Dr. Johns

February 2007

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Georgia’s Emergence as a Powerhouse State in the Life Sciences Industries

photo of Rafi Ahmed
photo of Marie Csete
Researchers across the Woodruff Health Sciences Center have never been more productive in their contributions to Georgia’s life sciences industry. Thanks to their ongoing efforts, Emory received several awards this year as part of an annual recognition bestowed by the Georgia Biomedical Partnership (GBP), a consortium of biotech companies, universities, research institutes, and government:
  • The Emory Vaccine Center, led by Rafi Ahmed, PhD, (above left) received the GBP’s Biomedical Community Award. Over the past decade, the center has attracted more than $200 million in external research funding, and it employs 39 faculty researchers and nearly 200 postgraduate students and staff developing vaccines for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, malaria, influenza, and other global diseases.
  • Marie Csete, MD, PhD, (left) director of Emory’s human embryonic stem cell lab, was honored as a member of the GBP’s 2006 Legislative Response Team for efforts related to cloning and stem cell legislation.
  • GBP recognized Emory, Georgia Tech, and Medical College of Georgia with a Deal of the Year award for their receipt of a $10 million NIH grant to create a Nanomedicine Development Center focused on DNA repair.
  • Several biotech startup companies also received Deal of the Year awards: (1) GeoVax Labs for its “reverse merger” with Dauphin Technology, enabling GeoVax to be publicly traded. GeoVax is conducting clinical trials of an AIDS vaccine developed by Harriet Robinson, PhD, chief of microbiology and immunology at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and her colleagues. (2) AtheroGenics was recognized for a partnership with London-based AstraZeneca for commercialization of an atherosclerosis drug. (3) Metastatix, which is developing drugs to treat metastatic cancer, HIV, and macular degeneration, was recognized for raising $3.6 million in Series A venture capital funding.

GRA Partners with Emory to Recruit Alzheimer’s Vaccine Expert

Photo of Dr. GandyAlzheimer’s researcher Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, who joins the Emory faculty in July, is the 56th scientist attracted to Georgia research universities under the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholars Program. In addition to his research on Alzheimer's vaccines, he is widely recognized for discoveries involving the effects of estrogen and testosterone on plaque formation in the brain and for his role in discovery of the first drugs that could lower formation of amyloid, the sticky substance that clogs the brain in patients with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Gandy comes to Emory from Thomas Jefferson University, where he directs the Farber Institute for Neurosciences.

Dr. Gandy’s recruitment is part of the WHSC’s overall Vision 2012 strategy of being a national leader in five areas, including neuroscience. To reach this goal, the WHSC has made initial investments in three centers of excellence, including the Emory Comprehensive Neuroscience Center. The success of each center will be assessed, in part, on their ability to integrate research and patient care to speed innovations that help prevent and treat disease. Dr. Gandy’s collaborations in research and care will extend broadly throughout the WHSC. He will lead the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, join the leadership of the NIH-funded Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Center, and work closely with scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.


Top 10 Rankings for Scholarly Productivity

The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing has received the distinction of being ranked second in the nation among schools of nursing in scholarly productivity, according to the 2005 Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index produced by Academic Analytics and reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The index surveys the productivity of faculty among 7,200 doctoral programs across the country, based on publications, federal grant funding, and honors/awards. This is an especially significant honor since the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing established its doctoral program only eight years ago. It is a testament to the caliber of the school’s faculty and a reflection of their dedication and hard work.

In addition, Emory was recognized in the top 10 in the following disciplines: immunology (3), microbiology (5), nutrition (4), pathology (1), pharmacology (5), and public health (8). It’s evident that high performance and productivity have become the standard all across the WHSC. Congratulations to all for this remarkable recognition!


A Model for Patient Care at Emory

Photo of Mr. FitzpatrickLast month we celebrated the opening of our new Neuro Critical Care Unit, another step toward our goal of setting a new standard in patient-focused care in neuroscience. In this new unit, located on the second floor D-wing at Emory University Hospital, evidence-based design is shaping evidence-based medicine to serve as a model for all our future care at Emory. Those attending the dedication included nurses, neurointensivists, neurosurgeons, social workers, chaplains, health care administrators, and most important, patients and family members. I especially appreciate that Emory President James Wagner was able to join us in celebrating this special event.

The design of the 20-room unit, one of the largest in the country, was based on research linking the quality of a health care facility’s physical environment to both patient outcome and staff efficiency. For example, families are recognized as central to the healing process, and all rooms take this into account with family-friendly accommodations. The unit was created with sufficient space to perform intricate procedures at the bedside to eliminate the need for transport of fragile patients throughout the hospital. Although the new unit is more than four times the size of older ICUs in the hospital, nursing staff have much improved observation of patient rooms thanks to design incorporating studies of staff work patterns and appropriate-size workstations.

