Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Crossing Paths: High School Friends Reunite in Medical Field

Dr. Antwan Hogue and ShaRhonda Watkins look through their high school yearbook at USA Medical Center. Dr. Hogue and Watkins graduated from Leflore High School in 2004 and now work together on Green Medicine, an internal medicine multidisciplinary team at USA Medical Center.
Less than two miles away from their high school alma mater, Dr. Antwan Hogue and ShaRhonda Watkins have crossed paths again, working together on Green Medicine – an internal medicine multidisciplinary team at USA Medical Center. Dr. Hogue serves as the attending physician and Watkins is the pharmacist.

The two graduated from John L. Leflore High School in 2004, where Dr. Hogue was named valedictorian and Watkins was named salutatorian. In addition to graduating at the top of their class, former classmates also named Dr. Hogue ‘most likely to succeed’ and Watkins ‘most intelligent.’  While the two remained friends after graduation, they lost contact as they completed their college career.

Dr. Hogue earned both his undergraduate and medical degree from USA, while Watkins completed her undergraduate degree at Xavier University in New Orleans. Dr. Hogue then completed his residency training in internal medicine at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, S.C. — 680 miles away from Xavier University College of Pharmacy, where Watkins completed her doctor of pharmacy degree.  After completing his residency training, Dr. Hogue served as a hospitalist and internal medicine physician at West Florida Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., before joining USA last year.

On Dr. Hogue’s first day at USA, Dr. Errol Crook, professor and Abraham Mitchell Chair of Internal Medicine at the USA College of Medicine, took Dr. Hogue around USA Medical Center to get acquainted with faculty. “Dr. Crook told me that we had a pharmacist on the team and that we graduated from the same high school,” he said. “I immediately knew he was referring to the ShaRhonda Watkins I went to school with.”

Watkins was on vacation during Dr. Hogue’s first day and they met later in the week during rounds. “I walked into rounds and to my surprise I saw Dr. Hogue sitting at the table looking over charts,” Watkins recalled. “He looked up and realized who I was, and then he immediately stood up and gave me a big hug. We told the residents that we have known each other since we were 15 and had not seen each other since graduating from high school.”

Now, they have been working together on the same team for almost a year. “Our relationship is the same as it was in high school,” Watkins explained. “Working with Dr. Hogue definitely challenges me to do my best at all times.”

Each day, Watkins and Dr. Hogue — along with residents and medical students — conduct morning rounds at USA Medical Center.  “Rounding serves as a teaching opportunity,” Watkins said. “While we go through each patient’s information and discuss their medication with the group, Dr. Hogue may ask me for my input or I may make recommendations on different treatment options.”

Watkins said their dynamic reminds her of the many honors courses she and Dr. Hogue completed together during high school. “He is one of the smartest people I know,” she said. “Working with Dr. Hogue encourages me to read more medical studies so I can contribute to the group and anticipate any questions. It is almost as if I am in school again.”

According to Dr. Hogue, Watkins is also a valuable asset to the team. “If we need any updates or recommendations on what medications a patient could benefit from, she always knows the answer and keeps us informed,” he said. “Often times you don’t see people that you graduate with in a professional setting. To see your life come full circle is very rewarding.”

A native of Mobile, Dr. Hogue said he is both proud and grateful to be back, making an impact in his community. “I always knew I wanted to come back to Mobile,” he said. “It has been a blessing to come back and work with so many familiar faces. I love being in this neighborhood because it made me exactly who I am today. Knowing that I am the attending physician over the team that is caring for the people of this community is extremely fulfilling.”

Dr. Hogue credits his previous friendship with Watkins for helping him to adapt to his new position. “Having a familiar person that you know outside of work enabled me to acclimate to the team with ease,” he said. “I know she will always have my back, and I definitely have hers as well.”

Friday, October 13, 2017

College of Medicine to Hold Research Forum Nov. 17

The 11th annual University of South Alabama College of Medicine Research Forum will be held Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, at the Medical Sciences Building on USA's main campus. The deadline for abstract submission is Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.

The Research Forum provides a venue for researchers from the College of Medicine and the Mitchell Cancer Institute to present their work to the university’s biomedical community.

“Since the Forum’s inception, we have seen many new ideas generated, as well as new collaborations develop among our community,” said Dr. Donna Cioffi, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the USA College of Medicine.

The forum consists of two sessions - the morning session for oral presentations in the first floor auditorium, and the afternoon session for poster presentations in the second floor south hallway. Lunch will be served in the Joseph Bitzer Conference Room.

“The poster session in particular is highly interactive and is an excellent opportunity to foster new collaborations,” Dr. Cioffi said.

Participation is required for all basic medical science graduate students in their second year and beyond.

In addition to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, clinical fellows, residents and junior faculty are encouraged to participate.

“For undergraduate students thinking about graduate school, the forum is a great venue to learn about research and also to talk with current graduate students,” Dr. Cioffi said.

