From Gail Morrison, M’71, FEL’76:
As we embark on the next 250 years of Penn Medicine, ushering in the next class of talented Perelman School of Medicine students, I am happy to introduce this issue of our online alumni publication Pulse.
I am even happier to introduce our incoming class, which formally began their Perelman School careers on August 14 with our 20th annual White Coat Ceremony. The first-year students, ranging in age from 22 to 36, arrived with impressive credentials from 65 undergraduate institutions in 25 states. The Class of 2019 includes six Fulbright Scholars and a Bronze Star recipient. Notably, the class composition is 47% female, 32% non-science majors, 28% Asian, 23% underrepresented in medicine, 16% first college graduates in a family, and 15% PA residents. You can read more about the White Coat Ceremony as well as the Parents and Partners events that preceded it as you scroll through this issue. I expect that the intelligence, backgrounds, and youthful exuberance that our new students demonstrated throughout the ceremony will all contribute to an exciting start to their careers as gifted healers and medical leaders.
Alumni play such a crucial role in enhancing our ability to provide the best in medical education. I am proud to reveal that alumni fundraising and participation in our 250th year were truly remarkable, as the following numbers indicate: $12.76 million was raised for medical education, with a 28.8% participation rate of MD alumni giving to Penn Medicine. In that spirit, you will hear from some very actively engaged alumni in this issue.
I enjoyed reading the reflections of Howard J. Eisen, M’81, INT’84, new chair of the Medical Alumni Advisory Council (MAAC). He provides his vision for MAAC and really crystallizes some of the vast changes he’s seen at the Perelman School and in medicine—including some truly fascinating ones in cardiology—since he began his career.
Also in this issue, we congratulate Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, for his promotion to Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer at the Perelman School of Medicine, and present his engaging message for alumni.
Neha Vapiwala, M’01, one of the first Gamble Scholars, provides a touching perspective on the role of this scholarship in her life. Among the various “hats” that she wears at the School now include Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and Advisory Dean for the John Morgan Virtual House.
Finally, it is time to submit nominations for the 2016 and 2017 Distinguished Graduate Awards. Established in 1982, the Distinguished Graduate Award is the highest award bestowed by the School in recognition of outstanding service to society and the profession of medicine, and for notable accomplishments in biomedical research, clinical practice, or medical education by our alumni. All graduates of the Perelman School of Medicine and its residency training programs are eligible. To submit a name for nomination, please click here. To see past recipients of the award, please click here. Nominations must be received no later than September 30, 2015. Please note that the information you provide will be the only material reviewed by the selection committee to determine the finalists. As always, we encourage diversity and the nomination of women, minorities and members of groups historically underrepresented in medicine.
Please enjoy this issue of Pulse, and the waning days of summer! And please don’t hesitate to write to tell us what you would most like to see covered in your alumni online newsletter, to let us know of your current or upcoming publications, or to convey any news that you would like to share with your alumni community (firstname.lastname@example.org).
P.S. If you haven’t yet purchased a copy of To Spread the Light of Knowledge, a limited-edition book filled with nearly 200 pages of history celebrating the 250th birthday of the nation’s first medical school, I recommend taking a look. This wonderful book, which includes photos dating back to the founding of the School, really elicits a deep appreciation for the pioneering role our School has played in American medicine. To order a copy, click here and make your selection.
Getting to Know You:
A Q&A with Your New Medical Alumni Advisory Council Chair
Pulse invites you to meet the new Medical Alumni Advisory Council (MAAC) chair, Howard J. Eisen, M’81, INT’84. He recently spoke with us about his agenda for MAAC, as well as the changes he’s seen in the Perelman School, medical practice, and cardiology over 30 years. Dr. Eisen is Chief of the Division of Cardiology and Thomas J. Vischer Professor of Medicine at the Drexel University College of Medicine.
Q: How would you characterize the changes that you’ve seen in the School since your days as a student?
A: Penn Medicine is physically a much bigger place than when I went there as a student. And it seems to be operating—pun intended—at the highest levels in every realm.
The School has a new state-of-the-art educational facility in the Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center, which defines how to provide the very best medical education in the 21st century. The School continues to be ranked among the top five, and is a major draw to the most talented students.
Research funding has continued to grow and, with it, there are new research buildings, and, of course, world-class investigators who expand what we know medically and how we treat disease. Carl June’s research is an example of the exciting work being done at the School that has the potential to revolutionize patient care.
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which anchor the school clinically, have new in- and outpatient buildings and translational research centers that did not exist years ago. Building on a stellar tradition, the evolution has just been amazing.
Q: What should the School be addressing that you think it thus far has not?
