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gifts Class of 2012 School of Medicine on Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College of Virginia Campus

at work

spring 2012

Putting Fourth Year to Good Use

Medical School Graduation As they marched in graduation ceremonies and went forward to claim their medical degrees, the Class of 2012 had good reason to celebrate. Match Day had brought the news that they had beaten the national average in terms of the percent of students who secured one of their preferred matches. Primary care specialties proved attractive this year with 38 percent of the students matching into Internal Medicine, Family Medicine

Because of the pressure to fit more training into less time during residency, the fourth year of medical school is becoming increasingly important for developing skills for internship. On the MCV Campus, students are putting that time to good use. This year, a monthlong course was introduced to help M4s transition from the role of a student to the responsibilities that come with being a hospital intern. In the course, students on ICU, Anesthesiology or Emergency Medicine rotations spend time in the Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety each week, encountering scenarios designed to mimic common patient situations. For example, how do you begin to assess a patient who suddenly becomes unconscious? Or how do you start to run a code when you recognize a patient is not breathing and has no pulse? “Along the way, they learn not only how to manage a suddenly critically ill patient, but also how to work in a team, delegate responsibility and know when to call for help,” said Alan Dow, M.D., H’04, assistant dean for medical education. “Our goal is for them to be more ready to take care of patients on day one of internship.” • • •

These kinds of simulation scenarios are a hallmark of the MCV Campus experience. U.S. News recently spotlighted a two-session workshop in the simulation center during which students from the MCV Campus’ schools learned what skills different professionals bring to the table. That approach to interdisciplinary training has been made possible through grants from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and Josiah H. Macy Jr. Foundation. • • •

and Pediatrics. Students also succeeded in placing into this year’s most competitive specialties, including Dermatology, Orthopaedic Surgery and Otolaryngology. In addition, all of the M.D.-Ph.D. students got either their first or second choices at research-intensive programs that are among the leaders in their specialties.

Go online for video and photos as well as a list of the students’ match destinations

Match Day!

Meet a few members of the Class of 2012 A former nurse midwife who dreamed of a career in surgery …. A cycler who rode across the U.S. to raise money for cancer research … the student who decided to miss Match Day so that she could go on a mission trip to El Salvador … the founder of a bioinformatics company who sees similarities between being a CEO and a multi-tasking family medicine physician.

Go online for their stories at

Alumni Give B

Alumni of the medical school are making a difference on campus today. Their generosity with their time, expertise and financi


Reunion Weekend is a great time for alumni to plug in to the life of the medical school. This year, the more than 200 alumni who returned to the MCV Campus not only celebrated the anniversary of their medical school graduation. They also reconnected with classmates, advised current students and got a first-hand look at new facilities like the Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety. The Class Giving program gave alumni the chance to support school priorities with reunion giving totaling more than $825,000. Alumni from the Classes of 1962, 1972 and 1977 chose to support the new Medical Education Building, with the class of 1972 leading the way. The other

Reunion Award Winners The Outstanding Medical Alumnus Award went to Diane J. Sansonetti, M’77, H’85, who took what she’d learned under the tutelage of transplant pioneer Dr. Dick Lower to New Mexico, where she established that state’s first heart transplant program. Later, when joint deterioration forced her to make a career change, she chose the emerging field of hospice and palliative medicine as an avenue for continuing to care for patients including some who’d been her surgical patients decades before. H. George White, Jr., M’62, was recognized with the Caravati Service Award. In the 50 years since his graduation, the school, medical center and university have benefitted from his leadership as Vice-Rector and Rector of the VCU Board of Visitors and as a member of the Executive Committee of the MCV Hospitals Authority. Dr. White remembers learning first-hand from Dr. Caravati the importance of listening to patients, working hard to provide the best care and seeking wisdom throughout life. When Dr. White accepted the award, he said he hopes his service to the School of Medicine was an opportunity to pass Dr. Caravati’s wisdom onto another generation of physicians.

