School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
School of Medicine Class of 2013 commencement ceremony celebrates 277 new doctors
In Headlines on May 21, 2013
Friends Lindsay Richmond, M.D., left, and Philip McDonald, M.D., celebrate graduation May 20, 2013, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Friends Lindsay Richmond, M.D., left, and Philip McDonald, M.D., celebrate graduation May 20, 2013, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Graduate Brenda Satterthwaite, M.D., poses with her boyfriend, from left, and her father, mother and grandmother before the commencement ceremony.

Graduate Brenda Satterthwaite, M.D., poses with her boyfriend, from left, and her father, mother and grandmother before the commencement ceremony.

Jason Epstein, M.D., will soon begin an emergency medicine residency in Lansing, Mich.

Jason Epstein, M.D., will soon begin an emergency medicine residency in Lansing, Mich.

A friend helps a graduate with her ceremony hood.

A friend helps a graduate with her ceremony hood.

Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., congratulates a graduate at the May 20, 2013 commencement and hooding ceremony at Detroit's Fox Theatre.

Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., congratulates a graduate at the May 20, 2013 commencement and hooding ceremony at Detroit's Fox Theatre.

Keynote speaker Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D., receives the hood marking his honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wayne State University.

Keynote speaker Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D., receives the hood marking his honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wayne State University.

They did it. And they couldn’t be happier.

“Happy to be done and share this day with family and friends,” said graduate and new doctor Lindsay Richmond, M.D., 26, of Clawson, Mich.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s 141st commencement and hooding ceremony for 277 men and women who earned the title of doctor was held Monday at Detroit’s historic Fox Theatre.

(Click here for photos from the event).

School of Medicine faculty, deans, department chairs, WSU President Allan Gilmour, his cabinet members and other dignitaries filled the stage as family and friends of the new physicians packed the venue’s main floor and upper levels. Mothers and fathers, grandparents, siblings and children were there, cheering and applauding the culmination of four years of intense studying, exams, courses, clerkships and perhaps more than a few sleepless nights.

Dr. Richmond is headed to an emergency medicine residency at St. John Providence Hospital in Detroit next month. She met friend and fellow graduate Philip McDonald, M.D., 26, in their first year of medical school. Thankfully, graduation wasn’t goodbye for the two. He is staying in WSU’s back yard, studying internal medicine at the Detroit Medical Center. The Saginaw, Mich., native moved to Detroit to participate in WSU’s MedStart program eight years ago, and doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.

“I’ve been in Detroit for a long time, and love the city. I feel like I’m home here,” he said.

Graduation was an early birthday present for another friend, new physician Jason Epstein, M.D., a Fullerton, Calif., native who turns 39 in two weeks. Ten years ago, he was an unfulfilled Japanese-to-English language translator with an unused undergraduate degree in chemistry. Then he decided to apply for medical school, a two-year process he said. He was 35 on his first day at WSU.

“It’s a huge relief,” he said of graduating.

He is headed to Lansing, Mich., for an emergency medicine residency at Sparrow Hospital.

“Our father went to law school in his 40s, so we sort of have it in our genes,” joked his brother, Dan Epstein, who flew to Detroit from San Francisco for the ceremony. “I’m very proud and excited for him.”

The afternoon was celebratory, but not without poignancy.

“Your parents were right when they told you that you were special. You are,” said Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., beaming at the graduates. “I am extra proud of all of you today and I wish you all the best. Congratulations to the Class of 2013.”

The physicians now move on to graduate medical education, serving as residents, for the next three to seven years, depending on their chosen specialty. More than half of the Class of 2013 will begin practicing medicine in Michigan, good news for a state with a projected physician shortage, as studies show that residents who train in Michigan often remain here for the majority of their careers. Another 35.8 percent will enter primary care residencies.

Whatever their specialty, keynote speaker Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D., encouraged them to stay engaged as physicians, working as advocates for patients in the new era of health care.

“It is a privilege of the degree, and I hope you don’t take it lightly,” Dr. Grover said. “People need you to speak up for them.”

Dr. Grover received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the ceremony for advancing policies that will lead to better education for students while protecting and improving the health of the public. He is chief public policy officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, a nonprofit representing all 141 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools, as well as nearly 400 teaching hospitals and health systems.

Of Monday’s graduates, 47.7 percent will head out of state to practice medicine in 23 states and Canada, at Yale University’s New Haven Hospital, the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in Minnesota, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California and other prestigious hospitals, universities and medical centers.

Graduate Brenda Satterthwaite, M.D., is headed to an anesthesiology residency in Pittsburgh. The self-proclaimed “farm kid” spent her childhood and teen years running around the family property in Chelsea, Mich., so her decision to attend medical school was “out of the blue, at least as parents we thought it was,” said her mother, Barb Satterthwaite.

