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Hats off to our graduates!

The SOM graduation ceremony was a particularly joyous event this year, as faculty, students, and several generations of students' family members stepped from a beautiful spring day outside to fill Glenn Memorial's pews. Commencement speaker Dr. James Gavin, an Emory Graduate School alumnus (Biochemistry) and President of Morehouse School of Medicine, encouraged graduates to emphasize prevention and public health more than preceding generations. Apparently, many students already are heeding this message, with a record nine out of 110 graduates receiving dual MD/MPH degrees. Four received dual MD/PhDs, including one in Biomedical Engineering.

One of the event's highlights was when the Class of 2004 marched into the ceremony with eight alumni from the Class of 1954 in honor of the SOM's 150th anniversary. These distinguished alumni's medical careers together span longer than our history: Drs. Charles Adams, Duane Blair, Joe Bussey, Robert Kirkland, Charlton Mabry, David Morgan, Al Smith, and Coleman Taylor.

The M4 class distinguished itself by selecting two recipients of the student Evangeline Papageorge Award, Paul Pruett and Amy Whigham, for their contributions to the betterment of the class over the past four years. Graduate Tamajah Gibson received the Bolton Service Award, and Jonathan McConathy received the Outstanding Achievement in Basic Science Award at the preceding day's Dean's Reception. Graduates also surprised faculty by choosing two honorary class members this year instead of one: Drs. Joel Felner (Medicine/Cardiology and Associate Dean for Clinical Education) and Whit Sewell (Pathology & Laboratory Medicine) shared the recognition that each had received several times individually in previous years.

Two faculty members at the May ceremony looked on proudly as their children became MDs. These faculty children include Kate Koplan, daughter of Jeff (Medicine and VP for Academic Health Affairs) and Carol (Adjunct, Rollins School of Public Health) Koplan and John Symbas, son of Peter Symbas (Cardiothoracic Surgery).

At the University's main ceremony earlier that morning, Mr. James Williams, Chair of the Woodruff Health Sciences Board from 1983 to 2003, received an honorary doctorate. Also at this ceremony, the SOM awarded 12 associate's, two bachelor's, and 81 master's degrees in medical science as well as 48 doctoral degrees in physical therapy.

Faculty honors

Dr. Nanette Wenger, Professor of Medicine/Cardiology, was honored with the University's Emory Williams Teaching Award as well as the Medical Alumni Association's Evangeline Papageorge Teaching Award at commencement. These are just two of a long list of honors she has received during her four-and-a-half decades at Emory.

Also, Dr. Whit Sewell was a Triple Crown winner. In addition to being tapped as an honorary member of the graduating class, students named him as the top teacher of a preclinical course and named Pathology (the course that Dr. Sewell directs) as their favorite preclinical class.

Great teaching ideas from Grady

Hospitalists and general internists are highly effective teachers on hospital wards, say findings from a SOM study, written by Dr. Sunil Kripalani, Assistant Professor of Medicine, and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (January 2004).

Hospitalists primarily focus on the care of hospitalized patients. Dr. Mark Williams, Associate Professor of Medicine, established the country's first hospitalist program at a public teaching hospital (Grady Hospital, of course) in 1998. Since that time, Emory's Hospital Medicine Unit has grown to include another 35 hospitalists at six hospitals in the Atlanta area. "With the rapid growth of hospital medicine and the increasing demand from academic medical centers to have hospitalists serve as teaching faculty in the hospital, we felt it was important to compare the effectiveness of their teaching skills on the general medicine wards," said Dr. Kripalani.

The study analyzed results from Clinical Tutor Evaluations completed by 423 medical students and residents over one year. Results showed that students and residents valued faculty who were enthusiastic teachers, practiced evidence-based medicine, were involved with inpatient care, and developed a good rapport with patients and other team members. These characteristics were most often noted for hospitalists and general medicine attending physicians and may explain the higher ratings they received on the quantitative Clinical Tutor Evaluation. Included in the comparison were a variety of subspecialists who supervised general medicine ward teams.

A new Grady curriculum created by Dr. Tammie Quest, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, is helping residents develop the special skills they need when a patient suddenly dies. The residents enhance their interpersonal and communication skills with the help of standardized patients who are local, professionally trained actors taking the role of bereaved family members. It is one of the few programs of its kind in the country and has become part of Emory's emergency medicine curriculum.

