Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Integrity is top trait when looking for leaders

One of the hardest jobs as a leader is picking other leaders. As the individual who is fortunate to lead Georgia’s only public medical school, integrity is always the first quality I look for, because we as individuals and our medical school are nothing without integrity. There are other traits I admire in leaders, like the ability to be genuinely invested in the success of others and the greater good. You also need the business acumen, or maybe it’s really street smarts, to ensure that real needs are identified and met so that MCG moves forward. Those of us who work to find the next great leader regularly ask ourselves, who is best for MCG and for our mission? Who is a good fit for our generally benevolent and sometimes scrappy culture that enables us to play and to succeed well above our fighting weight? I believe our two newest leaders are those things and more and I know you will join me in helping ensure their comfort and MCG’s continued success.

Dr. Dean Seehusen is the new chair of the Department of Family Medicine

Dr. Dean Allen Seehusen is the new chair of our Department of Family Medicine. He came to us in 2018 as associate dean for GME from Eisenhower Army Medical Center about the same time he was retiring from 30 years of service in the Army. At Eisenhower he had many roles, and his last two were director of medical education for more than 80 medical residents and designated institutional officer for the hospital’s five accredited residency programs. He also had served as Eisenhower’s deputy commander for medical services. His experience with our nation’s military hospitals actually goes back to his days as a family medicine intern at Tripler. It’s been a good run, inside both military and civilian academia. In 2018, he was honored with the Uniformed Services Academy of Family Physicians President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. Two years before that, the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine honored his contributions to the creation of the Council of Academic Family Medicine Educational Research Alliance. He serves on that society’s Board of Directors and chairs its Research Committee. He was named deputy editor of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine this year and will be bringing the journal’s production to MCG soon. You will find him a quiet but solid and strong leader who wants to and will help others and MCG succeed. Congratulations and thank you, Dr. Seehusen.

Dr. Steven Brooks comes back to MCG in January as chair of ophthalmology

Returning to us in January is Dr. Steven Brooks, a skilled pediatric ophthalmologist who has very successfully maneuvered the waters between academic medicine and private practice, as the new chair of our Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Brooks is currently chief of pediatric ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center and Anne S. Cohen Professor of Pediatric Ophthalmology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. His name likely resonates with some of you longer-timers because he was a faculty member here from 1994-2001 before starting a very successful private practice in Augusta for a dozen years then moving to Columbia University and New York City in 2013. He is an honored educator who was Surgical Teacher of the Year in Ophthalmology last year and is a member of the Exam Development Committee for the American Board of Ophthalmology. The strabismus expert is a translational research advocate who will be a strong co-director, alongside Dr. Sylvia Smith, of the Culver Vision Discovery Institute, which, as we talked about recently, is taking some important steps forward. He is a member of the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Research Committee and an editorial board member of the academy’s journal, JAAPOS. He is a native of New Jersey but wants to come back to his adopted home of Augusta and to MCG. We have had much interest from our alumni and other colleagues he has worked with here to bring him back. Welcome home, Dr. Brooks.

Thanks to Dr. Lane Ulrich for his service as interim ophthalmology chair

Please join me in thanking 1996 MCG graduate Dr. Lane Ulrich for his service as interim chair of ophthalmology. It’s a tough job to step up as interim, but Dr. Ulrich took on the additional responsibilities in December with grace. A physician who also definitely likes science and moving treatment forward, he has done a great job particularly in bringing our colleagues in private practice into working with us on clinical trials. It is so good when we can all work together like that to make things better for patients and for our profession. Thank you Dr. Ulrich for your continued service to your alma mater and to medicine. More great collaborations and days are ahead.