Yet as they talked outside the Fox Theatre shortly before the ceremony, her father, Trent Satterthwaite, remembered how helpful she was with the farm’s livestock, giving them shots when needed and other care. “Working on a farm, she got a lot of practical experience,” he said.
Study finds progesterone as effective as surgery to prevent preterm birth, with fewer risks
In Headlines on May 20, 2013

Researchers of the Perinatology Research Branch of the National Institutes of Health, housed at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Detroit Medical Center, have found that while cervical cerclage surgery and the daily use of progesterone in pregnant mothers with a sonographically identified shortened cervix are equally effective in preventing preterm birth, progesterone use carries fewer risks of complication.

The findings indicate that physicians should revisit their thinking about recommending surgery in favor of treatment with progesterone to stave off premature birth in women with a shortened cervix.

“The key finding of this study is that vaginal progesterone and cervical cerclage have similar efficacy for the prevention of preterm birth and adverse perinatal outcomes in patients with a short cervix and a history of preterm birth. Given similar efficacy, therapeutic decision-making can be informed by reports about adverse events and cost-effectiveness of the interventions, as well as the patient and physician’s preferences,” said Agustin Conde-Agudelo, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., lead author of the study

Cervical cerclage involves the placement of sutures in the cervix to hold it closed during pregnancy. The surgery is performed because a short or weakened cervix may not remain closed throughout pregnancy, leading to premature birth, which carries its own complications for the child’s health. Many women are prescribed bed rest after the procedure.

While generally considered safe, cerclage is surgery and carries with it the risks associated with anesthesia, as well as other complications, including premature labor, infection of the cervix or the amniotic sac and bleeding. The procedure requires that the sutures be removed before labor begins, and, in some cases, may require a cesarean delivery.

Current recommendations that women with a short cervix and a history of preterm birth should be treated with cervical cerclage “must be revisited in light of the results of the present study. Medical treatment with vaginal progesterone can decrease the risks that are associated with anesthesia and a surgical procedure; therefore, it is important to disclose the availability of a non-surgical therapeutic choice to patients with a history of preterm birth and a short cervix,” said Roberto Romero, M.D., D.Med.Sci., chief of the Perinatology Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health  and a member of the research team that published the study.

The findings further substantiate PRB discoveries that the daily application of progesterone in women identified with a shortened cervix reduced the rate of preterm birth by as much as 53 percent. The therapy is relatively inexpensive – especially when compared to surgery – and pregnant women can apply the progesterone themselves.

“Given the apparent equivalence in efficacy between vaginal progesterone and cerclage, differences in adverse effects are key variables that clinicians and patients with a single pregnancy and a previous spontaneous preterm birth should consider when selecting an optimal treatment for a sonographic short cervix in the mid-trimester,” said Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate dean of Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health for WSU and director of the PRB’s Center for Advanced Obstetrical Care and Research.

The study, “Vaginal progesterone vs. cervical cerclage for the prevention of preterm birth in women with a sonographic short cervix, previous preterm birth, and singleton gestation: a systematic review and indirect comparison meta-analysis,” appeared in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in January.

Every year 13 million babies worldwide die or struggle to survive because they were born too early. In the United States, one in eight babies is born prematurely. In Michigan, prematurity rates are higher than the national average. In addition to being a leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality, the economic impact of premature birth costs more than $26 billion annually, according to the March of Dimes.

International physics organization to honor Professor Emeritus Colin Orton, Ph.D.
In Headlines on May 17, 2013
Colin Orton, Ph.D.

Colin Orton, Ph.D.

The International Congress of Medical Physics will honor Professor Emeritus Colin Orton, Ph.D., for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of medical physics and health care at its 50th annual meeting, Sept. 1-4, in Brighton, England.

The IOMP represents medical physics associations in 80 countries. Posters of the 50 most important contributors to medical physics will be on display on the 50th anniversary of the formation of the organization. Dr. Orton was one of 21 medical physicists nominated by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine for consideration. Eleven of the AAPM’s nominees were selected by the IOMP.

“I feel very fortunate to have been selected, since I certainly would have selected many of my colleagues ahead of me, so I feel that this is one of the most important honors I have received, right up there with the Lifetime Achievement Award I received several years ago from WSU,” he said.

Dr. Orton retired from the Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2003 as professor of Radiation Oncology. He joined the faculty in 1981, and received the School of Medicine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. School of Medicine Professor of Radiation Oncology Jay Burmeister, Ph.D., is among his mentees.

“I don't think that there is any question that Colin deserves to be mentioned among the dozen or so individuals who had the most profound impact on the profession of medical physics over the last 50 years,” said Dr. Burmeister, chief of Physics at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit. “Colin's career has been remarkable and incredibly influential. This is exhibited by numerous leadership roles throughout the medical physics profession and awards for lifetime achievement within it. But it may be even more evident in the legacy of trainees that continues to spread in the wake of his career. He trained and mentored hundreds of medical physicists over several decades and those trainees continue to pass on his teaching and his enthusiasm for medical physics. His career has either directly or indirectly influenced some tremendous fraction of medical physicists practicing today.”

