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Leaving a Legacy Patient-focused care permeated the career of Dr. David Roberts As Dave Roberts, MD, settles into his role as Chief Medical Officer Emeritus at West Tennessee Healthcare, he does so with a sense of great appreciation for the opportunities he has been given to impact not only the lives of patients but those of the many caregivers and staff members who crossed his path. One thing that is evident, in his 40 plus year career, Roberts has left an indelible impression of service, compassion and teaching with those he has worked with.

Profile on page 3.

Clinicians Rethink Approach to Acne Putting the Evidence to Work for Patients New evidence and agents have clinicians rethinking traditional approaches to treating acne, the most common skin condition in the United States affecting an estimated 40 to 50 million Americans at any given time.

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Role of Oral Health Growing In Overall Healthcare Picture Alliances Between Physicians, Dentists Increase By BETH SIMKANIN

The role dental health plays in a patient’s overall health traditionally has been overlooked by many in the healthcare field, but this situation has begun to change with the success of collaborations between primary care physicians and dentists, according to noted authorities attending the recent National Oral Health Conference in Memphis. Integration of oral health into the healthcare system and a lack of access to proper dental care, especially among the uninsured, were the two issues that received the most attention during the organization’s 20th annual event that included five days of workshops and discussions. Some 860 dental students, health officials, researchers, educa-

tors, legislators and dental directors from across the globe gathered in Memphis to consider how to improve the oral health and general well-being of the public. “The biggest buzz now in dentistry is the integration of oral health into the healthcare system,” according to Jason Roush, DDS, state dental director for the West Virginia National Oral Health Program and president of the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors, a non-profit, professional association for state dental directors, which helped organize the conference with the American Association of Public Health Dentistry. “It’s a relatively new concept” he said. “Instead of just treating (CONTINUED ON PAGE 4)


Same Story, Better Setting Wendie Carlson finds the right fit at West Tennessee Healthcare By SUZANNE BOyD

When you make the switch from one of the largest healthcare systems in the country to one in West Tennessee, you would think there would also be a huge shift in issues but for Wendie Carlson that was not the case. What she found seven years ago when she joined the C-suite at West Tennessee Healthcare as VP of Human Resources were many of the same issues she had been dealing with – just on a smaller scale. Today, as the chief human resources officer for the largest medical provider in the area, Carlson’s experiences and knowledge gained at the largest not-for profit (CONTINUED ON PAGE 6)


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Leaving a Legacy

Patient-focused care permeated the career of Dr. David Roberts By SUZANNE BOYD

As Dave Roberts, MD, settles into his role as Chief Medical Officer Emeritus at West Tennessee Healthcare, he does so with a sense of great appreciation for the opportunities he has been given to impact not only the lives of patients but those of the many caregivers and staff members who crossed his path. One thing that is evident, in his 40 plus year career, Roberts has left an indelible impression of service, compassion and teaching with those he has worked with. Just the mention that Roberts would be profiled in the June edition of West Tennessee Medical News elicited great enthusiasm around the C-suite at WTH. “As a person who is non-clinical, I have always loved how Dr. Roberts is able to take the most complicated clinical issue and translate it in a way that anyone can understand it. It is truly a gift because not every clinician is cognizant that not everyone speaks the medical language,” said Wendie Carlson, chief human resources officer at WTH. “Dr. Roberts is a reluctant hero who is so humble. His unknown legacy is the difference he has made in so many lives because of his leadership throughout his career. His mark here at WTH is one that will not soon be forgotten because it will live on in those who have had the privilege to work with him or be treated by him.” The fact that Roberts’ career has been one of education, servant leadership and putting others before self is of no surprise. The son of a minister, Roberts was born in Michigan but moved south to West Tennessee when he was 12. After graduating high school from Dyer County, Roberts started his college career at Jackson State Community College then transferred to Bethel University in McKenzie. He went to the University of Tennessee at Martin for his final year of college where he majored in secondary education with chemistry and biology as secondary majors. Prior to completing his secondary education degree, he was accepted into medical school at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis and graduated with honors in 1976. He is board certified in both family medicine and geriatric medicine. Roberts’ residency training was through the family practice program at Jackson Madison County General Hospital, which is now the flagship of West Tennessee Healthcare. He was one of eight residents in what was the relatively new program’s third class. Once his residency was completed, he joined the faculty in addition to seeing patients through the program’s clinic. “The program was still so new that they were desperate for faculty,” Roberts said jokingly. “I did leave for a year and a half to join a family medicine group in Gallatin but then the University westtnmedicalnews


