Category Archives: Honors

GRU earns 7 Target Awards

Those recognized for their accomplishments include (left to right) Aubrey Hinkson, Clarissa Chavez, Emily Renzi, Brianne Clark, Cathleen Caldwell, Anna Aligood, and Denise Parrish.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Georgia Regents University Division of Communications and Marketing earned seven Target Awards, including two gold awards, from the Georgia Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations during the 20th Anniversary Target Awards Luncheon at the Ritz Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation on June 30.

“We are so thrilled with the number of entries that were submitted from hospitals all across the state of Georgia,” said Elizabeth Harvill, president of the GSHMPR board of professionals. “This is the one time of year when we recognize the creativity and quality of work that is being done in healthcare marketing.”

Entries in the this year’s competition were judged by the New England Society for Healthcare Communications based on creativity, layout and design, functionality, message effectiveness, production quality and overall appeal. Georgia hospitals submitted more than 185 entries in 26 various public relations, marketing, design and advertising categories.

Gold awards were presented to GRU in the following categories:
Direct Mail – Children’s Hospital of Georgia direct mail campaign
Fundraising – Media relations efforts for ALS Walk and ice bucket challenges
Silver awards were presented for:
Patient/Customer Relations – GRHealth VIP Patient Portal
Websites – GRHealth Web Redesign
Social Media Marketing – GRHealth Your Health Matters
Digital Advertising – Children’s Hospital of Georgia Digital Campaign
Media Relations – Children’s Hospital of Georgia ER Open House

“All the submissions were amazing,” said Harvill. “We congratulate all those that won, and we look forward to seeing more great work next year.”

The Georgia Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations is an affiliated society of the Georgia Hospital Association.

King named 2015 Resident of the Year

Dr. Ray King often compares his life to the movie “Big Fish,” about a man who’s made amazing accomplishments and had some awesome adventures … that no one ever believes really happened.

For example, he traveled the world during and after high school with a drum and bugle corps – even performing at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games.

He’s a certified acupuncturist and treated performers from Cirque Du Soleil.

He spent four months setting up a medical school in Kathmandu, Nepal.

He moved to Dominica to teach anatomy to medical students at Ross University, lived through Hurricane Ivan, and then became a medical student there himself.

And now he can add one more accomplishment to the list. King, a General Surgery Resident, is the 2015 Resident of the Year at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

“I feel like life is about opportunities, and if you take a chance, they often beget other opportunities,” he said. “That’s certainly been the story of my life.”

King’s story really began when he was 10-years-old and his mother and father uprooted their lives and moved the family to the United States from Taiwan, he says. “They left successful careers behind. My father was a renowned architect, whose firm actually designed the country’s capital, and my mother was vice president of the national bank. But they wanted my sister and me to have access to a better education, to have choices about what we wanted to do with our lives. They gave up everything and literally had to start over.” In Taiwan, he says, there is only one university, and courses of study are determined by a standardized test, not personal choice.

A confessed “shy kid,” King says he performed well academically at his New Jersey high school, but kept to himself until he had an opportunity to join the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps as a trumpet player. “It was like joining the circus,” he said. “We toured every summer, and I was performing with 150 musicians who were around my age. That’s when I really began to open up. I auditioned and became the conductor, and we performed at some amazing venues, including the Olympics and World Cup. I think that was a pivotal point for me, because it changed my outlook on what I could do. I stayed with the group for 6-7 years, and that really opened me up to the fact that life is full of opportunities if you just look for them.”

Convinced he wanted a career in professional music, he enrolled at Rutgers University as a double major in music and biology. And then an anatomy class changed everything. “I absolutely fell in love with it and thought to myself ‘I could do this for a living,’” he said.

After graduating, he moved to Boston to pursue his PhD in anatomy and neurobiology at Boston University School of Medicine. While in Boston, he attended a seminar on acupuncture and “really enjoyed it.” He sensed another “opportunity” moment and pursued his master’s degree in the practice – at one point defending his doctoral dissertation and taking his licensing boards to get his graduate degree at the same time.

