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WVUhealth Spring 2012 Vol. 3, Issue 1

A publication of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center West Virginia University Morgantown, West Virginia







Administration James P. Clements, PhD President, West Virginia University Christopher C. Colenda, MD, MPH Chancellor for Health Sciences Patricia A. Chase, PhD Dean, School of Pharmacy David A. Felton, DDS, MS Dean, School of Dentistry Clark Hansbarger, MD Dean, Charleston Division Mitch Jacques, MD, PhD Dean, Eastern Division Georgia L. Narsavage, PhD Dean, School of Nursing Arthur Ross, MD Dean, School of Medicine Alan Ducatman, MD Interim Dean, School of Public Health In development Judie Charlton, MD Chief Medical Officer WVU Healthcare Bruce McClymonds President and CEO, WVU Hospitals

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J. Thomas Jones President and CEO, WV United Health System Editorial Board Bill Case, Editor Heidi Specht, Creative Director Stephanie Bock Geri Dino, PhD Norman Ferrari, MD Amy Johns Misti Michael Gary Murdock Amy Newton Lynda B. Nine Tricia Petty Julia W. Phalunas Shelia Price, DDS Contributors Bob Beverly Aira Burkhart Danielle Conaway Jeff Driggs M. G. Ellis Autumn Hill Angela Jones Leigh Limerick Mary Rivasio Minard Michelle Moore Brian Persinger Lori Savitch


© 2012 West Virginia University West Virginia University is governed by the West Virginia University Board of Governors and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. West Virginia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution.



One hundred fifty years ago – in the midst of the Civil War that gave birth to West Virginia – the U.S. Congress passed the Morrill Act, granting federal lands to each of the states to support higher education. The goal was to spur the development of public colleges across the country whose mission was to share the benefits of education and research with citizens at large. The leaders of the new state were allotted 150,000 acres in Minnesota and Iowa; it was sold to settlers in the Great Plains and generated $90,000. This led directly to the formation of West Virginia University in 1867.

The original Land Grant act called for programs in “agriculture and the mechanic arts.” It didn’t take too long for the leaders of our University to realize that promoting health was a crucial role for WVU in serving the needs of West Virginians. The first medical courses were added to the curriculum in 1878, with a college formed in 1902. Pharmacy education began by 1914. We created an academic health center in the 1960s with a wide, and still growing, range of programs. The founders of our health schools, and their leaders and faculty down through the generations, vigorously

embraced the spirit of the Land Grant university, dedicating themselves to the education of West Virginia’s young people and to serving the health needs of our state. We at West Virginia University remain committed to our missions of education, research, service, and healthcare. In this issue of WVU health magazine, you’ll meet citizens all across our state who have experienced first-hand the positive impact our faculty have on the health of individuals and communities. Christopher C. Colenda, MD, MPH Chancellor for Health Sciences West Virginia University



Webster County HSTA Alumni (left to right): Kelsie Henline, Sierra Miller, Carrie Henline Given, Katie Wetzel Atkins, Candy Cochran. Not pictured: Sara Barbe and Stephanie Hall


University, are devoting their lives to

is reached by narrow mountain roads

practicing healthcare in their hometown.

that wind down to this lovely village in the valley. It’s a world removed from fast food joints and big box stores. For quite a while in its recent past, Webster Springs was also far away from doctors, nurses, and other professionals who could provide healthcare to the people who call Webster County home. But a new generation of young health Written by Amy Johns Photographed by Greg Ellis and Brian Persinger

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Nearly 1,650 students statewide have become “HSTA kids” in the 17 years since the Health Sciences Technology Academy began at WVU. HSTA encourages minority, underserved and financially disadvantaged high school students to study science and math, to go to college, and to consider careers that many never thought possible. It attracts them with the promise of fun

professionals, inspired by this community,

summer camps and free college tuition

encouraged by teachers and family, and

and nurtures them through community

provided opportunity by West Virginia

health and science projects.

“When you raise the bar, people will rise to the bar.” —Ann Chester, HSTA Founder rr

“You pick the kids with the potential who wouldn’t ordinarily go to college and then you show them that they can do it,” said Ann Chester, PhD, HSTA founder and WVU associate vice president for social justice. The numbers are impressive: 96 percent of HSTA students go on to college, and 92 percent stay in the state after earning their degrees. The eight HSTA graduates who live and work in Webster Springs are providing a level of healthcare that many in the community once feared would only be found hours away. When Webster County Memorial Hospital was built 60 years ago, the community was booming with the coal and timber industries. But the boom went bust, and the jobs left