Dr. Darrell Brann finds a key way the estrogen made by neurons protects our brain

Speaking of research, I am a bit of a fan myself, and as we talked about last time, you all have been making unprecedented strides in research, particularly in basic science, with record levels of funding. See Tom Corwin’s story from earlier this week in The Augusta Chronicle. Dr. Darrell Brann, neuroscientist, whose study focus is the role of estrogen produced by neurons in the male and female brain, is a great example of how diligence leads to continued research findings and success. Most recently his work with estrogen has shown that when the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen, as happens in a stroke, usually protective brain cells called astrocytes step up their work to provide even more support for neurons, but they need the estrogen made by our neurons to do that. His ultimate bottom line is helping our brains better protect themselves. Dr. Brann has strong collaborators, including Dr. Ratna Vadlamudi, molecular biologist and professor of OB/GYN at the University of Texas Health, San Antonio, for these long-going translational science studies. Good work.

Dr. Satish Rao has early evidence that magnetic stimulation significantly improves fecal incontinence

Across Laney Walker Boulevard, Dr. Satish Rao also is hammering away at fecal incontinence, a potentially disabling problem that affects about 10% of us and has a wide variety of causes from giving birth to usual aging. Dr. Rao acknowledged a while back that most of the current therapies focused on strengthening the muscles involved in keeping feces in place until you reach the restroom. He also acknowledged that the therapies mostly didn’t work. He first figured out a way to study the function of the nerves that control those muscles and found they also had a problem. Then, he developed a magnetic stimulation device that could target and strengthen those nerves. He just published the findings of the first real experience with this approach in 33 patients and found it works to significantly reduce the problem. He’s got another NIH-funded study going on now with more patients in collaboration with Harvard University’s Massachusetts General Hospital. We know you will stay after it, Dr. Rao. You continue to make us proud.

Dr. Alice Caldwell tagged by American Academy of Pediatrics to help Georgia pediatricians fight electronic cigarette use

One of the many things I really love about being here is that touch of scrappiness we talked about earlier. Maybe scrappiness isn’t the 100% best word, but I mean the kind of relentlessness of so many of you who, like Dr. Rao, see a tough problem and won’t take no for an answer. If we think back a few months before COVID, we can all remember hearing a lot about electronic cigarettes, which come in a huge variety of flavors, and were initially touted as a safe alternative to cigarettes. But they are not, and the colors and flavors along with the big puffs of smoke generated by electronic cigarettes appear to have gotten the attention particularly of children and teens so that today it’s the most common tobacco product used by youth. And its use can lead to use of other tobacco products. Now we have an epidemic of use among our country’s youth. I am proud to share that Dr. Alice Caldwell, a 1981 MCG graduate, who is an associate professor of pediatrics and directing our Newborn Nursery, has been appointed as E-cigarette Champion for the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. That means she is working with pediatricians to help them help their young patients stop using these items and working toward successful prevention of use of these products by others. Dr. Caldwell is already very involved with the American Academy of Pediatrics, including serving on the Executive Committee of its Section on Tobacco Control. She is also an educator on immunizations and breastfeeding for the Georgia Chapter. Thank you Dr. Caldwell for your commitment to helping children stay safe and healthy. I have to add here that MCG graduate and Fayetteville pediatrician Dr. Sally Goza is president of the national academy. Go MCG.

Mary Ann Park passes three months after retiring from 41 years of service

Finally today, we note the passing of a true force among us who also would never take no for an answer if a patient would benefit from hearing yes. In her 41 years working with us, Mary Ann (House) Park was among the most diligent of souls, a person who was fun but disliked nonsense and wanted work done by the best book.  She was a two-time graduate of the College of Nursing here, and when she came to work with us in 1979, it was as senior surgical transplant coordinator with our Kidney Procurement Program in the days before LifeLink of Georgia managed organ and tissue donation statewide. She would become Organ and Tissue Donor Services Administrator in 1985. Just over a decade later, Mary Ann would shift her laser focus to research, becoming a clinical nurse specialist in the Department of Surgery Surgical Research Service, later director of clinical research services for the department and finally manager of the Clinical Trials Office for the university. She just retired from that job June 30. Like so many of you, Mary Ann helped save and improve the lives of countless individuals in her time with us, and never tired of a job well done. My best to her family and her many friends and colleagues. I am going to miss my friend.

Please continue to take good care out there and “mask up”. 

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