“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” -Aristotle
Looking at Ourselves Provides Great Opportunity…
This time of year many minds wander to the thrill of a kickoff, albeit mostly on a football field. But we just have to tell you about one rousing kickoff that occurred on our campus last week without a helmet or a hitch. It was the kickoff of our Liaison Committee on Medical Education accreditation cycle and, while that may not sound like as much fun as football, let us share that our colleagues in Academic Affairs gave the sport a run for its money. Better than 90 faculty, staff, and students along with alums and colleagues from our MCG Foundation gathered with an increasing sense of energy and purpose to kickoff this terrific opportunity for introspection and external review. Of course, accreditation also is essential to who we are. As we begin this important journey that includes a yearlong self-study and continues through the LCME site visit Jan. 24-27, 2016, we have chosen as our mantra: One MCG. Because, we are One MCG. We are Georgia’s public medical school, which is privileged to have terrific physician, hospital and university partners across our expansive state that enable our students to live and learn literally all over. As we discuss each week, we have so much to be proud of and that includes your commitment to always, always do better still. As One MCG, we can and we will. Our thanks to Drs. Andria Thomas and Paul Wallach for their terrific leadership here. We are looking forward to the insight we all will gain moving forward.
So Does Looking Out for Others…
And speaking of points of pride, early next month, our very own Brett Heimlich, an MD/PhD student, will be heading to the southeast African country of Malawi armed with his unrelenting desire to help and a prestigious Fulbright Fogarty Award. He’s one of some 1,800 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad this academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. What an honor, what a cause, and what a stellar individual. You see, despite its wonderful people and delightful nickname, the Warm Heart of Africa, the country has a short life expectancy and high infant mortality. The largely undeveloped country with an agriculture-based economy struggles with many of the basics, including the diagnosis and care of sickle cell patients. This is a particularly poignant problem in a continent with some of highest rates of sickle cell disease in the world; in some areas of Africa, 1-2 percent of all babies born have some form of the disease and 25 percent of the population has sickle cell trait, according to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. In fact, the average lifespan for sickle cell patients in Africa is only five years. That same group tells us that in our country, the life expectancy is closer to 45 years and improving, thanks to screening and concerted efforts, such as those at our medical school that date back to at least the early 1900s. Learn more here, http://www.gru.edu/centers/sicklecell/.
The Result of Both… Can be Terrific
While our country thankfully has a newborn screening program, Malawi doesn’t have a diagnostic program for sickle cell patients of any age. So our dear Brett wants to help lay the groundwork for better lives for Malawians by bringing some of the first diagnostic materials to their country. While hemoglobin electrophoresis is old by technology standards, it’s a relatively simple and accurate way to look for the iconic sickle-shaped hemoglobin. Brett will work closely with and through the University of North Carolina Project-Malawi, a collaboration between that university and the Malawi Ministry of Health, to help make this happen. He’s using some of his Fulbright funds as well as support from UNC and GRU to provide equipment and supplies. Part of what he’ll also do is try to get a better idea of what sickle cell disease looks like in Malawi, with the ultimate goal of optimizing care. Brett did his PhD work here in sickle cell disease and is considering a future in hematology/oncology. We have no doubt that any problem should be afraid of Brett Heimlich. We wish him a safe and hugely successful journey. He will be back home with us in June 2015 to finish up his last two years of medical school.
