Thursday, May 19, 2011

College of Medicine Conducting Research on Prevention of Birth Defects

The folic acid research office at the University of South Alabama is recruiting non-pregnant females between 19 and 45 years of age to participate in an ongoing project to study the vitamin folate. Folate is known to reduce the risk of birth defects, and this study examines how folate together with vitamin B12 may be used optimally.

Volunteers receive free blood folate analysis, and $10 compensation for the initial visit.

If eligible, participants will visit the folic acid research office each morning for the first five days, and then one week and two weeks later; receive free vitamins for three weeks; and receive $120 compensation if they complete the study.

If interested in participating, e-mail your name and contact information to

Dr. Pettyjohn Honored with Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Frank S. Pettyjohn, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was recently recognized with a distinguished alumni award from the Drexel University College of Medicine Alumni Association.

The HU Distinguished Alumnus Award was established to recognize a Hahnemann University graduate who is highly acclaimed for excellent service and accomplishment in his/her respective professional field, leadership in the medical profession, participation in professional organizations, and scholarly activity that brings recognition to the medical school and the association.

Dr. Pettyjohn has had a long and distinguished career in aerospace medicine, which has enhanced the links between science and the clinical practice of aerospace medicine.

A native of Delaware, he graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering and entered the U.S. Army as a 2nd lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers serving in Korea. Following his return, he received his medical degree from Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, which is now Drexel University.

Dr. Pettyjohn served in Vietnam as a flight surgeon for the 17th Combat Aviation Group in 1966. On his return, he completed his internal medicine residency and cardiology fellowship at Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Wash.

Dr. Pettyjohn completed a post-doctoral fellowship in public health/preventive medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also completed a residency in Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio. He served as cardiologist and flight surgeon for Operation Homecoming to return Vietnam POWs to the United States in 1973.

He joined the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Fort Rucker, Ala., conducting research in the fields of aeromedical evacuation, oxygen systems, trauma and altitude physiology. He continued his research at the Naval Aeromedical Research Laboratory in Pensacola, Fla. Upon leaving military service, he joined the USA College of Medicine as professor and chair of the department of emergency medicine in 1989.

Dr. Pettyjohn was recalled to the U.S. Army in 1991 as a cardiologist and aviation medicine consultant at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Center during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. He served as a member of the aeromedical team that returned the US POWs from Desert Storm to the United States. In December 2008, he again returned to active duty in the U.S. Army as a flight surgeon and cardiologist with the 345th Combat Support Hospital in Tikrit, Iraq.

Dr. Pettyjohn is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, preventive medicine (aerospace medicine) and emergency medicine. He is recognized internationally as an expert in aviation and space medicine and served as president of the International Academy of Aviation and Space Medicine from 2005 to 2007. Dr. Pettyjohn continues his research career in the fields of clinical medicine conducting trials of anti-hypertensive medications, cholesterol treatment, and combined hypertension and diabetes management.

In May 2010, Dr. Pettyjohn was the first recipient of the John Ernsting Award. The award was presented to him at the Honors Ceremony of the Aerospace Medicine Association’s Annual Scientific Meeting.

"Perfect Matches: New Doctors Pairing Off in Record Numbers"

Several couples in the 2011 graduating class at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine were featured this week in the Press-Register. Twenty-two percent of this year's medical school graduates at USA were couples. To view the entire article, click here.

USA Medical Student Presents Research At Pediatric Academic Society Conference

William Gannon, a medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently presented research on developmental disorders at the Pediatric Academic Society conference in Denver.

Gannon’s abstract, titled “Craniofacial Dysmorphism and Developmental Disorders among Children with Chromosomal Microdeletions and Duplications of Unknown Significance,” focuses on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD’s), a group of related brain based disorders that affect a child’s behavior, social and communication skills.

ASD’s are generally found in an average of one out of 110 children, and they are often lifelong disorders with no known cure.

“William gave an outstanding presentation and represented our University well,” said Gannon’s mentor Dr. Hanes M. Swingle, who is associate professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine. “He was extremely poised, presented his research findings in a well organized fashion, and then fielded questions from the audience. I am confident that he is going to do well in the years to come in whatever field of medicine he chooses to pursue.”

According to Gannon, there are multiple known causes of autism involving genetic, metabolic and medical conditions, and not all children diagnosed with ASD have the same prognosis. “Many children with autism progress if they are put in the right intervention program,” said Gannon, who just completed his second year of medical school at USA.

In his research, Gannon wanted to see if children with chromosomal microdeletions (missing genes) or duplications (gene mutation) were more severely affected in terms of having a diagnosis of autism, having lower cognitive test scores, and manifesting more craniofacial dysmorphology (malformations of facial structure) than children from the same clinic population without chromosomal microdeletions and duplications.

Gannon found that children with chromosomal microdeletions and duplications manifested more craniofacial dysmorphology than children in the study without microdeletions or duplications.

“This research sheds light on a common disorder with no known cure or specific, single cause,” Gannon said. “Craniofacial dysmorphology is significant because it is a marker that these children have subtle underlying problems with their brain, leading to the development of autism.”

Gannon added that this research also provides information about family genetic studies. “The parents of these children might be carriers of these traits and therefore be at increased risk of having another affected child,” he said.

“This opportunity has opened my eyes to a completely new field – clinical research,” Gannon said. “It is very interesting and important because we are conducting research in a field where so much information is waiting to be discovered. This has helped me to see that research is possible even while seeing patients.”

