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The Catalyst

Convocation recognizes faculty for high achievements

MUSC faculty members honored their own Aug. 20 during their annual convocation, the kickoff to the 2013-14 academic year.

Members of the MUSC faculty are honored during the annual MUSC convocation Aug. 22.
Members of the MUSC faculty are honored during the annual MUSC convocation Aug. 22.

Fourteen members of the faculty were recognized in the following categories: Teaching Excellence, Developing Scholar, Outstanding Clinician, Peggy Schachte Research Mentor and Distinguished Faculty Service.

Prior to the awards portion of the program, faculty members heard keynote speaker Robert Sade, M.D., discuss “Ethics in the Emerging Health Care System.”

Summaries of the four recipients of the Teaching Excellence awards – Carrie L. Cormack, R.N., Dorothea D. Jenkins, M.D., Sara V. Kraft, P.T., DPT, and Shakaib U. Rehman, M.D. – were published in the May 17 issue of The Catalyst when the honorees were announced. Summaries of the remaining 10 honorees follow:

Developing Scholar

Katherine R. Sterba, Ph.D.

More people are surviving cancer or living longer through advancements in cancer research and treatment. But what are the long-term effects of survival on cancer patients and their caregivers? In this fledgling field of scientific inquiry, Sterba is pioneering research efforts as she attempts to study the issues facing survivors and caregivers.

Since there was no established study at MUSC in this particular field, she had to build one from the ground up. In doing so, she successfully assembled teams of clinicians representing several disciplines, other researchers and population scientists. Her work in this trailblazing field is gathering national recognition from other academic institutions and from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

Michael R. McCart, Ph.D.

McCart focuses his research on an issue most of society wishes would just go away: at-risk youth. From the halls of juvenile courts to the triage rooms of hospital emergency departments, troubled adolescents can be found suffering from a wide range of problems, such as drug use, sexually transmitted diseases, even Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Since joining MUSC’s Family Services Research Center in 2007, McCart has served as the principal investigator or key co-investigator on multiple federally-funded projects while building his own independent research program. His research has centered primarily on the evaluation of behavioral interventions for at risk adolescents.

Viswanathan Palanisamy, Ph.D.

Nausea may be the most common side effect of radiation or chemotherapy, but there are others, such as the often debilitating condition oral mucositis, a painful inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membrane lining the mouth, gums, tongue and throat, caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy used to target oral cancers.

With the progress being made in the laboratory of Palanisamy, however, oral mucositis may be one less condition to worry about in the future. Since arriving at MUSC in 2009, he has established a very robust laboratory allowing him to publish six papers and has recently been awarded a research project grant (R01) from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Outstanding Clinician

Eric M. Graham, M.D.

Graham embodies MUSC’s threefold mission of teaching, research and patient care. As director of the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Graham and his staff play a crucial role in The Children’s Hospital of South Carolina’s national ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

The hospital’s heart program is one of three nationally ranked specialties, along with nephrology and gastroenterology. In the supporting material for this award were letters from three families whose children had been in the intensive care unit. Two of those children eventually succumbed to their defective hearts, yet, in both cases, the parents were so moved by Graham’s care and compassion that they felt compelled to speak out. For one mother and father, the fact that Graham engaged them as participants in their daughter’s care meant everything to them. “By allowing us to have a role,” they said, “he made a way for us to thrive in what were the most difficult days of our lives.”

Georgette M. (Gigi) Smith, Ph.D.

Epilepsy can strike at any age, but it is the very young and the very old who are the most vulnerable. For the stricken children, Smith is their champion. Smith has devoted more than two-thirds of her 28-year career to children with epilepsy and their parents at MUSC. Her care extends beyond the clinic and hospital settings into the community in a tireless effort to ensure quality of life and best outcomes for her patients.

Together with a pediatrician specializing in developmental disabilities, they developed a neurobehavioral clinic to see children with autism, behavioral disorders and epilepsy, which has been favorably received by caregivers. She also has been involved in the establishment of MUSC’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, which the National Association of Epilepsy Centers has designated as a Level 4 facility, the highest classification possible.

Peggy Schachte Research Mentor

Ashli J. Sheidow, Ph.D.

Sheidow, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, is an accomplished researcher with extensive federal funding. A clinical psychologist, she is working to improve the effectiveness and availability of treatments for adolescents and their families.

