Health Sciences Update
  June 1, 2009

Fred Sanfilippo
Fred Sanfilippo,

In This Issue
Emerging leaders

Governor announces Emory initiatives

From the trenches— H1N1

Hope Clinic begins new vaccine trials

The one with the know-how


Past issues

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  Emerging leaders carry WHSC into bright future

When you think of former world heavyweight boxing champion and fellow Atlantan Evander Holyfield, ballet probably isn't one of the first things that come to mind. You might expect a world-class boxer to run or lift weights, but to do arabesques? It seems unlikely. And yet, a ballet instructor was a key player on Holyfield's training team. It seems that even a world champion at the top of his game recognized one incontrovertible fact: there's always room to grow no matter how successful you already are.

A recent series of speaking engagements to emerging leaders of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) reminded me of the Holyfield story. Participants in the Woodruff Leadership Academy, the Pediatric Executive Program, and the medical school's Junior Faculty Development Course are already successful, accomplished leaders of WHSC. But they are not content to rest on their laurels. Instead, these talented faculty and staff recognize that one of the hallmarks of strong leadership is a willingness to learn and grow continually, and they take advantage of the many leadership development opportunities within WHSC to do that.

The Woodruff Leadership Academy is a five-month program of classroom sessions, off-site team projects, and weekend retreats to motivate professionals and managers within WHSC to develop, exercise, and strengthen leadership potential and teamwork. This engaged and energetic group has played a key role in some of the organization's most important achievements, including the recent goals clarification process and the ongoing culture transformation initiative.

Also lasting five months, the Pediatric Executive Program features faculty from Emory's own pediatrics and internal medicine departments, as well as participants from Morehouse. The group covers a comprehensive leadership development curriculum, including such diverse subject matter as accounting, strategic planning, process improvement, and conflict resolution.

The Junior Faculty Development Course is a four-month career development course featuring diverse faculty from the School of Medicine, the Goizueta Business School, and the Ethics Center. Coursework includes information necessary for academic success in a variety of formats, including instruction, panel discussions, group and individual exercises, and case studies.

These three programs are just a sampling of the professional development activities currently under way within the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. These activities, and the emerging leaders who so actively take part in them, are securing a bright future for WHSC—one in which sustainability and succession planning are foremost priorities and in which great team leaders are also great team players. They are also helping ensure, through leadership and teamwork, that we continue transforming health and healing … together.

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  james_wagnerEmory President James Wagner signed an agreement between Emory's and QIMR's vaccine centers at the BIO press briefing with the governor.  

Governor announces Emory initiatives

Last month's 2009 BIO International Convention at the Georgia World Congress Center, attended by 14,352 industry leaders from 58 countries and 48 states, was the setting for two Emory-related initiatives announced by Gov. Sonny Perdue:

1. The Emory Vaccine Center (EVC) and the Australian Centre for Vaccine Development at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) have formed an alliance to develop new vaccines for infectious diseases (group A Streptococcus, hook worm, schistosomiasis, malaria, HIV, pox virus, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus) as well as vaccines and cellular therapies for cancers (nasopharyngeal cancer, glioblastoma, melanoma, and Hodgkin's lymphoma).

The QIMR's resources (world-class resources for flow cytometry and imaging, a transgenic animal facility, a dedicated good manufacturing practices unit to facilitate production of clinical grade vaccines, and links with a clinical trials facility) complement and augment those of the EVC, which include expertise in cellular immunity and immune memory, multiple sites (Hope Clinic for vaccine clinical trials and Yerkes National Primate Research Center), and partnerships with Rollins School of Public Health, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and WHSC. Read more. See related story below.

2. The new Emory Institute for Drug Discovery (EIDD) has the dual mission of developing new small-molecule therapeutics and training new generations of researchers in drug discovery. The EIDD will focus on commercially neglected diseases (e.g. TB, measles, malaria), global health partnerships, mentored research, and multidisciplinary interactions within and outside the university. It is directed by Dennis Liotta (chemistry), a co-inventor of drugs taken by more than 94% of U.S. patients with HIV/AIDS and by thousands around the globe. A successful entrepreneur who has developed several biotech companies, Liotta also has trained and mentored numerous young researchers in drug discovery. Read more.



Kimberly HagenKimberly Hagen (public health), assistant director of Emory's CFAR, organized the H1N1 mini-conference.


From the trenches—H1N1

The Emory Center for AIDS Research's Vaccine Dinner Club packed the recently renovated WHSCAB auditorium on May 20 with a presentation on H1N1 featuring four international experts, one reporting from "the eye of the storm" in Mexico and three from CDC.

