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M74 alumna Edith Mitchell is 2017 ASTRO Honorary Member

Edith Peterson Mitchell, M’74, has been chosen as the 2017 American Society for Radiation Oncology Honorary Member. [View Image]

Edith Peterson Mitchell, M’74, has been chosen as the 2017 American Society for Radiation Oncology Honorary Member.

Edith Peterson Mitchell, M’74, a leading researcher, medical oncologist and proponent of combined modality treatment, has been chosen as the 2017 American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Honorary Member. Mitchell will receive this award, which is the highest honor ASTRO awards to distinguished cancer researchers and leaders in disciplines outside of radiation oncology, radiobiology or radiation physics, at ASTRO’s 59th Annual Meeting in San Diego on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017.

“Dr. Edith Mitchell has been a longtime proponent of combined modality treatment — using chemotherapy and radiation therapy together in order to provide cancer patients with the best possible outcomes,” says ASTRO Chair David C. Beyer, M.D., FASTRO. “Our specialty is privileged to have a champion such as Dr. Mitchell, who is a widely respected clinician as well as decorated military veteran. Her service to both our country and our field is laudable.”

Mitchell is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology and serves as a clinical professor of medicine and medical oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She also serves as the associate director for diversity programs and director of the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities for the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson. Additionally, Mitchell served as the 116th president of the National Medical Association.

Her work on chemoradiation for gastrointestinal cancers has helped raise the profile of radiation oncology by providing clinical evidence for the merits of combined modality treatment. Through the NRG Oncology/Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), she has provided medical oncology leadership for prospective chemoradiation trials defining standards of care for gastrointestinal malignancies. As a result, Mitchell has authored several peer-reviewed publications on the RTOG trials 0012 and 0247.

“The RTOG trials helped break new ground for radiation oncology,” says ASTRO Immediate Past Chair Bruce D. Minsky, MD, FASTRO, who nominated Mitchell for this award. “Edith is a strong advocate and friend of radiation oncology. I can think of no other medical oncologist who has made more significant positive contributions to our community.”

She has also had leadership positions in trials examining breast, colon and pancreatic cancers involving new drug evaluation and chemotherapy, development of new therapeutic regimens, patient selection criteria and supportive care for patients with gastrointestinal cancer.

Mitchell graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville with a bachelor’s in biochemistry. She completed her internship and residency at Meharry Medical College followed by a fellowship in medical oncology at Georgetown University.

Mitchell received a commission through the Health Professions Scholarship Program in 1973 to join the Air Force while in medical school. She entered active duty after completing her fellowship at Georgetown. Mitchell is now a retired brigadier general, the first female physician to attain this rank in the history of the U.S. Air Force. Over her military career, she has been awarded more than 15 service medals and ribbons, including the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal, among others.

In her medical career, Mitchell has authored or co-authored more than 130 articles, book chapters and abstracts on cancer treatment, prevention and cancer control. She has served on several National Cancer Institute review panels, including the Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee and the Blue Ribbon Panel convened to advise the National Cancer Advisory Board on former Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. She was awarded the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Control Award for her significant commitment to research, education and diversity.

Mitchell says she is honored to receive the 2017 ASTRO Honorary Membership and looks forward to further research on combined modality therapeutic interventions.

Courtesy of American Society for Radiation Oncology


M4 Justin Mauser: Mind Over Mountains

M4 Justin Mauser used a 900-mile bike tour to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. [View Image]

M4 Justin Mauser used a 900-mile bike tour to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You can see more photos from his bike tour and read his blog at https://meditate.bike/#intro.

Pedaling through the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming with a cool breeze against his face, Justin Mauser, M’18, couldn’t help but reflect on his journey to medical school.

“Sometimes people think they can’t clear their mind while engaged in a physical activity,” he says. “But surrounded by all that beauty in wide open spaces, it was very meditative.”