called and asked me to come back and I’ve been here for 27 years. I joined the faculty as an associate professor in the Department of Medicine then became director for 14 years.” While on the staff of the residency program, Roberts also worked at Jackson General Hospital. In 2004, he was recruited by then CEO Jim Moss to be the vice president of medical affairs and was charged with establishing a patient safety and quality program. Chief Medical Officer was added to his title as well, something he has kept ever since. “My role became mostly administrative at that point in my career because of the demands of the job but through my interaction with the nurses, pharmacists, medical staff, etc., I did stay close to the clinical care side,” said Roberts. “I have also helped out with the hospitalist program when they were overloaded by seeing some patients during their stay. I have not done that for the last couple of years, but it was always something I greatly enjoyed.” When asked what drew him to administration, Roberts said it goes back to the days when he helped train residents. “I was the program director to more than 160 residents as well as the faculty and such that helped train them,” he said. “I had an epiphany of sorts in that I started to see it as a way to reach more people in the community through those I trained. If in the course of their training I could provide a reasonable example of compassionate care for people, then hopefully that would carry over into their practices once they left training.” Roberts saw that role leveraged even further when he shifted into administration since he would now have the opportunity to be that example of compassionate

care to not only physicians, but nurses and other healthcare personnel. “I have seen so much in my career, as well as in my personal life with my family, that I wanted to make a difference. It is the rationale behind some of the things that I have done,” he said. “My entire career I have emphasized the safety and quality of the healthcare that patients receive. I recognize that I have been very privileged in my career and made a good living, but I have definitely tried to let other things guide me in my practice of medicine outside of financial ones.” Roberts humility is evident in not only the words of others but in his own. “I don’t think that there is anything particularly special about me. I have just tried to focus on what I think are important things in life and as you get older those can change,” he said. “My legacy, if there is one, is that I have tried to instill compassion and respect for other human beings as well as practicing and teaching patientcentered care.” Roberts quickly notes that healthcare does amazing things but the more invasive in nature things are, the more carefully the risk/benefit ratio for the patient has to be weighed. “There is a difference in doing things to a patient and doing things for a patient. While technology has been a wonderful addition to the practice of medicine, we cannot take away the human part of patient care. We can never approach healthcare from a mostly technical point of view. I have tried to keep my view on what is really good for this patient. Will this technique, procedure or pill really help them in their current circumstances. And I am not saying this is unique to me, lots of physicians do this, just there is so much pressure to contain costs, length of stays and such that it can at times muddy the waters a bit.” As for his WTH legacy, Roberts says that is rooted in his being a stickler for

Is the missing

patient safety. His instituting a daily patient safety huddle is something he is very proud of and is pretty sure will outlive his stay at WTH. “Every day at 9am, 60 people that are directly involved in providing care to patients meet to assess what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong and how can it be fixed immediately. This has had a significant impact on our system as issues are not working their way through the system and are being addressed by those who most directly impact our patients,” he said. “This program is just one indicator of how focused we are on patient safety. And so much so, it is ingrained in our culture.” People are also a huge part of Roberts’ story and he is quick to mention that those relationships outshine any accolades he may have received in his career. “The role I was able to have in training physicians has meant so much, but I am also so proud of the fact that many of them chose to stay in the area to practice,” he said. “The relationships I was able to establish with my patients is not only a testament to their patience but also something I cherish.” When asked what he is most proud of, Roberts says without hesitation, his marriage and his family. “I have maintained a vibrant marriage for 47 years and it is time for me to do some of the things she wants to do. She has been such a great partner and mother to our two boys and grandmother to our two grandsons,” he said. “I could not be prouder of my sons and the fathers they have become. I know I had to make some sacrifices during my career, so I am looking forward to making up for some of those now.” It seems that life as CMO Emeritus may just be giving Roberts that opportunity. He recently taught his eight-year-old grandson to ride a bike, something he names as his greatest accomplishment and hopes to become just one of many major milestones.

