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Quilters from the Georgia Chapter of Quilts for Kids in Waycross, Ga., display two of the 150 quilts they made and donated to the Children’s Medical Center.

New Name, New Era

Ricardo Azziz, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A. President, Georgia Health Sciences University and CEO, Georgia Health Sciences Health System

n Aug. 7 marked an important milestone in the consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents selected a name on that date that reflects the true breadth and depth of Georgia’s new comprehensive university: Georgia Regents University. It is important that our name reflect not only who we are, but what we hope to become: a leader in quality teaching and education, with a broad array of academic programs ranging from the arts and humanities to sciences and mathematics to medical and allied health education. Consider just a few of our defining characteristics: n A $1 billion-plus enterprise with statewide and national reach

n One of only four public comprehensive research institutions in the state n An aligned and integrated health system n Nine colleges with nearly 10,000 students, 1,000 full-time faculty and 5,000 staff members n More than 650 acres of campus with nearly 150 buildings n A growing intercollegiate athletics program

Now that a name has been selected, our real mission continues in earnest: excellence in teaching, research and service—branding ourselves as the next great American university, competing with peers across the nation. I am confident that our collective investment in the future of Georgia Regents University will

be tremendous—a higher-quality university for our community, a greater portfolio of offerings for our students and added collaborative opportunities for our faculty and staff. Georgia Regents University will contribute to the health of the local and state economies like never before. With the continued support of our campus communities, alumni and local citizens, we will move forward into the future and continue to build one of the best and most treasured resources of this nation. Thank you for your continued support. l

Our vision: To be a globally recognized research university and academic health center, while transforming the region into a health care and biomedical research destination.

Education Commons to be named for alum n A $10 million leadership gift from a Medical College of Georgia alumnus has resulted in the naming of a building that will enhance the university’s commitment to growing health sciences education. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has approved the naming of the J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons for the late philanthropist, renowned cardiovascular surgeon and 1948 graduate. “Dr. Harrison’s legacy will live on through his commitment to education,” said Susan Barcus, GHSU Senior Vice President for Advancement and Community Relations and Chief Development Officer. “The impact of this transformational gift is immediate and will be felt for years to come. We have successfully leveraged Dr. Harrison’s gift to generate additional support for the Education Commons,

By Jennifer Hilliard Scott

including $5 million in support from Augusta donors and an $8 million gift from the Woodruff Foundation.” “We are leading the charge in expanding health care education Dr. J. Harold Harrison in this state,” said GHSU Provost Gretchen Caughman. “With the addition of the J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons, we will be able to increase class sizes in the College of Dental Medicine and the Medical College of Georgia, educating more health care professionals to care for the citizens of Georgia.” Harrison, who practiced medicine for more than 50 years, helped refine the repair and replacement of diseased arteries. He chose his specialty in 1953 when, during his residency

Artist’s rendering of the Education Commons building

at Grady Health System in Atlanta, he learned about a new technique for freeze-drying arteries for later use. Harrison and a Ph.D. student tried the technique on a patient with a blockage in his aorta. He decided to be a vascular surgeon the day he successfully completed that surgery. He joined the Emory University faculty in 1957 and later headed the Department of Surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta, where he developed the nation’s first vascular training program in 1959. He operated on more than 7,000 blocked neck arteries before retiring as St. Joseph’s Chief of Surgery in 1999. Harrison was an active member of the MCG Alumni Association and the MCG Foundation, having served as President of both. He received the alumni association’s 1996 Distinguished Alumnus Award. A native of Kite, Ga., he lived with wife Sue on a cattle farm in Bartow, Ga., until his death on June 2. The commons is slated to be a three-story, 172,000-square-foot building with classroom space for the College of Dental Medicine and the Medical College of Georgia and an interprofessional state-of-the-art simulation center. The total construction cost of the project, including the simulation lab, is $76.5 million. The state of Georgia is providing $42 million in bond funding, and the university is raising the additional $34.5 million through private philanthropy. l

Researchers pursue red flag for schizophrenia relapse n Blood levels of an inflammation-regulating protein may also signal relapse in some schizophrenia patients, GHSU researchers say. “There are no good, objective measures of treatment efficacy or indicators for relapse,” said Dr. Brian Miller, a GHSU psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia. Researchers hope monitoring levels of interleukin-6 can fill that gap for a population in which more than half of patients don’t take their medications as prescribed, often because of side effects. The relapse rate is about 80 percent within two years in patients who don’t take their medication properly and about half that in those who do, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. “We hope the upshot of our studies will lead to new treatment approaches and strategies for care,” Miller said, including the kind of personalized, multi-drug therapies

that are becoming the standard for controlling other chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. “We want to attack the disease from as many directions as possible.”

To get a better handle on how IL-6 levels correspond to disease status, they are looking at levels in blood samples taken multiple times over several years in 305 patients enrolled in a study comparing injectable to oral medication. They are also comparing levels in 80 people without the disease to those of 240 schizophrenia patients who are acutely ill, stable outpatients or stable outpatients who smoke marijuana. While many previous studies have excluded drug abusers, marijuana may increase inflammation, so the researchers want to explore the relationship between IL-6 levels and its use. The research is funded by a five-year, $920,000 National Institute of Mental Health Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award. l