Mauser spent two weeks in August on a self-supported bike tour along the Continental Divide Trail to raise funds and awareness for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He and a friend, Cedric Bosch, traveled by bicycle for about 900 miles from Dillon, Montana, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He returned to northern Virginia, where he is completing his fourth-year of medical school at the School of Medicine’s Inova Fairfax Campus, on Aug. 20.

“Suicide is taboo and frightening; people don’t necessarily want to talk about it,” Mauser says. “It’s important to bring more awareness to suicide and let anyone who might be headed down that road know there is a network of support for them.”

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“Suicide is taboo and frightening; people don’t necessarily want to talk about it,” Mauser says. “It’s important to bring more awareness to suicide and let anyone who might be headed down that road know there is a network of support for them.”

Mauser’s “Mind Over Mountains” tour is his second major bike trip. In 2011, he trekked from Bar Harbor, Maine, to his alma mater, the University of Arizona in Tucson. The ride raised more than $8,000 for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona.

“It’s rewarding to turn these rides into something that benefits others,” he says.

Growing up in Tucson, Mauser always wanted to be a doctor. But he wasn’t sure he would ever reach his goal. He was denied admission to medical school twice before he was accepted to VCU.

“I tell people all the time to never give up on their dreams,” he says. “Keep working toward your goal. I hope I can motivate others.”

On reflection, Mauser realizes the wait was beneficial. It gave him time to earn his EMT certification, to volunteer in hospice and work as a hospital scribe.

“The amount of growth I’ve seen in myself has been incredible,” he says. “I realize that when you step in a room you can have a big impact on the health of a patient – whether you are brightening their day with a joke or helping them feel better through medicine. It’s gratifying to see their improvement.”

“I ride to not only expand my own horizons and challenge myself, but to turn that challenge into something bigger than myself,” he says. “If I can do something that benefits others, it’s so much more powerful.” [View Image]

“I ride to not only expand my own horizons and challenge myself, but to turn that challenge into something bigger than myself,” he says. “If I can do something that benefits others, it’s so much more powerful.”

His bike tours have also helped him connect with people. On his recent ride, he met a group of bikers while seeking refuge at a church in Pinedale, Wyoming. Some had come from as far away as Italy, Ireland and Great Britain to conquer the Continental Divide Mountain biking Trail.

“We rode together for a few days,” Mauser says. “It was amazing to meet others from around the world and form a bond with them. It was like we knew each other for years after less than a week.”

During his rides he has also noted how making time for meditation, eating healthy foods and getting plenty of sleep improved his mood. He hopes to share his findings with his classmates as part of the Getting Progressively Stronger Student Wellness program.

“I’m so proud of Justin,” says Homan Wai, M.D., director of the Student Wellness program. “Having a passion and sticking to it is a great lesson for us all. We want our students to be humanistic, to have that inner passion to help people.”

Justin Mauser’s bike tour raised about $2,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. For more information about the nonprofit, visit www.afsp.org. The foundation also offers a hotline for people in crisis, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Mauser is already looking forward to his next ride, wherever it may take him.

“I ride to not only expand my own horizons and challenge myself, but to turn that challenge into something bigger than myself,” he says. “If I can do something that raises awareness of a serious issue, it’s so much more powerful.”

By Janet Showalter


Opioids: an American health crisis

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Overdose deaths in the U.S. involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety-one Americans die daily from an opioid overdose and more than 1,000 are treated daily in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.

In 2016, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine declared the opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency in Virginia.

At VCU and VCU Health, efforts are underway to combat this public health crisis — through addiction treatment, pain management, health care policy, education and research. The below news articles, videos and continuing education opportunities provide a snapshot of those efforts.

VCU News opioid series

VCU Health Facebook Live opioid series

Continuing medical education

VCU News opioid series

To end the opioid epidemic, VCU health sciences faculty are changing the way pain management is taught
In the School of Medicine, changes mean explaining new CDC guidelines, discussing opioid alternatives and guiding students on how to adjust patient expectations. Students also go through a simulation exercise where they must revive a patient who has overdosed on opioids. “We want students to leave with the idea that chronic pain should be managed primarily with non-opioid medications, which has not been the way of thinking in recent history.”