Ann Chester, HSTA Founder, WVU associate vice president for social justice

Cathy Morton McSwain, Webster County HSTA education coordinator

town. The hospital nearly closed. “Now we’ve grown our own healthcare providers and that’s what HSTA is about,” said Cathy Morton McSwain, MSEd, a HSTA education coordinator who lives in Webster County. “The kids have come back home, and they realize the importance of working in the hospital and keeping their community healthy. They’re the staff now, which is just wonderful.” Stephanie Hall, RN, always knew she wanted to do something in medicine. But it was her HSTA summer camp experience that sold her. While her friends were spending summer vacation sleeping in, Stephanie was thrilled to be in the cadaver lab at WVU learning anatomy. She is now a nurse at the 15-bed hospital. “Well, home is where the heart is, and most people that go away always dream of coming back. I thought what better place to start than home? I’m familiar with the patients, and I’ve been around them my whole life. I know most of the hospital staff too. It’s like a second family,” Hall said. She has even bigger plans for the future. She’s hoping to be a pediatrician some day and will be applying to medical school at WVU. “You know you can do anything you put your mind to. If you want

Carrie Henline Given and Candy Cochran spring into action to help a patient.

something so bad that you can’t go one day without thinking about it, I would say you have to go for it.” SPRING 2012 | 3

Crystal Hickman, MD, has gone from “HSTA kid” to family doctor.

“I don’t know if I would be where I am today without HSTA.” —Crystal Hickman, MD rr

Crystal Hickman, MD, never dreamed

The Emergency Room is Candace

of becoming a doctor. She wasn’t even

Cochran’s territory. The busy registered

sure that a degree was in her future

nurse is very involved in her community,

because no one in her family had

as she has been since high school. Her

ever gone to college before. But

HSTA class organized a

strong encouragement from

community activity

her teachers in high school

called Walk for a

convinced her to give HSTA

Healthy Heart and

a chance, since she was an

designed walking

excellent math and science

paths throughout


the town.

“The first summer camp at

“I like it because

WVU was one of the best

it’s a small

things I can ever remember doing,” Dr. Hickman said. “I can never say for sure, but I don’t know if I would be where I am today without HSTA.” Hickman is now a family medicine physician who sees patients at the Camden-on-Gauley rural clinic about 15 minutes from Webster Springs. 4 | WVUhealth

community. This is where I’m from. I enjoy the people,” Cochran said before running off to answer another page. “A lot of our patients are people that I grew up with and have known for years. They’re proud of me. It’s a great place to work.”

“People that live here like the roots that they have here, and they want to build it up and keep it for their children,” hospital CEO Annette Keener said. “We’ve got to keep the healthcare here in the county, and it’s harder now than it used to be.” There are big plans for the future, and Keenan said the grown-up HSTA kids will play a major role. The community is working to build a new hospital to replace the current 60-year-old facility. Morton McSwain said, thanks to HSTA, change is in the air. “These kids got to go to college, got to have a career, and then are able to live back in the community

Breakfast in Webster Springs

where they grew up, so it keeps the community alive and vibrant, and they make a difference. They really make a difference.” The state legislature sees the benefits of the HSTA program as well. Lawmakers unanimously passed a tuition waiver for successful HSTA students to attend any state-supported university from undergraduate all the way through medical, dental, nursing, or pharmacy school. “It has released the flood gates for those people who thought they didn’t have the potential or the money,” Dr. Chester said. “The money is now not an issue; now they can work on their potential.” Every Tuesday morning, the next generation of students with potential visits the little hospital in Webster Springs and works side by side with health professionals there. Brittany Bender is a senior at Webster County High School who spends time each week in the hospital pharmacy. She has been accepted to the pre-pharmacy program at WVU in the fall. HSTA is helping her to prepare for her future. “HSTA opened up the doors to me,” Brittany said from behind the pharmacy counter. “It introduced me to things that I didn’t know before.” And yes, after graduating from college, she plans to stay in West Virginia.

Brittany Bender’s HSTA work with hospital pharmacist Brandon Keiper — a WVU alum — is preparing her for college.

SPRING 2012 | 5


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Shelley Nakashima was diligent about going for her annual mammogram because of a history of breast cancer in her family. During a surgical exam in 2005, she was devastated to discover she had stage three breast cancer that didn’t show up on any of her mammograms. “Everything came at me so fast,” she says. The toll wasn’t just physical. About five months into her treatment, Nakashima, a Morgantown resident, began to feel severe anxiety and depression. Her chemotherapy and radiation were causing appetite and weight loss, skin irritations, and pain. She couldn’t get herself up out of bed in the morning. “I started going to really dark places. You get to a point where you start to wonder when you’re going to get to the end of the tunnel,” she says. “It was like hitting a wall.” It took six years for Nakashima to begin to feel like herself again mentally. She credits psychiatrist Daniel Elswick, MD, with helping her find her way back. Dr. Elswick works with a team of oncologists and nurses at the WVU Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center who provide psychosocial oncology services to cancer patients. Depression is estimated to be four times greater among cancer patients than the general public, and untreated mood symptoms are often associated with higher illness rates and mortality, Elswick says. “Having people get some resolution when they are suffering is what is most important to me. I let patients know that we don’t like people to suffer from physical pain, but there’s also mental and social anguish, depression, and anxiety that we need to address and treat,” he says.