After receiving his PhD, he began teaching gross anatomy at the University of Massachusetts Medical School while working as a postdoctoral research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. And then another “moment” came. “Harvard approached me about an opportunity to travel to Nepal and set up a medical school in Kathmandu, so I went,” King said. “I was actually there during the Nepalese-Maoist uprising.”

Back in Boston four months later, while setting up his acupuncture clinic, he was hired by Cirque Du Soleil to work with their performers. “That’s when my parents got concerned, because I’d literally joined the circus,” he said laughing.

He was also still on faculty, teaching anatomy at UMass, when he was invited to Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica as a guest lecturer. That lecture turned into a job offer – to be the director of Ross’s medical gross anatomy courses. He accepted and started teaching there in 2004, just before Hurricane Ivan – the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded – made landfall.

The wind settled, and it took about two years before he began to feel “stagnant,” in his career, he says. “I wanted something more and was thinking about applying to medical school,” King said. As a young faculty member, I had been able to do a lot of innovative things at Ross, and they were impressed with my work. The Dean came to me and said if you stay on with us and teach, we’ll cover the tuition.”

The offer was one he couldn’t refuse – albeit very confusing for his medical school classmates to be in class with one of their professors, he said. But the university brought him more than the chance to go to medical school. It brought him his wife, Dr. Jessica Van Beek. When they registered for the couples match in 2010 – he in general surgery and her in otolaryngology – people told them there was no way it would happen. “I wasn’t going to let that discourage us,” he said. “Who were they to tell us it couldn’t be done?”

Turns out it could. The couple matched at MCG, and King has even served as a clinical assistant professor of gross anatomy, teaching MCG students while he was a resident. After finishing residencies this month, the couple will travel to Minneapolis and Chicago for one-year fellowships at the University of Minnesota and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago – his in colorectal surgery, hers in pediatric otolaryngology.

“I’m just so profoundly thankful for this opportunity and for the many opportunities the MCG Department of Surgery has provided me over the years,” King said. “Gratitude has always been one of my most important life lessons. In a way, my whole life has been about showing gratitude for what my parents did for me over 30 years ago.”

Azziz receives University Senate resolution, Visiting Scholar appointment

Outgoing President Ricardo Azziz received another pair of honors this month.

On April 1, Azziz learned he had been appointed as a Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year at the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education.

Nominated by Professors Bill Tierney and Adrianna Kezar, the appointment gives Azziz temporary visitor status, meaning he’ll have access to USC services as well as shared office space in the Pullias Center.

Then, on April 20, the University Senate adopted a resolution honoring him on behalf of the more than 1,500 faculty members of the university he helped create.

Among the partial list of accomplishments, the resolution acknowledged:

  • Raising graduation rates and dramatically increasing the number of new freshmen successfully completing 15+ credit hours per semester
  • Creating a closely aligned, integrated, and successful health system to be part of Georgia’s only public academic health center
  • Earning the highest research funding in the institution’s history during the worst funding environment in decades
  • Moving the GRU Cancer Center toward NCI designation
  • Nearly tripling yearly philanthropic contributions, achieving the largest donation to a capital project in the university’s history, and also, separately, the largest philanthropic gift ever given to a public institution in Georgia
  • Obtaining funding and support for the construction of more than $200 million in new building space

Azziz, who earlier this year announced plans to step down on June 30, held his final State of the Enterprise address at noon on Wednesday, April 22.

The Graduate School Awards recognize excellence in research

The Graduate School presented 28 awards at the 31st annual Graduate School Awards Banquet, held at the Alumni Center on Wednesday, April 15.

The awards were given for work presented at Graduate Research Day, a yearly event that provides participants with opportunities to present research to a group of their peers as well as other researchers.