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Role of Oral Health Growing, continued from page 1 a singular problem with a patient’s teeth, our goal is to improve overall health outcomes by collaborating. We see the same patients, so it’s time to improve the patient’s overall health.” With national research now showing a link between a patient’s oral health and overall health, health professionals are seeing an opportunity for collaboration between primary care physicians and dentists in the treatment of patients. For example, there is evidencedbased data that diabetes is associated with the prevalence of periodontal disease, a gum infection that damages gums. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), The ADA reported 22 percent of patients diagnosed with diabetes have periodontal disease. Despite the data that oral health can affect a patient’s overall health, Laurie Hodge, DMD, dental director for Church Health, the faith-based non-profit organization which provides comprehensive healthcare – including dental care – to uninsured or underinsured in Laurie Hodge Shelby County, said there’s an explicable reason for the difficulty to bring the two together. It’s a challenge at both a local and national level for physicians and dentists to work together because of separate insurance systems, incompatible electronic health records and a lack of education. “The systems aren’t integrated and none of them talk to each other,” Dr. Hodge said. “You have to rely on the patient for information and medical history, and we don’t always get all the information from the patient. Also, the dental profession and the primary care system traditionally have been separate. Patients go to an optometrist for an eye issue, a dentist for their teeth and a primary care provider for everything else.” Dr. Roush agreed. “We need to change the system to improve health outcomes,” Dr. Roush said. “The change must take place on a


In addition to tracking a patient’s level of pain in the dental clinic, Church Health also tries to gage patients’ overall satisfaction with their smile by means of a “Smile Confidence Scale.” Before treatment, patients are asked to indicate on a scale of zero to 10 how confident they are with their smile. After treatment, patients are asked to rate their smile on the same confidence scale. “Some patients may walk around with broken teeth and feel isolated when they come in,” said Laurie Hodge, DMD, dental director for Church Health. “It may seem like a small thing, but a confident smile can improve a patient’s interaction with others and their overall mental health. We want patients leaving here with a seven or higher on the scale.”

national, state and local level.” Dr. Hodge and Orpheus Triplett, DDS, director of community relations and outreach in the department of pediatric dentistry and community oral health at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), said they see the success of healthcare collaboration locally Orpheus Triplett at federally qualified health centers, such as Christ Community Health Center, and non-profit health clinics, like Church Health. Last year, Christ Community Health Center served more than 56,500 patients and averaged about 180,000 patient visits, according to the health center’s website. Church Health performed 39,000

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procedures and received almost 14,000 patient visits from March of last year to this past March, according to Dr. Hodge. Church Health incorporates comprehensive healthcare for its patients by offering all three health services – medical, dental and behavior health – under one roof. The facility, also offers nutrition, exercise and wellness education programs. Dr. Hodge said the arrangement works well between the dental and medical clinics at Church Health because patients may come into the primary care clinic with pain that’s actually dentalrelated. “The medical staff can walk a patient right over to us to be treated,” Dr. Hodge said. “The arrangement eliminates a patient from going to the emergency room for tooth pain. There, they receive either pain medication or an antibiotic and the problem isn’t fixed. We try to be smart with the resources we have and decrease the visits to the emergency room for a dental issue.” According to the ADA, dental pain is a common reason patients end up in the emergency room. It accounted for 2.1 million visits in 2010. Dr. Hodge indicated its dental staff could catch bigger health issues onsite while treating a patient’s teeth. “A patient could come in for a dental procedure and may have high blood pressure, but isn’t on any medication,” Dr. Hodge said. “He or she may have undiagnosed hypertension. We can walk them to the medical clinic. The patients’ medical records are in one location, so we can see what treatment they’re receiving and know right away what their issues are.” In an effort to integrate health-