VCU researchers combat opiate addiction
Researchers are fighting the opioid epidemic by brainstorming more effective clinical approaches, elucidating the biological mechanisms of addiction and developing safer alternatives for pain relief.

VCU Health outpatient clinic treats addiction with compassion and medication
Cathy Wilson greets the diverse group of patients she sees every week with the same line: “If it were easy, I’d tell you to go home and stop using. But it’s not that easy and that’s why we’re here to help you.”

VCU Health Pain Resource Nurse Program adopts ‘never just opioids’ approach for treatment
At VCU Health, nurses are studying alternative pain methods, and being taught how to address varied pain levels, responsibly. In 2013, VCU Health began its Pain Resource Nurse Program, an effort to improve care for those with pain and teach multi-modal treatment of acute/chronic cancer and non-cancer pain and addiction.

VCU to lead evaluation of new state-sponsored substance abuse treatment program
The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services has selected VCU to lead a five-year evaluation of the state’s new Addiction Recovery Treatment Services program. A major statewide initiative that started in April, the ARTS program is intended to address the rise of opioid-related deaths in Virginia by enhancing Medicaid-sponsored substance use disorder treatment services.

Study: Women who fixate on chronic pain more likely to be prescribed opioids
Female chronic pain sufferers who negatively fixate on their symptoms report greater pain intensity and are more likely to have an opioid prescription than men with the same condition, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and led by current VCU medical student Yasamin Sharifzadeh.

New free community series brings VCU experts to Regency Square
An interactive presentation on Wednesday, Sept. 20, will provide an overview of the opiate epidemic in Virginia. Experts will talk about current Virginia statistics and what is happening in local communities. They will also review some of the changes happening to address the opioid epidemic, including increasing continuing education for a variety of providers, community resources and training, and treatment resources.

Heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses kill at least two Virginians every day, VCU reports
Nearly 80 percent of the almost 1,000 fatal drug overdoses in Virginia in 2014 involved prescription painkillers or heroin, known as opioids, according to a new policy brief by researchers at VCU School of Medicine.

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VCU Health Facebook Live opioid series

VCU Health hosted Facebook Live interviews with institutional experts to highlight efforts underway at the health system and VCU aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. Viewers were invited to participate by submitting questions and comments during the interviews. Interviews broadcasted live at facebook.com/vcuhealth.

• VCU School of Medicine professor F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., discusses medical school curriculum changes related to opioid prescribing practices.

• VCU School of Dentistry professor Omar Abubaker, D.M.D., Ph.D., discusses his commitment to learning about the disease that took his son’s life and the educational initiatives at the dentistry and nursing schools that are related to opioid prescribing practices and addiction treatment.

• VCU School of Medicine assistant clinical professor Jenny Fox, M.D., discusses efforts to combat and treat neonatal abstinence syndrome at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

• VCU professor of medicine and health administration Alan Dow, M.D., discusses continuing medical education initiatives hosted at VCU that are aimed at aligning opioid prescription practices throughout the commonwealth with new state and national guidelines.

• VCU School of Medicine professor Mishka Terplan, M.D., discusses the addiction recovery services offered at VCU Health and the newly opened VCU Health Motivate Clinic.

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Continuing medical education

Best Practices in Pain Management – Primary Care and Specialty Collaboration
Sept. 16-17, 2017
Williamsburg, Virginia

Stepping Stones to Excellence in Wound Care
Sept. 28-29, 2017
Richmond, Virginia

Safe Opiate Prescribing
Online Course

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Real Beauty, Real Science

Gretchen Neigh, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, is the face of science.

Gretchen Neigh, Ph.D. [View Image]

Anatomy and neurobiology’s Gretchen Neigh, Ph.D., was recently featured on Dove soap’s “Real Beauty” campaign, pointing out that beauty is using one’s strengths to improve the world.