A: Medical school tuition is exorbitant and the anticipation of staggering debt upon completion of one’s MD has no doubt played a role in steering an increasing number of graduates away from certain specialties. So I believe what remains unfinished at the School is the realization of Anne and Walter Gamble’s vision of increased accessibility by making the School tuition-free for all students.
By bolstering financial aid, students would come to Penn because of its excellence—and the opportunities now available to them. Importantly, without distressing financial burdens on the horizon, students would feel more unencumbered in pursuing their path in medicine without excessive concern for future earnings.
Q: What is your outlook on MAAC as you take the helm? What do you hope to accomplish?
A: There have been so many wonderful developments at Penn, and my goal is to introduce—or re-introduce—the School to alumni and engage as many of them as possible. I hope to further increase alumni involvement in the School, including realizing the goal of making the Perelman School fully tuition-free.
Q: Are there notable trends in cardiology practice that you view as positive or negative?
A: Cardiology has been transformed since I was a medical student. Perhaps the most dramatic change has been the drop in cardiovascular mortality as a result of changes in lifestyle, reduction in rates of smoking, medical treatment of heart failure, coronary artery disease, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, and prompt therapy to open arteries in patients with heart attacks. Of course, more should and will be done, but the progress has been stunning.
In fact, in just the past 30 years, we’ve seen the rise of so many new techniques, drugs, and devices that we may actually take some of them for granted. These advances include the development of pacemakers and heart transplantation; stents and angioplasties; defibrillators; ablation therapy to cure arrhythmias; ventricular assist devices; less invasive surgical techniques; and new treatments for high cholesterol.
Today, the effort to develop personalized medicine is accelerating. We’re looking toward identifying patients’ genes as well as influences on them—known as epigenetics—and how these impact susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, risk, and responsiveness to therapies. The pace of change in cardiology has been truly incredible.
Q: How would you more broadly characterize modern medical practice? What do you perceive as the major hurdles? How has modern practice changed since you started your career, and how would you like to see it change in the future?
A: Modern medical practice is fascinating, rewarding, and complex, and allows us to more effectively treat patients than when I started my career.
Major hurdles include improving accessibility to excellent health care for everyone, as well as improvement in health care for the underserved. This is underway with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, but a lot more needs to be done.
Expanding Role for an Influential Penn Medicine Leader
On July 1, Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, officially assumed the position of Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer at the Perelman School of Medicine. A truly outstanding academic leader, Dr. Epstein shaped the School’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology into one of the nation’s finest, served as founding Co-Director of Penn Medicine’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and directed the Clinical Investigator Pathway within the residency program in the Department of Medicine.
“In the rapidly evolving world of academic medicine, Jon has shown himself to be a consummate leader with a truly collaborative spirit,” said Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD. “I am delighted to be working closely with him to help shape the future of our institution.”
Dr. Epstein will be tasked with advancing the integrated model of Penn Medicine to promote further collaboration, basic discovery and translational research, as well as administrative efficiency. He will work closely with leaders at the University of Pennsylvania Health System to ensure a holistic approach to major decisions and initiatives.
“Our alumni have played and continue to play a vital role in our School’s 250-year history of success. I look forward to engaging with this prestigious group as I take on my new role to help ensure that the School remains at the forefront of medical education, groundbreaking research, and leading-edge clinical care,” Dr. Epstein said. “I also join Dr. Morrison in inviting all alumni to write to Pulse about your current or pending publications.”
Dr. Epstein first joined Penn Medicine in 1996 as Assistant Professor of Medicine, becoming one of the world’s most innovative and renowned investigators in molecular cardiology. His lab focuses on cardiovascular development, the genetics of congenital heart disease, and cardiovascular regenerative and stem biology; one of his most recent findings was the focus of a cover story in the journal Science. He has also served as William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research and Scientific Director of the Penn Cardiovascular Institute.
For more information on Dr. Epstein’s career, background, and new role, see this Penn Medicine news release.
Paying It Forward: A Gamble Scholar Passes the ‘Hat’
“Incredulous,” said Neha Vapiwala, M’01. “That was my reaction to finding out that I would be a 21st Century Scholar. Truly incredulous. I will never forget that phone call.”
Neha was teaching science and algebra at St. Timothy’s School for Girls in Towson, MD—after graduating with a double major in Hispanic studies and biology at Johns Hopkins in three years—when she received the call from the Perelman School’s Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Gaye Sheffler.
“I appreciated all that my parents had sacrificed in order to send me to Hopkins. That year I was trying to save money for medical school and also to pay off some of my undergrad debt, and I fully anticipated that medical school debt would be a tremendous burden,” she said. “Getting that phone call didn’t motivate me to come to Penn… I was already eagerly on board. But it enabled me to come here.”