This year, students presented 111 posters and gave 10 oral presentations at an event that featured a keynote speech by Dr. Leroy Hood, a renowned systems biologist who helped pioneer the human genome program with the development of the automated DNA sequencer.


2015 Graduate Research Day winners:

Award for Excellence in Research by a Postdoctoral Fellow (poster):  Paula Rodriguez-Miguelez

Award for Excellence in Research by a Graduate Medical Resident:  Abhishek Mangaonkar and Monique Bethel

Award for Excellence in Research by a Postdoctoral Fellow (oral):  Maria Ouzounova

Graduate Faculty Assembly Award for Excellence in Research by a Graduate Student: Zuzana Berrong, Grace Fox, Fengjiao Hu, Bianca Islam, Eun Mi Lee, Thiri Lin

  1. August Roesel Memorial Award Research Excellence in Biochemistry & Cancer Biology: Satish Kumar Noonepalle

Award for Excellence in Research – Cell Biology & Anatomy:  Paulomi Sanghavi

UGA Clinical & Experimental Therapeutics Award:  Islam Osman

Award for Excellence in Research – College of Allied Health Sciences:  Jeremiah Marshall

Virendra B. Mahesh Award Research Excellence in Endocrinology:  Trevor Hardigan

Award for Excellence in Research – Genomic Medicine:  Robert Schleifer

Award for Excellence in Research – Graduate Nursing: Artinsia Shakir

Medical Illustration Educational Multimedia Award:  Ellen C. Davis and Brittany G. King

Award for Excellence in Research – Molecular Medicine:  Joanna Erion

Award for Excellence in Research – Neuroscience:  Amanda Crider

Lowell M. Greenbaum Award in recognition of Research Excellence in Pharmacology:  Nicole Yiew

Award for Excellence in Research – Physiology: Cam McCarthy

Award for Excellence in Public Health Research:  James Viebrock

James and Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute Award for Research Excellence in Vision:  Shanu Markand

Award for Excellence in Research – Vascular Biology:  Xueyi Li

Ji Cheng Memorial Award for Excellence in Research by a biomedical sciences student in the early years of training:  Matthew Walker

Fisher Scientific Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research:  Connie Chung

Jaguars Post Seven To PBC All-Academic Team

The Jaguar men’s and women’s tennis teams had seven student-athletes named to the Peach Belt Conference All-Academic team, according to a release from the league office in Augusta, Ga.

GRU Augusta juniors Gisela Font, Maria Nadal, and Maria Cecilia Pimentel and sophomore Marie Vin were named to the all-academic team. Men’s tennis juniors Gustav Anderson and Nameer Shamsi and senior Romain Brunie, were all honored for the excellence in the classroom as well.

The team is part of a season-long program recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of PBC student-athletes in the classroom as well as on the field.

To be eligible for the All-Academic team, a student-athlete must 1) participate in at least half of his/her team’s events and be either a starter or significant contributor; 2) achieved a 3.30 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) and 3) completed at least one full academic year at his or her current institution and has reached sophomore athletic eligibility.

Check out 2015 Jaguar Tennis Action Photos by clicking here

To view the full men’s PBC All-Academic team click here

To view the full women’s PBC All-Academic team click here


Gisela Font                              GRU Augusta           Jr.            La Garriga, Spain                    3.76                         Pre-Computer Science

Maria Nadal                            GRU Augusta           Jr.            Barcelona, Spain                     3.63                         Marketing

Maria Pimentel                       GRU Augusta           Jr.            Guayaquil, Ecuador                 3.43                         Political Science

Marie Vin                                GRU Augusta           So.           Belo Horizonte, Brazil             3.42                         Political Science


Gustav Anderson    GRU Augusta           Jr.            Stockholm, Sweden                                3.95                         Management

Romain Brunie        GRU Augusta           Sr.            Les Clayes-sous-Bois, France                 3.44                         Computer Science

Nameer Shamsi      GRU Augusta           Jr.            Karachi, Pakistan                                    3.33                         Finance

14 GRU docs are tops in nation

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fourteen physicians at Georgia Regents University and GRHealth have been included in the 14th edition of “America’s Top Doctors,®” a national patient reference guide published by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. that identifies the top 1 percent of doctors in the nation by specialty, helping patients find recognized experts. For more than a decade, Georgia Regents Medical Center, which specializes in tertiary and quaternary health care, has been the only hospital in the Augusta-Aiken area with physicians included in this prestigious list.