Guillermo Ruiz-Palacios, director of infectious diseases at the Salvador Zubiran National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition in Mexico City, described how he became involved in handling the H1N1 outbreak by taking a worried call from a former student working in Oaxaca. At that point in April, the outbreak was just starting to gather speed. His student had isolated an unidentifiable virus from a very sick woman that was at first thought to be related to SARS.

“That was when we got the sense that we had something really explosive on our hands,” Ruiz-Palacios said. Eventually the H1N1 virus afflicting the Oaxacan woman was found to be the same that had infected children in San Diego.

Not long after Ruiz-Palacios received that first call from Oaxaca, his hospital was seeing 200 patients per day in its emergency department and had to institute triage measures to handle the volume. Meanwhile elsewhere in Mexico schools and then other public facilities were being closed in an effort to dampen the outbreak.

Dan Jernigan, deputy director of the influenza division at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, provided a preview of CDC research that explains why the emerging virus preferentially infects young people. The reason: until 1957, annual waves of flu included some of the same H1N1 elements that came from the devastating 1918 outbreak. After that, an H2N2 outbreak shifted the memory of younger people’s immune systems away from H1N1. Jernigan also discussed genetic evidence for the virus’s tangled origins in birds and pigs.

Scott Dowell, director of the CDC’s global disease detection program, explained technology that helped a federal cross-border monitoring program detect the new virus variety in San Diego.

The CDC’s H1N1 incident commander, Steve Redd, said that public health officials planned extensively for pandemic flu but did not anticipate the speed at which the outbreak would arrive in the United States. He and his colleagues tried to concentrate on reducing illness and death and maximizing the effectiveness of available interventions, he said, adding that the CDC is now focused on vaccine development, aiding nations in the Southern Hemisphere, and developing policy recommendations on protective equipment for health care workers.



Mark MulliganMark Mulligan directs the Hope Clinic. Read his recent blog on



Hope Clinic begins new HIV/AIDS vaccine trials

The Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center (EVC) is enrolling volunteer participants in two new clinical trials of two different HIV/AIDS vaccines in healthy, uninfected people at low risk for acquiring HIV. Both studies are sponsored by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), which is funded by the NIH.

1. A phase 2a study, HVTN 205, will test the safety and immune-stimulating effectiveness of a vaccine developed by GeoVax, Inc., an Atlanta biotech company spun out of research at the EVC and Yerkes National Primate Research Center. The protocol is designed to stimulate both anti-HIV T cell and anti-HIV antibody immune responses.

Harriet Robinson, formerly at the EVC and Yerkes and now senior VP of R&D at GeoVax, developed the core vaccine technologies with colleagues at the NIH, CDC, and GeoVax.

HVTN 205 will enroll 225 volunteers (150 vaccine recipients and 75 placebo recipients, ages 18 to 50) at 13 HVTN sites, including 11 in the United States and two in Peru.

2. A phase 1b study, HVTN 077, will test the safety and immune response to different combinations of an experimental HIV vaccine developed by the Vaccine Research Center of the NIH. The vaccine consists of two components—a recombinant DNA vaccine and two recombinant adenovirus vector vaccines.

HVTN 077 will enroll 192 volunteers (164 vaccine recipients and 28 placebo recipients, ages 18 to 50) at seven HVTN sites in the United States. Read more.

Emory has an equity interest in GeoVax and is entitled to sales royalties for their vaccine technologies being studied. Emory may financially benefit from these interests if GeoVax is successful in marketing its vaccine.



Donald_HuntDonald Hunt

Bio stats:
• 2001-present, Emory building services
• previous positions in screen press and forklift operations







The one with the know-how

One in a series of profiles of people in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center

One morning soon after EVPHA Fred Sanfilippo arrived at Emory, the air-conditioning suddenly stopped working in his new office.

When something goes wrong in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Administration Building (WHSCAB) or the medical school's sleek new home, Donald Hunt gets called. Even more often, the maintenance mechanic for these two buildings has already discovered a problem during his early morning walk-throughs—flickering light bulbs, leaky faucets, jammed doors, faulty air intake—and solved it before anyone else knew it existed.

At his last PM (mechanics' shorthand for preventive maintenance on equipment), the air-conditioning was cooling air, but Hunt knew that the system had a problem. He quickly diagnosed a pump failure, and he and supervisor Andrew Stickler began calling other maintenance units on campus to see who had the right part on hand. The system was up and running in short order.

Working out of the E-zone maintenance shop, Hunt loves the camaraderie among the maintenance team responsible for buildings across the entire campus. He has always been handy, tinkering with cars and fixing things, but he credits the "great bunch of guys" in the maintenance shop with teaching him a lot about air-conditioners, heat exchangers, plumbing, and other types of mechanical know-how.