Among them is WSU graduate school alumnus Gary Ezzell, Ph.D., chief of Physics at The Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and president of the AAPM in 2012.

"He is not only a superbly competent scientist and educator, he is the consummate gentleman, always much more concerned with advancing the field and his students’ careers than in calling attention to himself,” Dr. Ezzell said of Dr. Orton.

The AAPM is a scientific and professional organization founded in 1958 and made up of more than 7,500 scientists whose clinical practice is dedicated to ensuring accuracy, safety and quality in the use of radiation in medical procedures such as medical imaging and radiation therapy. Dr. Orton received the organization’s William D. Coolidge Award, its highest honor, in 1993, given annually to a member who has exhibited a distinguished career in medical physics and who has exerted a significant impact on the practice of medical physics.

He served as editor of the journal Medical Physics, the leading journal of the profession, from 1997 to 2004. He also served as president of the IOMP from 1997 to 2000, and president of the International Union for Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine from 2003 to 2006.

Dr. Orton received his doctorate in 1965 from the University of London, and was elected president of the AAPM in 1981.

Dr. Brian O'Neil appointed chair of WSU Emergency Medicine
In Headlines on May 16, 2013
Brian O'Neil, M.D.

Brian O'Neil, M.D.

Brian O’Neil, M.D., the Edward S. Thomas Endowed Professor and associate chair of Research for the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been appointed chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., announced the appointment May 16.

Dr. O’Neil has served as interim chair of the department for the last year.

“Dr. O’Neil has proven to be a strong leader, and due to his outstanding performance and leadership the faculty of the department unanimously elected to forgo a national search and recommended that he be appointed chair,” Dean Parisi said. “I believe that Dr. O’Neil’s passion for medicine and education, and the treatment of patients, as well as his national reputation with the American Heart Association, make him the ideal leader for the department.”

Dr. O’Neil, a recognized expert in the field of cardiac and cerebral resuscitation, is a 1986 graduate of the WSU School of Medicine.

“It is an absolute honor to be chosen to lead this world-class department,” said Dr. O’Neil, who also serves as director of Basic Science Research in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

The Clarkston, Mich., resident chairs the American Heart Association’s Emergency Cardiovascular Committee Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Committee. He was named immediate past president of the science sub-committee chair of the ECC. In addition, he is a member of the Emergency Cardiac Care Steering Committee and the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation, advisory groups to the American Heart Association.

“Our first order of business is to get our three new fellowships in clinical research, sports medicine and EMS up and running so we can get started on our ultrasound fellowship,” Dr. O’Neil said. “Secondly, we have been able to hire a number of fellowship-trained junior faculty and we need to get them aligned with mentors and started down their academic career path.”

A member of the writing committee for the American Heart Association Acute Coronary Syndromes Guidelines and the association’s Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Subcommittee and Writing Group, he co-wrote the AHA’s newest guidelines on cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which significantly updated CPR basics taught for decades.

After graduating from WSU, Dr. O’Neil completed his emergency medicine residency at Detroit Receiving Hospital in1989 and was named chief resident. He also completed a National Institutes of Health fellowship in Basic Science Research in 1990.

He serves as associate editor of Academic Emergency Medicine and program director of the American College of Emergency Physicians Scientific Assembly Research Forum. He also is a member of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine’s Research Committee.

Dr. O’Neil was recently awarded the American College of Emergency Medicine’s Outstanding Contributions in Research Award, that organization’s highest honor for research.
Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Dr. Vijay Mittal to examine standardizing surgical education globally
In Headlines on May 15, 2013
Vijay Mittal, M.D.

Vijay Mittal, M.D.

Vijay Mittal, M.D., knows first-hand what it’s like to emigrate to the United States after completing surgical training in India.

“Surgical training in other countries isn’t recognized in the North American system. So when I came here in 1974, after practicing as a general and transplant surgeon for three years in India, I had to start all over,” said Dr. Mittal, clinical associate professor of Surgery at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and program director of the General Surgery Residency Program at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mich. “I had to do a surgical residency and fellowship in Detroit, as if I was just out of medical school.  My education and experience in India was not recognized.”

As a recent recipient of the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Award, Dr. Mittal will focus on changing that situation. His proposal to the Fulbright Commission, titled “Global Surgical Education Evaluation and Uniformity,” is one of 40 that earned their authors Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Awards in Teaching and Research, considered by many the most prestigious appointment in the Fulbright Program.