aftermath of treatment. “Dr. Elswick told me ‘you have to focus on the things that make you feel good and happy. Try to find something that takes you out of yourself for a while and enables you to get above the pain and shut out the anxiety.’” He encouraged her to engage in more physical therapy and exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and pursue therapeutic outlets, like creating art. “He managed to get my anxiety and depression under control pretty quickly,” she says. One year after Nakashima’s cancer diagnosis, she heard about a poster design contest that Morgantown’s M.T. Pockets Theatre Company was hosting for a play called “My Left Breast.” Nakashima has an art background — she completed a master’s degree in painting when she was younger, but a busy life left her with little time to devote to art after college. “I really felt like it was something I should do, so I got focused and made a collage poster of a faceless woman based on myself—but also faceless so that any woman with breast cancer could relate to the poster,” Nakashima says.

When Nakashima’s design was chosen for the play, it was a huge boost for her. “This was one of those ways where you have a bad experience in life, yet you see something really positive come out of it,” she said. The Cancer Center staff was thrilled for her achievement. Today, Nakashima’s breast cancer remains in remission, and she continues to see Dr. Elswick every three months to manage her anxiety, depression, and medication. “Anyone who has had cancer continues to live with the thought that it could come back. That thought never goes away, but you have to work on it,” she says. “It was such a relief seeing Dr. Elswick—to have someone be so empathetic to me. They were so wonderful at the Cancer Center. I can’t believe that a place like that exists. When they say they have a team, they really have a team.”

Written by Danielle Conaway Poster by Shelley Nakashima Photographed by Heidi Specht

“Some patients fear the stigma of a psychiatric condition, and despite tremendous medical strides, cancer is still considered synonymous with death, pain, and suffering for many patients,” Elswick says. Through medicine, nutrition, exercise, meditation, and other wellness activities, Elswick was able to help Nakashima find solace as she endured the burden of living with cancer and the debilitating

Shelley Nakashima still sees Dr. Elswick regularly. SPRING 2012 | 7


Patty Johnston, R.Ph.

Colony Drug and Wellness Center has been a healthcare pillar

“One of the biggest health concerns in Raleigh County is diabetes,”

in Beckley, West Virginia, since 1950. Two things are obvious

she said. “It’s a problem throughout the entire state, but if you

when you enter the pharmacy: how much they care about their

look at the breakdown of West Virginia counties in health reports,

patients and how deeply rooted they are in the community.

Raleigh County is close to the top of the list.”

Patty Johnston, WVU School of Pharmacy Class of 1977, and

It’s because of her concern for her patients that Colony Drug’s

her father, Harold, a 1951 alumnus of the WVU School of

team members became involved with the Public Employees

Pharmacy, purchased the store in 1986. Johnston’s daughter,

Insurance Agency’s (PEIA) Face-to-Face Program. The program

Caity Frail, graduated from the School in 2009 and has worked

allows PEIA members who are living with diabetes help manage

at the family business in between residency and fellowship

their diabetes through regular visits to a pharmacist for counseling



Johnston and her employees are committed to serving their

Because patients must meet with their pharmacist on a regular

patients by improving their health not only through medication,

basis, there is a high level of accountability. Patients know they

but also through health management, including ongoing

will be asked how they have been managing their diabetes since

preventive care.

their previous visit.

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Fourth-year student pharmacists Andy Richards (l) and Wesley Hutchinson (r) talk with Betty Ganey on one of her regular visits to Colony Drug and Wellness Center.

“It’s a good program for me and helps me make better choices,”

she graduated, and strongly encourages her students to take

patient Betty Ganey said. “I come in about every two months,

the initiative and help patients become more involved in their

and believe me, they want a lot of answers! They have given me

diabetes management.

so much support over the years. Any questions I have, Patty can answer.” Jackie Powell has been enrolled in the program since 2004. “Patty and her staff have helped me tremendously,” she said. “I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995, and when I first came into the program, my diabetes was not under control. Now that I’ve been seeing Patty, I’ve been on track for about two to three years.” WVU Pharmacy students who come to the Beckley pharmacy

Johnston believes that pharmacists are in a great position to help patients manage their diabetes because they can be seen on a regular basis and provide a very hands-on approach. “Here at Colony Drug, we grow with our patients who are enrolled in the program,” she said. “We’ve seen them through life experiences, through births and deaths, so we’re not here for them just when they have an appointment. The strength to get better and manage their health must come from within, but hopefully by providing the tools, we can help them.”