Alumni Profiles Two alumni from the Class of 1969 have stayed engaged with their alma mater. Here’s a snapshot of how they’ve made a difference. You can go online to read the rest of their stories at

Metal-sculpting physician forges scholarship

A 1962 ad in Life magazine inspired Dr. E. John Saliba to enter medical school. Shot on the MCV Campus, the ad touted the rigors of drug testing in the A. H. Robins labs, but it was the medical field’s inherent challenges that sparked Dr. Saliba’s imagination. To his surprise, he had the chance as a medical student to star in his own Robins ad, this one describing the costly burden of medical training – and this at a time when an in-state student like Dr. Saliba would have paid less than $2,000 in yearly tuition and fees. Fast forward forty-plus years. Dr. Saliba has retired from a 30-year emergency medicine career in Chicago and found a passion for metal sculpture. Meanwhile, graduating students face an average debt of more than $156,000. Dr. Saliba has helped out on this front for many years by making leadership-level gifts to the Annual Fund. But last year, he raised the bar and endowed a $25,000 scholarship fund that will bear his name. “I expect to add to it every year as conditions allow,” Dr. Saliba said, “so that it will be truly helpful to students in need.”

On grandpa’s farm

For 36 years, the Class of 1969’s A. W. “Gus” Lewis practiced out of his father’s office and lived on his grandfather’s farm, where he built a lifestyle that included milking goats and making chèvre. Along the way he’s been a resource for countless medical students, serving as a preceptor for 35 years as well as on international medical missions trips and most recently on the Admissions Committee. “Some of my colleagues have said they think having students in the office would be a distraction, but for me it was always a pleasure. Teaching is helpful to me because it keeps me on my toes.” In his retirement, he’s interviewing applicants, helping to spot students who are good candidates for the school’s new FM STAT program, a specialized Family Medicine track. Chair of Family Medicine Tony Kuzel, M.D., said “Thousands of patients are now receiving care by well-trained family physicians because of Gus Lewis’ devotion to medical education.”


ial resources shapes our students’ experiences. seven classes invested in student scholarships, directing their gifts to the Annual Fund. You can go online to see photos from class parties, breakfast with Dean Jerry Strauss, campus tours with medical students and the all-class reception on the Egyptian Building Courtyard. Scan this QR code with your mobile device for expanded coverage and photo galleries. Diane J. Sansonetti

Gerry Bertier (left), captain of the 1971 T.C. Williams football team whose story was told in the film “Remember the Titans.” Golf outings (right) provide opportunities for members of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to gather with the original players and coaches from the Titans team.

Foundation continues work of Gerry Bertier The Disney film “Remember the Titans” chronicles the story of the state champion T.C. Williams football team and its captain Gerry Bertier who was paralyzed in a car accident after the season ended. What movie-goers don’t know is that Bertier lived for 10 more years in a wheelchair, becoming known for both his advocacy work as well as a personal touch with fellow spinal cord injury patients. His family has preserved that legacy through the Gerry Bertier No. 42 Foundation. In the past seven years, the Foundation has raised more than $130,000 in support of spinal cord injury research and treatment in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. No one at the Foundation gets paid, but they’ve become pros at hosting golf tournaments, “Remember the Titans” movie nights and

More online

meet-and-greets with the original Titan players and coaches. In return, they’ve seen their hard work translate into important equipment for patient rehabilitation as well as the dissemination of research findings from studies conducted in the rehabilitation department. Last year they helped purchase a fully equipped van with a power-lift that the rehabilitation program uses to take patients on outings. Foundation president Buck Sutton learned from Gerry how important it is for patients to learn how to navigate in a world that can be filled with obstacles to wheelchairs. “We want to give the spinal cord injury program every opportunity to help their patients,” Sutton said. “At the same time, it gives us a platform to keep Gerry’s legacy alive.”

If you’d like to make a difference for the students, faculty and programs on campus, you can go online to Make a Gift.

