical school and its teaching hospitals. It is my pleasure to share with you today that Dr. Michael Hocker, vice chair of clinical operations and business management in the Department of Emergency Medicine and former Navy flight surgeon, is our new senior associate dean for graduate medical education. He has already been assistant designated institutional official (DIO) for GME for a handful of years and now he will lead it. Dr. Michael Groves, an otolaryngologist in the Department of Otolaryngology who has directed the department’s residency program since 2014, is the new associate dean for GME and assistant DIO. MCG graduate and pediatric otolaryngologist Dr. Drew Prosser is the new otolaryngology residency program director and Dr. Stephen Shiver, also an MCG graduate, is stepping up as vice chair of clinical operations in emergency medicine.

Dr. Walt Moore is inaugural senior associate dean for learner wellness

There are at least two more important pieces. Dr. Walt Moore, a rheumatologist who has led GME here since 2003, is the new senior associate dean for learner wellness, focusing on the physical and emotional wellbeing of our residents. And, Dr. Dean Seehusen, family medicine physician who has served as associate dean for GME since 2018, will serve as interim chair of the Department of Family Medicine while we do a national search to identify the best person to fill the big shoes of Dr. Hobbs. This all may sound like a lot of moving parts but they are good moves and I appreciate everyone’s willingness to step up, and Dr. Doug Miller, vice dean for academic affairs, for his leadership, of our undergraduate and GME programs.

Dr. Fred Mullins, medical director of the Burn Center, dies June 14

Finally today we recognize a huge loss to the medical community. Dr. Robert Frederick “Fred” Mullins, 54, was a native Augustan and 1996 MCG graduate who was medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center based at Doctors Hospital here in Augusta. Dr. Mullins, a man who was as comfortable on a tractor as he was in an operating room, already is missed in the subspecialized and comparatively small field of burn care. He would first work in the Burn Unit as a physician assistant and, with the encouragement of founding center director Dr. Still, a 1965 MCG graduate, would come to medical school here. Dr. Still also encouraged Dr. Mullins to become medical director when he retired. Dr. Mullins would serve two terms as vice chair of the Georgia Trauma Commission and was a founding member and chair of the Georgia Trauma Foundation. Our thoughts are with Dr. Mullins’ family, and our thanks are with him for his clear commitment to his patients and to medicine. Please continue to take good care of yourselves.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image001-1.png

Leave a Reply