Tag Archives: Psychiatry and Health Behavior

Study looks at whether daily limb compressions reduce dementia

A new study is looking at whether short, daily bouts of reduced blood flow to an arm or leg can reduce the ravages of dementia.

It’s called remote conditioning, and researchers say it activates natural protective mechanisms in the brain that should help about half of dementia patients.

The approach uses a blood pressure cuff-like device to temporarily restrict blood flow to an appendage repeatedly for a few minutes each day, which increases blood flow to other body areas, including the brain, said Dr. David Hess, Chairman of the Department of Neurology at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

Increased flow activates endothelial cells lining blood vessels, calling to action a series of natural protective mechanisms that can be effective wherever blood travels, Hess said. Interestingly, the mechanisms seem most active in areas of impaired flow, such as those deep inside the brain, where most dementia has its roots.

“The most powerful way to protect the brain is to cut off blood flow to it for a short period of time to condition it,” said Hess. “What it does is elicit these protective pathways so when potentially lethal ischemia comes, you can survive it.” What it also appears to do is help permanently improve blood flow to these deep regions of the brain.

Age and being a female are two of the major risk factors for dementia. With nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population age 65 and older and half being female, Hess calls dementia a major health concern. “This is a big epidemic coming. This is a big killer and disabler, and everybody is concerned about this.”

A two-year, $750,000 translational grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke should help Hess and his research team do the additional animal studies needed to move this safe and inexpensive technique for dementia to human studies.

“We think reduced cerebral blood flow, particularly in the deep white matter, is a major trigger of dementia,” Hess said. The white matter is primarily composed of axons, which connect neurons and different areas of the brain to each other and enable the brain to communicate with the body. The white protective coating on the axon is why this deep brain area is called white matter.

Hess, who is also a stroke specialist, says this area is particularly vulnerable to ischemia because the blood vessels that feed it are small and have long, tortuous routes. Strokes and/or impaired blood flow can lead to classic dementia symptoms such as forgetfulness and an unsteady gait.

By age 70, essentially everyone has some white matter disease, but in some it can be devastating. “You cannot go out in a car and find where you are going. You may not even be able to find your car. You can’t cook meals without setting the house on fire,” Hess said.

“What we want to do long term is find people who are at risk for dementia – they already have some white matter damage you can see on an MRI – then we condition them chronically with this device in their home,” Hess said. Chronically is a key word because, as with exercise, when this conditioning stops, so do its benefits. In fact, this passive therapy provides blood vessels many of the same benefits as exercise. “If you can exercise, you probably don’t need this,” Hess adds.

Previous studies in their animal model of vascular dementia have shown that just two weeks of daily, short bouts of ischemia to an appendage can improve the health of the important white matter. The new grant is allowing them to use a similar approach for periods of one and four months in older mice of both genders to better understand the mechanisms of action and how long and how often therapy is needed. While they don’t make as much as human, mice do make more amyloid, a protein that deposits in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s, when brain blood flow is impaired. Mice make less with the conditioning, so the researchers also are looking further at that result.

A small intramural grant is enabling similar studies with a pig model in collaboration with University of Georgia colleagues Dr. Simon R. Platt, professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Franklin D. West, assistant professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

While he notes that multiple natural mechanisms are activated, Hess and his team are focusing on how the temporary bouts of increased blood flow prompt endothelial cells to make the precursor for the blood vessel dilator nitric oxide.

“The enzyme that makes nitric oxide is upregulated and stimulated quickly,” Hess said. Nitric oxide gas has a short life, but when a lot is dumped in the blood, it’s oxidized into nitrite – the same stuff put in hot dogs – which circulates throughout the bloodstream so it goes wherever blood goes. Although just how this happens is unclear, when the nitrite gets to an area of low blood flow, it is converted back to nitric oxide, which helps improve flow, Hess said.

The MCG researchers are applying for federal funding to do trials in humans who are at high risk for stroke because of small vessel disease deep in the brain. In 2012, they published results of a small study in the journal Stroke indicating that successive, vigorous bouts of leg compressions following a stroke trigger natural protective mechanisms that reduce damage and double the effectiveness of the clot buster tPA. Similar studies have been done by others in patients with heart disease.