This year’s specialists include:

Dr. Cargill H. Alleyne Jr., Neurosurgery: Alleyne is Marshall Allen Distinguished Chair and Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of the Neurosurgery Residency Training Program at GRU’s Medical College of Georgia. He is Chief of Neurosurgery at Georgia Regents Medical Center, Georgia’s first Joint Commission-designated Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center, where he specializes in skull base surgery and in treating blood vessel diseases of the brain and spinal cord, including strokes, aneurysms, and AVMs. Alleyne investigates novel treatments for cerebral vasospasm, strokes, and aneurysms.

Dr. Ricardo Azziz, Reproductive Endocrinology and Surgery: Azziz, President of Georgia Regents University, has clinical and research interests in endoscopic pelvic reconstruction and reproductive endocrinologic disorders in women, particularly androgen excess, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, non-classic adrenal hyperplasia and hirsutism. Azziz also serves as CEO of the Georgia Regents Health System.

Dr. Sharad A. Ghamande, Gynecology/Oncology: Ghamande is Professor and Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at GRU’s Medical College of Georgia and Associate Cancer Center Director at the GRU Cancer Center. His clinical and research interests include robotic surgery for gynecologic cancers and chemotherapy trials in recurrent ovarian cancer. Ghamande has worked with the National Cancer Institute-funded Georgia Gynecologic Oncology Group studying innovative ways to prevent and treat pelvic malignancies and is currently the principal investigator on the NCI-funded Minority-Based Community Clinical Oncology Program.

Dr. David C. Hess, Neurology: Hess is Professor, Chairman of the MCG Department of Neurology and Presidential Distinguished Chair. His research focuses on novel treatments for acute ischemic stroke, including cell and restorative therapies. Recently, he is working on developing remote limb ischemic conditioning as a therapy for stroke and vascular dementia. He co-founded REACH Health, Inc., a telemedicine company based in Georgia, and the REACH telestroke system is now being used in many academic medical centers and integrated delivery networks throughout the country, enabling stroke and other specialists to provide timely care to patients in rural and underserved areas.

Dr. Walter J. Moore, Rheumatology: Moore is a Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics in the Section of Rheumatology and Adult Allergy. He is MCG’s Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education and Veterans Affairs. He treats inflammatory soft-tissue and connective-tissue disorders and provides medical staff leadership with his engagement in Patient- and Family-Centered Care with patient, resident, and medical student education.

Dr. Julian J. Nussbaum, Ophthalmology and Vitreo-Retinal Disorders: Nussbaum is Professor and Chairman of the MCG Department of Ophthalmology; Co-Director of GRU’s James and Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute; and Assistant Dean for Ambulatory Care Services. He treats diabetic eye disease, age-related macular degeneration, and other degenerative and vascular disorders of the retina.

Dr. Gregory N. Postma, Voice and Swallowing Disorders: Postma is Professor and Director of the Georgia Regents Center for Voice, Airway and Swallowing Disorders. He treats voice disorders (including those of professional singers), swallowing disorders, airway disorders, gastroesophageal reflux and chronic cough. He helped pioneer in-office surgery and also researches extraesophageal reflux and swallowing disorders.

Dr. Satish S. C. Rao, Gastroenterology: Rao is a Professor, Chief of the Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Director of the GRHealth Digestive Health Center. His research focuses on the pathophysiology and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, fecal incontinence and visceral pain, particularly esophageal chest pain. Rao has pioneered biofeedback therapy for dyssynergic defecation and several techniques for evaluating esophageal, gastric, colonic, and anorectal function, in particular the brain-gut axis.

