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New Pathology chair

I am very happy to announce that Dr. Tristram Parslow joined the SOM in December as Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He brings a wealth of leadership and research experience to the department and our school from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where he was Professor of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, as well as Vice Chair of the Department of Pathology. He is also an enthusiastic teacher and for 10 years directed the UCSF Medical Scientist Training Program, an MD/PhD program sponsored by NIH. His research interests are in molecular virology and immunology, currently focusing on how the RNA genomes of HIV and influenza become incorporated into viral particles as they form. His lab has also made important contributions in viral and cellular gene regulation, apoptosis, telomere biology, congenital immune deficiencies, host-pathogen interactions, lymphoproliferative disorders, and molecular diagnostics. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Parslow to the faculty and to Emory.

2003 Legislative agenda

Now that the 2003 Georgia General Assembly has convened, civil justice reform is Emory Healthcare's highest priority. "Passage and enactment of meaningful legislation will allow physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers to continue to deliver quality medical care to Georgia's 8 million citizens," reports Linda Womack, Director of State Affairs in the University's Office of Governmental and Community Affairs.

The American Medical Association cites Georgia as one of a dozen states experiencing a medical liability crisis resulting from the skyrocketing costs of medical malpractice insurance and its limited availability. As a result, Emory's Governmental and Community Affairs office is working closely with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG), and the Georgia Hospital Association to encourage legislative reform. Emory strongly supports upcoming legislative proposals, which include the following:
  • Capping noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) at $250,000.
  • Limiting expert witness qualifications. A physician who testifies against another physician would have to practice the same speciality.
  • Amending the dismissal rule. This proposal would level the playing field by allowing a plaintiff to dismiss a case only one time instead of two and prohibiting all dismissals after jury selection.
  • Abolishing joint and several liability. According to this proposal, damages would be apportioned based on the degree of fault attributed to each defendant. Currently, each defendant is responsible for 100% of the verdict at the option of the plaintiff.
  • Establishing comparative negligence. A plaintiff's award would be reduced by the degree of fault attributable to the plaintiff for an alleged injury, such as failing to follow physician orders.
  • Limiting attorney fees. This proposal would place attorney fees on a sliding scale, with fees decreasing as the award increases.

Among those active in the effort to introduce medical liability reform is our own Dr. Alan Plummer, who serves as MAG president. "My ability to provide my patients with quality medical care is being compromised by an out-of-control medical liability legal system," says Dr. Plummer, a pulmonologist. To learn more about Georgia's medical liability crisis, look for the article written by him in the Winter 2002�2003 issue of Momentum, which has just been published. You can also contact Ms. Womack at 727-5306 or

In memoriam

We are all saddened by the passing of Dr. Robert Schlant, Professor of Medicine Emeritus, who died of cancer at his home on December 12. A skilled and internationally renowned clinician, scholar, and educator, Dr. Schlant joined the faculty in 1958, serving until his death. He provided leadership for many years as Chief of the Division of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine and as Chief of Cardiology at Grady Hospital. Three generations of medical students, residents, and fellows will remember him as a respected educator and compassionate physician. A prolific and respected author, Dr. Schlant was an associate editor of The Heart, the landmark textbook edited by Dr. Willis Hurst, Professor of Medicine Emeritus. Dr. Schlant showed us "that a person can be a clinical scientist and think in a logical manner, but at the same time, be a warm and compassionate doctor," said Dr. Hurst of his friend and colleague in The Atlanta Journal�Constitution.

Genetics developments

Lauren Koontz is the new Director of Development in the Department of Human Genetics. She joins us from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where she directed development activities at the chapter and national levels. At Emory she will help raise awareness and funds to advance research initiatives and clinical programs in the department, which now includes the Division of Medical Genetics, formerly led by Dr. Louis Elsas (Pediatrics), now retired. The merger will foster collaboration between physicians and basic scientists. Two upcoming objectives include establishing centers for the study of Downs and Fragile X syndromes. Welcome aboard, Ms. Koontz.