Dr. Mittal’s project will take him to India, where he will work with other surgical educators to enhance the country’s surgical training curriculum to bring it in line with that of the United States. “People who intend to return to India after training in the U.S. often fail. This is because they’re not trained in the same system in which they’ll eventually practice,” Dr. Mittal said. “In India, there are different disease processes, different resources, different technology and different socio-economic considerations that confront young surgeons when they return. It’s critical that their training involve the same group of patients and pathologies they will someday manage.”

U.S. Sen. William Fulbright founded the Fulbright Program in 1946 to increase mutual understanding and respect between the U.S. and other countries. Fulbright scholars are seen as cultural ambassadors to their host countries, and are expected to be involved members of the communities they visit. Fulbright alumni include 43 Nobel laureates, 78 Pulitzer Prize winners, 10 U.S. congressmen and 18 government heads of state.

The newly formed College of Surgeons of India, at the All Asian Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi, will support Dr. Mittal’s effort. The college, Dr. Mittal said, plans to create a national organization similar to the American Board of Surgery, which centralizes evaluation of surgical education and certification. Dr. Mittal and representatives of the college will examine India’s surgical education system in comparison to systems in Great Britain and the U.S., and work to develop a standardized approach.

“It will be useful to both Indian and North American educators to share processes and information.” Dr. Mittal said. “Recently the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has established an international rotation for U.S. surgical residents and this will also create an interest in the exchange of residents and faculty members between our two continents.”

Dr. Mittal was recently approved by the ACGME for this new rotation between Providence Hospital and New Delhi’s All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences. He hopes eventually to launch a similar exchange program for faculty members.

Dr. Mittal has spent the last 35 years in the U.S. practicing general, vascular and transplant surgery. He has served as president of the International College of Surgeons, Detroit Surgical Association, the Academy of Surgery of Detroit and is president of the Michigan Chapter of the American College of Surgeons. He has been a longtime chair of the Surgical Education Committee of the Southeast Michigan Center of Medical Education consortium.

He will spend four months in India over the next year visiting five major postgraduate institutions and five private hospitals to compare their medical education programs.

“I want to give back to my home country something of value,” he said. “I hope to help eliminate obstacles for future Indian surgeons. I realize there are many differences between the two systems and I wish my Fulbright project will help us move closer to parity.”
Dr. Noa Ofen to chair symposia at Biological Psychiatry meeting
In Headlines on May 15, 2013
Noa Ofen, Ph.D.

Noa Ofen, Ph.D.

Wayne State University faculty member Noa Ofen, Ph.D., will chair and speak at a major selected symposium at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, May 16-18, in San Francisco.

The two-hour May 16 symposia, "Memory Systems in Development, Risk and Disease: A Case-Study for R-DoC Applications in the Schizophrenia Diathesis,” will highlight through 30-minute presentations the challenges and value of applying the National Institutes of Health’s recent standard on Research Domain Criteria, or R-DoC, for understanding mechanisms underlying significant psychiatric illnesses.

National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel, Ph.D., announced in an April 29 post to the NIMH’s Director’s Blog that R-DoC will be the new standard by which the NIMH will assess funding proposals. He wrote that it launched the RDoC project to transform diagnosis by incorporating genetics, imaging, cognitive science and other levels of information to lay the foundation for a new classification system.

Dr. Ofen is assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, WSU Institute of Gerontology and Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development. She joined the faculty in 2011 with the goal of translating her expertise in pediatric functional magnetic resonance imaging in normal development to the study of neurodevelopmental disorders.

As chair, she will present the framework for the symposia in her introductory session comments.

WSU’s Vaibhav Diwadkar, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences, also will present results from studies of disordered development of working-memory related brain networks in adolescent vulnerability for schizophrenia.

The studies are consistent with an R-DoC approach toward understanding disordered brain mechanisms and circuits that contribute toward risk and vulnerability for disorders, he said.

Dr. Ofen’s achievement in constructing such a major symposium is notable because she is a recent entrant into the world of Biological Psychiatry, Dr. Diwadkar said.

“Until as recently as 18 months ago, she had been primarily focused on studies in human neurodevelopment. This success is very revealing of her significant talent, her drive and her translational vision,” he said.

Dr. Ofen’s long-range research goal is to understand learning and memory networks in the developing human brain. Learning and memory are severely impaired in schizophrenia, and “it became quickly clear that studying at-risk population offers a unique opportunity to expand my research interests in the service of an important clinical and developmental question,” she said. “I am excited to present my new research direction in the Society of Biological Psychiatry and have already received excited advanced emails from meeting participants in anticipation of the symposium.”

She initially approached the presenters, who include Dr. Diwadkar and others from the NIH and University of California at Davis.

“I was fortunate to get enthusiastic responses from the presenters and was delighted to learn that the symposium was selected among the few to be presented in the conference. Presentations will cut across various stages, including typical development, childhood onset schizophrenia, adolescents at-risk, and affected adults, and offer convergence of both structural and functional neuroimaging methodologies,” he said.

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