Vascular dementia is considered the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. There are currently no drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for vascular dementia.

Collaborators at MCG and GRU include Dr. Mohammad B. Khan, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Hess’ lab; Dr. Nasrul Hoda, College of Allied Health Sciences; Dr. Philip Wang, Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior; Dr. Ali Syed Arbab, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Dr. Nathan Eugene Yanasak, Department of Radiology and Imaging;  and Dr. Jennifer Waller, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

Feeling stressed about sending your child with ADHD back to school?

Set your child and family up for success this school year by learning more about GRHealth’s ADHD program!

Join the Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychiatry Division of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior for a free orientation at 5 p.m. Friday, August 7 at the Psychiatry and Health Behavior practice site, at 997 St. Sebastian Way.

For more information, click here.

High blood levels of growth factor correlate with smaller brain areas in patients with schizophrenia

High blood levels of a growth factor known to enable new blood vessel development and brain cell protection correlate with a smaller size of brain areas key to complex thought, emotion and behavior in patients with schizophrenia, researchers report in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Higher blood levels of vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, also correlate with high blood levels of interleukin 6, a cytokine that can cross the protective blood-brain barrier and typically promotes inflammation, said Dr. Anilkumar Pillai, neuroscientist in the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. As with many disease types, inflammation is increasingly associated with schizophrenia, and high blood levels of IL-6 already have been found in these patients.

The new findings appear to point toward a blood test as an easier way to confirm the diagnosis of schizophrenia, rather than complicated and expensive imaging studies of the brain, and, ultimately, better disease understanding and treatment, said Pillai, the study’s corresponding author. “We are talking about a molecule where you can just draw blood and look at the lab profile,” he said.

A smaller prefrontal cortex is one of the brain abnormalities identified through brain scans of living patients as well as autopsies. Pillai’s lab had earlier shown low brain levels of VEGF, which could help explain lower blood flow and brain volumes in these patients. “Decreased blood flow leads to decreased brain tissue volume,” he said. Inflammation also can reduce brain size.

While findings of higher blood levels may sound counterintuitive to low VEGF levels in the brain, they likely indicate a “feedback inhibition” with the brain recognizing high circulating levels and deciding to produce less VEGF itself, Pillai said. In fact, high blood levels of VEGF may contribute to the disease process, the researchers write.

More patients need to be studied to see if the correlations hold up, Pillai said, and work also is needed to determine which comes first: high blood levels or low brain levels of VEGF.

The study, in collaboration with scientists at the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia, looked at 96 people with schizophrenia as well as 83 healthy individuals. Brain scans were available on 59 of the patients and 65 healthy controls. Patients were recruited to Neuroscience Research Australia, a not-for-profit research institution based in Sydney that focuses on the brain and nervous system, as well as Lyell McEwin Hospital, a teaching hospital in South Australia affiliated with the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia.

While likely best known for its role in making new blood vessels, VEGF also is key to the brain’s ability to adapt to change, such as respond to an injury, and protect against brain cell loss.

Buckley helping lead international schizophrenia research group, edits two books

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dr. Peter F. Buckley, a psychiatrist, expert in schizophrenia, and Dean of the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, is a member of the seven-person Executive Committee charged with planning the future of the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research, the premier global conference on schizophrenia research.

Buckley, along with Dr. David J. Castle, Chairman of Psychiatry at Australia’s St. Vincent’s Health and The University of Melbourne, also is co-editor of the second edition of a reference book for mental health professionals on schizophrenia. He is editor of a similar, new reference textbook on the intersection of mental and physical health, as well.

Buckley, who continues to see patients and conduct schizophrenia research, was named in 2013 to the Executive Committee of the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research. He had served for nearly a decade on the Advisory Board for the biennial gathering of more than 1,000 scientists and physician-scientists from a broad range of disciplines involved in schizophrenia research and treatment.

At this year’s meeting in Colorado, Founding Directors Dr. S. Charles Schulz, who recently stepped down as Psychiatry Department Head at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Carol A. Tamminga, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, turned planning of the 2017 meeting over to the Executive Committee. “We want to keep the congress going and the field moving forward,” Buckley said.