At least one of them. You might have seen her on Dove soap’s “Real Beauty” campaign. Neigh recently responded to an online survey, suggesting they feature a woman in science because beauty is using one’s strengths to improve the world.

To her surprise, Dove asked her to share that message herself.

Neigh, who’s been at VCU’s School of Medicine about 18 months, aims to increase the visibility of women in science – and inspire the next generation to see it as a viable career path.

“When I was growing up [in rural Pennsylvania], the only scientist I had any idea existed was Mr. Wizard on Nickelodeon,” she says. She studied biology as an undergraduate, intending to go to veterinary school. But she began to doubt that career choice, and talked to her professors about other possibilities. “I knew some did research, but I didn’t really know what that entailed. My professors suggested I do some small research investigations.”

That led to an independent field study, camping out on the side of a hill in all weather to watch the behavior of a herd of llamas. “After that, I decided against field research,” she says. But research itself was a fit, and she ended up in an internship at Ohio State University. “The first time I saw a real, functional NIH-funded lab, I loved it and knew that was what I wanted to do.”

In her psychoneuroendocrinology and psychoneuroimmunology lab at VCU, she is studying the effects of stress on the body, and the biological changes that result in mental health challenges such as depression. She also sees the lab as a chance to mentor aspiring scientists and welcomes undergraduates onto her team.

“The steps following undergrad are highly competitive and sometimes difficult to navigate,” she says. “I want to help students figure out what they want, what they need to get to that goal, and encourage them along their chosen path.”

Neigh’s participation in Dove’s Real Beauty campaign was born of that spirit. As social media editor of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s journal, she admits that she spends more time on Twitter than the average scientist might. “I’m always looking for ways to make it more publicly known that there’s a broad range of scientists.”

So when she noticed Dove’s call for participants in the Real Beauty promotion and wrote in, she was ready to recommend some peers. But Dove ended up asking her to be a face of the campaign.

Her quote:
“Real Beauty is using what makes you special to make the world more beautiful. I use my scientific abilities to study the brain with the goal of improving mental health.”

“People come in all shapes and sizes and areas of interest, and you can be more than one thing – scientists are more than just scientists,” she says. The multifaceted diversity in backgrounds, experiences and interests that the university offers were why she chose to come to VCU.

“VCU offers amazing programs to increase diversity in science. To have so many programs in one place is quite impressive and a tremendous opportunity to advance science.”

By Lisa Crutchfield


The Class of 2021 is amazing

Class of 2021's Bob Jones at the base camp of Mt. Everest [View Image]

The Class of 2021’s Bob Jones hiked to the base camp of Mt. Everest. Scroll below for more pictures from the incoming class.

They’ve traveled to all 7 continents and can talk to people once they get there. They speak French, Chinese Mandarin, Haitian Creole, Korean and Guarani – that’s an indigenous language spoken in South America. Watch out for the one who can recite all eight Harry Potter movies verbatim – that’s probably in English.

Of course we like a good medical background, so you’ll find an EMT, an EKG specialist and an emergency department scribe. A cancer researcher investigated a drug that’s now in Phase I clinical trials. One got medical exposure shadowing a Shaman in the Amazon Rainforest and another got a different kind of exposure. She spent her birthday last year hospitalized in Thailand after catching a mosquito-borne virus.

There’s the student who enjoys donating blood. Which is a good thing because her classmates include a phlebotomist and a Red Cross blood drive coordinator.

One student is the newest in four generations of doctors. Another is the first person in his family to graduate from college.

They love sports – and they’re good at it. We’ve got a college quarterback and a short stop who was drafted by the Major Leagues. Plus the college football fanatic who can name mascots to all 128 FBS schools. They compete in field hockey and golf, tennis and badminton — make friends with the student who knows how to string tennis rackets.

There’s the one who biked across the country from Baltimore to San Francisco, and the other who learned how to ride five months ago.