Hunt started working at Emory, in janitorial services, in 2001. He soon transferred to maintenance as assistant to the mechanic in charge of WHSCAB. When that man left for Iraq three years ago, Hunt was placed in charge. In 2007, the job expanded to include the new medical school building. The only major problem he has faced there was when the anatomy lab called to say that the temperature was too high. When Hunt investigated, he found that an air handler had failed, days after the warranty expired. Although the maintenance team usually handles problems with their own staff resources, Hunt and Stickler realized that the location of the problem and the need for speed required calling in outside help.

It's always something different, says Hunt. In addition to the walk-throughs, PM tasks, and emergency issues like the warming anatomy lab or a defunct heat exchanger that left WHSCAB without heat, Hunt always has a list of work orders through customer service. A leak in the ceiling. A desk drawer that won't open. A buzz in a fluorescent light.

Whatever it is, he loves his work. By now, he knows the two buildings like the back of his hand, and he has met almost everyone working there. "As long as my customers are happy, I'm happy," he says. "I feel like a baseball player, getting paid for doing something I like."



Victoria and Paul MuseyPaul Musey 09M (right) with his mom, former faculty member Victoria Musey

Rozina and Karim DhananiSiblings Rozina and Karim Dhanani 09 BSN

Megan IvankovichStudent commencement speaker Megan Ivankovich 09 MPH




• Commencement 2009

The School of Medicine had 109 graduates, including 21 with dual degrees (seven MD/PhDs, 13 MD/MPHs, and 1 MD/MBA). Valedictory speaker William Wood, former chair of surgery, told a story about an entrepreneur who learned in his younger years not to worry when others got credit for something he himself had done and, conversely, in his older years, not to be surprised when he got credit for the genius of others. Medical Alumni Association President Max White presented the Evangeline Papageorge Teaching Award to Lisa Bernstein (internal medicine), and William McDonald (psychiatry) received the university's Emory Williams Teaching Award.

In the medical school's ceremony for health professions, 68 students received degrees in the following programs: 25 in medical imaging, four in physician assistant, one in ophthalmic technology, and 38 in physical therapy (PT). The ophthalmic tech student was the last to graduate from that program as it transitions from a master's to a certificate program. Nathaniel Thomas was Emory's first graduate to receive a dual DPT/MBA. Commencement speaker John Banja, rehab medicine professor and medical ethicist, discussed the ways in which suffering, empathy, and love affect the formation of each health professional.

In nursing, Linda McCauley addressed 92 MSN and 91 BSN recipients as their commencement speaker and new dean, while at the graduate school ceremony, three nursing students received PhDs. McCauley told the graduates that the health care crisis presented them with special opportunity, when half of all children have no primary care doctor and when more people die each year of medical mistakes than of car accidents. "This day, this time, this era that you are entering nursing practice gives you a huge advantage to make a difference.” Faculty member Elizabeth Downes received the university's Emory Williams Teaching Award.

The Rollins School of Public Health class of 2009 included 222 MPH, 19 MS, and 15 dual-degree recipients, in addition to five who received PhDs in public health at the graduate school ceremony. RSPH graduates ranged in age from 21 to 63, and they represented 39 states and 46 countries. "Change at the top will not take place until you hear from those at the grassroots level," said commencement speaker David Blumenthal, chair of community health and preventive medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. "I hope you will not forget to focus on community because that's where change starts." Three awards went to faculty in global health: Roger Rochat received the Thomas F. Sellers Jr. Award, Deborah McFarland received the Emory Williams Teaching Award, and Kate Winskell was named Professor of the Year.



Kathryn Hall-BoyerKathryn Hall-Boyer with Afghan patient


• Dispatch from Afghanistan

As part of her role as Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan surgeon, Army Col. (Dr.) Kathryn Hall-Boyer (emergency medicine) has made several visits to the Afghan National Army Kandahar Regional Hospital women's clinic at Camp Hero, providing predominantly women's health services and family planning. Most of the clinic's patients arrive with their children, who are checked for acute illnesses.

Hall-Boyer was asked to visit the clinic, established in June of last year, because it needed female doctors. The initiative is part of Operation Hearts and Minds. "Women in Afghanistan have one of the highest mortality rates in the world," she says, "because they don't receive medical care during pregnancy. This is a clinic people can keep coming back to," she adds. "It provides continuity for the women here."

Hall-Boyer provided care in similar clinics when she was deployed to Bosnia. She is scheduled to return to the states in February.



Rafi AhmedRafi Ahmed


• Ahmed elected to National Academy of Sciences

Immunologist Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center, is one of 72 newly elected members of the National Academy of Sciences. Ahmed's discoveries in immune memory have laid the foundation for understanding vaccine-induced immune responses.

"When we recruited Rafi Ahmed as a Georgia Research Alliance [GRA] Eminent Scholar, we knew that we were gaining a talented and visionary scientist. What we actually gained was so much more. He has been a key driver in building Georgia's reputation as a leader in vaccine development and global health and has helped to develop what may be the world's first HIV/AIDS vaccine," says Mike Cassidy, GRA president and CEO.