He first came to the United States 23 years ago from his native Ireland as a fellow of the international group, and Schulz, then at Case Western Reserve University, offered him a job in Cleveland. “To now find myself alongside others helping plan future meetings is very gratifying,” Buckley said. The dean is also a member of the Election Committee of the Schizophrenia International Research Society, which meets on alternate years of the International Congress.

The second edition of “Schizophrenia,” published by the Oxford Psychiatry Library, is a current, handy resource for mental health professionals on a condition affecting about 1 percent of the population, or some 2.4 million American adults. Hallucinations are a disease hallmark: patients hear voices and can even see, touch, and taste things that are not real. They can become depressed, reclusive and suicidal and have an increased risk of cardiovascular and other health conditions. These patients die on average 15-20 years younger than the general population.

Psychiatric Clinics of North America’s reference book, “Mental Health in the Medical Setting: Delivery, Workforce Needs, and Emerging Best Practices,” published by Elsevier, covers topical, broadly impactful issues on the intersection of mental and physical wellness and disease. Topics include providing mental health support to victims of terrorism; screening for depression in primary care populations; and office-based screening for common psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress in older patients resulting from a medical diagnosis or treatment. Each of the nine chapters, as well as a special article to help health care providers perform suicide assessment, starts with a section of key points.

“We hope this book is a ready resource for a wide range of health care providers who want to ensure that the physical and mental health of their patients, which are inextricably linked, are addressed,” Buckley said. “We thank the many authors who shared their expertise and time to make this book possible.”

Buckley co-chairs the Georgia Mental Health and Physical Integrations Task Force for the Atlanta-based Carter Center. As part of the American Psychiatric Association Workgroup on the Role of Psychiatry in Healthcare Reform, he helped explore the interface of mental and physical health from the perspective of major changes in health care policies.

He chairs the National Institute of Mental Health Special Emphasis Panel on Early Psychosis Intervention and is a member of the institute’s Data and Safety Monitoring Board Committee. Buckley is a member of the Psychiatry Maintenance of Certification Committee of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Psychiatric Association Committee on Research Awards and Membership Committee.

5 signs could suggest alcohol addiction

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Other than tobacco, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and about 17.6 million people suffer from abuse or dependence. In recognition of Alcohol Awareness Month in April, health experts at Georgia Regents University want to remind you that excessive consumption endangers you and those around you.

Jacobs, Dr. William S.

“Long-term alcohol use is harmful to every organ in your body, especially your brain. It can also damage your career, finances, emotional stability, and adversely impact your family, friends, and others,” says Dr. William S. Jacobs, Chief of Addiction Medicine at GRU’s Medical College of Georgia.

Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal disease, and while some people may recover without help, many alcoholics need treatment,” says Jacobs, who also serves as Medical Director of Bluff Plantation, a new addiction treatment facility in south Augusta affiliated with GRU.

Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol is consumed or whether someone is a daily drinker. It’s characterized by a pathological desire for alcohol; the inability to control use and continued use despite adverse consequences. An alcoholic is frequently in the grasp of the powerful craving that can feel as strong as the need for food or water, he says.

Here are five signs that suggest someone could be struggling with alcohol:

1. High tolerance: A person often consumes greater and greater quantities of alcoholic beverages – possibly drinking more than peers and not showing obvious signs of intoxication.

2. Withdrawal symptoms: Anxiety; jumpiness; trembling; sweating, nausea, and vomiting; insomnia; depression; irritability; fatigue or loss of appetite; and headaches. These symptoms can progress to withdrawal seizures and be life-threatening. Drinking to relieve or avoid these withdrawal symptoms is an indicator.

3. Neglecting other activities: Spending less time on activities that used to be important because the use of alcohol is taking up more time, energy, and focus.

4. Continued use despite negative consequences: Perhaps you realize that your alcohol use is interfering with your ability to do your job, is damaging your marriage, making your problems worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink.

5. Desire or unsuccessful attempts to quit: Essentially, you’ve lost control over your drinking. Despite telling yourself that you wouldn’t do it this time, you drink more than you intended. Furthermore, though you have a persistent desire to cut down or quit, your efforts are unsuccessful.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting the signs of alcohol addiction, there is help. Jacobs recommends that you talk to your doctor and/or seek professional counseling.

