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Student scientists take flight

One of the many highlights for our faculty is Medical Student Research Day featuring poster and slide presentations by our M2 students. "This is one of the most pleasurable afternoons that I spend in the School of Medicine," said Dr. Robert Rich, Executive Associate Dean, Research and Strategic Initiatives, during the 49th annual event in January. "It's a wonderful opportunity to see the research creativity of students and their faculty mentors."

Eight students received top honors, including Clinton McElroy and Shveta Shah, who tied for the Helen Miller Award for the most outstanding and meritorious short-term research project. Each student received $300. The $250 Dean's Award for exceptional research accomplishment went to Hadley Wyre. Three students-Elizabeth Justice, Jeb Justice, and Jyoti Sharma-shared the $250 Judge's Award for best poster presentation. Also, Brian Dalton and Matthew Sherwood were honored for outstanding research potential with associate memberships in the American Federation for Medical Research and subscriptions to the Journal of Investigative Medicine.

This special day would not be possible without the Faculty Committee for Medical Student Research: Dr. Gerald Shadel (Biochemistry), Chair, Drs. Ronald Abercrombie (Physiology), Jack Arbiser (Dermatology), William Eley (Epidemiology), Kenneth Newell (Surgery), Grace Pavlath (Pharmacology), Maureen Powers (Cell Biology), Yung-Fong Sung (Anesthesiology), and Mary Ellen Sweeney (Medicine). Thanks also to Dr. Stephen Warren (Human Genetics), who discussed his groundbreaking research on Fragile X as the keynote speaker, and to Randell Baker, Administrative Assistant to Dr. Rich and key organizer of the event. Congratulations to all!

Tort reform

With the Georgia General Assembly now in session, legislators are debating medical liability/tort reform, our No. 1 legislative priority. The American Medical Association cites Georgia as one of 19 states in a medical liability crisis, as we continue to provide quality care while bearing the cost of escalating medical professional liability insurance premiums. Emory Healthcare bears a huge burden. Even though we are self-funded for the first $5 million of every claim, medical malpractice insurance premiums have increased by at least 40% for each of the past two years, with a similar increase expected in 2004. In Georgia, as with all states without a cap on jury awards for noneconomic damages, those increases almost entirely reflect the growing number of awards and settlements of $1 million or higher.

Thus far, hundreds of doctors and hospital administrators from across the state have visited the state capitol to meet with lawmakers and explain the need for tort reform. "The real impact for legislators is to hear from people in their own district," says Linda Womack, Director of State Governmental Affairs in the university's Office of Governmental and Community Relations. Hearings on proposed tort reform legislation are expected to begin in mid-February.

Tech transfer gains clout

Emory is one of the 10 leading US universities listed in the Association of University Technology Managers' annual survey of earnings from commercializing research inventions. In FY02, Emory collected $29.6 million, up from approximately $3.6 million in licensing revenues the previous year. The university executed 28 new licenses and options, opened four new start-up companies, filed 88 US patents, and received 25 US patents.

"The future of technology transfer at Emory holds great opportunity for the faculty, the institution, and our patients," says Emory Vice President for Research Frank Stout. The program strives to bring biomedical research results more rapidly to patients by bringing discoveries to the marketplace as well as contribute additional sources of research revenue. Partnerships with industry also contribute knowledge, equipment, and technology that might not be available to academic researchers.

Emory's commercialization program was recently strengthened with the appointment of Dr. Todd Sherer as Director of Technology Transfer. He was formerly Director of Technology and Research Collaboration at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Welcome, Dr. Sherer.

In memoriam

We are saddened by the deaths of Dr. Ned Witkin and Dr. William Domin in recent weeks. Dr. Witkin, 47, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, died January 29 after a courageous two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He had served as Director of the Low Vision Clinic and Director of the Optometry Service since 1991.

