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Winship Cancer Institute director named

Great news! We begin the new year with a new director for the Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Jonathan W. Simons joins the SOM on February 1 and comes to Emory from Johns Hopkins, where he directed the Molecular Pharmacology Program and the Cancer Gene Therapy Laboratory and served as associate professor of oncology and urology. He is known internationally for his research in molecular oncology and gene therapy for prostate cancer and was the first investigator to obtain clinically measurable immune responses against metastatic prostate cancer. His laboratory was also the first to identify two genes as new therapeutic targets for prostate cancer that has metastasized to bone.

Dr. Simons' appointment comes at a critical time. Last year, the Winship Cancer Center was renamed as an institute to better reflect the diversity of our work and plans to expand our cancer programs. His arrival also coincides with plans to begin construction of the new cancer building later this year.

I'd like to recognize those who led the Cancer Institute during the director's search. Dr. William Wood served as interim director, assisted by Dr. Chris Hillyer as deputy director. I also commend Dr. David Blake for chairing the search committee. Thanks to all for their time, dedication, and hard work.

Dean's Clinical Investigator Awards

As promised, we have implemented the Dean's Clinical Investigators Award Program as part of the SOM's research strategic plan. These awards will support the salaries of clinical faculty so they can devote more time to research. Full-time faculty with substantial clinical duties and who have NIH grant support for at least 25% of their time were eligible for nomination by department chairs and division chiefs. Assistant professors will receive $30,000 in salary support and professors/associate professors will get $50,000 annually for three years. The cost is shared 50-50 by the Dean's Office and department chairs. Of the 22 applicants, the Research Advisory Committee recommended a group to me, and I selected the following nine recipients for 2000-2003.
  • Dr. Ken Bernstein, professor of pathology, is focusing on the renin-angiotensin system, one of the central mechanisms that controls blood pressure. His work encompasses diverse areas, including the biochemistry of angiotensin-converting enzyme and the receptor for angiotensin II. Recently, Dr. Bernstein created and studied mice genetically altered to lack a functioning renin-angiotensin system.
  • Dr. Mark Feinberg, associate professor of medicine, also serves as the associate director of the Emory/Atlanta Center for AIDS Research. A national leader in HIV research, Dr. Feinberg and his colleagues are engaged in the study of the pathogenesis of AIDS and in the development and clinical evaluation of vaccines to prevent HIV infection.
  • Dr. Antonio Guasch, assistant professor of medicine, is studying the mechanisms of glomerular damage and progressive renal insufficiency in patients with diseases affecting the kidney and in renal transplant patients. He hopes to find new treatments to prevent renal failure in these conditions.
  • Dr. Peter Jensen, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, is focusing on the initial events that lead to cellular immune responses. He is studying the mechanisms through which protein antigens, the targets of cellular immunity, are processed by specialized antigen-presenting cells and displayed at the cell surface for recognition by T lymphocytes.
  • Dr. Christian Larsen, associate professor of surgery, co-leads Emory's Center for Transplantation, which is striving to achieve true immune tolerance in patients receiving organ transplants. Emory's kidney transplant program is part of the new Collaborative Network for Clinical Research on Immune Tolerance. Dr. Larsen is leading the nine transplant research centers involved in this project.
  • Dr. Asma Nusrat, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, is an expert in the pathobiology of the gastrointestinal tract. She is working to identify and characterize intercellular junction protein keys in regulating paracellular permeability. She is also studying molecular mechanisms by which epithelial cells migrate to rapidly reseal small ulcers.
  • Dr. Margaret Offermann, associate professor of medicine, is investigating the pathogenesis of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). Her lab is using molecular, cellular, and immunologic techniques to characterize how infection with human herpesvirus 8 leads to KS. She is also studying the mechanisms by which endothelial cells recognize double-stranded RNA intermediates that occur during infection with most viruses and how these intermediates initiate an effective host antiviral response.
  • Dr. Thomas Pearson, associate professor of surgery, is a co-leader in the Center for Transplantation with Dr. Larsen (see entry on Dr. Larsen above). In one area of their research, the men are developing a strategy to block specific T cells (CD28 and CD40) to prevent transplant rejection. Another major area of research is based on hematopoietic chimerism, the stable coexistence of self and foreign hematopoietic cells.
  • Dr. Thomas Ziegler, assistant professor of medicine, seeks to understand the mechanisms of intestinal growth, adaptation, and repair in conditions following bowel resection, malnutrition, and inflammatory states. He is also investigating novel treatments using specific nutrients such as glutamine and peptide growth factors to enhance intestinal function in these conditions.
Another round of Dean's Clinical Investigators Awards will be made next year.