care education on a student level, Dr. Triplett, who attended the conference, said UTHSC established an Oral Systemic Health for the Twenty-First Century initiative recently which looks at data on how poor oral health relates to overall systemic health to see how the university can incorporate systemic health education across different colleges. “The first step is to improve relationships between the medical and dental communities,” Dr. Roush said. “We are seeing some evidence of this in dental schools with cross curriculum and development across departments nationally.” Another issue in dentistry, which impacts both dentists and uninsured patients in Tennessee, is the lack of access to care, not just in a rural setting, but also in an urban setting where the poverty level may be high. “We have an outlier in Tennessee,” Dr. Hodge said. “Tennessee is one of two states that does not offer dental benefits for adults through Medicaid. It’s become challenging to meet patient’s needs. Not everyone has dental insurance and they can’t afford it out-of-pocket. We’ll see this happen with the baby boomer generation as well. They won’t have access to dental care through traditional Medicare.” According to Dr. Triplett, there are a limited number of dentists in Shelby County who accept TennCare because of low reimbursement. Under TennCare, children are eligible to receive dental care, but due to socio-economic situations, parents may not be able transport their children to the dentist, Dr. Triplett explained. Dr. Triplett said some solutions for urban areas, which were discussed at the National Oral Health Conference, are teledentistry and the use mobile dental units. “The university is trying to obtain a grant for a mobile dental unit, so we can go into a community and treat patients where they live,” he said. “Also, we want to establish a relationship with the Shelby County Schools. Being able to treat children at school can benefit their oral health and education.” Additionally, UTHSC is involved in the ADA’s “Give Kids a Smile” program, which provides free oral health services to underserved children. The university partners with Freedom Preparatory Academy and offers free dental services to middle school children at the school during February each year. Dr. Triplett said he’s working with the Tennessee Alliance for Oral Health through the Tennessee Primary Care Association for Tennessee to provide dental care for all pregnant women in Tennessee. He said the state legislature passed the initiative, but hasn’t funded it. “Many pregnant women aren’t aware of vertical transference,” Dr. Triplett said. “They don’t know that bacteria from cavities can be passed on to their babies. We want them to be treated for dental disease, so they don’t pass that bacteria to their babies.” westtnmedicalnews


Clinicians Rethink Approach to Acne Putting the Evidence to Work for Patients By CINDY SANDERS

New evidence and agents have clinicians rethinking traditional approaches to treating acne, the most common skin condition in the United States affecting an estimated 40 to 50 million Americans at any given time. While the occasional pimple or breakout might not warrant a doctor’s appointment, dealing with moderate to severe acne takes an evidence-based approach and the recognition that acne often takes a serious toll on self-esteem, as well as the skin. “It can be devastating for anyone,” said Linda F. Stein Gold, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist with Henry Ford Health System in Michigan and member of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Board of Directors and Executive Committee. For teens and young adults, dealing with persistent Linda Stein Gold acne can contribute to isolation, a decreased quality of life, anxiety, isolation and a poor self-image . . . particularly when surrounded by picture-perfect images of peers on social media. Dr. Stein Gold said the emotional impact is very real for older acne sufferers, as well. “Don’t underestimate the effect on adults with acne,” she said. “For a teenager or a 20-year-old, it’s acceptable to have some acne lesions. For adults, it’s not socially acceptable.” It is, however, a growing problem. Although dermatologists are unsure why, an increasing number of women in their 30s, 40s and beyond are dealing with acne. The AAD estimates adult acne now affects up to 15 percent of women. While some providers might still subscribe to the theory of just letting acne ‘run its course,’ dermatologists are quick to note that isn’t necessarily the best advice. A growing number of options are available to effectively treat the condition, lessening both the emotional and physical scarring.

