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The Catalyst

Campus research award presented to MUSC faculty

By J. Ryne Danielson

2016 John R. Raymond Fellowship Award winners Emily Johnson, Ph.D., left, and Anya Benitez, Ph.D. Each will receive a grant to develop a relationship with a mentor outside MUSC.

The 2016 John R. Raymond Fellowship Awards were presented to Emily Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Nursing, and Anya Benitez, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Medicine, at Colcock Hall June 15. Named for the former MUSC provost and vice president for academic affairs, who served from 2002 until 2010, the awards were created to provide financial support for full-time faculty members to develop a mentor relationship with an expert outside MUSC.

Darlene Shaw, Ph.D., associate provost for educational affairs and student life and MUSC’s chief of institutional strategy, presented the awards on behalf of Raymond, who could not attend. “Dr. Raymond was personally dedicated to the advancement of women,” she explained. “Even after leaving MUSC, he continues to provide us funds every year keep the fellowship alive.”

Shaw chairs the steering committee for the Women’s Scholars Initiative, a career advancement program for women at MUSC that Raymond helped to found. “The WSI is dedicated to the recruitment, retention and advancement of women at MUSC and cuts across all missions of the enterprise: clinical, education, and research. We offer 11 different programs over the course of a year, each of them geared toward helping women advance their careers, whether that be through academic promotion, tenure, or by helping to position them to better compete for leadership positions. Because of our success, the WSI recently received national recognition from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“WSI was one of the first affinity groups here at MUSC.  Our mission is a vital part of  MUSC’s broader mission of fostering diversity and inclusion in all that we do, one of the five goals of our strategic plan, Imagine MUSC 2020,” Shaw continued. “We’re proud to see our work as part of that bigger picture.”

Shaw thanked Raymond for his continuing support of the program, as well as Mark Sothmann, Ph.D., MUSC’s outgoing provost for academic affairs. “Under Mark’s leadership, we made an important step forward. He asked the deans to provide an annual report about the status of women in their colleges. This helps keep the issue on everyone’s radar screen and keeps the conversation going.”

Shaw also recognized the new dean of the College of Medicine, Ray Dubois, M.D., Ph.D., for the continued funding his college provides the WSI.

Katherine Twombley, M.D., medical director of the pediatric kidney transplant program and director of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology, was present at the ceremony to share her experience since winning the award last year. Working with mentor Ruth McDonald, M.D., medical director of Seattle Children’s Hospital’s pediatric solid organ transplant program, Twombley’s goal was ambitious: establishing a pediatric solid organ transplant program at MUSC that would combine existing heart, liver and kidney transplant programs.

“I want to thank the WSI,” Twombley said. “This has been an absolutely phenomenal program to take part in. The little bit of investment you get from this grant goes so far. It is life changing what this award does.”
Twombley said she abruptly became division director two years ago and was in search of an experienced mentor who could guide her through the transition. “I owe it to my junior faculty to be the best division director I can be,” she said. “I really wanted to find someone who had been a successful division director, who could help me figure out how best to serve my junior faculty.”

McDonald’s advice was instrumental in adjusting to the ins and outs of being an administrator, Twombley explained, from figuring out how to manage the division’s budget to managing her own work-life balance. Her mentor also helped develop a business plan for the new combined pediatric organ transplant program, which Twombley is in the process of implementing.

“We have three pediatric transplant programs. Each organ has its own medical director, and historically we’ve functioned independently of each other. But we have children who need heart and kidney transplants or liver and kidney transplants. For them to go to the heart clinic in North Charleston on Wednesday and then come to the kidney clinic on Thursday is really becoming a stressor for some of these families.”

Twombley said she’s just hired a pediatric pharmacist, who will be shared by all three programs. Starting in September, the kidney and liver transplant programs will operate out of the same clinic, and a kidney specialist will move into the heart transplant clinic.

Combining services puts patients and their families first, she said, which is another strategic goal of Imagine MUSC 2020.   

“I just want to thank John R. Raymond,” she said, pointing out that Raymond was also a nephrologist. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity, and I hope I’ve done him proud.”

Twombley said she still regularly talks to her mentor and that the experience has been life changing. She hopes this year’s recipients will find it just as rewarding and said she’s looking forward to their presentations next year.

“Hold on tight,” she told them, “you’re in for a ride.”

June 24, 2016



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