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Commencement 2003

Our graduation tradition continued in May as 111 students in cap and gown received diplomas, took the Hippocratic Oath, and signed "MD" after their names for the first time ever. (Five of them signed "MD, PhD," and five others, "MD, MPH.") The ceremony was unique in featuring the first African-American commencement speaker in the SOM's history. Dr. Haile T. Debas, distinguished Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor of Medical Affairs at University of California-San Francisco, underscored a message that had been drilled into these students since their arrival at Emory�"The patient must be the center of your universe, empathy can be the most powerful of medicines, and caring is as important as curing."

The diploma ceremony and Dean's reception provided an opportunity to recognize both students and faculty for jobs well done. The class voted Dr. Whitaker Sewell (Pathology) as its honorary member. The winner of the coveted Papageorge Teaching Award was Dr. John Pooler (Physiology). Meanwhile, student Jennifer Nash received the Papageorge Outstanding Student Award and shared the Anne Elizabeth and Harper Gaston Service Scholarship with Jeremy Hess, one of the class's eight Woodruff Scholars. Jill Jarrell and Ruth Shim received the Eldon L. Bolton Service Awards, and Joshua Lawson, Dr. David Lawson's (Hematology-Oncology) son, received the Dean's Award for academic excellence and other exemplary qualities. Other faculty offspring among the graduates included Sarah Aaberg (Dr. Thomas Aaberg, Ophthalmology), Laura DeLong (Dr. Mahlon DeLong, Neurology), and George and Timothy Waring (Dr. George Waring, Ophthalmology).

At the university's main commencement ceremony, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, received an honorary degree. The SOM also awarded 20 associate's, two bachelor's, and 79 master's degrees in medical science as well as five doctoral degrees in physical therapy. A high five to all graduates!


Please join me in welcoming Dr. Sarah Berga as the new Chair of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics. She comes to us from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she is currently Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Berga serves as Editor-in-Chief of Current Problems in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Fertility and is a board member with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Dr. Larry McIntire joins us in July as Chair of the Wallace Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory and Georgia Tech. A prominent biotechnology expert, Dr. McIntire is Chair of Rice University's Department of Bioengineering and the Institute for Biosciences and Bioengineering, which promotes cross-disciplinary research and education at Rice and neighboring institutions. He also holds appointments at the University of Texas Medical School�Houston, Baylor College of Medicine, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. His research focuses on understanding the interplay between fluid mechanics, convective mass transport, cell biology, and molecular biology in the cardiovascular system. Dr. Barbara Stoll has been appointed Interim Chair of the Department of Pediatrics beginning on June 14. A member of the SOM faculty since 1986, she currently serves as Professor and Vice Chair of Clinical Research for the department. Dr. Stoll has been involved in numerous international activities related to pediatric diseases and was co-chair of the Institute of Medicine's study on "Improving Birth Outcomes in Developing Countries." Her research interests include infectious diseases of the neonate and the immune mechanisms related to their diagnosis.

I have news to share about my predecessor

Dr. Jeffrey Houpt will resign by May 2004 as Dean of UNC's School of Medicine and Chief Executive Officer of the UNC Health Care System. One of the nation's longest-serving deans, he took over the UNC post in 1997 after leading Emory's medical school from 1989 to 1996. "I decided I had done the job for 14 years, and it is time to pass the baton to someone else," says Dr. Houpt, who will resume teaching at UNC.

Women faculty shine

Drs. Nadine Kaslow (Psychiatry) and Angela Caliendo (Medicine) will participate in the Hedwig van Amerigen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) program this fall. The fellowship prepares women faculty in medicine and dentistry for senior leadership positions at academic health centers in the United States and Canada. "I'm excited about learning from the fellowship faculty and my colleagues more about the roles, demands, and challenges associated with administrative and leadership positions as well as creative and innovative strategies and solutions for effectively negotiating these responsibilities and challenges," says Dr. Kaslow. Dr. Caliendo is enthusiastic about "ELAM's thoughtful approach to leadership in academic medicine and science" to improve her own skills so she can better serve Emory Healthcare and the SOM. "This tremendous opportunity will allow me to further reflect upon and study leadership and its applications," she says.