Mountain climbers have hiked Table Mountain and to the base camp of Mt. Everest. Another summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. We’ve had marathoners in Chicago and Boston, a triathlete and even an Ironman. Along with a brown belt in Judo and a second degree black belt in karate.

A licensed open-water diver recently came back from the Great Barrier Reef, a certified deep sea scuba diver can hold his breath for 3 minutes, and we’ve got an an oyster gardener.

They’ve worked as a personal trainer, a nutrition counselor and a cab driver from Boston. One tutored refugees in ESL and another launched a nonprofit that helps the homeless. An Air Force engineer has launched, landed and disposed of satellites, a magician has performed for pediatric patients at hospitals in the U.S. and the U.K., and an actress made it out on stage four times a week for two months during her senior year of college – she had to, she was playing Cosette in Les Mis.

There’s a volunteer dog rescuer and a knitter who’s won two ribbons at the Virginia State Fair. A beer brewer and a barista. And the food blogger behind AMPMBM – it will help you stay regular.

We’ve got adrenaline junkies who like to skydive and keep bees in their backyard. Another taught fourth grade math and science. And then there’s the one who spent some time this summer chasing a moose. Yes, a moose.

Click the images below for expanded views.

Story by Erin Lucero


Eight years running: family medicine student group receives national honors

VCU’s Student Family Medicine Association is again among the nation’s top student groups for their activities to generate interest in family medicine. This is the eighth year in a row the group has been recognized by the American Academy of Family Physicians at its annual conference for residents and medical students in Kansas City.

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The Student Family Medicine Association received national honors for excellence in promoting the scope of family medicine. Courtesy Tiffany Matson Photography

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“The [Family Medicine Interest Groups] we honor this year have gone above and beyond allowing students to put into practice the knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom,” said Clif Knight, M.D., senior vice president for education at the AAFP. “These programs help students develop leadership skills that will serve them in their future practices and communities, and better understand the vital role that family medicine plays in our health care system.”

Seventeen student groups were honored with Program of Excellence Awards on July 28. The SFMA was singled out for excellence in promoting the scope of family medicine, and SFMA student leaders were on hand in Kansas City to accept the award on behalf of the 383-member organization.

“The Student Family Medicine Association has been honored year after year for their exceptional programs,” says Peter F. Buckley, dean of the School of Medicine. “I am so proud to see the AAFP hold them up as role models for other student groups around the country.”

The group was recognized for its programs like Career Profiles in Family Medicine, a faculty panel that introduces first- and second-year medical students to family medicine’s broad scope of practice, as well as its popular sports medicine workshop. The fully subscribed three-hour workshop described the types of sports medicine practiced in a family medicine setting and gave students time to practice their clinical skills in examining the shoulder, knee and ankle.

SFMA [View Image]

The SFMA was recognized for its excellent programs that included a three-hour workshop introducing students to the types of sports medicine practiced in a family medicine setting and providing time to practice clinical skills in examining the shoulder, knee and ankle.

The AAFP has posted SFMA’s winning application online as an example of best practices and programming ideas for FMIGs nationwide.

Twenty-two MCV Campus students made the trip to Kansas City to participate in the AAFP conference.

“This is the largest group we’ve ever had attend,” says Judy Gary, M.Ed., faculty adviser to SFMA and assistant director of medical education for the VCU Department of Family Medicine and Population Health. “We were also proud to see that six of the students were awarded AAFP scholarships to attend the conference.”

In addition, a pair of fourth-year students had the chance to serve as student delegates at the AAFP National Congress, weighing in on issues like improving health care access and addressing student and physician burnout. Kenneth Qiu voted on behalf of Virginia medical students, and Ryan Ortizo represented Guam, where he was born.

“It is critical we continue to garner interest and attract students to the specialty of family medicine,” said the AAFP’s Knight. “The physician shortage in primary care continues, and programs such as FMIGs are key to exposing students to real-world experiences that will help them dig deeper into — and ultimately choose — family medicine.”

Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 129,000 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits. The organization notes that family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty.

By Erin Lucero

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