Building on relationships

The SOM and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta are taking major steps to enhance the institutions' 46-year partnership and shared mission. One includes building a new $40 million pediatrics building, scheduled to open on Ridgewood Drive in July 2004. Another is to create a joint leadership structure to strengthen collaboration among Emory, Children's, and community physicians. One leader will guide this structure, combining the Chair of Pediatrics with Egleston's Medical Director. This individual also will serve as President and CEO of the Emory Children's Center, the state's largest multispecialty pediatric group practice, and will report to me and to Dr. Jay Berkelhamer, Children's Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs.

Dr. Devn Cornish now serves as department Chair, President, and CEO of the Emory Children's Center and President of the Emory�Egleston Children's Research Center. Dr. Cornish has declined to be a candidate for the new joint position and will begin a one-year sabbatical July 1 to complete an MPH degree at the Rollins School of Public Health. He then will return as Professor of Pediatrics (Neonatology) and pursue his interest in international child health. Dr. Cornish is one of the nation's leading experts on ECMO (early extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), helping newborns with life-threatening breathing problems. I thank Dr. Cornish for his outstanding efforts and accomplishments as Chair of Pediatrics.

Improving surgical outcomes

Emory University Hospital (EUH) is one of three national test sites to implement surgical quality performance measures first used by hospitals in the Veterans Affairs (VA) Health System and then adopted for use by non-VA hospitals. The National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP), which recently received kudos from the Institute of Medicine, was developed within the VA to assess the quality of surgical care throughout the system. The program monitors adverse events and provides feedback to care providers and managers. From 1991 to 2000, 30-day postoperative deaths decreased 27% within the VA system.

Dr. Aaron Fink, Chief of Surgery at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, led the non-VA hospital initiative and published a paper in the Annals of Surgery demonstrating that non-VA hospitals can effectively implement the NSQIP models and methodology to identify areas of improvement and take steps to better surgical outcomes. "We firmly believe this system will allow us to use available, robust, clinically based data to identify areas in which we can continue to improve the delivery of surgical care within EUH," says Dr. Fink. The non-VA initiative has been expanded from the three test sites to 15 non-VA hospitals, aided by funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and collaboration with the American College of Surgeons.

Cr�me de la cr�me

Nothing pleases me more than to see our faculty earn recognition for their many contributions to the field of medicine. Here are some highlights.
  • Drs. Allen Beck and Hans Grossniklaus (Ophthalmology) received achievement awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology for academic activities in the academy. The Georgia Society of Ophthalmology honored Dr. Paul Sternberg with the L.E. Brown Humanitarian Award for distinguished service to the field.
  • Dr. Alfred Brann (Pediatrics) received the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for his outstanding work and achievements in neonatal and perinatal medicine in the state and throughout the world.
  • Dr. Thomas Heffron (Surgery) received top billing at the Georgia Chapter of the American Liver Foundation's inaugural Salute to Excellence Tribute Dinner. Dr. Heffron was honored for his pioneering efforts in transplantation and treatment of liver disease.
  • Dr. David Lloyd (Pediatrics) received the 2002 Golden Apple Health Education Award from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
  • Dr. Richard Rothenberg (Family and Preventive Medicine) received the Thomas Parran Award from the American Sexually Transmitted Disease Association for lifetime achievement in research regarding the epidemiology of STDs and the dynamics of disease transmission.
  • Ms. Barbara Schroeder (Dean's Office) received the Presidential Award from the Georgia Society of Family Physicians for her efforts to protect patients and promote family medicine.
  • Dr. Dale Strasser (Rehabilitation Medicine) received the 2002 Edward W. Lowman, MD, Award from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. The award recognizes an individual whose career promotes the spirit of interdisciplinary rehabilitation.
  • Last fall, I was honored by Canisius College in New York with the 2002 Distinguished Alumni Award for outstanding career achievement and by the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences with the 2002 Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award.

Thomas J. Lawley, MD

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