Onward and upward

The SOM has moved up from 23rd to 21st in the country for overall NIH research awards. Our NIH funding increased 17.1%, from $122.1 million in FY01 to $143 million in FY02. Several departments ranked in the top 20 US departments in their specialties: Rehabilitation Medicine (3), Microbiology and Immunology (4), Neurology (6), Dermatology (10), Pharmacology (11), Family and Preventive Medicine (12), Neurosurgery (16), Gynecology and Obstetrics (16), Pathology (16), Ophthalmology (18), and Psychiatry (18).

"We're proud of Emory's continuing climb in the NIH funding ranks�a rise of 10 positions since FY96," reports Dr. Robert Rich, Executive Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Initiatives. "Emory is seen around the country as a medical school �on the move,' and the NIH data support that perception. This year's rise might represent a first reflection of our recent increase in research space, with the opening of the Whitehead Building. We're hoping to see still more evidence over the next several years."

US News & World Report recently ranked the SOM as the 19th best medical school in the country for research in its "2004 Best Graduate Schools" edition. We ranked 20th last year. Our Physician Assistant Program was ranked 3rd this year (it was 4th last year), and our Physical Therapy Program was ranked 3rd in 2000, the last year this program was ranked.

Editors abound

While we listed our many faculty who are also journal editors in last month's Dean's Letter, we have many book editors and authors as well. Some recent publications include one of the largest medical textbooks of its kind in the country, edited by our own Dr. William Branch (Medicine). The nationally recognized Office Practice of Medicine (W.B. Saunders Company) is now in its fourth edition and is more comprehensive than earlier editions. Many SOM faculty contributed several chapters�Dr. Branch wrote nine of them�designed to help practitioners address the challenges of primary care by enhancing their efficiency and clinical skills. "Many people consider this book to be a standard for outpatient medicine," he says.

Drs. Jeremy Boss (Microbiology and Immunology) and Susan Eckert (School of Nursing) recently penned Academic Scientists at Work: Navigating the Biomedical Research Career (Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers). The book and accompanying CD offer a humorous take on getting a job in scientific academia, setting up a laboratory and research group, writing grants and research papers, gaining tenure, and other helpful advice. Dr. Erica Frank (Family and Preventive Medicine) recently published the third English-language edition as well as an Italian-language version of Women in Medicine (Springer). This book offers a practical and academic review of the status of women in medicine in the United States and includes information from her Women Physicians' Health Study.

Speaking of journal editors, we inadvertently failed to mention that Dr. Nanette Wenger (Medicine/Cardiology) is Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, the official journal of the Society of Geriatric Cardiology. With an editorial office at Grady Hospital, the journal has a circulation of 20,000 among cardiologists, geriatricians, and internists.

Research update

Our SOM researchers have achieved some astounding results in recent months.
  • Dr. Frederick Nolte (Pathology) has demonstrated the validity of a rapid laboratory test capable of determining whether a patient has SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). His molecular diagnostic laboratory at Emory University Hospital used a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test that took about four hours to confirm the presence of the SARS virus fragment in a sample provided by a laboratory in Germany. Many researchers around the world are working to find accurate diagnostic tests since SARS remains an elusive diagnosis.
  • Scientists in Dr. Paul Wade's (Pathology) laboratory have discovered a link between estrogen receptors�the molecules that bind the estrogen hormone to cells�and invasive growth of breast cancer. "Our findings have important consequences for the treatment of patients with drugs that target the estrogen receptor, and they provide a mechanistic explanation for a pathway that may lead to cancer progression," reports Dr. Wade. The journal Cell published the laboratory's findings in April (postdoctoral fellow Dr. Naoyuki Fujita is lead author).
  • Researchers at Emory Hospital performed the state's first islet cell transplant on a type 1 (early onset) diabetes patient. Her transplanted islet cells began functioning normally, and her blood glucose levels returned to normal for the first time in 33 years. The islet transplant marks the beginning of a clinical trial at Emory modeled after a successful procedure in Alberta, Canada, in which islet cells are harvested from a donor pancreas and injected through a small incision into the liver of the recipient. Drs. Chris Larsen and Tom Pearson (Surgery) have been leading the transplant field in developing strategies that eventually may allow true immune tolerance and long-term acceptance of transplanted organs and tissues without the need for harmful immunosuppressive drugs.

Thomas J. Lawley, MD

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