Volume 25 | June 7, 2019
Surgical Notes
From the Chair

As hard as it is to believe, we are officially halfway through the year. I am quite proud of the accomplishments we've seen so far and June is no exception. As you'll see below, our faculty, staff, and trainees have won some pretty incredible awards and have been recognized in wonderful ways. Congratulations and many thanks to everyone for their hard work and many accomplishments.

I hope you have a summer filled with sunshine and great memories.

Vigneshwar Kasirajan, MD
Fighting For Human Rights: Students Prep for Careers in Global Surgery
"Catherine “Cassie” Valukas speaks only basic Haitian Creole, the French-based language of Haiti. But on a medical mission trip to the island nation, she used the limited vocabulary she knew to comfort and care for a pregnant Haitian woman who had life-threatening preeclampsia.

The closest hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit was four hours from the clinic in Arcahaie, Haiti, where Valukas was spending six months volunteering before starting medical school at Virginia Commonwealth University. It wasn’t safe to drive to the hospital in the dark, so Valukas and her roommate, a fourth-year medical student, did the next best thing for their patient: They took her to their house for the night. Together, they provided round-the-clock lifesaving medical attention until the woman could be transported to the hospital the next morning. She later gave birth to premature twins, who are doing well.

Valukas, now a fourth-year student in the  VCU School of Medicine , has traveled the world to provide medical assistance in low- and middle-income countries like Haiti. The need is great: According to the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, 5 billion people in the world lack access to safe surgical and anesthetic care. Surgery is an indispensable part of health care, yet surgical care has been a low priority in the world’s poorest regions. Delays in seeking, reaching and receiving surgical care mean that many treatable conditions become fatal. 

About 143 million procedures are needed every year to prevent disability and save lives, the commission reports. Today’s surgical workforce needs to double in 15 years to address that need..."

To continue reading this story from VCU News about Global Surgery, click here .
SOM Executive Committee
Congratulations to Dr. Stephanie Goldberg , Associate Professor with the Division of Acute Care Surgical Services for being elected to serve as a Member at Large for the School of Medicine's Executive Committee .

This committee which includes faculty representatives from across the school aims to "guide and advise the Dean in all matters related to the function of the School of Medicine and to participate in the formulation of policy."

Dr. Goldberg will serve a term of 2 years.

Congratulations, Dr. Goldberg!
Virginia Bariatric Society Research Abstract Competition
Congratulations to Jad Khoraki, PhD (Postdoctoral Scholar) and Matthew Browning, PhD (Exercise Physiologist) for their recent participation in the research abstract competition at the Virginia Bariatric Society meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Dr. Browning won 1st place for his abstract titled, "Factors Mediating Durability of Type 2 Diabetes and Relapse after Gastic Bypass Surgery."

Dr. Khoraki won 2nd place for his abstract titled, "Changes in Utilization of Bariatric Surgery in the United States from 1993 to 2016."

Additional authors for the above abstracts include: Bernardo M. Pessoa, MD (visiting scholar); Guilherme Mazzini, MD, PhD (affiliate faculty); Luke Wolfe, MS (Surgery); Jennifer Salluzzo , MD (Surgery); and Guilherme Campos , MD (Surgery).

This year's meeting had the most participants at over 100 attendees. VCU has proudly won first place for three years in a row.

Congratulations, Drs. Khoraki and Browning!
IPITA Scientific Travel Award
Congratulations to Prathab Balaji Saravanan , PhD, Assistant Professor and Associate Director for the Hume-Lee Islet Cell Transplant Lab for receiving the International Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Association travel award. Dr. Saravanan's abstract is titled, "Withaferin A Attenuates Release of Exosomal Isletokines in Response to Islet ER Stress."

Additionally, two of the four abstracts submitted by Director Mazhar Kanak, PhD and team, including Dr. Saravanan's above, were selected as top-ten best abstracts for IPITA 2019. Jagan Kalivarathan, PhD (postdoctoral scholar) will be presenting his abstract titled, "Exosomal Signaling Between Alpha and Beta Cells."

Congratulations Dr. Saravanan and team!
American College of Surgeons - San Francisco
General Surgery Research Resident Nina Wickramaratne, MD has been invited to present two research papers at the 2019 American College of Surgeons meeting in October.

The two papers are titled: " Low Volume Resuscitation with Polyethylene Glycol-20k Confers Survival after Severe Hemorrhagic Shock;" and "Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition: A Cellular Mediator of Biliary Injury after Liver Transplant." The first was rated in the 5th percentile out of the 2000 submitted and was also invited to be published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society .

Congratulations, Dr. Wickramaratne!
Victims of Crime Act Award
The Injury and Violence Prevention Program 's Project Empower has received the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) award which provides funding for their program for two years. Additionally, IVPP will receive just under $1M in funding as part of Governor Northam's $2.45M award to hospital-based violence and prevention programs. His official announcement can be viewed here .