Decorated WWII Veteran Part of Grandson’s Medical School Graduation

Dr. Nathaniel Lisenbee (left) received his medical degree from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine last week. Dr. Lisenbee will continue his medical education in the emergency medicine residency program at the University of Florida College of Medicine Shands Hospital in Gainsville, Fla.

During the Military Oath of Office at the medical school’s 36th Annual Honors Convocation, Dr. Lisenbee’s grandfather (center) helped present his grandson’s new military rank of office from 2nd lieutenant to captain in the U.S. Air Force. The younger Lisenbee’s military rank changed simultaneously as he received his doctorate of medicine degree.

“Having my grandfather change my rank for me was special and quite an honor,” Dr. Lisenbee said. “Being the last living grandparent in my life and one who has experienced a tremendous amount in his life, having him there added a great deal of sentimental value.”

Being able to achieve a medical degree and exceed in the military has a connection to the success and honor Dr. Lisenbee’s grandfather received in WWII.

“Determination, perseverance and bravery are qualities my grandfather holds dear, and are qualities passed down for me to embrace,” Dr. Lisenbee said. “Medical school has been a long road, and I have been able to reflect on my grandfather’s example for inspiration in earning my degree and new rank in the Air Force. My grandfather has shown me that there is no room for quitting regardless of the situation.”

Dr. Lisenbee’s grandfather, Rayford Lisenbee, is a WWII veteran from the Army Air Force who was awarded the Purple Heart. Rayford Lisenbee, 86, entered WWII at 18 years old and received a gunshot wound during battle.

“I received the Purple Heart because I was wounded in the Air Force during the Battle of the Buldge,” Rayford Lisenbee said.

Rayford Lisenbee explains the significance of changing his grandson’s military rank at graduation.

“It was really a special moment for me,” Rayford Lisenbee said. “I think it’s really good for him to serve some military time. My two sons did not enter the military, instead they chose to pursue their education. Nathaniel has shown you can do both.”

Emergency medicine was a field that Lisenbee ‘just knew’ was right for him. He found out that it was a niche and lifestyle that suited his busy, fast-paced desire, Dr. Lisenbee said.

“Emergency medicine is also very valuable in the Air Force,” Dr. Lisenbee said. “They expect us to adapt to any environment, such as Afghanistan. It will be exciting training in that environment when I’m deployed.”

Dr. Lisenbee has been married for three years to his wife Abby. They are currently moving to Gainesville, Fla. in order to complete residency training.

Dr. Lisenbee has dedicated himself to studying medicine, following his grandfather’s words of advice, and his living example of determination.

“My grandfather has always told me to make sure you maintain up most character and always stay true to your word,” Dr. Lisenbee said. “To see him living out a level of high character has shown me that you really can do it."

"Marathon Man" - Press-Register Features Dr. Phillip Fields

Following his diagnosis with leukemia, Dr. Phillip Fields, associate professor of cell biology and neuroscience at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, continues to inspire people at marathon races across the country.

Click here to read more about the "marathon man."

USA Medical Student Earns Third Degree

Kimberly Bryan, a medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, picked up her third degree Saturday at USA's commencement ceremony. Bryan was featured in the May 15 issue of the Press-Register. To read the entire article, click here.

Medical School Graduates Participate in Honors Convocation Ceremony

The University of South Alabama held commencement ceremonies for the 2011 College of Medicine graduates on May 14, 2011, marking the 36th class to earn medical degrees from USA.

The day before, the 69 graduates participated in an honors convocation where they were “hooded” by an individual of their choice, signifying the awarding of a doctoral-level degree. During the honors convocation ceremony, students were also recognized for their academic achievements. Both ceremonies took place at the USA Mitchell Center.

“I feel overwhelmingly lucky to be a part of this class,” said class president Grant Zarzour. “I have been overwhelmingly satisfied with everything that I have learned at USA. The passion and energy from faculty here is amazing – they deep down have a desire to work with us and help us become better physicians.”

At the honors convocation ceremony, Zarzour received the Medical Alumni Leadership Award, given to the senior student by vote of classmates, in recognition of outstanding leadership of the graduating class; the Community Service Award, presented by the Medical Society of Mobile County to students whose classmates believe best fulfill the ideals of humanitarian public service as demonstrated by superior awareness of, and achievement in, civic and community programs; and the Lewis D. Anderson Medical Student Achievement Award, the highest honor presented to a medical student by the department of orthopaedic surgery.

Zarzour will complete his residency training in orthopaedic surgery at the USA Hospitals in Mobile, Ala.

Katelyn Braswell, another graduate, said the past four years of medical school have gone by surprisingly fast. Braswell said the background she received at USA has prepared her for residency training and beyond. “USA gives you that one-on-one experience,” she said. “Everyone knows you, and the professors are extremely approachable and are always willing to help.”

Braswell will complete her residency training in obstetrics-gynecology at the USA Hospitals.

Graduate William Hundley has spent the past eight years studying at USA, where he earned both his bachelor’s degree and medical degree. “It has been absolutely priceless to have the opportunity to have hands-on learning experiences,” Hundley said. “You don’t get that at other institutions. We will all leave knowing how best to treat patients because of the one-on-one experiences that we’ve had here.”

Hundley will complete his residency training in internal medicine at the USA Hospitals. After his residency, he hopes to stay in Alabama.

“The years have gone by very fast,” he said. “I’m looking forward to what the future has to offer.”

Including the 2011 class, 2,186 physicians have graduated from the USA College of Medicine since its opening in 1973. Approximately one-third of the physicians practicing in the Mobile area earned their medical degree from USA or completed residency training in the USA Hospitals System.