Of all those at the dedication, no one spoke more eloquently about the new unit than Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick (above), a patient who received treatment in the former neuro CCU several years ago. He and his wife, Ellen, commended the team that saved his life and the state-of-the-art design of the new facility that serves as a model for other such units elsewhere, including hospitals in their hometown of Boston.


“Save a Life”: Donate Blood in FY07

Last month, the Emory community held a kick-off event to celebrate the American Red Cross sponsored “Save a Life” partnership program. The goal of the program is to encourage the Emory community to donate 1,500 pints of blood during the current fiscal year. I know we can meet this goal – this is a step we can all take to literally save a life. To view the dates and times of upcoming drives, visit and enter the sponsor code “Emory” for a full listing. 

Below are two locations for drives next week:

  • Monday, February 19: Goizueta Business School, Coca-Cola Commons Area, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 20: Emory Crawford Long Hospital, Glenn Building, Classrooms 1 and 2, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.


Emory Johns Creek Now Open to Patients

Emory Johns Creek Hospital opened its doors to patients on February 5. The 110-bed hospital, a joint venture between Emory and HCA, will employ approximately 600 staff and 400 medical staff. Emory physicians will staff hospital-based services, including emergency medicine, anesthesia, radiology, pathology, and hospitalists. Community physicians will comprise the majority of medical staff, including specialists in cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopaedics, oncology, obstetrics and gynecology, nephrology, and neurology.

Located in the recently incorporated city of Johns Creek, already the 10th largest city in Georgia with a population of 65,000, the new hospital is the culmination of an eight-year process to bring Emory health services to north Fulton, southern Forsyth, and western Gwinnett counties.


Community Benefit

Did you know that Emory Healthcare provided $70.7 million in charity care last year? This total represented a 7% increase over the previous year and does not include the $24.7 million that Emory doctors provided in uncompensated care at Grady Hospital. The WHSC contributed to the community in other major ways as well, with an annual estimated economic impact on metro Atlanta of $4.6 billion. For more information about the WHSC’s role in Atlanta and beyond, see the 2006 WHSC Community Benefits report at

While you’re online, take a look at the winter issue of Momentum magazine at This issue includes features on lung disease, a new mouse model for obesity, and the story of an artist with macular degeneration who lost and then regained his sight.


Wesley Woods Horticultural Therapy Program Garners Attention

The Wesley Woods Horticultural Therapy Program, led by Kirk Hines, was asked to participate in the 2007 Southeastern Flower Show, the largest of its kind in the region. The program entered four "families" of plants grown by patients, each with multiple generations of offspring. The four group entries claimed first, second and third place, along with an honorable mention.  One entry took five major wins including the Northwood Garden Club Trophy, which is the Horticulture Excellence Award for Best in Show. I want to thank Mr. Hines and all who are part of the Wesley Woods Horticultural Therapy Program for providing a unique resource that supports our core purpose of Making People Healthy.


Volunteers Needed For Upcoming ING Georgia Marathon

Photo of ING logoIt’s almost time for the March 25 inaugural ING Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon. Approximately 15,000 participants are expected in the race. Of the registrations so far, all 50 states are represented along with 16 countries. The Emory team has grown to more than 300 members. Emory Healthcare, a sponsor and provider of medical care for event, has one final training seminar scheduled to help Emory team members stay injury free while training for this big event.

When: Saturday, March 3, 2007, 1:00 p.m.
Where:  Dick’s Sporting Goods
Lenox Marketplace, 3535 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, GA  30326
Speaker:  Dr. Brandon Mines, Emory Healthcare Orthopaedist and Emory Athletic Trainer
Topic:  Injury Prevention, Stretching and Race Day Tips

To register call Emory Health Connection at 404-778-7777. 

Volunteers are still needed to staff the water stops (in front of Emory Crawford Long Hospital and Emory University Hospital), the hospitality tent at the end of the race, and the medical tents. If you are interested, please call Paige Dunham, 404-778-5394, or email All volunteers will receive a special Emory volunteer shirt.


Research Highlights

National Autism DNA Databanks:  Emory geneticists are participating in a national DNA databank that will collect some 3,000 DNA samples from cases of “sporadic” autism in which only one family member is affected. They are also part of a national data banking effort that has collected more than 1,000 samples from cases of “familial” autism, in which two or more children are affected. This work will help differentiate subtypes of autism with different genetic causes, an important step toward development of a means of preventing or treating this disorder.

photo of Erwin Van MeirBiomarkers of Brain Tumors:  Cancer researcher and 2006 Woodruff Leadership Academy fellow Erwin Van Meir leads a team that has identified the first protein biomarker in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that can point to low- and high-grade astrocytomas, a type of brain tumor. This is important because researchers can use this biomarker both to detect the presence of tumor and to determine tumor severity, or grade. Knowing tumor grade helps the clinical team determine the most effective course of therapy.