Project Empower is a multi-disciplinary initiative providing service to victims of intimate partner, domestic, and/or sexual violence through counseling and advocacy services.

Many thanks to Program Coordinator Maria Altonen and IVPP Assistant Director Amy Vincent for their outstanding contributions.
VETAR 2019
Nicholas Thomson , PhD, Assistant Professor with the Office of Research, Biomedicine, Innovation, and Technology , has received funding for his proposal from the Value and Efficiency Teaching and Research (VETAR) award. His proposal is titled, "The Impact of Endogenous Omega-3 Levels on the Development of PTSD, Aggression, and Drug Use in Victims."

Additionally, Dr Thomson, along with co-PI David Chester , PhD were awarded funding through the C. Kenneth and Diane Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research 's Pilot Imaging Award. Their project was titled, "The Neural Mechanisms Underlying Antisocial Empathy and Psychopathic Aggression."

Congratulations, Dr. Thomson!
Pioneering Female Transplant Surgeon Finds Wisdom in Palliative Medicine
"A quarter century separated two defining moments in the medical career of Diane Sansonetti, M'77, F'85.

In 1983, she became the first female cardiothoracic fellow on the MCV Campus, training under transplant pioneer Richard Lower, M.D. Twenty-five years later, severe joint deterioration caused her to leave her first passion of transplant surgery and find a new way to serve patients. She found a home in hospice and palliative medicine, a field where she continues to practice today.

The two different, yet equally meaningful, arenas have given Sansonetti reason to appreciate the value of humanism as much as technical skill in a medical career. She shared her perspective at the 2019 Alpha Omega Alpha annual banquet and induction ceremony, where she served as this year's sole alumni inductee into the honor society.

"Nourish and tap your inner humanism," Sansonetti told the students, who represent the top 16 percent of the medical school's third- and fourth-year classes. "Not only does it benefit your patients, it just feels better."

It was transplant surgeon Lower, her mentor throughout medical school and fellowship, who introduced her to the importance of humanism..."

Click here to continue reading.
ODEMSA Award 2019
Congratulations to Jay Gould, Director of the Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education for receiving the Old Dominion EMS Alliance Regional Award for excellence in emergency medical services. The ODEMSA announcement reads:

"Jay has had a long and distinguished career in EMS as a provider, administrator, and educator. He began his career in 1974 at Tuckahoe Volunteer Rescue Squad, where he served in nearly all capacities of leadership, and where he is now a life member. His career in EMS has led him down many paths, including the opportunity in 1994, to develop an EMS course in Russia. He also received the Governor’s Letter of Recognition in 1989.

A patriarch in EMS, he is a pioneer that forged the future for all providers in Virginia, especially with his service at the Medical College of Virginia. His longevity and vast experience allow him to serve as a subject matter expert in EMS. Few can boast the expertise he can and yet he remains humble and eager to pass lessons and knowledge from his experiences to future generations."

In November, Jay will compete against others from around Virginia for the Governor's Award.

Congratulations Jay!
American Transplant Congress
General Surgery Research Resident Nina Wickramaratne, MD recently presented a poster at the American Transplant Congress.

The title of her presentation was "Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition: A Cellular Mediator of Ischemic Cholangiopathy after Liver Transplant."

Congratulations, Dr. Wickramaratne!
Surgery Staff Feature
Meet Tina Hamlet, Associate Administrator for the Division of Urology as well as Plastic & Reconstructive Services effective July 1st. Tina has been with the department for 12 years with the goal of managing everything in her divisions from an administrative perspective to make her surgeon's lives easier.

When asked about the most exciting part of her position, she responded, "The most exciting part of my job is the fast paced intensity that is most days. I love being busy and I love the multitasking that comes with this job. The most challenging part of it is definitely trying to coordinate all the physicians in one room!" She finds great satisfaction in knowing that in some small way she has contributed to the care of many patients over the course of her 12 years here.

Outside of work you will find Tina soaking up some rays while listening to music and reading a book, at the ball field watching her daughter Victoria, or modeling for Vision of Rose Photo.
Monthly Wellness Note
It's officially summer vacation time!

With that, did you know that employees have access to some pretty awesome travel and entertainment discounts?

VCU Employee? Click here .

VCUHS Employee? Click here .
Upcoming Events
Research Open Forum
Monthly, 2nd Mondays
4:00 - 5:00 PM
West 16 Conference Room (16-103)

All are encouraged to attend!
Have a story to tell? Contact jessica.carey@vcuhealth.org
Department of Surgery | Virginia Commonwealth University | (804)828-7874 | surgweb@vcu.edu