Wherever We Look…
We’ve talked about getting some of us folks based in Augusta out to visit our other fabulous campuses. Well, this week a group headed out for the Athens campus. The day started with introductions all around so that people from similar fields and areas could begin to build connections. Of course they already have a lot of common ground: our students! The group had the opportunity to observe our second-year students using case-based learning in small groups then went on to observe some large group learning as well. In fact, Dr. Clive Slaughter was teaching biochemistry when they got there and it definitely impressed Neuroscientist Lin Mei. “He is an engaging, great educator,” Dr. Mei told us. Indeed. Dr. Slaughter has managed molecular biotechnology resources at the famous Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as well as Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and has been teaching undergraduate medical education for nearly 20 years. Super cool. Dr. Mei, our Chair of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, also realized he shared an alma mater with Dr. Matthew A. Boegehold, Basic Science Chair at the Athens campus, when he saw the iconic blue and red helmet with the big “A” sitting on his desk. In fact, they likely overlapped one year studying at the University of Arizona at Tucson. You are getting the idea. It was a great day, these visits are a great idea, and we – and our students – all benefit from each other.
We See the Best…
We talked last week about reaching a record level of extramural funding – that includes important stuff like research grants and service contracts – and how that again reflects an unprecedented level of work and success by each of you. Well, this week we wanted to follow up with a terrific and specific example of the kind of success you are having! Meet Dr. Albert Pan, a neuroscientist who came to us about a year ago after completing his postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, and is now a faculty member in our Departments of Neurology and Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine. Well, Dr. Pan just received a $1.9 million grant from the National Eye Institute to help us learn more about how our brains are wired. Just super fascinating stuff where he is using the zebrafish, which is transparent during its rapid development (they complete embryonic development in like two days) as his model. It’s worth noting that while the zebrafish has about 100,000 brain cells compared with our 70 billion, the brains are a lot alike in structure. BTW, the brain cells of these fish literally light up when they fire, which is also super cool and mighty helpful when your goal is brain mapping. To help connect these important points of light, he is using the vesicular stomatitis virus, which is in the same family as rabies but won’t infect us, that naturally travels along synapses, where neurons hook up so we can do important stuff, like, in this case, see. To ensure he can see these essential connections happen, Dr. Pan arms the virus with a fluorescent agent. His goals include a model mapping system scientists all over can use to discover more about what goes right and wrong in the amazing frontier that is our brains. You can read more about his fascinating work here: http://bit.ly/1llHHDr. Our congratulations and best wishes to Dr. Pan as he makes one of the most important maps ever!
Strong Hearts… and Minds…
We promise not to test you on Dr. Pan’s science, but we do want you to light up some neurons by thinking just a moment about the early warning signs of heart attack and what’s best to do if you or someone near you experiences them. You hopefully already know that our university has some required training on the topic – due next week BTW, see https://train.gru.edu/d2l/home – that ties into our Chest Pain Center accreditation but really, it ties into us all. We were talking about the horrific problem with sickle cell disease in Malawi earlier. Most of you likely know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country and that pretty much any one of us can get it. One goal of Early Heart Attack Care is to help us all recognize symptoms quickly and get someone, or ourselves, help before permanent damage is done to our hearts. As the experts so succinctly say: time is heart muscle. This super-quick course will remind us all of the disconcerting statistics, the risk factors, and the sometimes surprising early symptoms that are red flags for us all. Even at a medical school, it’s great to take a few minutes to review very relevant points like the fact that chest pressure probably is a logical early symptom, but so are jaw pain, back pain, anxiety, and fatigue. So have a look and light up a neuron!