“Imagine getting everything you’ve ever wanted: it was like my birthday, Christmas, and winning the lottery all in one.”
Neha, who fell in love with Penn at her medical school interview and had such emotions reinforced at Penn Preview, now wears many hats here. She is Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Vice Chair of Education, Residency Program Director, Senior Editor of OncoLink, and Advisory Dean for the John Morgan Virtual House at the Perelman School of Medicine.
Her gratitude for her scholarship, while abundant, had no natural outlet at first. Fortunately, before she graduated in 2001, she was able to thank her “fairy godparents” when Anne and Walter Gamble, M’57, were revealed to be the donors. Subsequently, the 21st Century Scholars became better known as Gamble Scholars.
Dr. Vapiwala was not only able to thank the Gambles personally for their incredible support but, as one of 224 Gamble Scholars, she also embraced the idea of giving back to the School. Through casual conversation and in email appeals, she is encouraging her fellow classmates, Gamble Scholars, and other alumni to do the same.
“The Gambles helped introduce me into the Penn Medicine family, and we have also become part of each other’s families. They attended my wedding in 2008; they visit with me and my family here in Philadelphia,” Dr. Vapiwala said.
“And, Walter taught my eldest child, Sophia, her first word during a memorable visit with them at their retreat in Maine. Sophia was admiring a mirror with hooks on the wall brimming with the Gambles’ outerwear, and she pointed and very purposefully repeated after Walter: ‘hat.’ I will never forget that.”
Dr. Vapiwala and the Gambles, besides sharing parts of their personal lives and a lengthy Penn history, share an abiding passion for medical education. “I support Anne and Walter’s vision for eventually achieving free medical education for all Perelman students through philanthropy.”
“The fact that they give so much yet expect nothing in return just inspires me to give more. I feel so fortunate for my Penn experience, and feel a responsibility to give back. So, I encourage all of our alumni readers here who cherish their Penn experience to consider supporting future Penn Med students today.”
For information about contributing to a scholarship or providing other philanthropic support to Penn Medicine, please contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 215-898-5164.
To make a gift, please mail your check made out to The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania to:
Penn Medicine Development and Alumni Relations
3535 Market Street, Suite 750
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309
To make your gift online, please visit: www.alumni.med.upenn.edu/gamble
“Parents and Partners” Program Immerses New Students’ Loved Ones in the Medical School Experience
A Curriculum for Today and Tomorrow
Preparing Today’s Students To Be the Physicians of Tomorrow kicked-off the Perelman School of Medicine’s 12th Parents and Partners morning program. Dean J. Larry Jameson and Senior Vice Dean for Education Gail Morrison, M’71, FEL’76, took turns talking about their medical school experiences, as students, and how that helped to inform their views on the curriculum we have today — “integrated and modular.”
In fact, from 1995 to 1997, Dr. Morrison spearheaded an effort, dubbed “Curriculum 2000,” which has since been widely adopted, aimed at preparing students for today’s medical landscape, where not only the science has changed, but also the thinking. Parents and partners learned how this new curriculum teaches students to attain the competencies that will allow them to succeed in modern medicine.
This transformative pedagogy, as Dr. Morrison calls it, offers many novel features, among which self-directed learning and working with a team are the most important. She explained that through technology, we have experienced an explosion of knowledge, and the trend will certainly continue. Realizing students cannot know it all (as much as they would like to try), they must learn how to access the information they need. In fact, the white coats waiting for each new student later that afternoon had a complimentary iPad sewn inside a pocket to reinforce this notion.
As is tradition, new students were also poised, at the afternoon White Coat Ceremony, to receive a stethoscope, a tool over which the Dean rhapsodized as the quintessential medical symbol. “It is technologically an outdated diagnostic tool but, of course, it serves an important purpose in the doctor-patient relationship — the laying-on of hands,” he said.
Is There a Sailor in the House?
Your ship is sinking fast. You’re not sure where you are, exactly. You and the rest of the crew can only grab what’s within reach before jumping on the life raft. With those items and the contents of your pockets, what will you do next?
Taking a page from the Wharton MBA program, Penn Medicine has adopted a focus on team training for its students and offered a glimpse to parents and partners of the incoming class. One of the morning simulation activities saw attendees participating in the interactive “Lost at Sea” exercise, which beckoned them to prioritize, on an individual basis, which survival items would be needed at sea. Group debate and decisions followed.