“Alcohol Use Disorders are equal opportunity diseases,” he says. “People from all walks of life are affected, but with the appropriate treatment and care, lifelong recovery is possible.”

Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior Grand Rounds presentation to address autism

At 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12, the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior is presenting “Reward Processing in Autism” by Dr. Gabriel S. Dichter, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology and Director, Clinical Affective Neuroscience Lab.

After this presentation, participants will understand how studying reward processing deficits in autism spectrum disorders is a departure from how DSM-V defines autism spectrum disorders and understand behavioral econometric approaches to studying reward processing deficits in autism spectrum disorders.

The presentation will be in EC 1204.


Virtual patients, medical records and sleep queries may help reduce suicide

Dr.VaughnMcCallwebfrontA virtual patient, the electronic medical record, and questions about how well patients sleep appear effective new tools in recognizing suicide risk, researchers say.

A fourth – and perhaps more powerful – tool against suicide is the comfort level of caregivers and family members in talking openly about it, said Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

Suicide is among the top 10 causes of death in the United States for every group age 10 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We need to get this on the table and keep this on the table,” McCall said. McCall, Department Vice Chairman Dr. Peter B. Rosenquist, and MCG psychiatrist, Dr. Adrianna Foster, led the workshop, “New Developments in the Identification of Suicide Risk,” at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting May 3-7 in New York.

“We have made progress increasing young people’s comfort and maybe even older people’s comfort at talking about issues such as sex, alcoholism, and drug abuse but we have not crossed that hurdle with suicide,” McCall said. In fact, one of his many goals is for primary care givers to incorporate these conversations into their regular patient checkups.

“You should be able to talk about suicide without blame, shame, or accusation,” McCall said.

Increased comfort can start in medical school where Foster is using a computer-simulated patient to help students broach the topic of suicide. Students progress to seeing standardized patients, essentially actors simulating a mood disorder or other mental health problem.

Foster is still analyzing data, but preliminary information from the study, funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suggests that this simple, digital teaching aid can enhance medical students’ ability to recognize suicide risk.

Technology is also helping ensure that every patient seeking psychiatric care at Georgia Regents Health System receives a suicide assessment. Rosenquist worked with Dr. David Fallaw, an internist and Chief Medical Information Officer for Georgia Regents Medical Center, to automatically link the electronic medical record to an established suicide risk assessment.

“It’s a forced choice,” McCall said. “You cannot sign and complete the electronic medical record until you have also done the C-SSRS,” he said. McCall is referencing the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale, developed by Columbia University Medical Center, that has proven successful at predicting suicide attempts in adolescents and adults. The C-SSRS also is activated whenever a red flag is raised in the provision of care, such as a trauma patient talking about escalated drinking and negative thinking.

The assessment starts with pointed questions about whether a patient has thought in the past week that he would rather die in his sleep than wake up and whether he has actively thought of killing himself. The answers are typically ‘no,’ and the survey is over. Otherwise, increasingly specific questions follow, including questions about methods.

“It’s a hierarchy of planning that leads from no ideas to some ideas to a specific plan to collecting the implements to intention to carry it out,” McCall said. C-SSRS also walks the caregiver through suggested levels of intervention as needed.

Insomnia is increasingly emerging as a clear risk factor for suicide although even mental health professionals are still absorbing the correlation. “The most secure message is that patients who have significant complaints about insomnia should be assumed to be at increased risk of suicide,” said McCall, who studies the connection between depression, insomnia, and suicide. Researchers have established a connection at many levels, including, as McCall has shown, a general sense of hopelessness that can result from insomnia.

“This is a basic biological function and even this is beyond me,” he said, reflecting the thoughts of patients who have been struggling weeks or more just to sleep. Additionally, a history of suicide attempts often correlates with low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in sleep and depression. In fact, McCall is leading a National Institute of Mental Health-funded clinical trial to determine whether adding a sleeping pill to their therapeutic regimen reduces suicidal thoughts in depressed patients with insomnia.