Travel awards will be given for the two overall best presentations: one for graduate students and one for postdoctoral fellows. These awards are to be used for travel to national or international meetings.

The event is co-sponsored by the USA College of Medicine and the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.

For more information and to view abstract forms, click here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dr. Xiangming Zha Awarded NIH Research Grant

Dr. Xiangming Zha, associate professor of physiology and cell biology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently was awarded a $1.8 million five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study molecular mechanisms underlying acid signaling in the brain.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is an institute within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that aims to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The Research Project Grant, or R01 grant, is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. The R01 provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of NIH.

Dr. Zha said this is his first R01 grant, which scored in the second percentile. “The grant will allow us to investigate the signaling mediated by ovarian cancer G protein coupled receptor 1 (OGR1), and whether targeting it may have therapeutic potentials in stroke or in acidosis-incurring disease in general,” he said.

Brain pH is tightly regulated but can fluctuate under both physiological and pathological conditions. Various conditions including seizure, stroke, mitochondrial dysfunction and neurodegenerative diseases all lead to a decrease in extracellular pH, or acidosis. “Given the prevalence of acidosis in disease, determining molecular mechanisms underlying acid signaling may have broad translational value,” Dr. Zha said. “It has been known for decades that acidosis is one key contributing factor to neuronal injury. Paradoxically, a relatively mild acidosis can be protective.”

According to Dr. Zha, a lot of progress has been made on understanding how increased acidity in the brain leads to neuronal injury. This is in part due to the discovery of acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), which are a group of channels that respond to a reduction in pH. “A series of data, including ours, shows that ASICs are the major postsynaptic proton receptor in brain neurons and are a key mediator of acidosis-induced neuronal injury.”

Dr. Zha said these findings on ASICs have greatly advanced the knowledge of acid signaling, but do not explain the protective effect of acidosis. “In our preliminary studies, we found that OGR1 is widely expressed in the brain,” he said. “In addition, OGR1 mediates acid-induced signaling in hippocampal slices. Our data further suggests that OGR1 mediates a protective pathway in neurons.”

According to Dr. Zha, Dr. James Downey, professor emeritus of physiology at the USA College of Medicine, is an expert in cardiac protection and has provided insightful suggestions on ischemia signaling. “Dr. Thomas Rich, associate professor of pharmacology at the USA College of Medicine, and Dr. Zhi-Gang Xiong, professor of neurobiology at the Morehouse School of Medicine, are co-investigators on the grant,” he said. “Dr. Rich will provide his expertise on imaging of intracellular signaling, while Dr. Xiong will provide knowledge on in-vivo rodent ischemia experiments.”

Dr. Zha said the results obtained from the study will likely uncover novel protective mechanisms in response to pH reduction, and provide potential molecular targets for the design of novel therapeutic approaches to alleviate ischemia-induced brain injury.

To learn more about Dr. Zha’s research, click here.

USA College of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion Hosting Sixth Annual Diversity and Inclusion Lecture Series

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) will host its sixth annual diversity and inclusion lecture series on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

The lecture series will feature guest speaker Dr. Edward Callahan, associate vice chancellor for academic personnel for the Schools of Human Health and Sciences and professor of family and community medicine at the University of California Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, Calif.

The first lecture will be a USA College of Medicine Internal Medicine Grand Rounds lecture on Oct. 19 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at the USA Medical Center Conference Center. This lecture is titled “Implicit Biases on Clinical Care and Health Disparities.”

Dr. Callahan’s second lecture will be held in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 19. This lecture is titled “Diversifying Our Institutions to Reduce Health Disparities.”

A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Callahan’s professional experience will bring an awareness of unconscious bias and how it influences decision making in clinical practice and in administrative decision making. Dr. Callahan will also address the relationship of social stigma to health disparities.

Dr. Callahan earned his Ph.D. from the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. He serves on several steering committees and has received a number of honors including the Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community and the Excellence in Education Award from the University of California Davis School of Medicine.

A reception will follow the lecture series to recognize the new office location for the USA College of Medicine's Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The office was established in 2011 and has moved to its new location in the Medical Sciences Building, Suite 1164.

Please call (251) 460-7334 to RSVP or for more information.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pediatrics Hosting Grand Rounds Oct. 20

Dr. Ivan J. Lopez, professor of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, will present “Migraine Variant/Episodic Syndromes” for October’s pediatric grand rounds.

The event will take place Friday, Oct. 20, at 8 a.m. in the conference room on the first floor of the Strada Patient Care Center.

Dr. Lopez will discuss the different presentations of migraines in children and the diagnostic and management approach in children affected by migraines.

The event is open to faculty, staff and students at USA. A light breakfast, coffee and beverages will be provided. For additional information, contact Katie Catlin at kncatlin@health.southalabama.edu.

The Strada Patient Care Center is located at 1601 Center St. in Mobile.