Honors and Appointments

  • The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing is proud to announce that one of its graduates, Shariffa Al-Jabri, a native of Oman, is this year’s recipient of the Sheth Distinguished International Alumni Award. The annual award, established by Mahdu and Jagdish Sheth, recognizes Emory’s international alumni who have gone on to achieve prominence in their careers around the world. Al-Jabri is the director of Nursing Affairs for the Oman Ministry of Health and is being recognized for her work in the field of nursing and midwifery, and for her service to her country by improving health standards and practices.
  • Walter Orenstein, MD, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center, received the 2007 Charles Merieux Award for Achievement in Vaccinology and Immunology from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. This award honors those whose lifetime contributions in vaccine work have led to significant improvement in public health. The award’s namesake helped found the Pasteur Institute as well as the French Institute of Foot and Mouth Disease, later renamed the Merieux Institute.

  • Mary DeLong, PhD, has been appointed assistant dean for postdoctoral education in the School of Medicine. Dr. DeLong, who served as director of laboratories at Rollins School of Public Health from 1992 to 2000, has spent her career in administrative and faculty scientist roles at Johns Hopkins University and the NIH. She comes to Emory most recently from the NIH, where she directed the Graduate Partnerships Program.

  • Charles B. Nemeroff, MD, PhD, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, has been elected to chair the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Scientific Council.
  • Hans Grossniklaus, MD, MBA, of the Emory Eye Center, received a Senior Scientist Investigator Award from Research to Prevent Blindness and will use the award for translational research for treating eye melanoma.


Fostering Positive Change

If you are interested in serving Emory and becoming an integral part of the community, I ask that you consider one of the presidential commissions. Seats are open for faculty, staff, students, and alumni. A background or interest in these issues, coupled with a determination to help bring about positive change, is the criterion for membership. I know President Wagner would appreciate the participation of all interested individuals.

Presidents Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW):  The PCSW advises President Wagner about issues related to the status of women at Emory.  It enters its thirty-first year in the 2007-2008 term with a longstanding record of positive momentum.    For more information on the PCSW and its mission, and to access the nomination form, please visit:

Presidents Commission on LGBT Concerns (PCLGBTC):  Established in 1995, the commission is the voice for concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons across the University.  For more information on the PCLGBTC and its mission, please visit:

Presidents Commission on Race and Ethnicity (PCORE):  PCORE--chartered in 1979--serves as a forum for discussing and addressing issues of race and ethnicity.  For more information on PCORE and its mission, please visit  


Upcoming Noteworthy Events

I encourage you to attend one of the upcoming Town Hall meetings held by President James Wagner and Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Mike Mandl. The five town hall meetings will address what it means to live and work as part of a community built on integrity, with all related benefits and responsibilities. Come share your ideas and questions.

  • Thursday, February 15: 4 - 5 p.m. White Hall 208
  • Monday, February 19: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Cox Hall 1 & 2
  • Wednesday, February 28: 8 – 9 a.m. Winship Ballroom, DUC
  • Thursday, March 22: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Campus Services Training Room, Bldg. B
  • Wednesday, April 4: 8 – 9 a.m. Tarbutton Theater, Oxford College

To learn more about where courageous inquiry leads, attend the Employee Council Town Hall to hear about Emory’s strategic plan from President Wagner, Provost Earl Lewis and others scheduled for:

  • Wednesday, February 28: 12 – 1:30 p.m. Tull Auditorium, Law School


Leadership Thoughts

While this monthly communication focuses on the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, we should always remember and appreciate that we are part of the larger institution of Emory University.  Many academic health centers are free-standing and have limited connectivity and ties to a university.  

The benefits we receive by being part of Emory University are numerous and of a great variety.  I want to challenge each of you to find opportunities for involvement within Emory.   It might be as formal as serving on University committees, or it might be as informal as taking part in University events.

While we read and hear of major events such as international leaders coming to the Emory campus, there are also other events such as men’s and women’s intercollegiate sports, concerts, plays, choral festivals, lectures, panel discussions, brown bag gatherings, worship services, and many other special events occurring on the Emory campus. 

If you are looking for something fun to do this weekend while supporting Emory, consider attending a basketball game. Our women’s team plays Brandeis University at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by the men’s game versus Brandeis at 8 p.m.    If you prefer to be outside, the Emory women’s softball team will host the Emory Invitational on Saturday and Sunday (02/17 and 02/18). Or consider taking in a play like the Brave New Works Play "Watershed" or a concert at the Schwartz Center this weekend.

These are just a few examples of many, many events going on here at Emory.   You can always go to and find opportunities across campus, from the arts to religion, to athletics, and beyond.

I hope you will find many different ways to enjoy the overall Emory Experience.  


Michael M.E. Johns, MD
CEO, Woodruff Health Sciences Center