And a Commitment to the Greater Good…
And finally today, our thoughts turn to our veterans. No doubt all of us have heard a lot in recent months about quality and access to care at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers across our nation. Earlier this month, President Obama signed the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 that makes more resources available for the VA to hire more doctors, nurses, and staff and open more clinics; ensures timely access to care for veterans who can’t get that at the VA; and continues to hold accountable those entrusted with the care of veterans. Just this week, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, who is holding a series of veteran-focused town hall meetings across our state, visited Augusta, pledging again his support for our veterans everywhere and specifically telling those who seek care at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center that they can expect to see improvements on all fronts. This is certainly terrific news any day, but particularly at a time when there are an unprecedented number of veterans to serve. Many of you likely know that our institution and the Augusta VA have a strong relationship. In fact, our hospitals on 15th Street have literally been connected since the current VA hospital opened in 1980. Nationally, affiliations between medical schools and VA Medical Centers resulted from the aftermath of World War II, when there was also a huge number of veterans in need of care. Today, the majority of our nation’s medical schools have an affiliation with a VA hospital. Talk about a win-win! Here in Augusta, we often recruit faculty together, many of our faculty see VA patients both here and at the VA, the VA funds about 15 percent of our residency positions – more than 80 positions – and, essentially all of our residents and many of our students learn at the bedside of our veterans. We wanted you to know that the new VA Access Bill, which, most importantly helps ensure great care for our veterans, opens the door for an even stronger affiliation with our Augusta VA. In fact, we are discussing how we can further help the VA improve veteran access to timely care, ensure that we get timely info back to the VA about that care as well as the potential for expanding residency education in important areas like primary care and behavioral medicine. We thank Bob Hamilton, Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center Director, for his leadership and support of the important collaboration between our institutions. Most of all, we thank our veterans for their service to our country and for the privilege of helping provide their health care.
Now – Artist Activist is open now through Friday, Sept. 5 at the gallery, located in Washington Hall on the Summerville campus. Gallery events include: Artist Talk with Sue Coe on Aug. 28 from 5-6 p.m. at University Hall and Opening Reception from 6-7 p.m. at Washington Hall Mary S. Byrd Gallery of Art.
Aug. 28 – MCG Alumni Association, Athens Regional Reception, 6 pm, at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Mark Ellison.
Sept. 6 – GRU Day of Service. You can sign-up online at http://www.gru.edu/about/dayofservice.php. Deadline for registration is Sept. 4. T-shirts will be provided for volunteers, so please remember to indicate your size preference during registration. This year, volunteers will be treated to a BBQ dinner at 5:30 pm on the day of service at the Maxwell House on the Summerville Campus followed by the inaugural Jazz at the G performance featuring Joel Cruz with Karen Gordon, JAMP Master, and The Tandum. Jazz at the G is open to the public.
Sept. 6 – MCG Foundation 60th Anniversary Celebration in conjunction with the Alumni Association’s Augusta Regional Reception, 6 pm, Augusta Marriott.
Sept. 7 – MCG Alumni Association Board Meeting, 9:30 am, GRU Health Sciences Campus.
Sept. 8 – GRU Health Sciences Student Free Clinic Kick-off and Open House, 5:30-8 pm in the Atrium of the Allied Health Sciences Building.
Sept. 22 – Presidential Lecture Series, noon, Lee Auditorium. Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, former University of Toledo President, led a vigorous process of growth and transformation to establish a new vision, a new identity and a new level of educational quality and excellence at the university. For more info visit gru.edu/president/lectureseries.
Sept. 22 – Sixth Annual Medical Scholars Research Day, noon-2 p.m., Wellness Center, Health Sciences Campus.
Oct. 7 – MCG Alumni Association Regional Reception in Savannah, 6 pm, Savannah Golf Club.
Oct. 11 – White Coat Ceremony, 2 pm, Bell Auditorium.
Oct. 16 – Opening of the J. Harold Harrison MD Education Commons! More details to come.
Nov. 14 – Body Donation Memorial Service, November 14, 2014 1-2 pm, Lee Auditorium
Feb. 24 – MCG Alumni Association Planning Committee, Nominating Committee, Board Meeting and Regional Event, starting at 2:30 pm, Idle Hour Country Club, Macon.
March 5 – MCG Alumni Association Regional Reception, 6 pm, Northeast History Museum, Gainesville.
April 17 – Raft Debate, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association, 6 pm, Lee Auditorium.
April 23-26 – Alumni Weekend.
May 4 – MCG Graduation Dinner, 6:30 pm, location to be determined.
May 7 – Hooding Ceremony, 2 pm, Bell Auditorium.
May 8 – Graduation, 2 pm, James Brown Arena.
Have a wonderful weekend!