Thursday, January 23, 2020

Med School Café to address psoriasis

The February Med School Café will feature Fred Bodie, M.D., a dermatologist with USA Health Dermatology. He will discuss psoriasis.

The lecture will be held Friday, Feb. 21, at the USA Faculty Club. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation will begin at noon.

The Med School Café lecture and lunch are provided free of charge, but reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, contact Kim Partridge at (251) 460-7770 or

Med School Café is a free community lecture series sponsored by USA Health. Each month, faculty and physicians share their expertise on a specific medical condition, providing insight on the latest treatment available.

Mark your calendar: Upcoming grand rounds

Mark your calendar for the following grand rounds:

Orthopaedic Surgery Grand Rounds
"Putting the Brakes on Breaks"
Sarah Goode, Bone Health Specialist, Orthopaedic Surgery, AOC Orthopaedics
7 to 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 24
Strada Patient Care Center, 1st Floor Conference Room
Contact: Rhonda Smith at (251) 665-8251 or

Surgery Grand Rounds
"Safe Cholecystectomy, Reclaiming the Duct and Bailouts"
Thomas Capasso, M.D., Fellow, Surgical Critical Care, USA Health University Hospital
7 to 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 24
USA Health University Hospital, 2nd Floor Conference Center
Contact: Tyronda Rogers at (251) 445-8230 or

Cardiology Grand Rounds
"Controlled Substances in the Cardiac Patient"
Elizabeth A. VandeWaa, Ph.D, Professor of Adult Health Nursing, USA Health University Hospital
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24
Cardiology Conference Room
Contact: Angela Hunt at (251) 471-7923 or

Neurology Grand Rounds
Robert Kobelja, M.D., Assistant Professor of Neurology, USA College of Medicine
8 to 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28
USA Health University Hospital, 2nd Floor Conference Center
Contact: Heather Kelly at (251) 445-8292 or

Orthopaedic Surgery Grand Rounds
"CMC Arthritis"
Jared Burkett, M.D., Alabama Orthopaedic Clinic
7 to 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31
Strada Patient Care Center, 1st Floor Conference Room
Contact: Rhonda Smith at (251) 665-8251 or

OB/GYN Grand Rounds
"Evidence Behind C-Sections"
Nicolette Holliday, M.D., Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, USA College of Medicine
7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31
USA Health Children’s & Women Hospital, Atlantis Room
Contact: Heather Glass at (251) 415-1563 or

Monday, January 20, 2020

USA medical student matches in ophthalmology residency program

Fourth-year medical student Jack Friend of Mobile recently matched in an ophthalmology residency program at Louisiana State University.
Fourth-year medical student Jack Friend has matched in one of the most competitive residency specialties, ophthalmology, at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

The Mobile native said he will join 2019 graduates from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine Drs. Christopher Lasecki and John Morgan, who are current ophthalmology residents at LSU.

“I’m excited to end up at LSU,” Friend said. “It’s going to be great to be two hours from home and to be with fellow South graduates.”

While most medical students will match through the National Resident Matching Program on March 20, students who wish to match in certain specialties such as military and ophthalmology programs participate in a special, earlier match.

Friend, who earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alabama, said he chose ophthalmology after shadowing Christopher Semple, M.D., of Premier Medical in Mobile during his first year of medical school. “What drew me in was retinal surgery,” he said. “I liked the delicate and high-tech nature of the procedures, and the patients you work with are great. It was a good personality fit for me.”

Friend presented research in 2019 examining early immune responses in the cornea at a meeting of the Association for Research in vision and Ophthalmology in Vancouver, British Columba. The project documented immune responses occurring in the cornea of the eye following an infection by the Herpes Simplex Virus. He had worked on the project with Robert Barrington, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the USA College of Medicine.

Friend said his path to one of the most competitive residency programs was not a traditional one. He praised the supportive environment at USA College of Medicine. “It took me three tries to get into medical school,” he said. “Being here, it’s been quite the journey.”

With his match behind him, Friend said that he will be a little more relaxed on Match Day in March. “I’ll already know what my envelope will say,” he said. “But I’ll see other students’ excitement when they match – hopefully with wherever they want to go. It won’t take away from that.”

The USA College of Medicine’s Match Day ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 20, in the Christ Center Gym at Christ United Methodist Church, located at 6101 Grelot Road.

Simmons awarded Faculty Intramural Grants Research Award

Larry Lee, M.D., assistant professor of surgery; Ray Langley, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology; Jon Simmons, M.D., associate professor of surgery and pharmacology; and Michele Schuler, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology, are participating in research that could be transformative for the blood banking industry.
Jon Simmons, M.D., associate professor of surgery and pharmacology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was one of five faculty members recently awarded the 2019 USA College of Medicine Faculty Intramural Grants Research Award.

Simmons’ research, titled “The transfusion of inflammatory cellular debris from stored plasma results in proinflammatory signals leading to organ failure,” could be transformative, potentially persuading  the blood banking industry to filter out leukocytes from plasma products prior to use.

The research in this intramural project is essential for establishment of an experimental model of traumatic shock, which is expected to attract further federal and industrial research for the trauma center.

“This project will play a central role in our goal to establish a trauma and critical care research center at USA,” said Simmons, trauma medical director and chief of trauma and acute care surgery at USA Health.

The research in this project incorporates the expertise of several collaborators within the USA Center for Lung Biology, including Larry Lee, M.D., assistant professor of surgery; Michele Schuler, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology; and Ray Langley, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology.

The USA College of Medicine provides seed funding for basic science or translational research through an annual competitive intramural grants program. It is designed to allow faculty to develop new research ideas and develop new critical preliminary data for revised extramural proposal submissions, or to provide bridge funding to enable sustained research progress between extramural grant funding periods.

CLINIC rotations connect textbook material with real-world patients

Pediatrician Matthew Cepeda, M.D., who serves as a CLINIC preceptor for the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, talks with first-year medical student Maria McElyea on the first day of her pediatrics rotation.
Using an otoscope, Jessica Pham, a second-year student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, looked into a pediatric patient’s ears.

There was only one problem: she didn’t know what she was supposed to be looking for, exactly.

Her clinical preceptor, pediatrician Matthew Cepeda, M.D., noticed his student’s hesitation. He later sat down and let her look into his own ear while holding up a picture of an eardrum for reference. Once she understood, Pham became more confident at identifying inflamed eardrums – a condition she saw frequently in her pediatrics rotation.

“I loved how Dr. Cepeda took that much time out of his day to teach me,” Pham said.

He also taught her the importance of tracking growth and milestones at well visits and the proper way to use a stethoscope on a child. “The trick is to drop the diaphragm down the shirt and hold it from the outside to listen for heart sounds,” she said.

Cepeda, a 2003 graduate of the USA College of Medicine, is in private practice in Mobile. He gives back to his alma mater by serving as a preceptor in the Clinically Integrated Introductory Course (CLINIC), which provides first- and second-year medical students experiences in career exploration as they rotate through various specialties such as pediatrics.

Cepeda said his role as a preceptor means “slowing down the pace of practice to allow for teaching and preparing students for what life may look like in the future.” This entails priming his staff to operate in a teaching-friendly environment, preparing families to interact with medical students, and reviewing his patients and conditions ahead of time to develop teaching points.

First-year USA medical student Clay Crout described Cepeda as “an exceptional teacher and an even better physician.”

“He helped me understand how important it is to build good rapport and trust with the patient and the family,” Crout said. “Dr. Cepeda would repeatedly stress this, and it was very beneficial to see the ways that he would put it into practice once he entered the exam room.”

Crout also made a connection between what he encountered in the clinic and the material he was learning in class. “While in the clinic we saw a patient that gave Dr. Cepeda the opportunity to teach me about croup and RSV," he said. "The very next day we learned about croup in class, and I was able to connect the clinical presentation with the pathological cause.”

Maria McElyea, another first-year USA medical student, said while the clinical skills course and simulated patient encounters provide some opportunities to practice their skills, "those patients do not actually present with any illness. So, these rotations out in the field allow us to actually see the problems we will face once we are practicing out in clinic."

The rotations also fill in some of the gaps in their knowledge and help students develop the soft skills needed to be good physicians, McElyea added.

When Elizabeth Minto, M.D., director of clinical skills at the USA College of Medicine, approached Cepeda with the opportunity to become a CLINIC preceptor, he readily jumped on board for the “fun of having students around to talk to, educate and learn from.”

According to students who have rotated with Cepeda, the enthusiasm is mutual.

“Dr. Cepeda is an outstanding human being, and I have a lot of admiration for him as a person,” Pham said. “He reminded me of why I wanted to go to medical school in the first place.”

To learn more about CLINIC or becoming a preceptor, contact Candis Patterson at (251) 460-7139 or, or Elizabeth Minto, M.D., at