for their community pharmacy practice rotations also learn about the health benefits of one-to-one patient counseling. Johnston has been a preceptor for student pharmacists since

Written by Amy Newton Photographed by Greg Ellis and Brian Persinger SPRING 2012 | 9

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“SHE REALLY IS MY HERO” Disordered eating program offers help and hope. Sherry, (not her real name) a 20-yearold Kanawha County woman, calls her experience with an eating disorder “a physical and mental hell.” “I was afraid to eat anything. When I did, I felt extremely guilty and was in a horrible mood,” Sherry said. “The disease just takes over your whole life. I withdrew myself from my friends and activities, and basically life in general. I was an entirely different person; I didn’t realize I would ever be able to escape.”

Sherry was one of the first patients to enroll in the WVU Disordered Eating Center of Charleston, a collaborative effort of adolescent medicine, nutrition, psychology, and psychiatry experts in eating disorders at WVU’s Charleston and Morgantown campuses. Patients can work with their care team at outpatient visits, and when needed, can be admitted to either Highland Hospital or Charleston Area Medical Center for more intensive treatment.

Stephen Sondike, MD

Stephen Sondike, MD, a WVU adolescent medicine specialist, is medical director for the program. “Eating disorders are a common problem, especially for adolescent and young adult women,” he said. “Multidisciplinary programs like ours are the standard of care for the treatment of these conditions. But, until recently, these services were not available in West Virginia.”

Written by Jeff Driggs Photographed by Chris Gosses and Jeff Driggs

It was Jessica Luzier, PhD, a psychologist at WVU’s Charleston Division, who guided her out of her misery. “Dr. Jess Luzier was my rock through this entire thing,” Sherry said. “If it wasn’t for her, I would still be sick, if not in a hospital or dead. She really is my hero. I could tell her anything. ”

SPRING 2012 | 11

“Dr. Jess Luzier was my rock through this entire thing. Without her, I don’t even want to think about where I’d be.”

Sherry knows about the need. “I was so lucky to find my Sherry calls Sondike her reality check. “He brought to my doctors, but I only did so after searching for a long time,” attention that I was affecting my health and that I could do she said. The new WVU Disordered Eating Center had not permanent damage if I didn’t change things,” she said. yet appeared on the list of referrals at her doctor’s office. “My nutritionist, Jamie Oliver, was so helpful to me. I had Treatment close to home made a difference. “My friends, no idea what normal eating was anymore. She talked me family, and school were great support systems on the road to through foods that I needed to eat, but was terrified of eating. getting better.” She never got frustrated with me. I would come in to the Although eating disorders have the highest mortality rate doctor’s office not having eaten what I was supposed to eat of any mental illness, only one in 10 men and women with that week, and she would just talk me through eating those eating disorders receive treatment. Of those, only 35 percent foods again until I would come in one week finally saying that have access to a specialized program or treatment facility. I have.” “Dr. Sondike and I recognized that we were doing a disservice to individuals in the state with eating disorders because there were no comprehensive, multi-disciplinary treatment programs available for them,” said Luzier, who is clinical director of the program. “So kids and adults, if they were lucky enough to have good insurance, were going out of state to get their services. That often presented a problem when they came back. Patients who do well in a structured hospital environment sometimes find that when they come back to the very same context where the disease developed, it will reemerge. “There are a lot of kids and adults who are really suffering. Dr. Sondike was seeing that, and we decided to create this interdisciplinary team where we could provide wrap-around, comprehensive care to those with eating disorders.”

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Awareness and prevention are also major commitments for the program. Eating disorders remain hidden and are often associated with misinformation and strong emotions not only in adolescents but their families, friends, teachers, and counselors. The team is developing a theater program to reach out to middle and high school students. Dr. Luzier has also presented workshops on disordered eating for local educators and clinicians. Prevention and awareness can also begin at home, according to Sondike, by focusing on healthy behaviors and not on size or weight. “It is healthy attitudes, healthy lifestyles, and feeling good about yourself that’s important,” Sondike said. Sherry is glad the WVU Disordered Eating Center team was there for her. “Without these people, my life would be extremely different, for the worse,” she said.

Jessica Luzier, PhD

SPRING 2012 | 13

Exercise is

Many people have the misconception that exercise has to be unpleasant to be worthwhile. Think “no pain, no gain,” the mantra of weight lifters and body builders. But others who understand that regular exercise is basic healthcare believe the opposite is true. “To be useful, exercise needs to be fun and relaxing,” says Mark Cucuzzella, MD, family medicine physician and associate professor of family medicine in the Eastern Division of the School of Medicine. “I like to use the word physical activity, because exercise, to me, is

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something that is forced on you in addition to all the other things you have to do all day.”

outdoors, and his exercise of choice is running. He’s been a competitive runner for 30 years or so, and he has completed more than 60 marathons.