Dr. Kapil D. Sethi, Neurology: Sethi is Professor and Director of the Movement Disorders Program. His clinical interests are movement disorders, including Parkinson Disease and botulinum toxin injections. His research interests include identifying better therapies for PD, Dystonia, and other movement disorders.

Dr. Sandra G. B. Sexson,* Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Sexson is Professor and Chief of the Section of Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychiatry in the MCG Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior. She specializes in psychosocial aspects of children and adolescents with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis and cancer. Her research interests include pediatric oncology, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and school continuity for ill children. She is a national leader in psychiatric education.

Dr. Robert A. Sorrentino, Cardiac Electrophysiology: Sorrentino is the Creel Professor of Medicine at MCG and Director of the Georgia Regents Heart Rhythm Center at the hospital. He evaluates and treats patients with heartbeat abnormalities, fainting and assesses patient’s risks for cardiac arrest. He has particular expertise in the implantation and management of pacemakers, defibrillators, biventricular ICDs and laser-assisted extraction of pacemaker or defibrillator wires.

Dr. David J. Terris, Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery: Terris is a Regents Professor and the Surgical Director of the GRU Thyroid/Parathyroid Center. He performs robotic and minimally invasive thyroid and parathyroid surgery. He investigates surgery techniques for thyroid and parathyroid tumors, has published 5 books on endocrine surgery topics, and pioneered a technique that eliminates a visible scar.

Dr. Martha K. Terris, Urology: Terris is Professor and Chief of the Section of Urology, holding the Witherington Distinguished Chair in Urology. She also serves on the urology faculty at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She performs open, laparoscopic and robotic surgery to treat kidney, bladder and prostate cancer. She also performs nerve-sparing prostatectomy and radical cystectomy with neobladder (creating a new bladder out of intestine).

Dr. Jack C. Yu,* Pediatric Plastic Surgery: Yu is the Milford B. Hatcher Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Section of Plastic Surgery at MCG and Director of the Craniofacial Center at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. He performs cleft lip, cleft palate, and craniosynostosis corrections, as well as aesthetic surgeries such as facelift, blepharoplasty, lip augmentation and rhinoplasty. He is the Editor of the Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal and his research focuses on stem cell therapy in ischemia-reperfusion and the anti-inflammatory effects of whole body vibration therapy.

Three of these physicians – Ghamande, David Terris, and Martha Terris – were also named to “America’s Top Doctors for Cancer®” in 2015, ranking in the top 1 percent of cancer doctors in the nation. The book by the same name is now in its 10th edition.

Published annually by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., the “America’s Top Doctors” guides are based on nominations from tens of thousands of doctors and healthcare executives across the country. A physician-led research team then reviews the credentials of each nominated doctor before the Castle Connolly selection team makes the final choices.

The most important criterion for physician selection is excellence in patient care. Other criteria include experience, education, board-certification, fellowships, hospital affiliation, medical school faculty appointments, honors and awards, and professional reputation. Learn more at

*Denotes Children’s Hospital of Georgia physicians

About Castle Connolly
Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. is America’s trusted source for identifying top doctors. Founded in 1991 by John K. Castle, (Chairman) and John J. Connolly, Ed.D. (President and CEO), who served as board chairman, President and CEO of New York Medical College, respectively, its mission is to help consumers find the best healthcare. They achieve that mission through their consumer guides such as America’s Top Doctors their web site and various consumer and business-oriented print and online partnerships. Under the direction of its physician-led research team, Castle Connolly surveys tens of thousands of physicians and hospital executives in order to identify, screen, and, ultimately, select those physicians regarded by their peers as leaders – among the very best in their specialties and for specific diseases and techniques. Doctors do not and cannot pay to be included in any Castle Connolly guide or online directory. Learn more at

The Phoenix rises thanks to writer’s flesh-pierced suspension

The Phoenix, GRU’s award-winning student-run magazine, recently added two more accolades, both from the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Phoenix editorial staff – Editor-in-Chief Matthew Johnson, Assistant Editor Anna Garner, Creative Director Drew Greiner, and Business Manager Kaitlin Keller – was a finalist in the best magazine category, and Erica Ruggles won the Region 3 feature story category for “Hooked,” her first-person account of flesh suspension.