The New Paradigm for Learning program presented to parents and partners showed how team training is integrated into the Perelman School curriculum and emphasized the importance of understanding the value of teamwork and building skills as a constructive team player. Most important of these skills are to learn how to speak up and how to listen. During this morning’s program, parents and partners were given examples of what happens when team work is executed skillfully, such as with the Apollo 13 mission, and examples of what happens when team communication is performed poorly, such as the 1912 Titanic tragedy. These examples, and the activity as a whole, illustrated how lives can hang in the balance based on the impact of team implementation, a perfect analog to the very real implications in medicine.
When asked what she thought of this program being modeled after a Wharton exercise, Barbara Tortorello, mother of first-year student Gabriella, said, “I think it’s great. My father was a Wharton grad.”
Practice Makes… For Better Practice
During the “What Is a Standardized Patient?” portion of Parents and Partners, attendees were treated to an exhibition of intense role play. Every student is put through the rigorous standardized patient program as part of the Perelman School curriculum.
Denise LaMarra, MS, Director, Standardized Patient Program, explained how using talented actors to simulate all kinds of patients is essential to helping medical students practice tricky patient interactions. Her presentation started with a lighthearted clip from the TV show Seinfeld depicting Kramer’s turn as a standardized patient. Armed with the understanding that such a program is designed to uphold humanism and professionalism among medical students, parents and partners were treated to three scenarios.
To demonstrate the kind of improvement students could hope to experience with practice, a fourth-year student called in to help with the demonstration was instructed to behave as he would have during his first year of training. The actor played a patient demanding antibiotics for her viral infection. The doctor built his case against it using a mountain of increasingly comical medical jargon. Difficult people can be fun to watch… from a distance.
The second scenario was a practice in breaking bad news. The fourth-year student, using his actual fourth-year training, had to tell his patient she was HIV positive. Any doubt on the realism of these simulations vanished with the standardized patient’s response. As the patient sobbed and lamented over her life’s choices, people in the room dabbed at the corner of their eyes while the doctor practiced his compassion.
The morning’s simulations ended with a mood changer, when an overly grateful patient wanted to find inappropriate ways to thank her doctor for saving her life.
The benefit across four years of training is to offer opportunities for correction and immediate feedback to the students in real-time, in a safe environment. Sometimes this means finding the right things to say. Sometimes this means learning when not to say anything at all. This practice also allows students “mulligans” or “do-overs,” something not generally available in the real world.
Dr. Gregg Lipschik, Specialty Programs Coordinator at the Penn Medicine Simulation Center, runs the “Learning Through Technology” session during Parents and Partners. He offered a brief overview of the different types of technology students use to learn and the various simulation technologies (for example, some are just segments of the body, some models are more advanced than others), and then led a participatory demonstration of the simulation or “sim” man.
The Class of 2019 Dons the White Coat
The 250th class to enter the nation’s first medical school was officially welcomed at the Perelman School of Medicine’s 20th annual White Coat ceremony on Friday, August 14.
“The white coats you are about to put on are symbolic of the profession of medicine; they are also a blank slate,” said Dean J. Larry Jameson as he opened the ceremony with a warm greeting to the first-year medical students.
Six Fulbright Scholars and a Bronze Star recipient are among the bright and talented incoming class of 156 students, which ranges in age from 22 to 36 and represents 65 undergraduate institutions in 25 states.
In his introductory remarks, the dean assured the class that they were not only entering the medical profession, but embarking on an era of lifelong learning. He also shared an exclusive update on the remarkable progress made by Zion Harvey, the first child ever to receive a bilateral hand transplant, which was completed collaboratively by Penn Medicine and CHOP in July 2015.
Indeed, collaboration and the role of teamwork were highlighted throughout the ceremony. “This is a new age of team approaches to medicine,” noted Dr. Jack Ludmir, C’77, RES’87. He also advised, “Treat everyone the same, from day one – greet everyone that you encounter in the hospital or the outpatient setting.”
Krystal Hill appreciated Dr. Ludmir’s emphasis on the importance of teamwork and collaboration. A recent Princeton University graduate and member of their basketball team, Hill arrived here eager to join the Penn Medicine family. “You definitely feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself here,” she said.
Connie Duckworth, a Wharton School alumna, a Penn Parent, and now the parent of a Perelman School first-year student (Elizabeth Duckworth, M’19), enthused: “Penn has had a leadership role in Curriculum 2000; it’s been an innovative leader in medical education in the U.S. Elizabeth now has access to cutting-edge technology and knowledge here at the Perelman School of Medicine.”
The parents and partners of the first-year students joined the academic leaders of the School in applauding the accomplishments that brought them here, and wished them well on what Dean Jameson noted, in closing, was likely their “last first day of school.”