Dr. Cucuzzella adheres to the novel idea that exercise in itself is medicine. “Staying healthy “For me, running is the activity is all about how you live, what that I like,” he says. But, lifelong you eat, how you move, all physical activity, just moving, is the things you do all day that the point. “Moving at a certain promote wellness,” he said. “My pace and for a certain amount idea of a good level of exercise of time as a prescription is is if you’ve exercised properly what’s important.” for your daily session, it should feel easy enough that, if you had And, he says his motto is not “no pain, no gain.” It’s more like: to, you could turn around and “No pain? Hey, thanks!” do it again.” Cucuzzella practices what he preaches. He loves the

Written by Michelle Moore

Medicine More than 3,000 people took Dr. Mark Cucuzzella’s prescription for health.

Freedom‘s Run participants cross the Potomac River. SPRING 2012 | 15

Champion of the Eastern Panhandle Cucuzzella directs the family medicine clerkship, taking charge of third-year medical students in their first exposure to being a family doctor. He is one of the “clinic champions” at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine, where he helped transform the center into a nationally recognized patient-centered medical home. (For more about medical homes, see page 24.) Cucuzzella is also a champion for the people of the Harpers Ferry area. His interest in wellness and keeping fit have led to creating outdoor activities for school children, building hiking trails, and co-sponsoring the largest running race event in the state. He is a fitness leader, teaching running workshops to help others learn proper technique and avoid injury. As a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves, Cucuzzella is the coach and captain of the Air Force Marathon Team, and he designs programs for the Air Force to reduce running injuries in military personnel.

Freedom’s Run One of Cucuzzella’s greatest community contributions has been helping to establish a day of foot races through the four national parks in eastern West Virginia and nearby Maryland.

“When Mark Cucuzzella responded to our faculty recruitment ad, I knew that he was going to be a different type of physician,” says Konrad Nau, MD, recently named leader of the Eastern Division. “Time has proven how correct those initial impressions were. Mark’s engagement of the community in participating in physical activity has been an inspiration to us all.” Cucuzzella was instrumental in creating “Tiger on the Trail,” a hiking program for Jefferson County Middle School students. The program gets kids outdoors into the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park where they can hike around and connect with nature. The hope is that through this guided exposure these children will develop an interest in environmental conservation, and the physical activity helps fight childhood obesity. Best of all, it’s fun.

Tigers on the trail.

Freedom’s Run, as the race is called, is in its fourth year, and the event includes a marathon, a half marathon, a 10K race, a 5K race, and a fun run for children. Runners follow the race routes through historic Harpers Ferry, along the C&O Canal, across the Antietam National Battlefield, and on the Potomac Heritage Trail. Runners from all over the U.S. and abroad come to compete and enjoy the October scenery and raise funds for sustainable trail and garden building in elementary schools in Jefferson County. Hundreds of local families and children come out for the day. In 2011, 3,000 people from 43 states participated in Freedom’s Run events. Cucuzzella says that “huge teams of volunteers” help to make the race possible, along with supportive sponsors, like the National Park Service and the Benedum Foundation. “You would never know by speaking with Mark that he is a near-world-class athlete,” said Dr. Nau. “He is still winning marathons and placing among the top finishers at the Boston Marathon, but he has integrated his athletic passions with his family and medical profession as well as anyone could imagine.”

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“He is still winning marathons and placing among the top finishers at the Boston Marathon... he has integrated his athletic passions with his family and medical profession as well as anyone could imagine.” — Konrad Nau, MD

Dr. Nau recognizes Cucuzzella’s unique outlook and the important work he is doing for the people in their region, leading by example instead of merely passing out advice. “It is all too easy for doctors to sit in our clinics and prescribe exercise to our patients,” says Nau. “Only Dr. Cucuzzella could practice family medicine full-time and teach and organize West Virginia’s largest running event. He is the kind of doctor that we hope inspires our next generation of physicians to answer the national call to serve as primary care physicians.” This year’s Freedom’s Run is October 13, 2012. To learn more, visit

“Dr. Mark encouraged me to take care of and take time for myself. … His consistent checking in, cheering on, and genuine concern as a doctor, a coach, and overall great guy helped me change my mindset. He is a gift to the community and a huge asset to WVU.” — Susan Reichel, Shepherdstown, WV Mark Cucuzzella, MD SPRING 2012 | 17



There’s a difference between a want and a need. Most people want to hit the lottery. Everyone needs water to survive. The WVU School of Dentistry needs a new building to call home. According to Dean David Felton, DDS, MS, that is a fact, not an opinion. The School’s future depends on it. And, if he has anything to say about it, that’s just what is going to happen.

