August 20, 2021

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Greg Postma honored by British Laryngological Society

Probably the most familiar things about the people we know are their face and voice. Nobody knows the voice part better than Dr. Gregory Postma, vice chair of our Department of Otolaryngology and director of our Center for Voice, Airway and Swallowing Disorders. Like so many of you, you can tell just from his voice as he talks about his work and his patients, how committed he is to both. His work has rightly loved him back. This decorated U.S. Navy veteran, who was qualified as a submarine and diving medical officer, came to us in 2005 from Wake Forest University. From here, he has helped lead his field, including serving on the Scientific Council of the European Laryngological Society, regularly serving as an oral examiner for the American Board of Otolaryngology as well as serving as president of the Georgia Society of Otolaryngology, the American Broncho-Esophagological Association and the Dysphagia (a tough time swallowing) Research Society. He has been honored multiple times by the American Broncho-Esophagological Association, including with its Chevalier Q. Jackson Award in 2019, which honors the association’s founder who is sometimes known as one of the fathers of laryngoscopy and endoscopy, and who helped standardize modern tracheotomy techniques. Check out this video of Dr. Jackson telling us how to remove a safety pin someone swallows. Now the British Laryngological Association has honored Dr. Postma with its Isshiki Award for his clearly outstanding contributions to laryngology, the field that deals with injuries and disease of the larynx, or voice box. That award is named for Dr. Nobuhiko Isshiki, professor emeritus at Kyoto University and a pioneer in phonosurgery, procedures that maintain, restore or enhance our voice, who developed several surgical procedures to improve the voice of patients with problems like laryngeal trauma.

Some of Dr. Postma’s latest work includes helping establish best practices for intubating voice professionals

One of the ways our larynx can be inadvertently injured is by intubation, when we need an endotracheal tube in the windpipe to help us breathe. One of the most recent of Dr. Postma’s many published papers is a fact-finding survey of his peers across the country and beyond about their techniques for intubating patients, specifically vocal professionals like singers, to help avoid these and other complications. They resoundingly responded that the smallest tube that works is the best for singers as well as other vocal professionals from the clergy to lawyers to real estate agents. They also say there is no substitute for experienced hands like Postma’s. Here at MCG and the AU Health System there is a great team to help ensure this procedure goes smoothly for professional voice patients that is also working to ensure that the smallest workable endotracheal tube is used for all patients. This team includes members of our Department of Anesthesiology, including chair Dr. Steffen Meiler and Dr. Stevin Dubin, as well as members of our Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, led by Dr. Shaheen Islam, and our Department of Emergency Medicine, led by Dr. Richard Schwartz. Like Postma and his colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the University of Kentucky College of Medicine did with surgeons who take care of voice professionals, he and our Anesthesiology Department also are planning a broad survey of anesthesiologists about the practices they use in managing these patients. Postma also is working with colleagues at Vanderbilt University, Mount Sinai Hospital, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California to develop a consensus document to help standardize best practices in their select field. I want to congratulate Dr. Postma for his most recent award, and thank him for his many contributions to keeping our voices strong.

Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine’s bronchoscopy course attracts fellows from throughout the Southeast

Strong lungs are essential to a strong voice and our Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine are definite leaders in not just helping take care of some of our sickest patients, but in educating the next generation of pulmonary and critical care experts (we are always training a total of 10 fellows at any given time in this three-year program) as well as interventional pulmonologists in a brand new fellowship where we now have our first fellow. But earlier this month our already significant training numbers grew exponentially for a day with a Basic Bronchoscopy Course for incoming first-year pulmonary and critical care fellows from other accredited training programs across the Southeast. This course welcomed 34 fellows from places like Emory, Morehouse, Medical University of South Carolina, the University of Miami and University of Alabama at Birmingham. The teaching included basics like handling a bronchoscope, which enables future specialists like these to diagnose and treat lung problems, as well as learning how to remove foreign objects from the airway, lessons Dr. Jackson would no doubt love. This was our third year for the course, last year was virtual like essentially everything, but the plan is to make this an annual gathering. I want to thank our hard-working faculty and staff for going this extra mile, particularly Division Chief Dr. Islam, who was the course director; Tania Cruz-Ramos, fellowship program coordinator; and Sharon Turner, the division’s administrative assistant. Great work everyone.

MCG Foundation provides five, $100,000 scholarships for students who are underrepresented in medicine

The next generation is what we are about at MCG, and I am also proud to share today that our MCG Foundation is again doing its part by providing five additional $100,000 scholarships — $25,000 per student for each year of their education — offered for the first time to our Class of 2025. This is awesome news. As Dr. Kelli Braun, MCG graduate and associate dean for admissions will tell you, we unfortunately lose some great students to other medical schools because those schools can offer full scholarships, which is understandably hard for students to walk away from. But together we can help keep the students right here. Our foundation is now working with our fundraisers to help raise additional dollars that will ensure the future of these scholarships so that MCG can better ensure we educate a diverse group of physicians who optimally represent our state and the needs of its residents. Please let me thank Dr. Charles G. Green Jr., a 1974 MCG graduate and MCG Foundation Board member, who was a powerful advocate for this invaluable support. Also key were board chair Dr. J. Ben Deal (the best dressed and heeled board chair), 1968 MCG graduate and board member Dr. Sandra N. Freedman and Ian Mercier, foundation president and CEO. I know how strongly each of them and you are committed to the Medical College of Georgia, and I ask and hope that you will join them in supporting our students and our future with this new initiative.  Ian tells me you can give online at mcgfoundation.org/diversity or call him at 706-823-5500. Thank you so much MCG Foundation. 

Ellison family gives portrait of Dr. Lois Ellison to her alma mater

Finally today I am happy to report that a very familiar and much-missed face is back in the Dean’s Office. As of yesterday there is a beautiful portrait of Dr. Lois T. Ellison, 1950 MCG graduate and our medical school’s undeniable matriarch, residing among portraits of many of our other historic medical school’s historic leaders. Her endless notable contributions include helping establish and direct our first cardiopulmonary laboratory, and serving as provost, associate vice president for planning for the hospitals and clinics and as MCG’s longtime medical historian in residence and advocate. We unofficially call the entry to the dean’s suite the “Hall of Deans,” and Dr. Ellison’s portrait will reside among the likes of Dr. G. Lombard Kelly, a 1924 MCG graduate and 17th dean of our dean medical school, who was actually dean when Dr. Ellison graduated. In fact, that 1950 year was the same year the Board of Regents made MCG an independent unit of the University System of Georgia and Dr. Kelly then became the first president. The steadfast Ellison family commissioned Savannah native and artist Sandra Colquitt to do this lifelike painting. Please let me thank the Ellison family again for sharing their mother and matriarch with us.

Please get vaccinated and wear a mask when you are in a confined space so we can get this pandemic behind us.

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