October 29, 2021

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Satish Rao honored by American College of Gastroenterology for education, mentorship

You know I like to remind all of us that we are one of the nation’s first medical schools. And while you also know I love to talk about research and patient care, education is the heart of our very old soul. When I talk with our students particularly, I am reminded of how strong our heart is. That is why it is awesome but not surprising that this past weekend our Dr. Satish S.C. Rao, who founded our Digestive Health Center and is a renowned gastroenterologist specializing in common conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and fecal incontinence, was honored as the inaugural recipient of the American College of Gastroenterology’s Distinguished Mentorship and Teaching Award. He has education and mentorship in his DNA, this son of the late Dr. S. Ramachander Rao, an internist and dean of Osmania Medical College in Hyderabad, India, who like son would see tough problems that need addressing, figure out what to do then teach others what he learned. Dr. Rao’s CV is jammed with the names of the young people he has touched as an educator and/or mentor, medical students, residents, fellows and faculty, not only from MCG, but from around the world. Two posters hang near his office that show the faces of many individuals he has mentored in his time both here and at the University of Iowa, where he was for two decades before he joined us a decade ago, and the lines of their impact back across the globe. People like Dr. Seung-Jae Myung, gastroenterologist from the Asian Medical Center who is president of the Korean GI Society, and our own Dr. Humberto Sifuentes, an expert in inflammatory bowel disease who is now director of the gastroenterology and hepatology fellowship program, which Dr. Rao led for five years. Dr. Rao sees his role as a mentor in particular, as a guide who finds out where the person wants to go then helps them get there, to help them be independently awesome so they too can carry the flag forward. He has plenty of insight to share as a federally funded physician-scientist and super busy clinician and feels it is not just his job, but his obligation to share.  No doubt he loves his tripartite mission — teaching, discovering and taking care of people — a mission which he shares with our medical school and which has a self-synergy so that each effort strengthens the others like that infamous three-legged stool. Congratulations Dr. Rao and thank you for your commitment to the next generation and to this one. It is a privilege to work with you.

Department of Ophthalmology Residency Program earns an A+

Speaking of awesome education, how about this. Our ophthalmology residency program was one of 10 in the country to receive an A+ rating from the Ophthalmology Business Minute, a business resource for residents, fellows and new ophthalmologists that includes publications, panel discussions and an annual meeting. As many of us who get ranked often say, even when we are ranked well, many of these types of programs rely on reputation and opinion and this one was striving for objectivity. They looked at things like subspecialties represented at each training program — areas like the retina, pediatrics and oculoplasty. Our chair, Dr. Steven Brooks, says our comparatively small department definitely has great people providing just that (more evidence of our punching well above our fighting weight), as well as other key measures like whether residents have access to a wet lab where they can practice surgical procedures, a surgical simulator where they can also fine tune their techniques (ours is 3D) and other major needs for helping educate well rounded ophthalmologists, who like Dr. Rao says, are prepared to be whatever they want to be. Please let me congratulate the entire department for this distinction especially our training program leadership including Dr. Amy Estes, residency program director, who is an expert in corneal disease and who joined our faculty in 2013. Also on the leadership team for our A+ residency program is Dr. Lane Ulrich, a 1996 MCG graduate who also did his training with us, and directed the residency program for a long while but transitioned to assistant director last year when his other duties serving MCG and the department expanded like serving as interim chair and becoming vice chair. In fact, Dr. Ulrich has been selected to teach advanced microsurgical skills at the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting coming up next month in New Orleans and our third-year resident Dr. Jordan Herring has been selected to do some training there, also a great honor. Audrey Forbes, who came to us in 2012 and has worked in neurosurgery and medicine, is the coordinator of our A+ residency program and our fellowship coordinator as well.  (We recently started a vitreoretinal fellowship!) Audrey also is the recipient of our own 2021 GME Program Coordinator Excellence Award. Great going everyone. BTW, University of Iowa where Dr. Rao came from was also on the list, along with Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary, Duke University Hospital, University of Michigan, Baylor College of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Medical College of Wisconsin and Case Western Reserve University. 

