January 7, 2022

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

State of the College set for noon, Friday, Jan. 21, in the Lee Auditorium

Happy new year and thank you all again for your service to our medical school, to our patients, students, residents, fellows and postdocs and to a healthier 2022 and well beyond. It is a great time to be part of Georgia’s public medical school and great news is coming shortly on more key recruits who will further strengthen our base and sharpen our focus on top maladies plaguing our state and nation. Please let me remind you to join me for our State of the College Address at noon, Jan. 21, in the Lee Auditorium where I hope to give a flavor for the work we do and will do in the days ahead. At the moment, we are planning on everyone joining in person who can for this event, but of course, there will be a virtual option we will share soon and I encourage you to wear a mask for this hopefully large gathering and to get vaccinated if you haven’t and be boosted if you have.

Dr. Martha Terris honored by the American Urological Association for her distinguished service

MCG and you are definitely all about service, and it is my distinct pleasure to share that Dr. Martha Terris, chief of the Section of Urology and former longtime director of the Urology Residency Program, is being honored for a lifetime of it. Dr. Terris came to us nearly 20 years ago from Stanford, California, where she had completed her urology residency and urologic oncology/ultrasound fellowship at Stanford University Medical Center and served on the faculty for a few years. She has served our nation’s veterans well in her distinguished career, including as chief of urology at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and as chief of urology at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center here until 2012, when she was named our section chief. She still sees patients at the VA here and has taken on tough realities like the cancer impact of Agent Orange exposure. She has been part of the national SEARCH cohort, a prospective, long-term study of veterans with prostate cancer at nine VAs including the Augusta VA, to find better ways to take care of these patients. Her work also now includes serving as a co-investigator with Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Chair Dr. Vinata Lokeshwar, another strong cancer opponent, on finding key clues that will provide better insight into bladder cancer management. She is a longtime member of the editorial board of the journal Urology and just last year joined the board of Urologic Oncology. She is a member of the American Board of Urology Board of Trustees and Society of Academic Urologists Board of Directors. She has done and is doing a ton. Now, rightfully the American Urological Association is honoring her with its 2022 Distinguished Service Award. Congratulations and thank you Dr. Terris for your service particularly to veterans. You are an inspiration to all of us.

Dr. Meghan McGee-Lawrence appointed to board of Orthopaedic Research Society

One of the many great things about scientists who also happen to be teachers is that they tend to be really good at talking about what they are studying and why it matters to us all, both important for generating interest in the work we do here and the reality of obtaining funding to do it. Dr. Meghan McGee-Lawrence, a biomedical engineer who came to us in 2014 from the Mayo Clinic and the cold of Rochester, Minnesota, fits that bill. She is an enthusiastic scientist and educator who just last year (can you believe 2021 is “last year”) was honored with the top teaching award, the Distinguished Teacher Award, by our colleagues at The Graduate School. She is a regular in our medical school as well, teaching medical students about things like bone formation, growth and fractures. In the lab, she is hammering away at finding what it takes to make and keep our bones healthy, particularly as we age, with some also amazing colleagues like Dr. Carlos Isales and Dr. Mark Hamrick, co-directors of our Center for Healthy Aging. In fact, she has a new study out there as we speak in the high-impact Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. It provides some of the first evidence that trying to protect our bones from the bone-weakening effects of anti-inflammatory drugs like the prednisone we take for problems like arthritis, as well as weakening that can occur with age in us all, may mean targeting a receptor that would not be a usual suspect. She has clear kinship in her quests with the Orthopaedic Research Society, which is now over age 60 itself and also committed to accelerating discoveries that help us take better care of our bones. Dr. McGee-Lawrence has been involved with that organization since she was a student, and a professional member since 2015. Now she has been appointed to the society’s Board of Directors and beginning next month will serve as Advocacy Council Chair overseeing the activities of the scientific communications, public outreach and social media committees, all jobs for which she is a natural. Congratulations Dr. McGee-Lawrence and thank you for working so hard to keep MCG, science and us moving.

Dr. Avirup Guha joins us as the inaugural director of cardio-oncology

Finally today, we look ahead to a new dynamo that just joined our great faculty. I mentioned Dr. Avirup Guha to you this summer. We first met him when he was doing his internal medicine residency with us from 2012-15 and he met here the inspiring likes of Dr. Neal Weintraub, now chief of cardiology who also is associate director of the Vascular Biology Center; he went on to do a cardiology fellowship at The Ohio State, where he began to make clear connections between his specialty of cardiology and the field of cancer. Ohio State has a big cancer center, which includes the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. The cardiology service there kept getting referrals for patients at the cancer center, and Dr. Guha met bone marrow transplant specialist Dr. Farrukh Awan. The two began to collaborate, including looking at how the drug ibrutinib, used for cancers like chronic lymphocytic leukemia, causes atrial fibrillation. Dr. Guha quickly grew an “organic” love for cardio-oncology, would eventually help the International Cardio-Oncology Society come up with board questions, and become one of the first few physicians in the nation to be board certified in this emerging specialty that takes on the intersection of the nation’s top two killers. We were fortunate enough to recruit him back from Case Western Reserve University (in also really cold Cleveland) where he has been on faculty. This young physician-scientist is packed with energy and enthusiasm and like Dr. Weintraub wants to answer questions for patients like how in the now-often successful process of treating cancer, some patients end up with cardiovascular disease and explore more virgin avenues like whether just having cancer, because of shared risk factors like obesity, is enough. He is now our inaugural director of cardio-oncology and will work with many other greats like Dr. Weintraub, and Dr. Ryan Harris, clinical exercise and vascular physiologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute, and Dr. David Stepp, scientist and educator extraordinaire. Hopefully you remember the great achievement led by Dr. Weintraub to become one of four new American Heart Association-funded centers in the nation taking up this important work. A major focus will be on Black individuals, who tend to be even more at risk for either condition or both and who tend to get much sicker from either or both. Disparities are a definite focus for this emerging team and our neighbors at Paine College are one of our partners. You can read more about this in the next issue of MCG Medicine magazine, which should be in your hands late this month and elsewhere in the days ahead. Welcome Dr. Guha. Again, there are exciting times ahead at Georgia’s public medical school and we are glad you are back with us.

All my best.

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

David C. Hess, MD
Dean, Medical College of Georgia