Teaching and learning

Organizer Bill Branch (Medicine) counted more than 60 people at the first teaching skills workshop for new faculty last month. On a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), participants rated the workshop at 4.72, and 68% would recommend it as "outstanding" to a colleague. "Virtually all of the workshops and teaching sessions were rated between 4.5 and 5.0 by the participants on organization, content, and quality of presentation," notes Bill, director of general medicine and vice chair for primary care. Future sessions are planned for experienced faculty and residents as well as new faculty.

The 16th floor of Grady Hospital was a festive place when the new House Staff & Student Learning Center officially opened in mid-December. Students and house staff can now access medical records through the Grady Hospital Information System and data bases and full text resources through the Health Sciences Center Library. The center also provides a haven for a little R&R.  Please stop by and visit the new center.

Holiday spirit

Several Atlanta families will benefit from the canned goods collected during the Cans for Fines drive sponsored by the Health Sciences Center Library. Penny Splain, user services specialist, estimates that 680 cans of food were collected as payment for fines and through donations. All items were given to the Atlanta Food Bank.

The Department of Biochemistry and SOM administrative staff adopted three families for Christmas as part of Georgia State University's "Project Healthy Grandparents." The project provides services for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Thanks to many generous contributions, the families received clothing, games, and toys. Several children now ride shiny bicycles, one child is mastering a new computer, and one grandmother is the proud owner of a new sewing machine. Wendy Oglesby and Debbie Duke of Biochemistry and Jane Crosta and William Payne of the SOM coordinated this effort.

Members of the Department of Medicine hosted a holiday party for students at the Robert Shaw Theme School in Scottdale, Georgia. Dr. Neil Shulman worked with the school to plan the event involving medical students and faculty, including Drs. Wayne Alexander, David Stephens, and John Stone, who read a poem as part of the program. The department gave books to each of the 540 students (pre-K through grade 6) and donated $20,000 to the school's Healthy Body, Healthy Mind project, which teaches children proper lifestyle habits. The funds will be used to develop a fitness trail, provide scholarships for summer camp, purchase a computer for the parent's center, and more. In return, the students created paintings for each department division. The paintings are on display in the Grady Hospital library.

Food for thought

Two SOM colleagues have written books that will help us become better teachers and physicians. Dr. J. Willis Hurst (Medicine) has published Teaching Medicine: Process, Habits, and Actions (Scholars Press, 1999), which explores the process by which medicine is taught and learned. Among his observations, Dr. Hurst advocates that medical schools and teaching hospitals work together to develop a multiyear plan to transform medical students, who know the content of medicine, into thinking, compassionate physicians. Dr. Alan Stoudemire (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences) was lead editor on the second edition of Psychiatric Care of the Medical Patient (Oxford University Press, 1999), an international standard reference source on the psychiatric care of patients with medical, neurological, and surgical disorders. Dr. Stoudemire collaborated with Drs. Barry S. Fogel and Donna Greenberg of Harvard Medical School to add 28 new chapters to this resource.

No place like home

Associate Director Chuck Bogle happily reports that Biomedical Media has moved into permanent quarters at 1712 Uppergate Drive (the "Uppergate Building"). The new facility offers enhanced and expanded services, which will be fully operational by the end of January. The website at offers a complete list of services and a map showing the new location.

Thomas J. Lawley, MD

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