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Grant success

A donor has made a challenge grant of $20 million to construct a new $40 million research and clinical building for the Department of Pediatrics and the Emory Children�s Center on Ridgeview Drive behind Children�s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and across from the current pediatric facilities. The building will house a floor of clinical space to make room for an improvement project planned for Children�s and will improve care and access to clinical research programs for patients referred by community physicians. It also will include four floors of research space and offices for physicians now in temporary buildings behind Children�s. For the first time in decades, all Emory pediatric physicians will be under the same roof when the building is occupied in July 2004.

An anonymous donor has given $1 million to establish an endowment for the Kirk Kanter Chair in Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery and another $1 million to establish an endowment for the Andrew Smith Chair in Cardiology. An adult patient of both physicians provided the gifts.

VA names new director

Thomas Cappello, FACHE, has been appointed Director, Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He succeeds William Mountcastle, CHE, who was appointed Director of the Ralph A. Johnson Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina. Before coming to the VA here, Mr. Cappello was the Deputy Network Director for the US region designated as VISN-7 (Veterans Integrated Service Network), Atlanta Network. In that role he was responsible for health care delivery, budgeting, and strategic planning for VA medical centers and health care facilities in Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. He began his career with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1970 and eventually was appointed the first Director of the integrated Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System in 1996. "I believe our affiliation with Emory has been an important factor in allowing us to be an industry leader in advancing patient safety, preventive care, and research," he says. And it shows. The Atlanta VA received a total of $25.7 million in research dollars in 2002 and is ranked 12th out of 145 VA medical centers nationally for research funding.

Student scientists excel

Our students have done it again. Five M2 students went home with top honors during the 48th Annual Medical Student Research Day in January. Winners include Michael Cheng, recipient of the Helen Miller Award for the most outstanding and meritorious short-term research project; Candice Smith-Teunis, recipient of the Dean�s Award for exceptional research accomplishment; and Kyle Rusthoven, recipient of the Judge�s Award for the best poster presentation. Additionally, Kainne Dokubo and Jennifer Dewey each received an American Federation for Medical Research Award for outstanding research potential. Congratulations to our students and to the faculty and staff who make this special day possible, including Dr. David Lambeth (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine), keynote speaker, and Dr. Gerald Shadel (Biochemistry), Chair of the Faculty Committee for Medical Research. All play a valuable role in helping students learn to evaluate new ideas based on evidence-based medicine.

Close to home

The tragic loss of seven astronauts aboard the Columbia space shuttle hit especially close to home for one of our researchers. When the Columbia took flight, it carried 80 scientific experiments, including one led by Dr. Leland Chung, whose research centers in Urology and the Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Chung and his co-investigators at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the University of Virginia were using the shuttle as a zero gravity laboratory to study how prostate cancer metastasizes to bone. Previous experiments in zero gravity have helped scientists understand the development of heart, bone, muscle, and endocrine organs, and the locomotion of inflammatory cells and tumor cells. All of these experiments show that space flight is an important way to advance science.

Dr. Chung plans to validate the rich volume of data he received from the shuttle experiment to continue his work in developing better prevention and treatment strategies for prostate cancer. "We want to dedicate every paper we publish on this series of studies to our partner astronauts," wrote Dr. Chung in a letter to NASA. "Our dreams of discovery and innovation will always include a piece of our NASA family."

Star student

The Division of Campus Life presented M3 student Nishant Shah with a 2003 Humanitarian Award at a special ceremony this semester. He was one of six university students to receive awards for outstanding humanitarian service. Dr. Jonas Shulman, Executive Associate Dean of Medical Education and Student Affairs, nominated Mr. Shah for his accomplishments within the Schools of Medicine and Public Health and his role in health student leadership in Georgia and volunteerism at hospitals in Washington, DC, and Cambodia. "I am most impressed by this young man," says Dr. Shulman. "He is capable of improving the health care of others in both the large-scale public arena as well as the intimacy of the doctor-patient interaction."

