December 2, 2022

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Kathleen May is the new president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

These days find us on the cusp of changes that will further fuel and inspire our nearly 200-year-old medical school to new heights and hope. We are all excited and maybe a little nervous about what is ahead, but either way, none of you sit and wait for anything. You are leaders who go and do and make a difference in every aspect of our tripartite mission of medical education, science and caring for patients and families. You are people like Dr. Kathleen May, who joined us in the summer of 2017 as chief of our Division of Allergy-Immunology and Pediatric Rheumatology. She came to us from a bit of a different path, after more than two decades of private practice in Western Maryland, at least in part to further pursue her interest in education. She is definitely serious about education. That next year she was elected chair of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. She also became associate program director of our allergy-immunology fellowship and became program director last year. It is my privilege to share she is now the newly elected president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. She was installed at the college’s recent annual scientific meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. May is a graduate of a BS to MD program that is a collaborative between Kent State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University. She completed her fellowship training at the National Jewish Research Center in Denver, a teaching affiliate of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. May already has held a long list of positions with the ACAAI, including vice chair and chair of the Women in Allergy Committee and chairing the Therapeutic Regulations Committee and Appointments Committee. She has been honored with the group’s Distinguished Fellow Award, Women in Allergy Award and Distinguished Service Award. This year she became vice chair of the Allergy and Immunology Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.  We are glad Dr. May decided to pursue her love of her specialty and education here with us and thank her for her service and success on so many fronts, including the ACAAI, which represents more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals.

Our Drs. Betty Wray and Bill Dolen have also served as president of the ACAAI

In keeping with the great, nearly 200-year-old history of our medical school, if you check out this list of past ACAAI presidents you will find a couple of other familiar faces. Dr. Betty B. Wray, longtime division chief and MCG graduate extraordinaire, and Dr. Bill Dolen, professor emeritus of allergy and immunology. Talk about rock stars, these two are as well. Dr. Wray, a 1953 graduate of Dixie High School in Dixie, Georgia in Brooks County, which is about as far south in our state as you can get, and a 1960 graduate of MCG, was president of the ACAAI in 1996. She had a ton of other leadership roles here and nationally serving on the Food and Drug Administration’s Advisory Committee for Allergenic Drugs and Products and as the American Medical Association’s representative to the Review Committee for Allergy-Immunology of the ACGME. It’s cool that Dr. May holds the Betty B. Wray MD Distinguished Chair in Pediatrics. Dr. Dolen, who became ACAAI president in 2005, came to us in 1992 and his rock star status includes chairing the ACGME’s Residency Review Committee for Allergy and Immunology and serving on the Board of Directors of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. It makes you wonder how allergies can ever win with foes like these three. Thank you all for your service to MCG and to your profession.  BTW, did you know Scranton, Pennsylvania is considered the allergy capital of the nation?

Dr. Danny Yakoub is the new chief of Surgical Oncology

Part of an ever stronger future includes recruiting even more great faculty/leaders and I am pleased to share that one of the newest recruits is Danny Yakoub, an MD, PhD, who joins us in January as the new chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology. Dr. Yakoub has served on the faculty of the University of Miami-Miller School of Medicine, where he also completed his fellowship in complex general surgical oncology, and at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. In July 2021, he became senior associate consultant of surgery and surgical oncology at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Dr. Yakoub went to medical school in Cairo and the University of the State of New York, and earned his PhD from Imperial College London. His clinical interests include upper gastrointestinal and hepato-pancreato-biliary cancers and diseases as well as neuroendocrine tumors and soft tissue sarcomas. His research interests include cancer biology and improving clinical outcomes. He is a panel member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for esophageal and gastric cancer. He has served as a panelist/discussant multiple times at the Society of Surgical Oncology annual meeting and is an abstract reviewer for the Society of Surgical Oncology and the American Association of Hepato-Bilio-Pancreatic Surgery. “Dr. Yakoub has a broad oncological practice that suits the needs of our patients in the CSRA and beyond,” interim surgery chair Dr. Steve Holsten tells us. “He has distinguished himself as an excellent teacher, clinician and surgeon-scientist at each of his previous institutions. We look forward to him leading Surgical Oncology here.” We look forward to you joining us in the new year as well Dr. Yakoub and thank Dr. Holsten for ensuring you got here.