Dr. Brian Miller

Dentistry Dean to assume new role

Grant program targets public health needs

n Dr. Connie L. Drisko, Dean and Merritt Professor of the College of Dental Medicine at Georgia Health Sciences University, who oversaw an era of unprecedented growth at the state’s only dental school, will leave her role as Dean next July but will remain on the college’s Dr. Connie L. Drisko faculty. “Dean Drisko has led the College of Dental Medicine through an extraordinary period,” said GHSU Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Gretchen Caughman. “Her skill and tenacity during a time of major curricula reform, increased class sizes, residency program growth, expanded local, state and international outreach, and a new state-of-art facility will be felt for decades to come. We are truly appreciative of her dedication, service and outstanding contributions.” Drisko became the college’s third Dean in 2003. During her tenure, student enrollment has grown from 60 to 80 per class and residencies have increased from 34 to 47. By 2016, the college is expected to house 400 students, 78 residents and more than 100 faculty. To accommodate such growth, Drisko directed the funding, design and construction of a $112 million, fivestory, 269,000-square-foot clinical facility, one of the largest of its kind in the country. Opened in 2011, the building houses 316 clinical operatories, the college’s eight residency programs, clinics for junior and senior dental students, simulation labs, an expanded faculty practice, the College of Allied Health Sciences’ dental hygiene program and an operating room and recovery unit for outpatient surgery. Drisko also transitioned the college’s curriculum to a coordinated Comprehensive Care model representative of dentistry in private practice, leading to better clinical training for students and better continuity of care for patients. Under Drisko’s leadership, the college has twice received full accreditation by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association and has been nationally recognized for student diversity programs that prepare under-represented minority and low-income students for dental practice. GHSU students consistently maintain exemplary National Board scores and retention, on-time graduation and licensure exam pass rates. In recent years, the college has established an Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program; opened an interdisciplinary Center for Esthetic and Implant Dentistry; expanded its global outreach to China, Peru, France, Italy and Africa; extended student rotations and patient care regional outreach to 25 sites in 14 Georgia cities; and increased average annual faculty and student research by more than 40 percent. A national search is underway for her successor. l

n The GHSU Institute of Public and Preventive Health has established a grant program pairing university researchers with community organizations to conduct projects vital to improving public health. The Community Health Partnership program “is an opportunity to support university research and service responsive to community needs,” said Dr. Andrew Balas, Director of the Dr. Andrew Balas institute and Dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences. “Together, we can create solutions to our greatest public health challenges.” Grant funding will target novel approaches to public health problems in the state, including teen pregnancy, cardiovascular disease, sexually transmitted diseases, at-home medication errors and other projects with high community relevance. Community partners may be volunteer organizations, schools, churches, state agencies, companies and other influencers of public health who seek collaboration with GHSU, Augusta State University and/or Paine College. Data should facilitate external grant applications and research projects. “Our priority is to support clinical, translational and preventive public health research,” Balas said. “With this partnership grant program, community representatives have direct, relevant input into that research.” The maximum funding per project is $50,000. Applications should include the project’s background, aims, methodologies/interventions, resources/collaborators, anticipated results, timeline, budget and letter of support from the organization’s leader. The submission deadline is Sept. 15. For more information, contact Kathy Stone at or visit l

New honor society chapter to include all colleges n The newest chapter of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi accepts members from all GHSU colleges, making it the first alldiscipline honor society in the history of the institution. “This organization is for everyone,” Vice President of Student Services Kevin Frazier said. “A Phi Kappa Phi chapter enables us to recognize scholarly achievement by students, faculty and others from every college.” Dr. Kevin Frazier Approximately 30 GHSU faculty members were inducted into the chapter Aug. 14. Membership benefits include national scholastic recognition and access to more than $800,000 in scholarships, awards and grants. Phi Kappa Phi members are elected from the top 7.5 percent of the “last-term” junior class, the top 10 percent of seniors, plus graduate students, faculty, professional staff and alumni who have achieved scholarly distinction. The Phi Kappa Phi Board of Dr. Gretchen Caughman Directors approved the university’s petition for a chapter last March. “A Phi Kappa Phi Chapter will enhance our reputation as a comprehensive university and it can be used to help promote our campus to prospective students,” said Provost Gretchen Caughman.

About Phi Kappa Phi Founded in 1897 at the University of Maine, Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Its chapters are on more than 300 campuses in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Each year, approximately 30,000 members are initiated. Since its founding, Phi Kappa Phi has initiated more than 1 million members into its ranks; all members receive emblems and certificates of membership. For more information, visit l

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MCG student receives research fellowship

Drs. Kristina Kintziger (from left) and N. Stanley Nahman with fellowship recipient Puja Chebrolu

n A Medical College of Georgia student is among 47 recipients of the 2012 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship from the national medical honor society Alpha Omega Alpha. The $5,000 award is enabling Puja Chebrolu to spend her summer poring over a huge federal database to help predict kidney dialysis patients’ risk of bacteremia, a potentially lethal infection. It’s also helping her prepare for a career in public health. She is working with Drs. N. Stanley Nahman, an MCG nephrologist, and Kristina Kintziger,

an MCG epidemiologist, to study the records of 600,000 dialysis patients in hopes of determining risk factors for bacteremia. An earlier study of Nahman’s revealed that hemodialysis patients with bacteremia are often also infected with the blood-borne infection, hepatitis C. Nearly 25 percent of the patients in the U.S. Renal Data System have bacteremia, which tends to result from infection by multiple organisms normally found on skin. Inside the body, they can cause flu-like symptoms or worse. Intensive-care patients are another easy target for bacteremia. l

Sculpting in Clay: Reflections on Leadership and Transformation GHSUpdate is a monthly publication from the office of President Ricardo Azziz. For additional insight and timely updates, please follow his blog at:

GHSUpdate - August 2012  

Aug. 7 marked an important milestone in the consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities. The University System o...