Treating Acne

“Our thought process on acne has changed over the past few years,” said Dr.

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Stein Gold. Today, she explained, dermatologists are using oral antibiotics in combination with a potent topical treatment for a shorter course of time. “Before, we might have kept patients on antibiotics much longer . . . maybe a year or two. Now, we understand (antibiotic) resistance is a real problem.” She added that dermatologists are increasingly considering other hormonal therapies. “For women, we think of spironolactone or birth control pills; and for all patients, we think about going more quickly to isotretinoin.” Spironolactone is an androgen blocker used to treat hormonal acne. Isotretinoin is typically a second line treatment for cystic acne when other options have failed to yield the desired clearing. When evidence of scarring is present, Dr. Stein Gold suggests isotretinoin be started more promptly. “We have a number of agents in the pipeline,” she added. “For the first time, we have a topical agent that looks like it can reduce excess sebum production. They’ve just finished Phase III trials on clascoterone. It blocks the androgen receptor; it decreases sebum production and decreases inflammation.” This first-in-class androgen receptor inhibitor by specialty pharmaceutical company Cassiopea SpA penetrates the skin to reach androgen receptors in the sebaceous glands. The 1 percent cream quickly metabolizes to cortexolone, which is found throughout human tissue, thereby minimizing any systemic side effects. In the completed Phase III clinical trials of more than 1,400 patients with moderateto-severe acne across 112 clinical sites in the U.S. and Europe, 17.5 percent of patients assigned to clascoterone and 5.8 percent receiving vehicle cream achieved treatment success at week 12 (P<0.0001).

Diet & Acne

“The role of diet in acne has been really controversial for decades,” said Dr. Stein Gold. In the 1960s, she continued, many clinicians and researchers believed diet definitely influenced sebum produc-

2019 AAD Summer Meeting Linda Stein Gold, MD, is one of many presenters and panelists at the upcoming 2019 Summer Meeting for the American Academy of Dermatology. Set for July 25-28 in New York, the meeting’s agenda covers a range of clinical and practice management topics. For more information or to register, go online to

tion. However, diet as a contributing factor fell out of favor in the ensuing decades. “Today, we’re coming back to understand diet probably does have an impact on acne,” she said. “We don’t have any really, really good evidence that proves diet directly influences acne, but a lot of small studies suggests that it does.” Most notably, several studies have pointed to a high glycemic diet – which includes foods like white bread, potatoes, sugar and white rice – as a potential trigger. Hyperglycemic diets increase insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) that has been shown to increase sebum production. Dr. Stein Gold pointed to an Australian study where two groups of participants consumed the same number of calories, but one group ate a high glycemic diet while the other consumed foods with a low glycemic load. “By eating a low glycemic diet . . . and changing nothing else . . . they actually had a significant decrease in their acne lesions,” she said of participants in the second group. “There have been some studies that suggest dairy products, especially skim milk, might also be associated with acne,” Dr. Stein Gold said, adding that yogurt and cheese do not seem to have the same associative relationship to excess sebum production. While the jury is still out on cause and effect of diet on acne, there is significant research touting the overall benefits of consuming foods with a lower glycemic load including whole grains and lentils. “You can never go wrong telling someone to eat more brown, whole grain foods,” Dr. Stein Gold said.

When to Refer

“Early acne can certainly be handled by a primary care provider,” said Dr. Stein Gold. “If you start to see scarring develop – and scarring can occur even in mild acne – it’s time to refer.” She added, “Also, take a pulse of the patient’s emotional state. The most important thing is to be empathetic with patients and listen for a few minutes.” However, Dr. Stein Gold noted that primary care providers have to cover a lot of ground, and acne can tumble down the priority list when there are other pressing topics to address. If over-the-counter and first-line prescription options don’t seem to work, or if a patient is exhibiting emotional distress over their acne, a dermatologist can explore other tailored therapies. “With today’s treatment armamentarium, there’s no reason we can’t get our patients clear or almost clear,” Dr. Stein Gold said.