The Radiation Therapy Center gets a major face and function lift

I think Dr. Yakoub, our patients and countless other caregivers are going to be thrilled by this as well. With work that began in earnest in the fall of 2020 with $10 million in support from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and our legislature, the Radiation Therapy Center is now a larger, more comforting and better equipped place. The project added more than 3,000 square feet of needed space and renovated another 2,500. The space now has better natural light and ceiling art, and a more serene setting for our pediatric patients to receive anesthesia to help them relax before treatment. We also have some amazing new equipment like technology to treat tumors that move as we breathe, like in the lung and prostate. I want to thank Dr. John Barrett, interim chair of our Department of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Jorgè Cortes, director of the Georgia Cancer Center, and the entire radiation therapy team for their input in ensuring a better overall treatment experience for patients and for their own patience in living through this lengthy but much-needed project. This is the kind of clinical space our patients and caregivers deserve. Great job all.

MCG students gather in Savannah to talk science and a healthier future

Speaking of amazing spaces, I am fortunate to be spending today in Savannah at the Southeast Community Engagement and Research Conference, where 32 of our students who are living and learning at the Southeast Campus and elsewhere across the state we serve are sharing their research in posters, panel discussions and oral presentations at the beautiful DeSoto Hotel in the heart of historic Savannah. President Brooks Keel is joining us for the daylong event for and by students and learners of every description. Their work hits home on many important fronts, from identifying barriers to ongoing medical care for the homeless by Class of 2024 member Kayla Cooper to insight on advanced directives by classmate Naema Daino and what appears to be the first look at perceptions of whole foods, plant-based diets (which have a big emphasis on minimally processed foods) in a rural clinic, in this case South Georgia, by third-year Camelia Malkami. The community partners who joined in include Chatham County SafetyNet, which works to improve access to health care; our longtime partners in education, the Southeast Georgia Health System in Brunswick; and Dr. Heidi Altman, an associate professor at Georgia Southern University and with the Georgia Moms Project, which is taking on Georgia’s high maternal mortality rates. I can’t let this moment pass without saying again that partners like ours across Georgia are essential to the wellbeing of MCG and our state. Thank you. 

Dr. Yuqing Huo finds a new target in coronary artery disease

Back at home base in Augusta, Dr. Yuqing Huo, director of the Vascular Inflammation Program in our Vascular Biology Center, is taking on the nation’s top killer, heart disease. In his paper published in the journal Circulation, he, postdoc Dr. Qian Ma and their colleagues explore another fascinating scenario in which the body tries to help itself and ultimately causes more harm. But in this unhappy scenario they have found a new target for intervention. Always complicated work much abbreviated, when fat and lipids get deposited on the endothelial cells that line our blood vessels, their next-door neighbor, smooth muscle cells, which give blood vessels strength and flexibility, start getting bigger and multiplying, neither of which they normally do. Dr. Huo thinks the cells are trying to help their neighbor cells, maybe even make the blood vessels bigger so there will be more room for blood to flow. But unfortunately, the activity ultimately just contributes to the narrowing and scarring of our blood vessels. But they have identified a key step that enables more DNA, RNA and protein which are needed for all this unusual growth. Now that they have found it, they are hoping drug developers will get interested in finding a way to stop it. We hope so too Drs. Huo and Ma and thank you for exploring a new angle on a pervasive health problem in our state and nation.  

Drs. Jennifer Tucker, Shilpa Brown officially assume expanded roles in Academic Affairs

Finally today, we talked in late October about MCG graduates and enthusiasts Drs. Jennifer Tucker and Shilpa Brown taking up expanded roles in student affairs (formerly learner affairs) and the curriculum, respectively, and I am pleased to share they both moved from interim status to official status this week. Dr. Tucker, a pediatric emergency medicine physician who has served as assistant dean for learner affairs and career advising, is now associate dean for student affairs. Dr. Brown, an internist who has served as assistant dean of curriculum integration, is our brand-new associate dean for curriculum. These two physicians and educators work incredibly independently and together for our students. And they are both rabid Atlanta Braves and UGA fans. Thank you both again. Speaking of “learner” affairs, we have decided to go back to using “student” affairs instead throughout Academic Affairs to better reflect the work of the boots on the ground professionals like our four assistant deans for student affairs, who work so closely with our students during each year of their medical education.

My best to you always,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

Jan 20 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

Feb 17 – MCG State of the College Address, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium