April 19, 2024

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. David Stepp named MCG associate dean for research

I believe that one of the best and most important qualities a leader can possess is knowing how to put the right people in the right positions and then getting out of their way and letting them do what they know best how to do. That philosophy certainly applied when we were searching for someone to step in to lead our medical school’s research efforts after Dr. Mark Hamrick, our former senior associate dean for research, retired earlier this year. We didn’t have to look far. I am happy to tell you all that Dr. David Stepp has been named MCG’s associate dean for research, effective immediately. Dr. Stepp is no stranger to many of you. The federally funded vascular biologist came to MCG 23 years ago and has served in many leadership capacities here since. The Leon Henri Charbonnier Endowed Chair in Physiology directs the University System of Georgia’s MD/PhD Program; co-directs the Department of Medicine’s Research Residency Track; and directed the Vascular Biology Center’s graduate program until 2022. He has mentored more than a dozen aspiring scientists — PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. He is an honored educator who has received multiple MCG Exemplary Teaching Awards, and in 2020 he was named MCG’s Outstanding Faculty member.

Stepp’s own research has been continuously funded for more than 20 years

This new position should be right in Dr. Stepp’s wheelhouse because he is an accomplished scientist in his own right. He has been continuously extramurally funded for over 20 years, including six awards from the National Institutes of Health and four awards, including a Scientist Development Grant, from the American Heart Association. He is the contact principal investigator with Vascular Biology Center Director, Dr. David Fulton on a $3.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to determine how disruption in circadian rhythm impairs cardiovascular function in obesity. He also is the contact principal investigator with Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, physiologist and dean of The Graduate School at Augusta University, on a $1.5 million T32 NIH training grant that supports the graduate education of future scientists whose focus is cardiometabolic diseases — like hypertension and diabetes. And he leads the MCG training program for the American Heart Association Cardio-Oncology Strategically Focused Research Network. He is forthright and sincere, intuitive about the needs of our scientists and their research programs and he has excellent ideas about how we can continue to grow our research profile and keep moving toward our goal of ranking in the top 60 medical schools in NIH funding. I look forward to our continued work together.

Dr. Jorge Cortes will lead new journal focused on global hematology research

While we’re on the subject of accomplished scientists, we found out this week that another one of ours, Dr. Jorge Cortes, director of our Georgia Cancer Center, has been named the inaugural editor-in-chief of the American Society of Hematology’s newest journal, Blood Global Hematology, which he actually helped develop. This new peer-reviewed publication will have a particular focus on providing a new avenue for international researchers who may have resource constraints or face challenges in health care delivery. To support authors from low- and middle-income countries, there will be no submission fees, for example. In addition to his editor role, he will also work to establish an international editorial board with representatives from those same countries. Dr. Cortes, who came to us in 2019 from MD Anderson with one of the highest H-Indexes I have ever seen, certainly has what it takes to excel in this new role. A renown leukemia researcher, he has authored more than 1,000 peer-review original research manuscripts, has been principal investigator on over 230 grants and contracts and has led the approval of four drugs currently available for patients with leukemia. He also has a particular interest in how socioeconomic factors influence cancer treatment and survivorship and how we can work to expand cancer care and improve outcomes. Giving a voice to the global hematologic research community is surely a right step in that direction. Congratulations Dr. Cortes.

Brain Health Symposium is this weekend

One of the best ways we can demonstrate the importance of the work our scientists and physician-scientists are doing is by sharing it with the people who are directly affected – our patients and their families. Plenty of that will be happening this weekend at the 2024 Kapil D. Sethi Brain Health Symposium, which will be held tomorrow, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in our J. Harold Harrison, M.D., Education Commons. You know it’s going to be a fantastic event just by its name, which honors MCG legendary neurologist, my friend and former colleague, Dr. Kapil Sethi, who served for many years as the director of our Movement Disorders Program and as the director of our Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence. The free symposium will feature two dedicated tracks focusing on Parkinson’s/movement disorders and Alzheimer’s/dementia, and provide those who attend with information about advances in research, treatments and clinical trials from other MCG greats like Dr. John Morgan, current director of the Movement Disorders Program, and Dr. Julie Kurek, current director of our Center of Excellence; as well as others like Dr. James Lah, clinical core leader and associate director of Emory’s Goizueta Alzheimer’s Research Center, and Elizabeth Head, deputy director of the Georgia Department of Public Health. Thank you all for sharing your expertise with those who often need to hear it most.

Research Day is today

Keeping with our theme of research this week, I hope some of you can join me at Research Day, which gives our medical students the chance to showcase the great work they’ve been doing with our faculty, from 4-6 p.m. today in the Harrison, Room 1120D. Students from all four current classes will span the room presenting their research posters. Eighty-one students will be there to present in person and over 40 posters will be displayed virtually. As you all well know, research is so important to a thriving medical school — both in helping move knowledge forward, but also in giving our students opportunities to sharpen critical thinking skills and hopefully sparking their own interests and encouraging them to pursue advances in medicine as part of their own careers. My thanks to Augusta native and Lakeside High School graduate, Dr. Brittany Ange in our Educational Innovation Institute, and her team for helping coordinate these efforts. Our students have always had an incredible appetite for research experiences, so much so that we’ve moved from an annual event to semi-annual. I hope those that present their work today feel a great sense of pride in what they’ve been able to accomplish. Please join me in supporting them.

Save the date for our Savannah Campus ribbon-cutting

As we close today, I wanted to put an important date on your calendars. We will hold the ribbon-cutting for MCG’s newest four-year campus, in Savannah in partnership with Georgia Southern University, on July 26 at GSU’s Armstrong Campus, our new academic home down that way. More details and a formal invite to come, but I hope some of you can plan to join us as we celebrate the continued growth of your medical school.

My best to you all,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

Apr 26-28 – MCG Alumni Weekend, https://www.augusta.edu/alumniweekend/

May 9 – MCG Hooding Ceremony, 2pm, James Brown Arena

May 23 – MCG Faculty Awards Ceremony, 5pm, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium