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New bill benefits VA faculty and vets

President George Bush signed a bill in December that increases the pay scale for faculty at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The bill also will improve the Department of Veterans Affairs' ability to recruit and retain top-quality physicians, dentists, and nurses. "The new system will give us the ability to be financially competitive in the procedural-based specialty areas," reports Dr. David Bower, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Atlanta VA's Chief of Staff. "The change is in everyone's best interest because it benefits VA health care providers, and it ensures that our veterans will continue to receive the best care possible."

The current pay system, which was last overhauled in 1991, does not adequately consider regional differences in pay among private-sector medical specialties. As a result, the VA depends heavily on contract medical specialists, who are often more expensive to employ than VA physicians and dentists. The new pay system, which also adds new rewards for performance, will go into effect in January 2006.

In memoriam

We will truly miss our friend, Dr. Paul Seavey, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, who died November 12 after a heroic battle with cancer. He influenced many of us at Emory during a career that spanned 55 years. "I feel so privileged to be a physician and practice medicine," Dr. Seavey once said. "It is one of the greatest of all professions."

According to his former colleague, Dr. Dave Roberts, Associate Professor of Medicine, "Some physicians tend to be intuitive, arriving at diagnoses from their gut, through instinct, wisdom, and experience. Others tend to be meticulous and exhaustive in their persistence and careful consideration of each and every diagnostic possibility. Dr. Seavey is the only physician I've known to be both, equally and simultaneously." Memorial gifts designated for the Paul W. Seavey Medical Endowment may be sent to Health Sciences Development and Alumni Relations.

We also are deeply saddened by the death of Dr. Howard McClure, former Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Associate Director for Research Resources and Research at Yerkes. He served Yerkes for more than 38 years, beginning in 1966, a year after the center moved from Florida to our campus. "Mac (as most of us knew him) had near-mythic qualities," says Dr. Tom Gordon, Associate Director, Yerkes, "including a legendary work ethic, a steadfast determination to achieve results, a keen sense that if it was worth doing it was worth doing right, an abiding faith in the value and importance of research, and an encyclopedic knowledge of a wide range of topics relevant to nonhuman primates in research settings." The family and Yerkes plan to establish a memorial fund in memory of Dr. McClure.

Another former colleague passed away recently. Dr. Calvin Brown, who served the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the 1960s and later the Morehouse School of Medicine, died a few months ago. Dr. Brown was one of the first African-American faculty members appointed by the SOM, and he helped begin a primary care health center in an underserved neighborhood in Atlanta. He put aside personal concerns during this racially segregated time and helped smooth relations between white and black physicians. The center later helped form the concept of the Grady satellite clinics. We will miss this medical pioneer as well.

Teaching legends

Every year, I'm particularly happy to announce the recipients of the Dean's Teaching Awards. These exemplary basic science and medical faculty, nominated by their department chairs, are among our most successful educators for our undergraduate medical and allied health students. The top teachers for 2004 are Dr. Douglas Ander (Emergency Medicine), Dr. Howard Frumkin (Occupational Medicine), Dr. Randy Hall (Pharmacology), Dr. Joshy Jacob (Microbiology and Immunology), Dr. David Lloyd (Pediatrics), Dr. Bhagirath Majmudar (Pathology), and Dr. Nancy Newman (Ophthalmology and Neurology). These faculty each received a $5,000 award.

Because we can all learn from each other, I'll share a few teaching ideas from these experts, beginning with this issue of The Dean's Letter (see "Teaching Sound Byte").

Emory recruits CDC director for new programs

Dr. James Hughes, Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the CDC and an Assistant Surgeon General in the US Public Health Service, will come to Emory this spring to begin a joint appointment in the SOM and the Rollins School of Public Health as Director of new Emory programs in Global Infectious Diseases and Global Safe Water.

In his present CDC position for more than 10 years, Dr. Hughes has overseen the activities of more than 1,300 individuals working to address domestic and global challenges posed by foodborne, waterborne, vector-borne, zoonotic, and health care-associated infections; antimicrobial resistance; and bioterrorism. The new Emory programs will include infectious diseases prevention, international epidemiology and vaccines, and clinical and field trials development. Both domestic and global partnerships will be developed. We are delighted that Dr. Hughes is joining our faculty in this important collaborative role in the prevention of infectious diseases, the greatest threat to the world's population today.

Dr. Hughes is our second major appointment from the CDC in the past year. Dr. Walter Orenstein, former director of the National Immunization Program at the CDC, joined our faculty last spring as Director of the new Emory Program for Vaccine Policy and Development and Associate Director of the Emory Vaccine Center. He also serves as Associate Director of the Southeastern Center for Emerging Biological Threats (SECEBT). Dr. Orenstein is working to assemble a nationally recognized scientific program and foundation in clinical vaccine development and policy, building on Emory's programs in vaccine development and infectious diseases research and treatment in adult and pediatric medicine. Dr. Orenstein also holds appointments in the Departments of International Health and Epidemiology in the Rollins School of Public Health. Formerly colleagues at the CDC, Drs. Orenstein and Hughes will continue to collaborate in their new roles at Emory.

A doctor without borders

Dr. Kenneth Walker, Professor of Medicine and Neurology, was named an honorary citizen of the country of Georgia, which borders the Black Sea between Russia and Turkey. Since 1992, Dr. Walker has made numerous trips to the country of 5 million people as co-director of the Atlanta-Tbilisi Healthcare Partnership. In his view, the award honors the work of many SOM students and faculty. "I'm a small man who stands on the shoulders of very tall people," Dr. Walker remarked to his Georgian colleagues as President Mikheil Saakashvili presented him with an honorary citizenship certificate and passport. The award ceremony was held at the State Chancellery in Tbilisi this past December.

Dr. Walker and the partnership have deeply impacted the lives of Georgians, who are striving to modernize medicine and science. A few accomplishments include providing teaching methodologies for medical and basic science students and faculty, setting up health clinics, donating and installing fetal monitoring equipment, and providing prosthetic devices for amputees. See and for additional information.

Old becomes new again

A small portion of our 150-year history now resides on the Grady campus in the Emory Center for Clinical Training and Faculty Building, which stands on the site of SOM forebear Atlanta Medical College (AMC). Dr. Willis Hurst, our favorite octogenarian Professor Emeritus of Medicine--still nimbly teaching 10 sessions a week at Emory, Grady, and Emory Crawford Long hospitals--recently donated a coffee table made from timbers salvaged from the AMC when the old building was torn down. The table was made in 1962 by Dr. Marvin McCall during his chief residency at Grady Hospital. Shortly after making the table, Dr. McCall gave it to Dr. Hurst, who kept it in his family for all these years.

In the 1960s, Dr. Hurst had a second-floor office in the Glenn Building, which overlooked the AMC building. Says Dr. Hurst, "I would look out on the old medical college building and would try to convince [the SOM] to tear it down and build a research building." With a chuckle and a gleam in his eye, he adds, "I was so pleased they had accepted my recommendation to tear it down but then I discovered it was because it was considered a health hazard. At least out of that we got a coffee table!" The table has a small plaque commemorating the circa 1855 building.

Library turns 80

Happy birthday to the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library, which celebrated its 80th year of service at a celebration in December. The event also highlighted the introduction of two new products, the Bates Visual Guide to the Physical Examination in streaming video format and images.MD from BioMed Central. "We are striving to be a premier academic health sciences library," says Director Sandra Franklin.

The library has come a long way since 1923, when ophthalmologist Dr. Phinizy Calhoun Sr. donated $10,000 to establish a medical library in memory of his father, Dr. A.W. Calhoun, also an ophthalmologist. The elder Dr. Calhoun served on the faculty of Atlanta Medical College, predecessor to the SOM.

New Surgery endowed chair

Dr. Thomas Heffron, Professor of Surgery, will hold the new Carlos & Marguerite Mason Chair in Surgery for Liver Transplantation. The chair was created through a $2 million award from Wachovia Bank, N.A., Trustee for the Carlos & Marguerite Mason Trust. The gift supports liver transplantation at Emory and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Dr. Heffron and the liver transplant teams at Emory and Egleston have provided groundbreaking national leadership in pediatric, living-donor, and split-liver transplants. As a result, they have increased the number of organs available for children in need of liver transplants, leading to shorter waiting times for donor organs and decreased mortality.

Teaching sound byte

"Always make things clinically relevant," says Dr. Nancy Newman, Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurology. "Emphasize the basic building blocks of anatomy, physiology, and basic disease processes so that students can figure things out for themselves, without just memorizing. Above all, know your topic and transmit your own enthusiasm for your life's work!"

Thomas J. Lawley, MD
Dean, Emory School of Medicine

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