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Same Story, Better Setting, continued from page 1 healthcare system in Texas are just as applicable and beneficial to West Tennessee. Carlson’s road to West Tennessee could be likened a bit to the story of Goldilocks because it took her trying a few places out before she found one that was the right fit. Growing up in Minnesota, it was two semesters at the University of Minnesota that were the final straw for this cold weather hating girl. Like many northerners looking to flee the cold, Carlson initially headed to the sunshine state of Florida but eventually she settled in the Lone Star state in Dallas/Fort Worth. A self-proclaimed closet introvert, Carlson said ironically, she discovered that she actually loved interacting with people. She even did a stint as a flight attendant. Her entrance to personnel came when she applied for a concierge position with Four Seasons Hotels. “I had some background in benefits and that landed me a job in the HR department,” she said. “I loved getting to hire people, watching their careers grow and develop as well as establishing ongoing relationships with them. Out of all that I adopted the mantra that I still hold today, to make a difference one person at a time.” In the midst of a thriving full-time career in the hotel industry that required travel as well as raising two children, Carlson decided to go back to school at night at the University of Texas in Arlington to finish her undergraduate degree. “I then took a position with Baylor Health Care System, which is today Baylor Scott and White Health,” she said. “I spent eleven years with them in HR and really fell in love with healthcare while director of HR at their flagship hospital near downtown Dallas. I think I chose healthcare, or maybe it chose me, because of the differ-

ence we make in people’s lives every day.” When contacted by a headhunter in 2012 about a position at WTH, Carlson admits the timing was right. Her youngest son was graduating high school and she felt she was ready to make the next step. “I worked with a VP at Baylor that had come from WTH and we worked well together, and I had a great deal of respect for him. He left Baylor to come back to WTH so I knew this had to be a great health care system,” she said. “When I came here to interview, I was amazed at the friendliness I encountered not only at the hospital but everywhere I went. I truly felt that God had pointed me in this direction and opened this door. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to work with people here and make a difference in this community.” Initially hired as VP of Human Resources, the title was changed to Chief HR Officer since that was more in keeping with what is happening in healthcare and across other industries. “Basically, everything that impacts our employees, or talent as we refer to them, falls under my purview,” said Carlson. “The HR vision we put in place seven years ago when I came on board is the same today, to provide expertise and leadership in attracting and retaining top talent. The gift is getting to interact with people throughout their life. The fact that we have employees that have been with this system for over 40 years speaks volumes about what a special place this is.” Coming from one of the largest healthcare systems in the country to West Tennessee was an easy adjustment for Carlson. “Being responsible for human resources in healthcare has similarities everywhere. It is dealing with people,

competition and workforce shortages,” she said. “The biggest change actually was the best one, WTH is smaller and felt more like a family, which is so nice. But at some point, it’s not a family, it’s a business that serves half a million patients. On the personal side, the quality of life is so much better here because I am not spending two hours a day commuting to and from work. Overall this organization has been a perfect match for me, my values and what I believe is important.” Carlson felt she was given a blank canvas when she came to WTH that afforded her the opportunity to implement a change in approach and perspective to supporting the employee population. “We have implemented a lot of changes which can be a daunting task when you have such a large number of employees that have been with the system a long time and may not be used to or want change. Having an outside perspective has allowed new ideas on ways to influence the culture and bring a progressive approach to employee engagement and retention.” Change is what Carlson says is her legacy and one she is proud of. In her first year, WTH underwent a major benefit change when the system joined the Vanderbilt Affiliated Healthcare Network. This allowed for the addition of some aggressive consumer driven plans to be put in place. Due to this shift in design, WTH plan costs have not skyrocketed as they have for many other employers. Another change Carlson is excited about is the increases in minimum pay that have been implemented. In 2016 the system raised their minimum pay to $9/ hour. In June it will go to $10/hour. Employees making $12.50 an hour or less will