Another possible link is early – but not surprising – evidence associating suicide attempts with problem-solving deficiencies, which links back to insomnia. “People who have not gotten enough sleep simply are unable to solve problems with the same degree of complexity as well as people who have gotten a good night’s sleep,” McCall said.

Insomnia rates are on the rise in this country with ever-present light and communication as key intruders on this very basic biological function, McCall said. Suicide rates also are on the rise as a major cause of death in the world, moving from 14th to 13th in global death rates from 1990 to 2010, according to the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study 2010 ranking causes of death in nearly 200 countries.

Meanwhile, other largely preventable deaths such as infections from unclean water and lack of vaccinations, have mostly taken a nose dive.

“’While we as a world population are successfully impacting infectious diseases and reducing their impact on world mortality, essentially nothing has been done about suicide so it correspondingly moves up,” McCall said. “It will never get better if we can’t even talk about it.”

Buckley receives American Psychiatric Association award for mentorship, research

Buckley-Millerwebfront2Dr. Peter F. Buckley, a psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia and Dean of the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, is the 2014 winner of the Kempf Fund Award for Research Development in Psychobiological Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association.

The award, recognizing a senior researcher and mentor who has made significant contributions to  defining causes and better treatments for schizophrenia, was presented during the APA’s Annual Meeting in New York.

Buckley’s research focuses on the neurobiology and treatment of schizophrenia, including studies on the genetics of schizophrenia, the psychopharmacology of relapse, and cognitive retraining to improve patients’ focus and function. His primary mentorship role is with Dr. Brian J. Miller, a faculty member in the MCG Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior who came to Augusta in 2005 as a psychiatry resident to work with him. Miller studies the impact of the immune system function in schizophrenia, including its contribution to relapse and potential for predicting relapse and/or monitoring treatment results.

Buckley will receive $1,500 and Miller $20,000 to support the younger psychiatrist’s research career development.

The two physician-scientists were drawn to schizophrenia work because of the complexity of the illness and the reality that many patients died 30 years prematurely, primarily from cardiovascular disease, which may be accelerated by schizophrenia treatment.

“I was very moved by their stories and by the complexity of their illness and comorbidities and saw just a real need for physicians who have a genuine interest in this patient population, so it was just kind of a natural calling,” Miller said.

As a medical student at University College Dublin, Buckley first thought he would be a family physician like his father. A psychiatry rotation peaked his interest in schizophrenia and a psychiatry residency strengthened it. A faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University and a stint as Medical Director of Western Reserve Psychiatric Hospital enabled Buckley to work alongside pioneers in the field. These included Dr. S. Charles Schulz, Case Western Department Chairman; Dr. Herbert Y. Meltzer, who co-led the benchmark study identifying the antipsychotic clozapine as the most potent schizophrenia treatment; and Dr. Dale P. Svendsen, then Medical Director of the Ohio Department of Public Health.

Miller would cross many of the same esteemed paths while in medical school and earning a master of public health at The Ohio State University. When it was time for Miller to start a residency, Svendsen suggested Miller meet Buckley.

“A good amount of what I do for him at this stage is try to connect him with other leaders in the field that he may not have a connection with and try to make sure opportunities are available to him,” Buckley said.  A key benchmark was securing a mentored research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health so Miller could pursue his interest in finding a safe marker for schizophrenia relapse. Next steps including securing an independent federal grant.

It’s a relationship that has worked well for two very different individuals studying differing aspects of a complex disease. “A good mentor recognizes not only what your strengths and skill sets are but also your limitations and they inspire you and drive you and push you to build new skills, to take on new experiences and opportunities,” Miller said. “It’s kind of a bicycle built for two and they are steering you in the right direction.”

Having more than one mentor helps and knowing when to get out of the way is essential as well, Buckley said. “Control is a deadly dynamic. They can’t grow under the shadow of their mentor,” said Buckley, who is proud of the distinct path Miller is taking. “He is carving out and has always carved out his own area and his focus is not my area. In fact, I am learning from him,” Buckley said.