Dr. Witkin was known for helping patients of any age with severely limited vision remain independent and improve their lifestyles. He co-developed the JORDY, a digital vision-assisting device that can be worn as glasses or placed on a viewing stand to greatly enlarge images. Legally blind patients from around the world sought his expertise on this technology. "Ned was a very inventive person who could look at a problem and find a way to get an optical answer to it," notes the department's Chairman, Dr. Thomas Aaberg Sr. Dr. Witkin also worked extensively to create a vision health care plan for Emory employees, many of whom would not have vision care otherwise. His family has set up a scholarship fund for the New England College of Optometry. Gifts payable to the college may be sent to Dr. Paul Ajamian, 245 Shadowbrook Drive, Roswell, Georgia 30075.

A memorial fund also has been established for Dr. Domin, 47, who died on January 24 in a caving accident in Tennessee. Dr. Domin joined Emory in 1993 and served as an Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, and a member of The Emory Clinic. In 1996, he joined Emory-Adventist Hospital, where he helped formulate high standards of patient care and ensure that the hospital succeeded as an organization.

"I had the privilege of working with Dr. Domin for many years, as the Emory-Adventist practice was conceived, built, and evolved as a valuable component of Emory Healthcare," says Dr. Penny Castellano, Emory Clinic Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Operations. "Bill was a fine physician, a compassionate leader, and a friend. He will truly be missed by all of his colleagues and patients."

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Emory-Adventist Hospital Heart Fund, care of Peggy Seckler, Emory-Adventist Hospital, 3949 South Cobb Drive, Smyrna, Georgia, 30080. Gifts also may be sent interoffice to Deborah Dean, Clinic Building B, Suite 6427. Make checks payable to the Heart Fund and indicate that your gift is for the Domin Children Education Fund.

GME update

Congratulations to Dr. Marilane Bond, who has been promoted to Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education (GME). Dr. Bond has been part of the SOM since 1996, when she joined the Office of Continuing Medical Education as Business Manager. She subsequently served as Administrative Director for CME before joining GME as Director in 2001. "It's a stimulating environment to work in because graduate medical education requirements change frequently and we have to stay on top of the accreditation process," says Dr. Bond.

Together with Associate Dean Dr. James Zaidan, Dr. Bond and six staff members in GME oversee approximately 1,000 residents and fellows in 72 accredited residency programs. The GME office is preparing completion certificates and final information for approximately 350 residents and fellows who will complete their training June 30. Simultaneously, they are preparing for the new program year with approximately 350 new residents and fellows beginning their training on July 1.

New director appointments

Dr. Walter Orenstein will join the SOM in March as the Director of a new Emory Program for Vaccine Policy and Development and as Associate Director of the Emory Vaccine Center. He also will serve as Associate Director of the Southeastern Center for Emerging Biological Threats, a regional partnership led by the university. Dr. Orenstein most recently was Director of the National Immunization Program at the CDC. He will retire from his 26-year career in the CDC's immunization program, where he has led the global effort to eliminate many of the world's most common vaccine-preventable diseases.

Dr. Scott Boden has been named Director of the Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center at Executive Park South, which opened last month. (A grand opening is set for March 18�19). Dr. Boden has directed the Emory Spine Center for 10 years. In his new role, he oversees 13 spine specialists and more than 30 other physicians and professionals in a number of specialties. "Since musculoskeletal conditions and injuries account for more than 102 million physician office visits per year," says Dr. Boden, "we believe the time has come for the same comprehensive approach to musculoskeletal conditions that medicine has long offered for heart disease and cancer."

Applications accepted until March 1

If you are a junior SOM faculty member interested in patient-oriented clinical investigation, the K12-Emory Mentored Clinical Research Scholar (EMCRS) program is for you. You have until March 1 to apply for the EMCRS program, which is supported by a $6.6 million grant to Emory from the NIH's National Center for Research Resources.

If accepted, you will receive didactic training through the Masters of Science in Clinical Research program and mentored clinical research training under the direction of an established Emory investigator. You will devote 75% to 80% of your time to clinical research, with an equivalent amount of salary support coming from the grant. In addition, research support of $30,000 per year is provided for two to five years. For more information, visit


The January Dean's Letter misidentified Emory's Executive Vice President, Finance and Administration. His correct name is Michael J. Mandl. The Dean's Letter regrets the error.

Thomas J. Lawley, MD

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