Plan boosts Clinic revenue

From time to time, I like to highlight creative initiatives that keep us in the black. Dr. Theresa Kramer (Ophthalmology) has developed a denials management program that has decreased her department�s insurance-related denials by $400,000 in the three months it has been in place. It has worked so well to increase collections that the Clinic has combined her idea with those from other departments to create a system-wide program, the first phase of which will be implemented soon. "It�s staggering how much money Medicare and other insurance carriers spend on paperwork and denying claims and how much we lose on coding errors and inconsistent reasons for denials," she reports.

The program is a three-pronged approach that determines why carriers deny certain types of claims, identifies which carriers deny certain claims, and finds where coding problems occur within the department by producing a quarterly report. This last step is crucial because departments can find the sources of repeated mistakes and correct them by providing feedback and training.

"We plan eventually to move all ophthalmology-related denials that Patient Financial Services now has to handle back into our department," she says. "Since these denials represent 85% of all denial types, we anticipate a bigger impact than we�re seeing now." It�s fairly easy to get on the bandwagon, too. Review the new "I-Convert" denial reports that your department now should be receiving and identify any coding error trends.

Career development

Recently, my office, in cooperation with the Committee on the Status of Women, welcomed Ms. Janet Bickel, Associate Vice President for Medical School Affairs and Director of the Women in Medicine Program at the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). A well-known co-creator of a series of professional development seminars for women physicians and scientists, Ms. Bickel came to Emory to meet and talk with interested faculty and trainees about professional development in general and career development and mentoring needs specifically. She presented the findings from the AAMC�s Implementation Committee for Increasing Women�s Leadership in Academic Medicine and led a series of workshops geared to faculty and trainees. We also invited her to engage in a discussion on faculty development with the Council of Chairs. By all accounts, the day was a success, and it was wonderful to see so many of our faculty and trainees engaged in dialogue about these very relevant topics. I want to thank the Committee on the Status of Women, led by past Chair Dr. Nadine Kaslow (Psychiatry) and current chair Dr. Kay Vydareny (Radiology), for helping us organize this event.

Funding opportunities

Get your grant proposals ready. Junior faculty interested in pursuing a career in patient-oriented research should apply for the Emory Mentored Clinical Research Scholars Program (EMCRS), which is funded by a $6.6 million grant from the NIH/National Center for Research Resources. The program consists of didactic training through the Masters of Science in Clinical Research program and mentored clinical research training under the direction of an established Emory investigator. Individuals accepted into the program will devote 75% to 90% of their time to clinical research activities, and the grant will provide an equivalent amount of salary support. Additionally, research support ($30,000 per year) is provided for up to five years. Applications, which are available at www.medicine.emory.edu/EMCRS, are due April 1. For more information, contact Cheryl Sroka, Program Coordinator, at csroka@emory.edu or 727-5096.

Faculty also may apply for funding through the Coulter Translational/Clinical Research Seed Grant Program. Your research must address a problem or issue directly related to the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of human disease. Each proposal must have one co-investigator from the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory and one from another department in the SOM. One-year grants range from $75,000 to $100,000, with a possible extension based on progress. For more information, contact Molly Croft, Director of Development, BME, at 404-385-0128 or molly.croft@bme.gatech.edu. You can also visit www.bme.gatech. edu. Applications are due June 2.

Happy 50th, Clinic

The Emory Clinic celebrates its golden jubilee this year. Did you know that the Clinic was created in January 1953 in large part to support the SOM? The 17 founding fathers needed a place where faculty could practice and generate income to help pay for teachers� salaries. Of course, it provided more than that: Atlantans didn�t have to travel outside the state to receive world-class health care. A sum of $1 million, donated by Atlanta business leader Robert W. Woodruff, was set aside for a new building (now Clinic Building A) completed in May 1956. What a great success the Clinic has been and what a bright future it has!

Thomas J. Lawley, MD








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