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Dean Felton hit the

Expansion into a more modern facility

commitment to excellence and innovation

ground running

means that the School will be able to

in education, patient care, service,

when he arrived in

increase its class sizes and train more

Morgantown last

dentists. Additionally, two much-needed

research, and technology,” Felton says. “Additionally, our competition is currently

summer. Less than

graduate programs will be able to begin, if

opening new facilities in Maryland,

a month into the job,

additional space in a new facility becomes

Georgia, Texas, Michigan, North Carolina,

he delivered his first

a reality— graduate programs in pediatric

and other locations — to recruit the best

State of the School address and outlined

dentistry and in periodontics. These

and brightest students, faculty, and staff,

his plans for the future.

additional professionals will work to

we must provide a facility that will enable

transform lives and eliminate oral health

us to be competitive for them!”

Some of those projects are what you would expect to see on any new dean’s to-do list: finishing the School’s strategic

disparities, as set forth by the WVU Health Sciences Strategic Plan.

From Ideas to Bricks and Mortar

Historic Facilities

The proposed building will be immediately

plan, improving development efforts, increasing research, recruiting and retaining more faculty and staff, and adopting best business practices. But one project stands out from all the rest: the need to expand into a new, stateof-the-art facility. When you ask Felton about it, he is very matter-of-fact. The stakes, he says, are high. “Our biggest challenge is that we have no capacity in our current facility to expand at all — in terms of the number of students or the programs we offer,” he says. The WVU School of Dentistry is the state’s only dental school. It is the School’s

The School opened in 1957, and with the exception of periodic equipment upgrades, the physical surroundings have changed very little. The biggest hurdle the School will face is its upcoming accreditation review in 2016. “We must be able to show modern educational and clinical technologies and methods for accreditation,” Felton says. “In our current state, it is not likely that we will meet this requirement.” Plus, there’s the bigger picture.

adjacent to the Health Sciences Library. School leaders are planning a four-story building, with one floor reserved for future growth. Dental students will continue to share classroom space, cafeterias, and other facilities with students in the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health. Cost of the new school is estimated to be between $48 million and $90 million, including new equipment. Detailed business and construction plans should be complete this year or early 2013.

“With this new facility, we will be able to

mission to address West Virginia’s oral

attract and retain the best and brightest

health needs and play a leading role in

students, faculty, researchers, and

health promotion and disease prevention.

practitioners, and we can maintain our

Written by Angela Jones

SPRING Fall 2012 2010 | 19 13

FAMILY STORIES DRIVE HEALTH RESEARCH West Virginia’s hills and valleys are full of tiny towns, and families who have stayed close to the land they have always known, generation after generation. Through the work of a WVU neuroscience researcher, the family stories of three such towns could shape the future of personalized medicine across rural America. Taura Barr, PhD, of the WVU School of Nursing, is working at the cutting edge of 21st century biomedical laboratory research, identifying genomic biomarkers that predict or diagnose disease. Over the past year, she’s taken her research on the road across West Virginia. With support from the National Human Genome Research Institute, she has been facilitating gatherings of rural community members, gauging their awareness of genetics and genomic medicine through discussion of their family histories. WVU has become the first institution to study genetic and genomic literacy in a rural population. “What we are looking for is ‘the base’ – where we stand in terms of genetic and genomic education,” said Dr. Barr. “Where do we want to go, where do we need to go… . Their ultimate goal as an institute is to develop personalized medicine, and the consumers of that information are the community members.” Working with the WVU Prevention Research Center’s Community Partnership Board and health centers in Calhoun, Fayette, and McDowell counties, Taura Barr, PhD

interactions were tailored to suit each group’s needs. While people in Grantsville felt comfortable with a town hall-style discussion, the Mount Hope group asked for a health fair with various health screenings.

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Written by Leigh Limerick Photographed by Heidi Specht

“As the scientist, I did not come into a

her a lot of really good discussion points

clinical level, and Barr strongly believes

community and say, ‘Here’s my research

for her healthcare provider, for telling him

researchers must engage outside the lab

question,” explained Barr. “We went to

her concerns about her daughters.”

for their work to reach its full value.

the communities and laid this out as a family health story discussion. That’s a new concept. What they want to know is, ‘based on my individual history, what’s my

“Then one of the ladies walking by overheard her and said, ‘Now, don’t forget - your mom had...’ You don’t get to see that in a lot of places, everybody knows

“You can be the best bench scientist and come up with discoveries that are amazing, but if you cannot translate that to the community, it gets lost,” she said.

risk of disease?’”

everybody. What we heard overwhelmingly

At each event, participants shared their

was that these people believe knowledge

identify what’s important, and expect

own stories and learned that by identifying

is power: they want to be educated and

somebody on the other side to grab it and

their family’s risk factors, people can take

want to feel equipped to educate their

translate it to the community. It doesn’t

a proactive role in preventing disease. If


work that way.”

they do get sick, treatment plans can be

Barr’s goal is twofold.