Once a year, Dr. Quest gives a one-hour lecture on death disclosure at Grady. Afterward, residents form small groups with the actors, or "standardized survivors" as they are known, who portray different scenarios. By interacting with survivors, Dr. Quest notes, "Residents can learn empathic behaviors and statements that help deliver this very difficult news in an honest and direct manner, while still caring for the emotional and psychological needs of the survivors."

NIH rankings remain strong

The new NIH rankings are out. The SOM is 23rd in the nation for NIH research awards totaling $158 million in 2003. This is an increase of $15 million (10%) compared with 2002, when we ranked two spots higher at 21st. SOM departments in the top 20 for NIH research funding in 2003 are: Emergency Medicine (2), Microbiology & Immunology (2), Rehabilitation Medicine (7), Neurology (9), Pathology (11), Urology (13), Dermatology (15), Pharmacology (15), Physiology (15), Surgery (16), Neurosurgery (17), and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences (18).

"The two-position decrease in ranking from 2002 is entirely a reflection of one-year construction awards (of more than $100 million each) for BSL4 (Biosafety Level 4) biocontainment facilities to two schools (Boston University and University of Texas Medical Branch)," says Dr. Robert Rich, Executive Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Initiatives. "Overall we gained a bit on those schools immediately above and below us in the rankings. With new research facilities coming into full utilization, I am looking for continued advances in 2004 and 2005. I remain optimistic regarding our progress into the 'research elite.' "

The NIH also ranked our research funding for pre- and postdoctoral fellowship training. For 2003, the SOM was 5th for individual National Research Service Award (NRSA) fellowships. Emory has ranked 10th to 12th among 121 medical institutions for the past several years.

Credit for this achievement goes to the Office of Postdoctoral Education, directed by Dr. Susan Rich, who credits others in return. "Congratulations to the postdocs and faculty advisers who contributed to this outstanding accomplishment and to the approximately 50 postdocs (and their advisers) who were awarded other individual fellowships from nonfederal funding agencies," says Dr. Rich. Her office helps recruit and retain postdocs, sponsors educational activities, develops consistent policies, and helps faculty obtain training grants and other funding.

Pharmacology in print

The March issue of The Scientist, an international magazine that reports on scientific news and events and research trends, ranked Emory 8th in the world for the number of publications about pharmacology and toxicology that have appeared over the past 10 years. This is quite a feather in the cap for the SOM's Department of Pharmacology, chaired by Dr. Ray Dingledine. The only other American university on the list was Vanderbilt.

Eye opening

If you've wondered what has happened to refractive surgery at Emory, wonder no longer. Emory Laser Vision is now open. Actually, it has reopened at our Perimeter Clinic under a different name and new, totally academic ownership--Emory's. Headed by Dr. Doyle Stulting, Professor of Ophthalmology, the new center offers the latest laser wave technology and the expertise of Drs. Stulting, Diane Song, John Kim, and Bradley Randleman, all cornea specialists.

"Emory Laser Vision offers the most sophisticated technology, giving patients the potential for better quality vision than they have ever experienced," says Dr. Stulting. "I am excited to have superior technology in a state-of-the-art facility staffed by an experienced, dedicated surgical team." In 1994, Dr. Stulting was among the physicians approved by the FDA to perform LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis) with the excimer laser. It was the first time the FDA allowed individual physicians to sponsor a clinical trial for a refractive surgical device.

More openings to come

Look for the moving vans at the new Yerkes Neuroscience Research Building, where researchers and staff are relocating this month. The $27 million building is 92,000 square feet and has laboratory and animal housing space. Part of the building housing a cyclotron, a particle accelerator used for PET imaging, will be fully constructed by September. The building dedication is October 28.

The Department of Pediatrics can wave goodbye to their cramped quarters when the $40 million pediatrics building opens in September. According to Charlie Andrews, Associate VP for Health Sciences Space Planning, "The project, which is Emory funded, is moving along rapidly. It is approximately 80% complete and is currently under budget." Located at 2015 Uppergate Road, the building will have 148,000 square feet of space with a vivarium on the lowest level. The entry level will have clinical space with 30 exam rooms. Half of the second floor will house department administration and the other half will have laboratory space. The third, fourth, and fifth floors also will have lab space. Once Pediatrics moves out of its old main building, the space will be turned over to Children's Healthcare for hospital expansion at Egleston.

Rising star

M3 student Hilary Fairbrother is one of 55 students, residents, and physicians recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation as emerging national leaders in medicine. Hilary is active in the AMA as chair of the Emory AMA/Medical Association of Georgia chapter and as the Georgia State Officer-at-Large. She also campaigned for child advocacy during the 2004 state legislative session.

Thomas J. Lawley, MD

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