Buckley was named a member of the Executive Committee of the International Congress of Schizophrenia Research in 2013 and has served on its Advisory Board for nearly a decade. He is also a member of the Election Committee of the Schizophrenia International Research Society and the Scientific Council of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. He has served on a NIMH Special Emphasis Panel on Schizophrenia and Aging, and chaired the institute’s Interventions Committee for Disorders Related to Schizophrenia, Late Life or Personality. He also serves on a NIMH Data and Safety Monitoring Board and, last year, co-chaired the federal review panel for Clinical and Translational Research Award applications.

In addition to an MD and MPH from The Ohio State University, Miller earned a PhD from Finland’s University of Oulu. He completed a psychiatric residency, psychotic disorders fellowship and a year as Chief Resident at MCG and the Georgia Regents Health System before joining the faculty in 2010. He is an editorial board member of Schizophrenia Bulletin, a member of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association Board of Trustees, and recipient of the 2011 Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the 2013 GRU Research Institute Emerging Scientist Award, and the 2014 MCG Exemplary Teaching Award.

Medical Association of Georgia honors MCG Dean

Dr. BuckleyDr. Peter F. Buckley,  Dean of the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, received the Lamartine Hardman Cup for 2013 during the Medical Association of Georgia’s 159th House of Delegates meeting Oct. 19.

The award is presented to a physician who has solved an outstanding problem in public health or made a discovery in surgery or medicine or a contribution to the science of medicine.

In its nomination, the Richmond County Medical Society said that Buckley deserved the award “based on his outstanding accomplishments with regard to health care systems transformation and leadership in Georgia, as well as in recognition of his scientific accomplishments as an internationally renowned clinical researcher. [He] is an effective, compassionate, and inspiring physician leader.”

After becoming Chairman of the MCG Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior in 2000, Buckley negotiated a new contract with the public mental health system in Georgia – and he revitalized the MCG department’s clinical services, including the quality of care, residency training, and community outreach. In 2006, Buckley helped conduct a statewide audit of Georgia’s public mental health hospitals after they came under scrutiny following allegations of negligent care – an effort that effected policy changes that improved inpatient psychiatric care across the state.

The society stressed that, “[under Dr. Buckley’s leadership]…the school has undergone unprecedented expansion, opening four new regional campuses in the past five years and increasing [its] medical class size to 230 medical students to now become the 10th largest medical school in the country.”

Additionally, Buckley continues to oversee an “impressive” research program that “focuses on the neurobiology and treatment of schizophrenia, including current studies on the genetics of schizophrenia, the psychopharmacology of relapse in schizophrenia, and cognitive retraining in schizophrenia,” the society said.

Buckley lives in Augusta with his wife, Leonie.

The award was named for Dr. Lamartine Hardman, who was Georgia’s governor from 1927-1931 as well as a successful physician, entrepreneur and farmer from Jackson County.

With more than 7,400 members, MAG is the leading voice for the medical profession in Georgia – which includes physicians in every specialty and every practice setting. MAG membership has increased by more than 35 percent since 2010. Go to www.mag.org for additional information.


Judge Blanchard honored as MCG Psychiatry Department’s Community Partner

blanchardweb (2)James G. Blanchard Jr., the Eighth Superior Court Judge for the Augusta Judicial Circuit, has received the 2013 Community Partner Award from the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

Blanchard, who also presides over Drug Court and Mental Health Court in the Augusta Judicial District of Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties, was honored for working to address the unique needs of individuals who come into the legal system with mental illness and substance abuse problems, Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, Department Chairman, said in announcing the award.

“Judge Blanchard is one of a kind, a unique human who is not only interested in justice and fairness, but truly is compassionate and caring,” said McCall, characterizing the judge as a humanitarian, advocate and community asset.

Blanchard helped establish a Drug Court for the Augusta area, which seeks to create safer communities and reduce substance abuse rates by providing structured, comprehensive treatment to substance abusers. Treatment programs include monitored drug screening, mandatory employment or school attendance, and regular court appearances.

Blanchard also is an advisor to the Augusta Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and visits the East Central Regional Hospital regularly to gain insight and provide support for people with mental illness.

Blanchard earned his law degree from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He is a lifetime member of the Columbia County Historical Society, and a member of the Shield Club of Greater Augusta, Riverfront Marines Detachment 1132, and the Augusta-Richmond County Citizens for Good Government.