The idea of working across communities to

tailored to their unique needs. After one of the forums, a young mother

First, key community members benefit. They will be trained to collect adequate

of two children approached. She was very

family health histories. They will grow to

timid during the discussion; she didn’t

understand the relationship of genetics

speak up. She thanked Barr for coming,

and genomics in the prevention and

and told her about some of the many

treatment of diseases they see every day.

medical issues she has already dealt with firsthand. “She’s a very young mom, and she’s very

Second, Barr plans for WVU to develop a “family health story tool,” one that can be tweaked for use in virtually any other rural

concerned that her two children are going

community to assess the individual risks

to have these same issues,” explained

and concerns of each patient. It’s a prime

Barr. “She said that the forum had given

example of research being applied at the

“I think most folks will sit at the bench,

encourage and share meaningful research is a main driver of translational science, and this particular project is part of a larger initiative by the PRC and the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute. These multidisciplinary teams collaborate with other regional institutions, public health agencies, and community groups to improve the health, education, and economic well-being of all West Virginians. “You have to talk to people, bring complex concepts, and explain them in a way that folks will understand,” Barr said. “It’s about identifying what their priorities are and what’s going to motivate them. As a nurse, that’s what I’ve been trained to do: to educate folks. I think that’s one part that makes this not necessarily easy for me, but definitely enjoyable.”

SPRING 2012 | 21


WVU research leads to national children’s screening guidelines New National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) guidelines for cardiovascular disease screening in children reflect research findings of WVU pediatric cardiologist William Neal, MD. Dr. Neal heads the CARDIAC (Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities) Project, a survey of schoolage children to identify if they have risk William Neal, MD

factors for heart disease. The guidelines now recommend cholesterol screening for all children.

Protea Technology One of Top 10 Innovations

Earlier guidance suggested targeting only those with a family history of heart disease. The NHLBI says that blood cholesterol should be checked between

Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center researchers and Morgantown biotechnology

ages 9 and 11 and then be repeated

company Protea Biosciences are working together to discover why some cancer cells

between ages 17 and 21. The American

resist treatment and don’t respond to chemotherapy. The collaboration is the first to use

Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed this

Protea’s laser ablation electrospray ionization (LAESI), a technology chosen as one of


the top 10 innovations for 2011 by The Scientist magazine. Since 1998, the CARDIAC Project has LAESI technology simplifies sample preparation for mass spectrometry, an analytical

screened more than 100,000 West Virginia

technique that, in this case, helps identify biomolecules associated with cancer cells

children for cardiovascular disease and

and the microenvironment they live in. LAESI uses a special laser to burn a tiny hole

other health risk factors. The data showed

in an individual cell, releasing a plume of cellular particles. The plume is intersected by

that more than one-third (37%) of children

a jet of ionizing gases and analyzed in the mass spectrometer, providing a wealth of

with cholesterol levels high enough to

data on the composition of the cells. LAESI technology will be used to clarify chemical

consider medication would have been

changes and chemical signals in the microenvironments of cancer cells, providing new

missed by selective screening.

information to support development of new therapeutics. For information about the CARDIAC Project, visit

22 | WVUhealth

Emergency medicine grads calling West Virginia home

Hollynn Larrabee, MD Hospitals across West Virginia – and their patients – are benefitting from the growing emergency medicine residency program at WVU. “More than half of the graduates in the last five years have stayed in the state to practice, despite the fact that the majority of our residents come from out of state,” said Hollynn Larrabee, MD, residency program director and vice chair of the School of Medicine’s emergency medicine department. “We’re very excited to be able to recruit quality individuals who enjoy living in West Virginia so much that they decide to stay and make homes here,” she says. The success has allowed the three-year residency program to grow from seven new residents per year to nine. The chance to work in rural West Virginia is a recruiting plus. “One reason physicians are drawn to our program is because of a desire to work in a rural community where they can

Preserving Hope The WVU Center for Reproductive Medicine offers a way for a man to still father children, even if an illness or its treatment severely affects his fertility. Sperm cryopreservation, or freezing, is a procedure to preserve sperm for future use. By cooling the specimen to sub-zero temperatures, the frozen semen will remain viable for an indefinite period of time. This service may prove to be invaluable for men facing some tough circumstances, such as cancer. The closer radiation treatment is to the testicles, the higher the risk of infertility. Certain high-risk occupations, such as working with environmental toxins, also can be hazardous. Even military deployment to combat zones can be a cause for concern. Karen Merryman, RN, clinic manager with the Center for Reproductive Medicine, said that it’s better and more effective to preserve fertility prior to beginning treatment for medical issues. “I’m happy to talk with patients or their health care providers to expedite this

have a larger impact on health care,” Dr.

service to avoid delaying cancer treatment initiation,” she said. “And we have low-

Larrabee said.

cost options to encourage and support patients in protecting their future fertility.”