If her professional achievements did not extend beyond this point, it would be an impressive body of work. Sheidow, however, goes far beyond that. She has mentored junior faculty and post-doctoral fellows resulting in more than $5 million in awards to MUSC from the National Institutes of Health. She is committed to mentoring faculty from underrepresented minority groups, most notably women scholars. To this end, she is heavily involved in the leadership of MUSC’s Women Scholars Initiative, established to promote gender equity in the recruitment, retention and advancement of women faculty.

As an example of Sheidow’s commitment and creativity, she implemented an on-campus professional development program for women faculty that attracted more than 50 attendees for the same amount it would have cost to send two or three faculty members out of town. The program was so successful another one is being planned.

Gary S. Gilkeson, M.D.

Gilkeson may not be able to move heaven and earth, but he moved colleague Jim Oates from Durham, N.C., to Charleston without even trying. Gilkeson was an associate professor at Duke in the mid 1990s and a mentor to Oates, an M.D., who was completing a fellowship at Duke Univeristy Medical Center when Gilkeson relocated to MUSC. Oates promptly followed him.

“I knew little of the Medical University of South Carolina or of the strengths of the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology,” Oates said, “but I was willing to move anywhere to continue my work with him.”

Such strong bonds between Gilkeson and his mentees are common. Descriptive terms such as “generous,” “nurturing,” “kind” and “encouraging” are typical when former and current trainees of Gilkeson explain their relationship. Through the years, Gilkeson has mentored a lengthy and impressive list of basic and clinical scientists: seven graduate students, six Ph.D.s and six medical degrees postdoctoral fellows and seven junior faculty, not to mention many high school, college and medical students. Many have assumed leadership positions in academia and industry, and can be found as far away as Japan.

Distinguished Faculty Service

Ian A. Aaronson, M.D.

Since his arrival at MUSC in 1987, Aaronson has made the institution a center for the treatment and study of pediatric urology. In fact, for 20 years he was the only pediatric urologist within South Carolina’s borders, but, more importantly, he was and still is one of the top clinicians in his field. He has continually been named one of America’s Best Doctors since 1998.

He has built up the Division of the Pediatric Urology from an average of eight outpatient visits a week to more than 100 patients being seen on a weekly basis and through this productivity has developed the Division of Pediatric Urology to the extent that the staff has expanded to four faculty members. MUSC is now recognized as the main referral center for pediatric urology for South Carolina as well as the border areas of North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It is also recognized as a referral center for both email and telemedicine advice from around the country.

Patrick M. O’Neil, Ph.D.

O’Neil joined MUSC’s fledgling Weight Management Center as an intern in the 1970s. Obesity was not the overwhelming health concern it is now. Since assuming leadership of the center in 1984, O’Neil and the center have moved to the forefront of the obesity issue that is now considered a major health problem in the U.S. for adults and children.

Today, he directs a vastly expanded, nationally recognized program with a distinguished staff comprised of physicians, nurses, dietitians, exercise physiologists and researchers. O’Neil himself has become an international leader in the field of obesity research, having participated in or led more than 53 published studies on obesity. He has published 64 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 75 abstracts and 14 book chapters and monographs. He has brought in an impressive amount of extramural funding and has served on the editorial boards of four peer-reviewed obesity-related journals.

He has served as president of The Obesity Society, and is an honorary member of the American Dietetic Association. O’Neil wrote a weekly column on weight issues for the Charleston Post & Courier for nine years, displaying a wry sense of humor along with information on healthy lifestyles.

Roger L. White, PharmD

In a stellar career at MUSC dating back to 1985, White epitomizes the institution’s three-pronged mission of academics, research and patient care. “Tough, but fair” would be a common description of White that students offer after completing his courses. He is as generous with his time as he is his knowledge in an effort to ensure his students understand the material.

As a result, White has earned the College of Pharmacy’s preceptor of the year on two occasions for teaching in a clinical setting and professor of the year once. In today’s digital society, with information instantly available with the press of a finger, keeping the attention of students presents more of a challenge. White succeeds in this endeavor by incorporating innovation in the classroom. During his lectures, he utilizes many active learning techniques to include students on both the MUSC and University of South Carolina campuses, which house the South Carolina College of Pharmacy.

It also should be noted that White’s students range in age from high school to adult. He mentors both junior and senior faculty on how to incorporate new teaching techniques into their courses.

August 28, 2013

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