Largest cohort of teaching development fellows ever

Here is more great synergy and education. We have been talking about how this year we have MCG’s largest medical school class ever with 260 students per class. Well now our Teaching Development Seminar Series, formerly known as the Teaching Scholars Fellowship, also has the largest ever cohort signed up with 15 fellows. This 9-month program in a nutshell provides select faculty and staff with additional expertise in how we learn and teach and then they share what they learn with their colleagues like great educators do. Dr. Doug Miller, vice dean for academic affairs, says our departments and faculty are showing this increased interest at a time that is critical as we at MCG make major changes in our fundamental mission — AKA the heart of our very old soul — with the biggest curriculum change ever in our long history. Please allow me to list and thank this impressive group: Dr. Akrm Abdalrahman, anesthesiology; Dr. Sumit Chhetri, internal medicine; Dr. Connor Biskamp, OB/GYN; Dr. Jeremy Greer, dermatology; Dr. Kandace Klein, radiology; Dr. Abdul Rahman Abualruz, radiology; Dr. Reddy Beesham Shashank, psychiatry; Dr. Erin Dexter, psychiatry; Dr. Daniel Hannah, orthopaedic surgery; Dr. Morganne Manuel, cellular biology and anatomy; Dr. Debra Moore-Hill, neurology; Dr. Graham Skelton, internal medicine; Dr. Kimberly Rathbun, emergency medicine; Dr. Varsha Taskar, pulmonary medicine; and Shafer Tharrington in research and education services in the Greenblatt Library.

MCG student Claud Bugheni tells why he chose the 3+ primary care track

Speaking of some of the biggest curriculum changes ever here, we have talked a lot about 3+, probably most about the primary care track that will help us really target the needs of underserved Georgia, and per usual nobody tells our story better than our students. So please take a moment to check out this inspiring piece about Claud Bugheni, a member of our inaugural 8-member primary care cohort that gives you a peak into his life and how he wants to improve the lives of others. Let me thank here Tim Johnson, senior video producer, and Andrew Everett, video producer, for their excellent effort in helping Georgia’s medical school tell our story. 

Dr. Edward “Ted” Chin honored by Georgia Chapter of the American College of Physicians

The hits keep coming. Dr. Edward “Ted” Chin, professor and an expert in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, another MCG graduate who came back to us in 2002 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is this year’s recipient of the Laureate Award, the oldest and highest honor, bestowed by the Georgia Chapter of the American College of Physicians. This award is for doing a lot of things right, including education and service to this professional organization. Dr. Chin has served as the chapter’s vice president since 2015 and has played other key roles like chairing its Diversity/Equity/Inclusion Task Force. Nationally he is serving as well, including as a member of the Primary Care Physician Education Committee of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association Internet Communications Committee. The state chapter of ACP recognized him just five years ago with the J. Willis Hurst Outstanding Bedside Teacher Award and he has been honored seven years in a row with an MCG Exemplary Teaching Award. It’s cool that the chapter’s 2020 Laureate Award recipient also was an MCG graduate, internist Dr. Amy Eubanks from Villa Rica, Georgia. And of course you know that Dr. Jacqueline Fincher, 1985 MCG graduate who has served the people of Thomson, Georgia, for more than 30 years, is the immediate past president of the American College of Physicians. Small, awesome world. Congratulations Dr. Chin for making big contributions to it.

Dr. Eric Vitriol gives us a new perspective on our cells in disease

We wrap up today with a different kind of visual we’ve helped develop that will also change lives. Dr. Eric Vitriol, neuroscientist and cell biologist in our Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, uses microscopy to provide the up-close images of our cells he needs to better understand the devastation of ALS. He and his colleagues, including Dr. Peter Bubenik, a mathematician at the University of Florida, where Dr. Vitriol came to us from early this year, have developed what they are calling an “image analysis pipeline” called TDAExplore that is another powerful and logical trifecta. It packages the detailed imagery provided by microscopy, with an area of mathematics called topology, which basically shows how things like cell parts are arranged, with the analytical might of artificial intelligence. The bottom line is a system that enables scientists on their personal computer to quickly assess fine but important details of a cell that have been changed by disease or trauma. They believe this will speed up scientific analysis and improve accuracy, and like the recent ranking of our ophthalmology residency program, provide a true objectivity that puts aside any biases a scientist might have. Read more about this work soon on our MCG home page and beyond.

Take good care out there.

Upcoming Events

November 12 – Annual Body Donor Memorial Service, 1 p.m., Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

November 19 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

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