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School of Medicine

Alumni

Alumni in Action


The Host Program

Help Our Students Travel is a new program that matches fourth-year students with alumni who are willing to provide a free place to stay when they travel around the country for residency interviews each year. The students also value advice about residency training, the prospective medical center and the community in which they are interviewing.

Residency interviews take place November through January, with the majority in December.

Additional information for students:

If you would like to participate as a HOST next year, contact:

Jodi T. Smith
Email: jtsmith@vcu.edu.

 Returning to Campus to Share Experiences

Our medical students benefit from opportunities to interact with alumni at lunch lectures and alumni panels held throughout the year. Alumni visit campus to share their experiences with students, speaking on topics as diverse as managing the business of medicine, the work of Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner and the challenges of balancing work and home life.

  • Read about Leah Bush, M'84, who spoke to the students about the sometimes deadly interactions that Virginians have with the animal kingdom, and Sebastian Joyce, PhD’88, who offered five commandments for young scientists.

A Friendly Face in an Unfamiliar Place



Kendra Sweet, M’07, welcomed Mireille Truong to Arizona.

Winter 2008

Help Our Students Travel is a new program that matches students with alumni who are willing to provide a free place to stay as well as valuable advice about residency training, the prospective medical center and the community in which they are interviewing.

This past fall, fourth-year student Mireille Truong was contemplating a trip out to Tucson for an interview with the University of Arizona. She contacted the HOST Program and was connected with Kendra Sweet, from the Class of 2007.

“My trip was great and Kendra was a wonderful host!” said Mireille, who was helped by the Sweets with travel to and from the airport and hospital. “I am so thankful that MCV Alumni Association created this program and that [the Sweets] volunteered to take part in it.”

Dr. Sweet is currently with the University of Arizona’s Internal Medicine residency program. “I chose Arizona because I plan on specializing in heme-onc, and they have a very good fellowship program here,” said Dr. Sweet. “I am also a competitive cyclist, and this is a great place to train on my bike year round.”

Mireille particularly appreciated the insights and perspectives that the Sweets offered on living in Arizona and working at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Sweet says that she would recommend being a host to other alumni. “It is fun to keep up with what is going on at MCV and interacting and meeting current students,” she said. “I also remember the expense of interviewing, and I think it is nice to be able to help cut down those costs for students when it is possible.”

Lelia Brinegar, the director of Medical Alumni Outreach with the MCV Alumni Association, is coordinating the program. She says that some alumni who have signed up to participate as HOSTS have told her that they wish the program had been in place when they were students!

“We only ask our alumni HOSTs to provide lodging for a medical student while they interview in your area,” said Lelia. “But we’ve learned from some of our peer institutions that HOSTs sometimes will also provide transportation to and from interviews and airports, home-cooked meals, or guided tours of the area. No matter what you can offer, our students will be grateful!”

Spider Bites, Bee Stings and Shark Attacks. Oh My!

Winter 2008

With perpetrators ranging from tiny fire ants to a nine-and-a-half-foot bull shark, Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner recently visited the MCV Campus to introduce medical students to the sometimes deadly encounters that Virginians have had with the animal kingdom.

Leah Bush, M.D., is the state’s Chief ME and also an alumna of the medical school. Prior to January 2008, she served for more than 18 years as Deputy Chief in the Tidewater District, but this past year stepped into the Chief’s post of overseeing Virginia’s nationally recognized statewide medical examiner’s system.

In Tidewater, she regularly gave Eastern Virginia Medical School’s M2 students glimpses into the world of autopsies and crime scene investigation. As a result of that interaction, EVMS’ fourth-year elective rotation in forensic pathology was fully subscribed. She would like to see the same in Richmond, where this year’s 20 spots have only three students signed up. She traces that disinterest to the larger problem that “forensic pathology fellowships nationwide are only half filled.” She often asks herself, “What can we do to increase interest?”

Her return to the MCV Campus is part of her answer: “Introduce students to the field early on and spark their interest.”

In fact, Dr. Bush’s appearance at the Pathology Club meeting attracted students, residents and faculty members. She presented nine cases of animal-related deaths that had been investigated by the medical examiner’s office, sharing information on disease processes, clues for diagnosis and how medical examiners approach an autopsy.

“Anti-venom decreases death rate to less that 4 percent when it’s given in time,” she told her audience, as she shared the details of two timber rattlesnake bites in the western part of the state. Though most species, including the rattlesnake, have hemotoxic venom that destroys tissue and prevents the normal clotting of blood, Dr. Bush reported that up to 60 percent of snake bites are “dry,” without venom and harmless.

She also had advice on diagnosing brown recluse spider bites. “If the patient in the emergency department tells you that the brown recluse was hairy, jumped or was on a web, it has been misidentified.”

It was, however, a brown recluse that bit a 68-year-old woman with a number of underlying medical problems. The spider’s venom exacerbated her pulmonary hypertension and congestive heart failure and set her on a fatal three-month course of declining health that included a one-month stay in the ICU. Dr. Bush described the treatments that were attempted to combat the wound’s progression and the bacteria that lodged there. Wrapping up her discussion of the case, Dr. Bush explained how medical examiners determine manner of death, which in this case was found to be accidental.

Three deaths resulting from the stings of bees and fire ants were opportunities to review the symptoms of anaphylaxis. A shark attack and two dog maulings led to a discussion of the utility of swabbing wounds for gum cells that can be submitted for DNA analysis in order to pinpoint a shark’s species or a dog’s identity.

Investigations like these, says Dr. Bush, make the M4 elective rotation in forensic pathology the ideal setting for a solid review of anatomy and disease processes. Especially for students who are preparing to take Step 2 of the medical licensing exam. In addition to learning and practicing dissection technique, students have the chance to perform blood draws from the subclavian and femoral arteries as well as improve their suturing and intubation skills. “The forensic exam includes many skills that will help you in your careers,” she told the students.

And she hopes that as a result of that experience, more students will be drawn into the field of forensic pathology - just as she was. After earning her medical degree in 1984, Dr. Bush stayed on to complete her pathology training. Like many residents, she needed to make some additional money, so she became a part-time local medical examiner. Though she had no interested in forensic pathology as a career when she started, after a couple of years, “I’d found my niche. Crime scenes, death investigations, talking to police. Why would I want to go to a hospital and sit in a pathology lab?”