As a regional winner, Ruggles’ story will go on to compete for best feature at the national level.

“Erica is a talented writer,” said Dr. Debra vanTuyll, the magazine’s advisor. “They didn’t tell her they were submitting the story because they thought she’d tell them it wasn’t good enough.”

While the subject matter – being suspended above the ground by a series of hooks pierced through the skin – might raise some eyebrows, the writing is eye opening.

“My body starts to leave the ground as the rope pulls me up; the tugging on my skin becoming more intense, more earnest, as my entire body weight begins to be supported by nothing more than the hooks in my thighs, calves and back,” she writes. “I feel myself bounce a little, but before I can ask to be steadied, cheers and applause come from the small crowd gathered around me, and I realize that I am fully off the ground.”

VanTuyll said all the students are communications majors who realize the advantages of being associated with a regularly published magazine as successful as the 21-year-old Phoenix.

“It’s a good pathway to open up doors when you graduate,” she said. “Because people know you can get a product to market, so to speak.”

The Phoenix is published three times a year. The fall issue, which includes Ruggles’ story about suspension, is still available in print form and can also be found online here.

GRU Child Care receives 3-star rating, Shape Award

The GRU Child Care Center just achieved a 3-star rating, the highest possible, from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) for the third consecutive year. It is one of only a handful of centers in the state to do this for three years in a row.

In addition, the Child Care Center was also recognized as a model Early Care and Learning Program in Nutrition and Physical Activity from the Governor’s Childhood Obesity Initiative, Georgia Shape.

As a Georgia Shape Award winner, the Child Care Center will be recognized on the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning website as an official Georgia Shape Award winner. It will also receive a prize pack and a window cling signifying the Child Care Center as a Georgia Shape facility.

Dr. Thomson appointed to Medicare, Medicaid Advisory Panel on Outpatient Payment

Dr. Norman B. Thomson III, Chief of the Section of General Radiology in the Department of Imaging and Radiology at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, has been appointed to a four-year term on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Advisory Panel on Hospital Outpatient Payment.

Thomson was nominated by the American College of Radiology and appointed by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to serve on the 15-member panel, which advises the secretary as well as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on reimbursement rates for outpatient procedures.

Thomson is Vice Chairman of the American College of Radiology’s Committee on Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Payment Classification, which reviews outpatient payment system processes. He is a former President of the Georgia Radiological Society, and directed Body Imaging at Savannah’s Memorial Health University Medical Center for 15 years before joining the MCG faculty in 2011. The 1982 graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine has an MBA from Mercer University’s Stetson School of Business.

Editorial tackles brain trauma

Chad Asplund, Medical Director of Student Health Services, cited the relatively low risk of brain injury on the football field as the invited writer of an editorial featured on the home page Tuesday.

The editorial, “Brain Damage in American Football,” addressed the controversy that intensified when former professional football players sued the National Football League recently, claiming their neurological deficits resulted from their time on the field. The case was settled out of court. “While cases continue to surface and receive tremendous media attention, the fact remains that current evidence suggests the risk is very low when we consider the total number of athletes who have played American football,” Asplund writes. “The apparent low incidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) makes it challenging to draw definite conclusions on the condition’s risk factors and natural course and on the tolerance of the human brain to repetitive head trauma.”

It remains unclear, Asplund writes, whether brain damage is an inevitable consequence or an avoidable risk of American football., a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, has had as many as 1.3 million unique monthly visits.