see an estimated 5.5 percent pay increase. This increase will affect 1500 employees. Although there are shortages across many areas, RN’s comprise the biggest, despite the fact that the nursing turnover rate at WTH is below the national average. Carlson says they focus on retention and strive to be in the top quartile. She also sees relationships with colleges as a big part of the solution to finding talent to fill open positions across all areas “We work closely with area community colleges and universities to hire their graduates and have programs that provide scholarships and training. Five years ago, we implemented a 16-week nurse residency program that exposes them to all areas of care to determine the ones they are most interested in,” she said. “When I am out in the hospital, I am always talking to patient techs and aids to see if they would be interested in going to nursing school. We have upped our tuition reimbursement and even have loan and scholarship programs to help folks get their BSN degree.”

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GrandRounds Medical Society, UTHSC to Offer Financial Wellness Class

The Memphis Medical Society and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center plan to offer medical students a basic financial principles course with important customizations that could help them prepare for the uniquely large debt they may incur as a result of their education. The course is expected to begin later this summer. Physicians interested in participating as facilitators are welcome and asked to call 901-761-0200. “Much of what we hear from physicians pertains to what they wish they would’ve learned in medical school,” said Clint Cummins, Society CEO. “Most of it revolves around financial management and fiscal responsibility. This is step toward filling that hole in their training.”

Elise C. Denneny Named New TMA President

The Tennessee Medical Association has named Elise C. Denneny, MD, FACS as President. She will serve a one-year term as the public representative for the nonprofit advocacy organization’s 9,500 physician members, and will hold a seat on the TMA Board of Trustees. She is the 165thphysician elected to serve in TMA’s top role and the third female President in the association’s long history. Dr. Denneny Elise C. Denneny is an otolaryngologist with Greater Knoxville Ear Nose and Throat in Knoxville, where she has practiced for more than 30 years. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, her medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago, and residency at the University of Illinois, where she served as Chief Resident for two years before completing head and neck reconstructive surgery fellowship, University of Michigan. A member of American Academy of Otolaryngology, she is board certified in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery. Dr. Denneny has been a TMA member since 1988 and has served in numerous leadership positions including the Board of Trustees and for the past year as President-Elect.

UTHSC Professor Investigating Novel Drug Therapies

Alex Dopico, MD, PhD, University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has been awarded over $2.4 million from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to explore the mechanisms by which our bodies regulate arterial diameter and thus develop new drug therapies to control vascular diseases. Dr. Dopico’s reAlex Dopico



search is specifically examining how endogenous steroids (STs) interact with certain ion channels (a type of proteins found in cells) to regulate vascular diameter. “Lipids, in particular steroidal hormones, control cardiovascular function,” Dr. Dopico said. “Their direct interactions with certain ion channels dictate how wide or narrow artery diameter is. An abnormal artery diameter plays a significant role in diabetes, hypertension, aging, and stroke.” Dr. Dopico and his collaborators Anna Bukiya, PhD, associate professor

of Pharmacology at UTHSC, and Abby Parrill-Baker, PhD, Interim Dean and Professor at the University of Memphis, have developed new pharmacological agents which will be used to investigate the role specific ion channels play in controlling arterial diameter. They will be paying close attention to the vascular actions of STs to see if these novel agents counteract or synergize modulation of ion channel and thus, arterial function. “Our focus on the brain and other surrounding arteries is relevant to conditions where two arterial territories are

affected by disease, such as hypertensive encephalopathy,” Dr. Dopico said. “The ultimate goal is to pinpoint a direct interaction between endogenous steroids and ion channels that control artery diameter, and use this information to design new drugs. The data we collect is a significant first step in the creation of future cardiovascular medications for diseases such as stroke and hypertension, or conditions that may require control of steroid action on the vasculature like hyperfunction of the adrenal glands or during estrogen therapy.”

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Profile for Medical News

June 2019 WTMN  

West TN Medical News 2019

June 2019 WTMN  

West TN Medical News 2019