Nationwide, nine percent of medical students pursue emergency medicine as a specialty. SPRING 2012 | 23

Nau to Lead Eastern Division Konrad C. Nau, MD, has been appointed associate vice

Harpers Ferry a “Medical Home”

president for health sciences and campus dean for the School of Medicine, Eastern

The National Committee for Quality Assurance has

Division, effective July 1. Nau

recognized WVU’s Harpers Ferry Family Physicians

will fill the vacancy left by retiring

as a Level 1 Patient-Centered Medical Home. The

associate vice president Mitch

designation means that the medical practice has

Jacques, MD, who has led

achieved the organization’s high standards for access

the Eastern Division through a

and communication, patient tracking and registry, care

tremendous period of growth

management, patient self-management and support,

and accomplishment.

electronic prescribing, test tracking, referral tracking,

“We are extremely fortunate to

performance reporting and improvement, and advanced electronic communication. In a patient-centered medical home, “Your primary doctor is the center of your organizational hub,” said

have a leader for our Eastern Division academic programs with Dr. Nau’s credentials, experience and dedication to rural health,” said Christopher C. Colenda, MD, MPH, chancellor for health sciences.

William Lewis, MD, one of the Eastern Division physicians

Nau previously served the campus as associate dean and chair

who leads the practice. “The patient is at the center of

of Family Medicine. He established and led the WVU Rural Family

everything. We’re managing all the information and being

Medicine Residency Program from 1994-2004.

proactive for the patient instead of waiting for them to come to us.” This means, for example, calling a diabetes patient to see how things are going and suggest that an appointment

Interprofessional project to improve communication, rural care

with the doctor is due.

The Department of Family

Studies have shown that medical homes improve access

Medicine is leading a five-year

and reduce unnecessary medical costs.

project to help train health professionals in all disciplines

Dr. Lewis says that some of the changes at Harpers Ferry

to be better communicators

Family Physicians involved empowering their medical

and deliver healthcare

assistants to ask questions and to encourage patients to

more effectively in rural and

achieve healthier behaviors. A pediatric care coordinator

underserved communities.

works with entire families, helping them navigate their way

“Communication, in general, is

to raising healthy children.

where mistakes are made,” said

The clinic is making sure patients with chronic illness have

Dorian Williams, MD, who directs

access to care when they need it. “If they have a problem,

the project. “As physicians and

they can walk in any day, Monday through Saturday, and

healthcare providers, we

see one of us,” said Lewis. “The hope is to get them into

must maintain a constant vigil to make sure we are effectively

the office so they don’t end up in the emergency room.”

communicating with our patients and that they understand what we are saying.” The advanced communications skills curriculum will better prepare students in all the health professions to understand their patients and to interact in teams with their colleagues. The Federal Health Resources and Services Administration provided WVU with a $948,000 grant to support the communications curriculum and a primary care rural and underserved education track for medical students. Dr. Williams led a team of 65 faculty members from across the Health Sciences Center to plan and implement the program.

24 | WVUhealth

We’re growing to serve West Virginia WVU Healthcare is growing again. WVU Hospitals plans to add a 10-story tower to handle the increasing numbers of patients who have chosen us for their care. The $280 million tower project will take four years to complete. The project — the largest construction project on campus since Ruby Memorial Hospital was built in the late 1980s — will add adult and pediatric beds, expand the Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Emergency Department, and the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center, and provide all future patients with private rooms.

New Entry

It will also result in additional conference and educational space, along with more convenient and accessible patient parking. WVU Hospitals expects to add 750 permanent jobs as a result of the expansion.

New Tower

Nonprofit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 230 Morgantown, WV 26506-9083

PO Box 9083 Morgantown, WV 26506 School of Dentistry School of Medicine School of Nursing School of Pharmacy School of Public Health (in Development) WVU Healthcare University Health Associates West Virginia University Hospitals Member, West Virginia United Health System University Physicians of Charleston

In this issue of WVU health magazine, you’ll meet citizens all across our state who have experienced firsthand the positive impact our faculty, students, and alumni have on the health of individuals and communities.


Eastern Division Harpers Ferry Grantsville Webster Springs

Charleston Division


Mount Hope Beckley McDowell County

WVU Health Magazine  

A publication of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia

WVU Health Magazine  

A publication of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia