Wednesday, December 22, 2010

North Drive Closed Through Jan. 2

As part of the portals construction project at the University of South Alabama, North Drive will be closed until Jan. 2, 2011. A detour route is marked through the Health Sciences and Alpha Parking lot to University Drive.

Students Donate Books to USA Pediatric Clinics Through Reach Out and Read Program

From left to right: Dr. Cindy Sheets, a pediatrician at USA; Liza Eldred, a second-grade teacher at St. Paul’s Episcopal School; and Dr. LaDonna Crews, assistant professor of pediatrics at USA.

The University of South Alabama pediatric clinics recently received 409 books collected by second-grade students at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile.

Laura Hassell, a parent of a second-grade student at St. Paul’s and the second-grade level representative, said the classes started philanthropy projects about three years ago. Instead of the children bringing small gifts for one another at Christmas, each grade level would pick an organization or philanthropy to support.

“The second-grade students were recently introduced to the Reach Out and Read program,” Hassell said. “It was easy to explain to the kids and easy for them to be active participants. We introduced the idea in October, and the kids brought in books to their classroom during the first week of December.”

Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. USA has been participating in the Reach Out and Read program for more than five years.

Dr. LaDonna Crews, assistant professor of pediatrics at USA and parent of a second-grader at St. Paul's, said the school's project for the Reach Out and Read Program was a great success and hopes that it will be supported again next year.

Mark Your Calendars: Gumbo Chili Showdown

The third annual Gumbo Chili Showdown will take place March 26, 2011, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of South Alabama’s track. This annual event benefits the Regan Robinson Young Scholarship Fund at the USA College of Medicine.

The event will feature both gumbo and chili from competing teams representing area medical practices and local businesses.

The Gumbo Chili Showdown was created in 2008 by USA medical students and continues to be a project organized by students at the USA College of Medicine.

The event supports a scholarship created in memory of Regan Robinson, a medical student at USA who was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 2003 at the age of 23. The scholarship provides assistance to a rising senior medical student who embodies Regan’s spirit and character.

Last year, the event had 2,000 attendees, and more than $20,000 was raised for the Reagan Robinson Scholarship Fund.

Register your team now at http://www.gumbochili.com/. For more information, contact Katy Lalor at klalor@gmail.com.

USA Library Hosts "DepARTmental" Art Exhibition

The University of South Alabama will be hosting an art exhibition, "DepARTmental," featuring the work of five artists -- all of whom are former or current employees of the USA College of Medicine.

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will take place Jan. 5 through Feb. 25, 2011, at the USA Library's third floor gallery. A special reception will be held Jan. 7 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Department of Educational Technologies and Services began along with the USA College of Medicine as a way to support medical education in all media. Over the years the department attracted a number of artists who creatively applied their skills to the often unique and challenging problems encountered in medical education and research. The work they accomplished while in the employment of the USA College of Medicine continues to have a lasting positive impact on students, faculty, and the community at large.

This exhibition showcases five of these artists -- Walter Beckham, Mike Carmichael, Lynda Smith Touart, Frank Vogtner, and Laura Worsham -- with examples of their personal work in photography, painting, drawing, and mixed media.

For more information, call (251) 460-7021 or visit http://library.southalabama.edu/index.htm.


Watermelons
Walter Beckham

I Love You
Frank Vogtner

Reading Room
Lynda Smith Touart

Pecan Grove
Laura Worsham

Wallpaper
Mike Carmichael

USA Neurologist Speaks at AANEM 57th Annual Meeting in Quebec City

Dr. Bassam A. Bassam, professor of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was recently an invited speaker at the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) 57th annual meeting in Quebec City.

He presented four workshops, “Nerve Conduction Pitfalls and Repetitive Motor Nerve Stimulation,” on Oct. 6 and Oct. 9, 2010. In addition, Dr. Bassam presented a neuromuscular vignettes medley at the Neuromuscular update course on Oct. 7, 2010.

The meeting, which is of the highest national/international organization in the field of neuromuscular and electrodiagnostic medicine, was attended by more than 900 neurologists, neuromuscular subspecialists and PMR physicians from around the world.

Dr. Bassam has been an invited speaker at multiple annual meetings of the AANEM, as well as other national professional organizations. In addition, he has served on numerous national committees, including serving as chair of the Workshop and Education Committee of the AANEM.

Dr. Bassam joined USA in 1985. He is board certified in neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and his research interests include diseases of peripheral nerve and muscle. Dr. Bassam currently serves on the American Board of Electrodiagnostic (ABE) examination committee and the Neuromuscular Update committee.

Friday, December 17, 2010

USA Biomedical Librarian Attends Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Norway

As friends of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, Jie Li of the University of South Alabama Biomedical Library and her husband Cai Chu were invited by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to attend the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10, 2010.

Li and Chu also attended the Nobel Peace Prize Banquet, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize Concert hosted by Denzel Washington and Anne Hathaway on Dec. 11, 2010.

"I got to thank Denzel Washington for hosting this year's Nobel Peace Prize Concert," Li said. "I also had the honor to meet the Norwegian Queen and shake hands with her. It was all very exciting."

Liu was not present at the ceremony, as he is serving an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion to state power" through his writings and role in Charter 08, a manifesto advocating human rights, freedom of expression and peaceful transformation to democratic society.

Li and Chu started working with Liu in 2001 when they and a group of Chinese writers formed the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), an affiliate of the International PEN. Liu and Chu were elected president and vice-president of ICPC in 2003 and worked together to advocate freedom of information, freedom of speech and human rights in China.

In 2006, Liu and Chu formed Democratic China, Inc., a non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for Democracy. The organization publishes a Chinese language journal, Democratic China Electronic Journal, that provides a platform for discussing and debating on China’s peaceful transformation to democracy. The journal’s principles are democracy, freedom, human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism.

As a volunteer for the organizations, Li said she helped with English translation and some administrative roles, such as application for non-profit organization status. Li served as the organization’s president and the journal’s editor-in-chief until he was arrested in December 2008.

"China has achieved great economic success in the recent decades and has lifted several hundred million Chinese out of poverty," Li said. "However, Liu and his wife Liu Xia’s absence at the ceremony shows that China’s rapid economic development has not necessarily achieved democratic transformation as many believed."

"Liu is the first Chinese living in China that won a Nobel Prize," Li said. "It really was a historical event."
Li (left) thanks Representative Christopher Smith (NJ) for sponsoring House Resolution 1717 - Congratulating imprisoned Chinese democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo on the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Li (left) and friend at the Nobel Peace Prize Banquet

Med School Café - Expert Advice for the Community


This month's Med School Café lecture, "Early Detection of Cancer," was given by Gastroenterologist Dr. Silvio deMelo, assistant professor of internal medicine at USA. The lecture was held at the Mobile Museum of Art and had a total of 70 attendees.

Video from this lecture will be posted online by next week. To read more about the lecture, click here.

The next Med School Café lecture will be held on Jan. 18, 2011, and will feature Dr. Jack A. DiPalma, professor of internal medicine at USA. If you are interested in attending, email kebarnes@usouthal.edu for details.

UMS-Wright Student Donates Money to USA Family Specialty Clinic

Paiton Goodwin, a 14-year-old student at UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile, knows what it means to make a difference.

On Dec. 1 – also known as World AIDS day – Paiton donated $522 to the University of South Alabama’s Family Specialty Clinic, whose mission is to provide comprehensive multidisciplinary care to children and their families affected by HIV. The money was raised by selling soda cans that she had been collecting in her backyard for three months.

Her mother, Linda Goodwin, said this act of kindness is just one example of Paiton’s determination to help others. “Paiton collected cans in the third grade for the same clinic, totaling $400,” Goodwin said. “She’s also collected cans for Penelope House – she really enjoys helping others.”

“I’m very proud of her,” Goodwin said of her daughter. “She’s a caring child and always has been.”

“I think she sets a great example of altruism, caring and compassion,” said. Dr. Benjamin Estrada, professor of pediatrics at USA. “We are highly appreciative of her efforts. It is because of people like Paiton that we should be optimistic about the future of our society.”

Paiton began collecting cans in September from her friends and family. “It was her idea to collect the soda cans – she would save them up in the space she had outside, and when the space got full she would go sell them,” Goodwin said.

Eventually, collecting the cans became a habit. “Paiton would see them on the side of the road and want me to pull over so she could grab them,” Goodwin said.

Paiton decided to donate the money to the Family Specialty Clinic at USA after a family friend told her about the clinic. Goodwin said the money will be used to buy Christmas presents for the clinic’s patients. “Paiton hopes her contribution will allow every child to have a very Merry Christmas.”

USA Scientist Featured in Press-Register

Dr. Troy Stevens, director of the University of South Alabama Center for Lung Biology, was recently awarded a Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) award by the National Institutes of Health.

To view an article in last Sunday's Mobile Press-Register detailing the award, visit http://blog.al.com/live/2010/12/4_million_for_research_usa_sci.html

For more information on this story, click here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

USA Physicians Named Best Doctors for 2011-2012


Twenty-four physicians affiliated with the University of South Alabama College of Medicine have been included in the annual Best Doctors in America database. The following physicians were chosen for the list after extensive peer review by thousands of doctors:
  • Jorge E. Alonso - Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Susan Ashbee - Pediatrics
  • Susan L. Baker - Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Karen Denise Crissinger - Pediatric Gastroenterologist
  • Errol Crook - Nephrology
  • R. Michael Culpepper - Nephrology
  • Jack A. DiPalma - Gastroenterology
  • Donna Lynn Dyess - Surgery
  • Karen Fagan - Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
  • Michael A. Finan - Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Ronald D. Franks - Psychiatry
  • Richard P. Gonzalez - Surgery
  • Johnson Haynes Jr. - Pulmonary Medicine
  • Jorge L. Herrera - Hepatology and Gastroenterology
  • Arnold Luterman - Surgery
  • Paul Maertens - Pediatric Neurology
  • Clara Virginia Massey - Cardiovascular Disease
  • Frederick N. Meyer - Hand Surgery
  • Dean K. Naritoku - Neurology
  • Prasit Nimityongskul - Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Albert W. Pearsall IV - Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Eugene A. Quindlen - Neurological Surgery
  • William O. Richards - Surgery
  • John Alan VandeWaa - Infectious Disease
USA Physicians Group, the private practice of the academic physicians at the USA College of Medicine is the region’s largest multi-specialty practice and the only academic physicians group along the central Gulf Coast.

Best Doctors, Inc. is a database that uses peer review along with other criteria to determine the most qualified doctors in various fields of medicine. The database seeks physicians whose reputation and expertise put them in the top 5 percent of their specific specialty. To ensure impartiality, physicians cannot pay to be included in the database, nor are they paid for their participation.

USA Surgery Chair to Give Community Lecture

Dr. William O. Richards, professor and chair of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, will present a free community seminar about weight loss surgery at 6 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2010. The lecture will take place in the Atlantis Room in the CWEB-II building behind USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Richards’s clinical interests focus on surgical treatment for Type 2 diabetes and treating motility disorders of the gastrointestinal tract using minimally invasive surgical procedures. He has operated on more than 2,000 patients using minimally invasive surgical techniques.

Dr. Richards received his medical degree from the University of Maryland School Of Medicine in Baltimore. He completed his internship at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., and his surgery residency at the University of Maryland. Following his residency, Dr. Richards completed a surgical fellowship in portal hypertension and endoscopy at Emory University in Atlanta. In addition, he also completed a research fellowship in gastrointestinal motility at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.

Dr. Richards is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of numerous professional societies, including the American Surgical Association, the Society of University Surgeons, the Southern Surgical Association, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, the Association for Academic Surgery, the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons and the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

For more information on the lecture, call (251) 471-7413 or e-mail vheinl@usouthal.edu.

Directions: Enter the Geri Moulton Children’s Park from Springhill Avenue. At the end of the park, turn right on Center Street and then left on Cox Street. Turn left into the rear parking lot and pass the guard shack. There are several buildings accessible from this parking lot. CWEB II/Atlantis room is the last building.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

USA Scientist Honored with MERIT Award - Among Most Selective Grants Awarded by NIH

Pulmonary researcher Dr. Troy Stevens (right) is flanked by Cristhiaan Ochoa (left), a USA basic medical sciences graduate student in one of the labs at the USA Center for Lung Biology. In this lab, which is supported by competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Stevens is searching for better treatments for patients suffering from pulmonary edema.

Dr. Troy Stevens, director of the University of South Alabama Center for Lung Biology, was recently awarded a Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) award by the National Institutes of Health, and in the process joined an elite group of biomedical scientists whose research is deemed distinctively superior and holds great promise for continued advancement and accomplishments in research.

MERIT awards are among the most selective grants awarded by NIH. Only a small number of NIH-funded investigators are chosen to receive MERIT awards. Dr. Stevens’ research has been funded consecutively by NIH for the past 15 years. MERIT awards typically are funded for up to 10 years, which could extend his research funding from the NIH’s National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute through 2021.

Dr. Stevens’ research interests focus on diseases of the lung vasculature, including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In this project, he is working to better understand the molecular make-up and function of a calcium channel commonly associated with pulmonary edema, an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lungs that makes breathing difficult, and is life-threatening. Pulmonary edema is a serious complication that occurs with prevalent illnesses such as heart failure, lung infections and pneumonia. Mortality rates from edema in the lungs can be as high as 40 percent.

“We are interested in better understanding a complex chain of events that take place when patients suffer from pulmonary edema,” explained Dr. Stevens, who also serves as professor of pharmacology and internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine. “Our efforts are focused on ultimately identifying novel molecular targets for drug development, to prevent edema from forming and to limit its severity once the process has been initiated.”

Throughout the University’s history, Dr. Stevens is one of only five USA researchers selected for a MERIT award. Previous awardees are: Dr. David Wood, professor and chair of microbiology; and retired medical school professors Drs. Marcel Conrad, Aubrey Taylor, and Herbert Winkler.

“We congratulate Dr. Stevens for this distinct honor recognizing the quality of his research and the significant potential of his work to improve the lives of those who suffer from lung diseases and injuries,” said Dr. Samuel J. Strada, dean of the USA College of Medicine.

Beyond the benefit of increasing the understanding and treatment of pulmonary diseases, NIH research funding also enhances USA’s mission in training scientists. According to Dr. Stevens, four current medical school faculty members - three at USA and one at the University of Alabama at Birmingham - and a senior National Institutes of Health scientist were supported by this NIH grant while training in his lab.

The USA Center for Lung Biology (CLB) was created in 2002 to improve the understanding and treatment of pulmonary diseases as well as support the training of both scientists and physicians interested in pulmonary medicine. The Center is comprised of 35 faculty members from various backgrounds with a common interest in pulmonary research and care. Since 2002, NIH has continuously funded faculty in the Center. The CLB garners more than $7.5 million annually for its research activities, mostly from NIH.

Mobile Street Improvements to Provide Better Access to USA Medical Center

The Alabama Department of Transportation has begun a project to widen Mobile Street to three lanes and is adding curbing and gutters. The project, which will cause some detours in January, will offer improved access to the University of South Alabama Medical Center and the surrounding community.

Beginning Jan. 4, 2011, Mobile Street will be closed to through traffic. Signs will direct Mobile Street traffic to Bay Shore Avenue to Cotton Street to Mobile Street north of the intersection of Fillingim Street and to Fillingim Street. This complete closure is expected to last three months.

After this three-month closure, Mobile Street will re-open as a one-way street with the only traffic going north. South-bound traffic will be detoured to Cotton Street to Bay Shore Avenue to Springhill Avenue. This segment of the project is expected to be completed by September.

Please relay this information to all faculty, staff, patients and visitors. The Alabama Department of Transportation will provide updates as they become available.

Click on the image below to view the detour.

Research Scientist to Present Special Seminar

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine Flow Cytometry Core Facility has invited Dr. T. Vincent Shankey, a principal staff advanced research scientist in the Systems Research Group of Beckman-Coulter Inc., to present a special seminar.

The seminar, titled “Cytometry of Cell Signaling: Monitoring Signal Transduction Pathways in Human Disease,” will be held at 10 a.m. on Dec. 14, 2010, in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium on USA's main campus.

Dr. Shankey received his Ph.D. degree in immunology and medical microbiology from the University of Florida School of Medicine in 1977 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania from 1977 to 1981.

Before joining the Advanced Technology Center/Systems Research Group at Beckman-Coulter in 2001, he was the director of research for the urology department and scientific director of the Clinical Flow Cytometry laboratory at Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago.

For more information regarding Dr. Shankey’s research, click here.

USA Lions Club Sponsors Christmas Party for Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind

The annual Christmas party for the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, sponsored by the University of South Alabama Lions Club, was held on Dec. 7, 2010. Members of the USA Lions Club (above) provided a Christmas gala for the children affected by hearing and sight impairments at the institute. Approximately 25-30 children were present. The USA Lions Club was responsible for providing lunch and Christmas gifts for every child.

The USA Lions Club was founded in 1993. Their recent projects include sponsoring diabetic camps, collecting funds for eye research, working with Habitat for Humanity, and collecting school supplies for disadvantaged youth. For more information on the USA Lions Club, contact Tommie Carlisle at tcarlisl@usouthal.edu or Judy Burnham at jburnham@usouthal.edu.

Next Week's DSS - Dr. Nicholas Hill

The next Distinguished Scientist Seminar at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine will be presented by Dr. Nicholas Hill, professor of medicine and chief of the pulmonary critical care and sleep division at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

His seminar, titled “Serotonin Signaling in Pulmonary Hypertension,” will take place Dec. 16, 2010, at 4 p.m. in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium on USA’s main campus.

Dr. Hill also serves as director of the Pulmonary Vascular Center at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. His clinical specialties include pulmonary hypertension, mechanical ventilation, non-invasive ventilation and general pulmonology.

Dr. Hill received his medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., and conducted postgraduate training at Boston University. He is board certified in critical care medicine, internal medicine and pulmonary disease.

For more information on Dr. Hill’s research, click here. For additional information on the lecture, contact Natalie Kent at (251) 461-1548.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Next Week's DSS - Dr. Peter J. McKinnon

The next Distinguished Scientist Seminar will be presented by Dr. Peter J. McKinnon, professor in the department of genetics/tumor cell biology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

His seminar, titled “Genome Stability and the Prevention of Disease in the Nervous System,” will take place Dec. 9, 2010, at 4 p.m. in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium on USA’s main campus.

Dr. McKinnon’s research focuses on understanding the role of the DNA damage response in the nervous system, and how this functions to prevent disease.

Dr. McKinnon received his Ph.D. degree from The Flinders University of South Australia. His research interests include molecular neurobiology, mouse models of human disease, brain tumors, neurodegeneration, and tumor suppressors.

For more information on Dr. McKinnon’s research, click here.  For additional information on the lecture, contact Natalie Kent at (251) 461-1548.

USA Cardiologist Talks About Emerging Data On Vitamin D

Dr. Clara Massey, professor of internal medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of South Alabama, was featured in Monday's Press-Register.

Below is some additional information from Dr. Massey regarding Vitamin D deficiency and how it relates to heart health. To read the entire Press-Register article, click here.
  • Traditionally, 95 percent of the body's Vitamin D requirement comes from the skin's synthesis of Vitamin D from ultraviolet B rays from the sun. An SPF of 15 or greater blocks 99 percent of this conversion.
  • Only 5 percent of the vitamin D requirement comes from food sources. Highest food sources include cod liver oil, wild caught salmon, farmed salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines.
  • At risk populations: elderly, darkly pigmented skin, (higher levels of melanin blocks skin conversion), those who are homebound or institutionalized, smokers, & the obese.
  • According to NHANES III (Third National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey), 25-57 percent of adults in the U.S. are Vitamin D deficient.
  • Those residing below the 40 degree latitude (south of Atlanta) should be at less risk because they are closer to the equator and therefore closer to the sun. Until now that has been presumed to be the case. But that may not be true, possibly because of increased sunscreen use.
  • You should not increase Vitamin D supplements without physician guidance because it can result in Vitamin D toxicity.
  • Sun exposure is the simplest and easiest way to enhance Vitamin D levels. However, the face should always be protected. Dr. Massey recommends 10 minutes of sun exposure on the arms and legs between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., 3 times per week during the spring, summer and fall months. This will provide enough Vitamin D stores for a year. The skin destroys excess amounts so its impossible to become Vitamin D toxic from sun exposure.

Med School Café - "Early Detection of Cancer"

The December Med School Café lecture will feature Dr. Silvio W. de Melo Jr., assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

His lecture, titled “Early Detection of Cancer,” will take place Dec. 17, 2010, at the Mobile Museum of Art at 4850 Museum Drive in Mobile. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation begins at noon.

Dr. de Melo, a gastroenterologist who specializes in the detection of cancers through endoscopic ultrasound, will lecture on early detection of a variety of cancers. During the talk, he will provide the latest information on treatment options and explain how early detection ultimately leads to better patient outcomes.

Dr. de Melo earned his medical degree from Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil. He conducted his internal medicine residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

In addition, Dr. de Melo completed a fellowship in gastroenterology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where he also served as chief fellow, and an advanced endoscopy fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. He is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

The Med School Café lecture and lunch are provided free of charge, but reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, please call Kim Barnes at (251) 460-7770 or e-mail kebarnes@usouthal.edu.

Med School Café is a free community lecture series sponsored by the USA Physicians Group. Each month, faculty from the USA College of Medicine share their expertise on a specific medical condition, providing insight on the latest treatment available.

Former Radiology Chair Honored through Conference Room Dedication

From left: Dr. Samuel J. Strada, dean of the USA College of Medicine; Mrs. Carol Teplick, wife of former radiology chair Dr. Steven K. Teplick; and Dr. Jeffrey C. Brandon, chair of radiology at USA

The University of South Alabama department of radiology honored former radiology chair Dr. Steven K. Teplick by naming the new educational conference room in his honor.

Dr. Teplick died unexpectedly on Dec. 8, 2009. He served as professor and chair of radiology at USA for close to 15 years.

"Dr. Teplick made meaningful and enduring contributions to our mission during his tenure," said Dr. Samuel J. Strada, dean of the USA College of Medicine. "These contributions include the development of the USA teleradiology program, the conversion from film to digital radiologic imaging and the implementation of PET-CT and digital mammography."

Dr. Jeffrey C. Brandon, chair of radiology at USA, emphasized Dr. Teplick's dedication to teaching. "During his tenure at USA, the department trained 90 radiology residents," Dr. Brandon said. "We as a department are grateful to Dr. Teplick for his service and pleased to have this room bear his name in memory of what he gave us -- a deep dedication to fostering resident education."

USA Trauma Surgeon Shares First-Hand Experiences at Disaster Preparedness Meeting

Dr. Sidney Brevard, associate professor of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, will speak at the opening session of HealthSouth Corporation’s Annual Medical Directors’ meeting. The meeting will be held at the Lowes Hotel in New Orleans on Dec. 5, 2010.

This year’s meeting focuses on disaster preparedness. Dr. Brevard, who was working at Charity Hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, will share his first-hand experiences.

"We spent five days in the hospital," Dr. Brevard said. "More than 1,000 staff and patients were there at the time, and we had no electricity, no running water and a minimal supply of food and medication. With 20 years of military training in the Air Force, I treated the situation like another deployment. It was very similar."

Dr. Brevard currently serves as a trauma surgeon in the Level I Trauma Center at the USA Medical Center. Prior to his appointment at USA, he was director of the Air Force Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills (CSTARS) in Baltimore.

Dr. Brevard is certified by the American Board of Surgery in general surgery and critical care. He is a diplomat for the American Board of Surgery, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a member of the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the Society of Air Force Clinical Surgeons and the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

USA Orthopaedic Department Receives Gift from HJW Foundation

The University of South Alabama department of orthopaedic surgery recently received a $650,000 gift from the HJW Foundation created by Dr. h.c. mult Hansjörg Wyss.

According to USA orthopaedic traumatologist Dr. Jorge Alonso, this gift supports the mission of the department in providing leading-edge surgical care for all members of the community.

“We are grateful for the generosity of the HJW Foundation and Dr. Wyss,” said Dr. Samuel J. Strada, dean of the USA College of Medicine. “This gift recognizes the value our orthopaedic department makes in our region.”

A portion of the funds will be used to purchase orthopaedic surgical equipment at the USA Medical Center, and the remainder will be awarded to the USA orthopaedic department to help support surgical care for indigent patients.

“Charitable support for the USA Medical Center trauma center and the USA department of orthopaedics from the nationally recognized HJW Foundation is recognition of the high quality of these programs,” said Dr. Joseph Busta, vice president of development and alumni relations at USA. “We are most grateful to the HJW Foundation for this significant gift as it will enable the hospital and our department of orthopaedics to better treat patients from the northern Gulf Coast region.”

The USA department of orthopaedics offers skilled and highly trained physicians who provide personalized orthopaedic medical care to patients. In addition to conventional orthopaedic treatment, USA’s orthopaedic physicians provide specialty care for athletes and patients who would benefit from joint restoration or arthritis care.

The HJW Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the care of patients with musculoskeletal injuries through research, development, education and quality assurance in the principles, practice, and result of fracture treatment. Dr. Wyss was named to BusinessWeek’s 2008 list of the 50 Top American Givers, which recognizes the most generous United States philanthropists.

Mark your calendars

The 20th annual Continuing Education Conference in Obstetrics and Gynecology will be held August 18-19, 2011, at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel at 64 South Water St. in Mobile.

Please note that the conference, which is usually held in April, will now be held in August. Brochures will be sent out at a later date.

For more information, contact Catherine P. Hanks at (251) 415-1491.

Holiday Toy Drive - Donate Today


The Dumas Wesley Community Center is sponsoring their annual Christmas Toy Store, and the University of South Alabama Medical Center is assisting them again this year with donations.

Toys will be collected in each department at the USA Medical Center for transport to the Dumas Wesley Community Center on Dec. 2, 2010.

Donated toys are sold to pre-qualified Crichton residents at greatly reduced prices. The money generated from the toy sales goes to help other distressed community members with emergency needs.

Last year, donations from USA enabled the center to assist over 100 families.

Reminder for USA Health & Dental Plan Members

In order to take advantage of the $25 wellness incentive (one per family) effective Jan. 1, 2011, members are required to certify that they (and their covered spouses) do not use tobacco products on the Tobacco Declaration Form.

The form must be submitted to human resources no later than 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2010. Forms are available online at http://www.southalabama.edu/hr/openenrollment.html.

USA Health & Dental Plan members that use tobacco products can take advantage of the Quit For Life Tobacco Cessation Program offered through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. The program is available to covered employees and eligible spouses at no charge.

The telephone-based program has several supportive features including five counseling sessions, 12 months of unlimited "hotline" calls for on-the-spot help, self-help materials, and a free 8-week supply of nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, gum or lozenges. Please call 1-888-768-7848 for more information.

As an additional incentive, the USA Health & Dental Plan will also cover tobacco cessation prescription drugs, to include waiving the copay for a two-month supply of the tobacco cessation drug Chantix.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Med School Café - Expert Advice for the Community


This week's Med School Café lecture, "Maintaining a Healthy Heart," was given by Dr. Barney Beaver, associate professor of internal medicine in the division of cardiology at USA. The lecture was held at the Mobile Museum of Art and had a total of 121 attendees.

Video from this lecture will be posted online by next week. To read more about the lecture, click here.
The next Med School Café lecture will be held on Dec. 17, 2010, and will feature Dr. Silvio deMelo, assistant professor of gastroenterology at USA. If you are interested in attending, email kebarnes@usouthal.edu for details.

Students, Faculty Present Research Projects at 4th Annual COM Research Forum

From left: Dr. Mark Taylor, associate professor of physiology; Cristhiaan Ochoa, basic medical sciences graduate student; Glenda Parra-Bonilla, basic medical sciences graduate student; Dr. David Wood, chair of microbiology

Dr. Sarah Sayner (right), assistant professor of cell biology and neuroscience and Sukrutha Chettimada, basic medical sciences graduate student
------------------------------------------------------------------
The University of South Alabama College of Medicine's 4th annual Research Forum was held Nov. 19, 2010, at USA's main library.

According to Dr. Donna Cioffi, assistant professor of biochemistry at USA, the research forum is a great opportunity for basic medical scientists and clinicians to present their research projects to colleagues at the College of Medicine.

The forum consisted of two sessions - the morning session was comprised of nine oral presentations and the afternoon session hosted poster presentations. "This year we had 38 posters," Dr. Cioffi said. "We were also very excited to have clinical participation from the departments of surgery, internal medicine, gastroenterology and pathology."

Dr. Cioffi said graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and clinical fellows are especially encouraged to present their work in the forum. "Not only do they gain experience in presentation skills, but they also have the opportunity to share their research experiences with other students and faculty."

Cristhiaan Ochoa, a fourth-year graduate student in the basic medical sciences program, said it is important for students to participate in the research forum. "The forum allows you to share your research with people you don't interact with on a regular basis," he said. "Through this program, we are given the opportunity to share our knowledge with them to collaborate and come up with new ideas."

Ochoa's poster presentation involved the study of an exotoxin produced by pseudomonas aeruginosa, a dangerous bacterium. "Ninety percent of bacteria that you isolate from patients in the hospital produces this toxin, which can cause acute lung injury and sepsis, a deadly blood infection," Ochoa said. "In this research study, we are trying to understand how this toxin works."

According to Dr. Cioffi, the forum helps to achieve a strong integration between the basic medical science departments and the clinical departments. "Through this forum we hope that people will share their ideas, which in turn will foster new and exciting projects and collaborations."

To learn more about participating in the annual COM Research Forum, contact Dr. Cioffi at dlcioffi@usouthal.edu or Dr. Jody Brewer at jbrewer@jaguar1.usouthal.edu.

Groundbreaking of USA Children's and Women's Hospital Expansion

The University of South Alabama on Nov. 17, 2010, broke ground on a major expansion of USA Children's and Women's Hospital. The $72.6 million expansion will add more than 195,000 square feet to the existing hospital, almost doubling its size and allowing a higher level of care for patients and their families.

Among the speakers at the groundbreaking was Dr. Samuel J. Strada, dean of the USA College of Medicine. "The expansion will provide greater opportunities for our medical students and residents to learn from their enhanced exposure to more patients with childhood diseases and medical areas of women's health," he said. "At the same time, they will be working with our faculty in state-of-the-art facilities."

To read the full press release on the groundbreaking, click here.

USA Physicians Group - Beyond the Medical Headlines

Each week, dozens of medical studies are promoted by news outlets. Many times, the coverage is brief - sometimes, it can even be confusing.

Dr. Allen Perkins, chair of family medicine at the USA College of Medicine, will thoroughly examine interesting medical studies and provide important information for patients. If you would like to receive an e-mail once a week with a look beyond the medical headlines, click this link - http://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/d.jsp?llr=cifoyceab&p=oi&m=1103899333890.

Study by Dr. Terrence Tumpey Featured in November Issue of Microbe Magazine

A study by Dr. Terrence Tumpey, senior microbiologist and team leader in the influenza pathogenesis, influenza division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, was featured in the November issue of Microbe magazine.

Dr. Tumpey, who graduated from USA in 1997, is noted for his work in reconstructing the 1918 pandemic influenza virus in an effort to better understand what characteristics made it so deadly. The 1918 virus, also known as Spanish Flu, killed an estimated 20-50 million people worldwide.

To read the entire article and an author profile of Dr. Tumpey that was featured in Microbe magazine, click here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dr. Mark S. Williams to Give Presentation to USA Clinical Faculty, Hospital Staff

Dr. Mark S. Williams, chief medical officer for the North Mississippi Health System, will be giving a presentation to clinical faculty and hospital staff at the University of South Alabama. The presentation, titled “Adverse Events in Hospitals: Why Culture Matters,” will take place Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. at the USA Medical Center Conference Center.

In addition, Dr. Williams will have an informal discussion with College of Medicine students in the Eichold Room on Nov. 15, 2010, at 6 p.m.

Dr. Williams also serves as board chairman for the Alabama Quality Assurance Foundation, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and a healthcare consultant for Alabama Power Company.

He received his medical degree from USA in 1980 and completed a residency in internal medicine and a residency in anesthesiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In addition, he received a master’s in business administration from Samford University School of Business in Birmingham, Ala., and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Dr. Williams is board certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology. He has a unique combination of medical, business and legal skills that contribute to a broad understanding of the healthcare environment.

Support for Dr. Williams' presentation and visit is provided by the Dr. Richard Goldhammer Endowment. The lecture is open to all faculty, residents, students and hospital staff.

Surgery Chair to Give Free Community Lecture

Dr. William O. Richards, professor and chair of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, will present a free community lecture titled “Bariatric Surgery for Morbid Obesity” at 6 p.m. on Nov. 16, 2010. The lecture will take place in the Atlantis Room in the CWEB-II building behind USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Richards’s clinical interests focus on surgical treatment for Type 2 diabetes and treating motility disorders of the gastrointestinal tract using minimally invasive surgical procedures. He has performed more than 1,000 laparoscopic procedures since 1990, including numerous laparoscopic bariatric procedures.

Dr. Richards received his medical degree from the University of Maryland School Of Medicine in Baltimore. He completed his internship at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., and his surgery residency at the University of Maryland. Following his residency, Dr. Richards completed a surgical fellowship in portal hypertension and endoscopy at Emory University in Atlanta. In addition, he also completed a research fellowship in gastrointestinal motility at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.

Dr. Richards is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of numerous professional societies, including the American Surgical Association, the Society of University Surgeons, the Southern Surgical Association, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, the Association for Academic Surgery, the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons and the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

For more information on the lecture, call (251) 471-7413.

Directions: Enter the Geri Moulton Children’s Park from Springhill Avenue. At the end of the park, turn right on Center Street and then left on Cox Street. Turn left into the rear parking lot and pass the guard shack. There are several buildings accessible from this parking lot. CWEB II/Atlantis room is the last building.

USA Health Disparities Research Group Holds Planning Meeting to Discuss Future Goals

Dr. Martha Arrieta (far left), director of research for the University of South Alabama’s Center for Healthy Communities, leads the USA Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) planning meeting on Oct. 29, 2010. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the group’s future goals and objectives, as well as to define member responsibilities.

HDRG, a multidisciplinary group of university faculty with an interest in health disparities, was initiated after the awarding of an NIH grant to the USA Center for Healthy Communities in 2004. The overall strategy for the Center for Healthy Communities was to implement community based participatory research (CBPR) approaches. To achieve this goal, HDRG was developed.

Dr. Arrieta said HDRG consists of a dedicated core of eight to 10 faculty members, as well as many other faculty members that are involved with HDRG at some level.

The mission of HDRG is to foster interdisciplinary, collaborative research toward eliminating health disparities. The group’s overall goals are to conduct and support health disparities research, garner adequate resources for the HDRG to become self-sustaining, engage community stakeholders in the process of developing research and collaboration, strengthen faculty capabilities to conduct health disparities research, and to translate and disseminate research findings related to health disparities.

Next Week's DSS - Dr. K. Mark Coggeshall

The next Distinguished Scientist Seminar at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine will be presented by Dr. K. Mark Coggeshall, the Robert S. Kerr Jr. Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

His seminar, titled “Long and Short Term Inflammation: Causes and Effects in a Murine Lupus Model and in Human Bacillus Anthracis Infections,” will take place Nov. 18, 2010, at 4 p.m. in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium.

Dr. Coggeshall, who also serves as an adjunct professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and a scholar of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Southern Illinois University and a Ph.D. degree from Duke University.

Dr. Coggeshall’s research has three main projects, all of which study the signal transduction processes in hematopoietic cells. In the area of inflammation, he is studying the signal transduction process by receptors for gamma-type immunoglobulins on human macrophages and neutrophils. These IgG receptors stimulate many biological functions in these cells, including phagocytosis, release of inflammatory cytokines, and the elimination of pathogenic organisms.

Dr. Coggeshall is a member of American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, an associate editor of Journal of Biological Chemistry and Journal of Immunology, and a panelist for AHA Immunology & Microbiology II.

For more information on Dr. Coggeshall’s research, click here.

Apple iPad Winner Announced

Becky Tate (left), chief executive officer of the USA Physicians Group, presented Gwenn Moring, a physical therapy assistant at the USA Medical Center, with an Apple iPad she won after a drawing sponsored by the USA Physicians Group.

Gwenn Moring, a physical therapy assistant at the University of South Alabama Medical Center, won the Apple iPad drawing sponsored by USA Physicians Group at USA’s 6th annual Benefits Fair. A total of 998 people stopped by the USA Physicians Group booth and registered for the iPad during the Benefits Fair, which was in three locations over the course of two days.

Moring, who was surprised with the gift Monday afternoon, said she has never won any giveaways before. “This may go under the tree this year for my kids,” she said, “but it will be very tempting not to play with it until then.”

“I’m very thankful,” Moring added. “I love working here, and it’s definitely an adventure every day. I’m glad I was able to share this experience with my coworkers.”

Moring, who has been in Mobile most of her life, has been a physical therapy assistant at the USA Medical Center for two years.

USA Physician Group providers were on hand at the Benefits Fair to answer health questions and provide guidance. USA Cardiology handed out heart healthy information, the USA Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Center provided grip strength testing and occupational/physical therapy information, Knollwood Physicians Group gave skin cancer screenings, and the department of surgery was on hand to discuss appropriate tests and screenings for bariatric surgery and surgical oncology.

“We were pleased with the interest and excitement from USA employees as they visited our booth,” said Becky Tate, chief executive officer of the USA Physicians Group. “This year, for the first time, we had several representatives from our care centers answering questions about health concerns. Based on the positive feedback from USA employees, we are definitely planning to do the same next year.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

November Med School Café: Maintaining a Healthy Heart - Separating Fact from Fiction

The November Med School Café lecture will feature Dr. Barney B. Beaver, associate professor of internal medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

His lecture, titled "Maintaining a Healthy Heart - Separating Fact from Fiction," will take place Nov. 16, 2010, at the Mobile Museum of Art at 4850 Museum Drive in Mobile. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation begins at noon.

Dr. Beaver will separate fact from fiction on the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for maintaining a healthy heart.

One common heart health myth is that it is easy to tell when you are having a heart attack. However, many people suffer from heart attacks but dismiss the associated symptoms as heartburn, fatigue or anxiety. During the talk, Dr. Beaver will discuss the importance of knowing the difference.

Dr. Beaver, who is an interventional cardiologist and electrophysiologist, is board certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Cardiology. His special interests include interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, heart rhythm disorders, pacemakers and defibrillators.

The Med School Café lecture and lunch are provided free of charge, but reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, please call Kim Barnes at (251) 460-7770 or e-mail kebarnes@usouthal.edu.

Med School Café is a free community lecture series sponsored by the USA Physicians Group. Each month, faculty from the USA College of Medicine share their expertise on a specific medical condition, providing insight on the latest treatment available.

Snapshot: USA's 6th Annual Benefits Fair

Renee Hall (left), supervisor of outpatient therapy, and physical therapist Sheri Kovaleski (right), both in the department of orthopaedics at USA, hand out information at USA's 6th annual Benefits Fair. The event was held Nov. 4-5, 2010.

USA Physician Group providers were on hand to answer health questions and provide guidance. Participants learned their body mass index and were able to receive a free skin cancer screening, as well as other physical therapy and occupational therapy screenings.

Mitochondrial Focus Group Holds First Meeting

From left: Dr. Mikhail Alexeyev, assistant professor in the department of cell biology and neuroscience; students Ashley DeCoux and Angela Mayer

The first Mitochondrial Focus Group at the USA College of Medicine was held Nov. 3, 2010. The meeting consisted of an informal presentation of a paper followed by discussion. This week's paper was titled "The innate immune system in host mice targets cells with allogenic mitochondrial DNA."

Dr. Mikhail Alexeyev, assistant professor in the department of cell biology and neuroscience, said there are several benefits of participating in the group. "It gives you the opportunity to broaden your horisons, stay on top of the developments in mitochondrial research, and get exposure to different kinds of expertise," he said.

"USA is the first and the only to develop technology for the controlled mutagenesis of mitochondrial DNA, which allows us to generate lab models for mitochondrial disease," Dr. Alexeyev said. "However, the scope of the focus group is much wider than just mitochondrial diseases. Mitochondrial dysfunction plays a critical role in cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and aging."

Dr. Alexeyev said the group is still in the process of gauging interest, but the initial plan is for the focus group to meet every other week.

To read more about the paper that was discussed at this week's meeting, click here. For more information about the Mitochondrial Focus Group, call the department of cell biology and neuroscience at (251) 460-6490.

Next Week's DSS - Dr. Zbigniew Darzynkiewicz

The next Distinguished Scientist Seminar at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine will be presented by Dr. Zbigniew Darzynkiewicz, director of the Brander Cancer Research Institute and professor of pathology, medicine and microbiology at the New York Medical College.

His seminar, titled "Assessment of DNA Damage Response in Individual Cells Upon Induction of DNA Damage by Exogenous and Endogenous Genotoxins," will take place Nov. 11, 2010, at 4 p.m. in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium.

Dr. Darzynkiewicz's research concentrates on cell biology with particular emphasis on cancer cell growth and the regulatory mechanisms associated with cell proliferation, apoptosis and sensitivity to anti-tumor drugs. He developed several analytical techniques to analyze metabolic parameters related to cell cycle kinetics, prognosis of tumor progression and apoptosis that have world-wide application.

Dr. Darzynkiewicz received his M.D. and his Ph.D. degrees from the Medical University of Warsaw in Warsaw, Poland, and completed his post-graduate studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo and at the Medical Nobel Institute of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

From 1988 to 1990, Dr. Darzynkiewicz was a member of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York and the professor of cell biology and genetics at Cornell University Medical School.

Dr. Darzynkiewicz is the editor of several scientific journals and has published over 640 articles in peer-reviewed journals. He is a foreign member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, as well as the past president of the Cell Kinetics Society and the International Society for Analytical Cytology. Dr. Darzynkiewicz holds eight United States patents.

For more information on Dr. Darzynkiewicz's research, visit http://www.darzynkiewicz.com/zbigniew/.

Dr. Jeffrey Brandon Appointed Chair of Radiology

Dr. Jeffrey C. Brandon, distinguished professor of radiology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was recently appointed chair of the USA department of radiology.

“During his time at USA, Dr. Brandon has served the institution in many leadership positions,” said Dr. Samuel J. Strada, dean of the USA College of Medicine. “His prior experience and knowledge, as well as his commitment to the university, underscores his ability to serve as chair of radiology.”

Dr. Brandon has served as vice-chair of radiology and director of the residency program at USA since 1995. In addition, he was associate dean of continuing and graduate medical education, assistant dean of graduate medical education and professor of physician assistant studies.

Dr. Brandon received his bachelor of science degree from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., and his doctorate degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He completed his diagnostic radiology residency at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, where he also completed a fellowship in interventional/abdominal imaging.

Dr. Brandon is certified by the American Board of Radiology. He serves as a fellow of the American Board of Radiology and is a member of the American College of Radiology, the Radiological Society of North America, the Association of University Radiologists, the Society of Gastrointestinal Radiologists, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, and the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiologists.

Friday, October 29, 2010

USA Gastroenterologist, Liver Disease Specialist Quoted in Today's Wall Street Journal

Dr. Jorge Herrera, a gastroenterologist at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal article on research advances against Hepatitis C.

The article states that drug makers are currently developing new treatments for the disease -- a chronic infection that damages the liver.

Dr. Herrera, who enjoys an international reputation as a liver disease specialist, said new clinical-trial results appear to work better than the current standard treatments.

Dr. Herrera is involved in multiple clinical trials here in Mobile.

To read the entire Wall Street Journal article, click here.

Charlie Baugh Dog Day

USA Biomedical Sciences graduate students participate in this year's Charlie Baugh Dog Day on Thursday. The event is an annual celebration in memory of Dr. Charles M. Baugh, who served as dean at the USA College of Medicine on two separate occassions.

Clockwise, from left: Ashley DeCoux, Abdallah Al Zoubi, Tracy Dodd, Salina Gairhe and Alicia Waggoner Menard

New Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Dr. Carlo Contreras, a surgical oncologist with the department of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, said in the past, pancreatic cancer has been a difficult diagnosis with limited effective treatment options. Today it is different.

“Twenty years ago, patients who developed pancreatic cancer really didn’t have much hope,” Dr. Contreras said. “Today, each patient will have a cohesive team of doctors, each of whom will provide unique, complementary treatments for pancreatic cancer. Treatment involves a close partnership with the patient and a team of doctors that weigh the roles of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”

Dr. Contreras, who specializes in liver and pancreatic cancer, is affiliated with the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute and sees patients there. He also treats patients with a variety of skin and gastrointestinal cancers including stomach tumors, neuroendocrine tumors, melanoma and sarcoma.

Approximately 43,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the United States alone. Because pancreatic cancer is one of the more difficult types of cancers to detect and treat, Dr. Contreras said it is important to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms.

The pancreas, a soft gland that sits at the back of the abdominal cavity, produces a variety of substances that help digest food and control metabolism. The warning signs of pancreatic cancer can either be quite dramatic or very subtle, depending on where the cancer starts growing within the pancreas.

“If the cancer starts growing within the right side of the gland, than the symptoms can be rather dramatic because it can block the bile duct – a tube-like structure that is important for food digestion,” he said. “When the bile duct is blocked, the patient will develop jaundice, or a yellowing of the eyes and skin.”

Dr. Contreras said symptoms are much more subtle for cancer that starts growing in other areas of the pancreas. “The patient might have vague upper abdominal pain that radiates to the back, unusual itching of the skin, or gradual loss of appetite with weight loss,” Dr. Contreras said. “Sometimes a patient will suddenly develop diabetes, or a patient who has had well-controlled diabetes for years will suddenly have high blood sugars.”

If a patient experiences any of these symptoms, Dr. Contreras said it is important to visit a doctor. At the appointment, a doctor will perform a complete physical examination and if needed, perform a CT scan or MRI scan.

“The specific kind of treatment that a patient needs depends on what symptoms the patient is having, the size and location of the pancreatic cancer and whether it has spread beyond the pancreas,” he said. “Pancreatic cancer is a trying experience, but therapies are improving every day, which ultimately means better outcomes for patients.”

“Being diagnosed with any type of cancer is incredibly difficult,” Dr. Contreras said, “but faith, a supportive family network and a specialized team of doctors can help restore hope, dignity, peace of mind, and quality of life.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Contreras, call (251) 665-8000.

College of Medicine Research Forum: Abstract Submissions Due Monday, Nov. 1

Participants in last year's COM Research Forum

The 4th annual University of South Alabama College of Medicine Research Forum will be held Nov. 19, 2010, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at USA's Main Library. The deadline for abstract submission is Nov. 1, 2010.

"The Research Forum puts a spotlight on the exciting biomedical research being done in the USA College of Medicine and fosters interactions among faculty, labs and the entire College of Medicine community," said Dr. Joseph Brewer, associate professor of microbiology at USA and member of the Research Forum Committee.

Participants of the Research Forum will present their work in posters and/or short talks.

“Graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and clinical fellows are especially encouraged to present their work in the Research Forum,” Dr. Brewer said. “This is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience in sharing research findings and ideas with others. Certainly, for many careers in the biomedical sciences, effective communication skills are essential."

Visit http://www.southalabama.edu/com/index.html for detailed instructions regarding preparation and submission of abstracts.

For more information, contact Dr. Brewer at jbrewer@jaguar1.usouthal.edu or Dr. Donna Cioffi at dlcioffi@usouthal.edu.