Ahmed has received numerous grants for his research, including a $12.5 million Grand Challenges in Global Health grant in 2005 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for research on hepatitis C, a $4.5 million grant from the Gates Foundation in 2006 for HIV vaccine research, and a $13 million grant from the NIH in 2008 for work on blocking a molecular pathway called programmed death-1 to restore immune function against chronic infectious diseases. Read more. See related story above.



Thomas LawleyThomas Lawley


• Lawley honored at dermatology meeting

Medical dean Thomas Lawley received the David Martin Carter Mentor Award from the American Skin Association at the annual meeting of the Society for Investigative Dermatology (SID) last month. Lawley is the 15th recipient of this award, named for the noted dermatology professor who was a mentor to many clinicians and researchers in dermatology throughout the world. Lawley is immediate past president of SID.



William McDonaldWilliam McDonald


• McDonald appointed as adviser to governor

Bill McDonald, J.B. Fuqua chair of late life depression and chief of geriatric psychiatry, has been appointed special adviser to Gov. Sonny Perdue on mental health. This appointment follows creation of a new Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which will be responsible for all mental health, developmental disability, and addictive disease programs previously under Department of Human Resources, which has been reorganized and renamed as Department of Human Services.



Michael IuvoneMichael Iuvone


• Iuvone to direct research in Emory Eye Center

Michael Iuvone (pharmacology and ophthalmology) will direct research in the Emory Eye Center, effective Sept. 1, following the retirement of Henry Edelhauser, who has served in this role for the past two decades. Iuvone is known for his work in circadian rhythms, with an emphasis on neuromodulation and cell signaling in the neurosensory retina.

He served as scientific program planner at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) for many years and was named an ARVO fellow at the society’s 2009 annual meeting, along with three other Emory faculty, Edelhauser, John Nickerson, and Hans Grossniklaus.

Iuvone serves as PI on an NIH grant that deals with retinal function relevant to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. He is a co-investigator on several other NIH grants dealing with myopia, ocular melanoma, and circadian rhythms in health and disease. He holds two U.S. patents that deal with drug treatment of ocular development. Read more.



Richard CummingsRichard Cummings


• Cummings project receives Gates funding

The medical school received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support a project to develop a glycan-peptide vaccine for TB. The project is conducted by principal investigator and biochemistry chair Richard Cummings and colleagues Carlos Rivera-Marrero and David Smith. This is one of 81 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the second funding round of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore bold and largely unproven ways to improve health in developing countries.

To receive funding, Cummings and colleagues showed how their idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health. The initiative is highly competitive, receiving more than 3,000 proposals in this round. Read more.


  Saad OmerSaad Omer  

• Omer receives vaccinology award

Saad Omer (global health and epidemiology in Rollins School of Public Health) received the Maurice R. Hilleman Early-Stage Career Investigator Award from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases at the foundation's annual conference in April. The award recognizes Omer's study evaluating combined effects of influenza vaccine to mothers and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to infants. The award includes a check for $10,000 and is named for a microbiologist who contributed to development of several vaccines in use today.



Trent SpencerTrent Spencer


• 2009 Health Care Heroes

Emory was well represented on the roster of the Atlanta Business Chronicle's annual Health-Care Heroes Awards last month. Winners were honored at a dinner at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead featuring keynote speaker Louis Sullivan.
- Health-Care Innovation winner: Trent Spencer, Pete Lollar, Christopher Doering, and Gabriela Denning (pediatrics cancer research team). Read more.
- Physician winner: Lillian Meacham and Ann Mertens (pediatrics). Read more.
- Physician finalist: Kate Heilpern (emergency medicine). Read more.
- Physician finalist: Kirk Kanter (pediatric cardiothoracic surgery). Read more.
- Community Outreach finalist: Ralph DiClemente and Gina Wingood (public health). Read more.
- Military service finalist: Gary Vercruysse (surgery). Read more.



Kimberly ManningKimberly Manning

Neil WinawerNeil Winawer


• Emory docs make house calls on TV

If you watch the 8 a.m. hour of "Good Day Atlanta," you can see Grady Hospital-based internal medicine physicians Neil Winawer and Kimberly Manning dispense medical information on Mondays and Wednesdays each week from the set of Fox 5's "Good Day Housecall." Following a crash course in broadcast journalism, the doctors research and write their own segments. Recent topics include swine flu, emergency contraception, brain trauma, and fitness in your 40s.

Manning joined the Emory faculty in 2001 and is program director for Transitional Year Residency Program. Winawer, who is Manning's faculty mentor, has been at Emory for 13 years. Read more.


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