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April 2011 E-News

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Changing the Faces of Medicine - from Senior Vice Dean Gail Morrison, M'71, FEL'76

Making Penn Medicine welcoming to and supportive of all students has long been an important goal for Dean Rubenstein and me.

Recently we are seeing signs that Penn Medicine is becoming a model in breaking down the barriers women and minorities face in academic medicine.

Last year the Penn Medicine FOCUS program was awarded a first of its kind, $1.3 million National Institutes of Health Transforming American Culture grant. FOCUS on Health & Leadership for Women was founded in 1994 to recruit and mentor the best female faculty candidates in order to support women’s advancement and leadership in academic medicine. Click here for a complete view of FOCUS programming.

The NIH grant will fund a large-scale study of interventions aimed at women in academic medicine. The results will help us create effective strategies to close the gender gap in our profession.

Students Lead the Way

Advocating for women and minorities in leadership roles begins with our medical students. This year, a perfect case in point is provided by the two recipients of the Helen O. Dickens Award for outstanding leadership in increasing the respect and sensitivity shown to minority groups.

Crystal Agi and Bridget Perrin“There is a very strong minority community at Penn Medicine,” said Bridget Perrin, one of our Dickens Award recipients. “It’s like a family. You feel welcome and included.”

Among their contributions, Ms. Perrin and fellow award recipient Crystal Agi led a workshop for entering first-year minority students. There upperclasspersons discussed their experiences with academics and extracurricular activities.

The two award winners also developed the annual “Faculty/House Staff and Student Mentoring Program,” where minority residents and faculty join together each month to give new students advice on excelling in their specialties.

“I came to Penn because of a mentor who also was a Helen O. Dickens award recipient. Her success influenced me to choose Penn Medicine,” said Ms. Agi. “It has been great to be a minority who is cared about as a student and is not just another number. The Penn Office of Diversity really keeps in touch with you and is proactive throughout your academic career.”

With their involvement in mentoring and academic accomplishments, these soon-to-be graduates surely honor Dr. Dickens. A former associate dean of medicine, and distinguished professor emerita of obstetrics and gynecology, she was the first female African-American board-certified in Ob/Gyn in Philadelphia.

Both Ms. Perrin and Ms. Agi will graduate this spring and have focused their studies on dermatology. Ms. Agi is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society.

With students like these carrying on our tradition of commitment to attracting and supporting the best students, I am confident our progress will continue.

Noted Physicians – and Penn Classmates – to Offer Perspective on 50 Years in Medicine

“Hearing from any one of these high-achieving physicians would be a special occasion,” said Dr. Michael Aronoff, M’66. “So I jumped at the chance to be in the room with all of them. I am looking forward to a stimulating dialogue.”

Dr. Aronoff will be the moderator for the Friday morning MAW panel, “50th Reunion Class Presents: Our Most Memorable Events in 50 Years as Physicians.” Dr. Aronoff is a clinical professor at NYU, an attending psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital, author, and - appropriately for a panel on change in medicine - one of the hosts on SiriusXM’s ‘Doctor Radio’ lineup.

Each panelist will briefly share their thoughts on an area of expertise. Most of the session will focus on answering questions from the audience. Our speakers:Sidney Pestka

  • H. Franklin Bunn, M.D. developed the A1C test that dramatically improved the treatment and outcomes for diabetes patients.
  • Robert Daroff, M.D. was the Gilbert Humphrey Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at Case Western Reserve for 13 years, and has received almost every honor one can receive in American neurology and neuro-ophthalmology. He is also well known for his development leadership at Case Western.
  • Stanley Dudrick, M.D. is the key developer of total parenteral nutrition, which forever changed the practice of surgery.
  • Sidney Pestka, M.D. the "father of interferon," is acclaimed for his groundbreaking work developing antiviral treatments for chronic hepatitis B and C, multiple sclerosis and cancers. He holds more than 270 patents.
  • Thomas Rohner, Jr, M.D. is a noted surgeon and professor emeritus of urology at the Penn State College of Medicine’s Hershey Medical Center and is chairman of the AUA's Urology Work Force Task Force.
  • Lawrence Wood, M.D. is a well known thyroid expert whose work has influenced patients around the world. Dr. Wood created the Thyroid Foundation of America in 1985.

Not only are our panelists all classmates - they have all made time for Penn Medicine in their crowded schedules. All serve on their reunion committee, and Drs. Bunn, Daroff, Dudrick, and Pestka have earned the Distinguished Graduate Award. Dr. Wood, son of Francis Wood, Penn’s first chair of the Department of Medicine, may have the longest lasting ties to his medical alma mater.

The panel begins at 8:00 am on Friday, May 13th and is located in Room 252 of the Biomedical Research Building. We hope you will plan to attend. Click here to register now.

2011 Penn Medicine Teaching Award Recipients Announced

We are pleased to report that Penn Medicine alumni Rachel Kelz, M.D., M.S.C.E. Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Stephen Kimmel, M.D., M.S.C.E. Associate Professor of Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania are the Health School recipients of the 2011 Lindback Awards for Distinguished Teaching.

Both Dr. Kelz and Dr. Kimmel obtained the Master’s of Science in Clinical Epidemiology from Penn Medicine, she in 2002 and he in 1995. Dr. Kelz was also a research fellow at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Surgery, and went on to complete her residency and internship in general surgery at HUP.

The Lindback Award recognizes standing faculty at colleges and universities throughout the mid-Atlantic who demonstrate academic excellence and outstanding teaching. Winners are determined by nominations and recommendations made by University of Pennsylvania faculty and students.

In addition, Benoit Dubé, M.D. Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania is the Health School recipient of The Provost’s Award, given in recognition of distinguished teaching by associated faculty or academic support staff.

Congratulations to our accomplished award winners!

Click here for the full Almanac article.

In Memoriam: Nobel Laureate Baruch Blumberg

Dr. Baruch Blumberg, University Professor and Nobel laureate, died on April 5 shortly after giving the keynote speech in Moffett Field, California at a NASA Ames Research Center meeting focused upon the search for extraterrestrial life. He was 85.

Dr. Blumberg was best known for identifying the hepatitis B virus, a discovery that led to the first vaccine against hepatitis B, which was the first vaccine capable of preventing a human cancer. He won the 1976 Nobel Prize along with D. Carleton Gajdusek, for “discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases.” He was the author of Hepatitis B: The Hunt for a Killer Virus, which detailed the discovery that led to his Nobel.

Born in 1925 in New York City, Dr. Blumberg was educated at Union College while in the US Navy. After leaving active duty in 1946, he entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia. He earned a Ph.D. at Balliol College at Oxford University. Dr. Blumberg worked at the NIH from 1957 to 1964. He joined the Institute for Cancer Research, where he was affiliated at the time of the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Blumberg’s Penn career began as an associate professor of medicine in 1964. Two years later, he received a secondary appointment as an associate professor in genetics. He was made full professor in 1970, and would go on to get another secondary appointment as a professor of anthropology. He was given the distinction of University Professor of Medicine and Anthropology in 1977.

In 1989, he returned to Oxford to be the Master of Balliol College. He has also taught at Stanford. Dr. Blumberg was founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. He was elected president of the American Philosophical Society in 2005. In 1990 he received an honorary degree from Penn.

He is survived by his wife, Jean; children, Anne, George, Jane and Noah; and nine grandchildren.

Contributions may be made to the Baruch S. Blumberg Research Grant Fund, c/o American Philosophical Society, 104 S. 5th St., Philadelphia, PA 19106.


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