The White House Comes to Richmond Our medical students sat shoulder-to-shoulder with service members from nearby Fort Lee as First Lady Michelle Obama announced the nation’s commitment to its veterans and particularly to conducting new research in the areas of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. The White House chose VCU as the site of its Joining Forces H. George White, Jr.

announcement because of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation’s stature as a national leader in TBI research and as a strong partner with the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.

Getting Involved

Richmond-area alumni can be resources for current students by serving on the Admissions Committee or with the Foundations of Clinical Medicine course that gives M1s and M2s early clinical exposure. Depending on where they live and practice, alumni can also participate in other programs by: • representing the medical school as an Alumni Ambassador at regional events for pre-med students. • precepting third-year students for a month’s rotation in family medicine or internal medicine or for two weeks in pediatrics or surgery. • opening their practice to fourth-year students for a community-based specialty elective. • hosting fourth-year medical students who are traveling around the country for residency interviews. • advising students at the annual Career Fair. • offering shadowing experiences in research labs. Contact Jodi T. Smith, director of alumni engagement for the School of Medicine, at or (804) 628-2248 to get involved.


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If you have questions about Gifts at Work, please contact the medical school Development Office, (804) 828-4800, toll-free at (800) 332-8813, or by email at Associate Dean for Development: Tom Holland Editor: Erin Lucero Contributing Writers: Kristen Coulter and Nan Johnson Photographers: Charlie Archambault, Cabay-Fine Photography, Allen Jones, Tu Nguyen, Marc Piscotty, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Kevin Schindler and VCU Creative Services Graphic Design: Kevin Schindler

Scan this QR code with your mobile device for the chance to check out expanded story coverage and photo galleries.

Rare surgery to separate conjoined twins Alumnus, now on faculty, leads team

Dr. Lanning recently had the chance to visit the twins in their native Dominican Republic, where President Leonel Fernandez Reyna bestowed the country’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Christopher Columbus rank of Knight. It is an honor usually reserved for Dominican citizens or military. “It was a joy to see them and to see them doing so well,” Dr. Lanning said of his visit with the twins. Now on the faculty of the Department of Surgery, Dr. Lanning is surgeon-in-chief of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. But he began his MCV Campus career in medical school, first earning his medical degree in 1995 and then a Ph.D. in Anatomy in 2000. He stayed on to complete his surgery residency in 2002.

In the first surgery of its kind on the MCV Campus, dual degree alumnus David Lanning, M.D., Ph.D., led a 45Photo: Richmond Times-Dispatch member team in a successful 22-hour surgery to separate conjoined twins in November. It is estimated that fewer than six conjoined twins are separated each year in the U.S., and this case was made particularly complex in that the twins shared livers, bile ducts, pancreas glands, duodenum and jejunums. Extraordinary coordination and interdisciplinary cooperation was required for the rare procedure, separating all of these structures and then reconstructing them.

Denver Alumni Gather The School of Medicine hosted a cocktail reception in Denver last fall. Held in conjunction with the Association of American Medical Colleges’ annual meeting, faculty and staff had the chance to share the latest news from the MCV Campus.




1 Sara L. Trigero, M’11, talks with assistant dean for medical education Alan Dow, M.D., who is a housestaff alumnus of the Department of Internal Medicine. 2 The Class of 2004’s Christine Bong. 3 Every other year, the AAMC meeting gives the medical school the chance to visit a new city and connect with the alumni there. 4 Classmates Gary Bong, M’04, and Long Huynh, M’04. 5 Richard Lane, who earned his Ph.D. on the MCV Campus in 1981, is now professor of neurosciences and assistant dean for admissions at the University of Toledo’s College of Medicine.


F O U N D A T I O N Serving the MCV Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University Since 1949


Serving the Medical College of Virginia Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University since 1949 and proud to be a partner with the School of Medicine. Post Office Box 980234 Richmond VA 23298 (804) 828-9734


Gifts at Work Spring 2012  

Gifts at Work is a publication of the VCU School of Medicine's Development Office on the MCV Campus.

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