Jagwire https://jagwire.augusta.edu Augusta University News Fri, 15 Jan 2021 21:28:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/01/cropped-AU.Social.Augustus_Blue-1-32x32.jpg Jagwire https://jagwire.augusta.edu 32 32 What’s happening at Augusta University next week? Story ideas for Jan. 18-22 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/whats-happening-at-augusta-university-next-week-story-ideas-for-jan-18-22/ Thu, 14 Jan 2021 21:03:39 +0000 http://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90729 Need a story for next week? Check out what's happening at Augusta University.]]>

Next week at Augusta University, the institution will host a virtual town hall to share the latest information on distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, and a political science expert is available to share his views on the challenges surrounding Inauguration Day. Below are a few of the news stories to consider next week at Augusta University.

Augusta University to hold virtual town hall Jan. 22

Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, will host a virtual town hall at 3 p.m. Jan. 22. He will provide updated information for faculty, staff and students regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine. Access the livestream here, and view the latest information, updated protocols and statistics for the campus on our COVID-19 resource page.

What you need to know about Bamlanivimab treatment 

Patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19 can now use the investigational drug Bamlanivimab to help speed up their recovery process and lower their chances of being admitted to the hospital. Speak with Augusta University Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule to find out what you need to know about Bamlanivimab and more important facts about the coronavirus. Media can view and download a video of Coule explaining the new treatment option.

Inauguration day for president-elect Joe Biden

President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, becoming the 46th president of the United States of America. But it won’t be a typical inauguration due to the health risks posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and increased security concerns following last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. Schedule an interview with  Dr. Craig Albert, graduate director of the Master of Arts in Intelligence and Security Studies program and associate professor of political science at Augusta University, for an expert’s insight into this unprecedented yet historical American day.

Teleconferencing and phone interview opportunities are available for these story ideas. Call 706-522-3023 to schedule an interview on any of these topics. Also, check out the Augusta University Expert Center to view a complete list of our experts.

Governor touts Augusta University’s leadership to fight COVID-19 during State of the State https://jagwire.augusta.edu/governor-touts-augusta-universitys-leadership-to-fight-covid-19-during-state-of-the-state/ Thu, 14 Jan 2021 20:57:19 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90741 Gov. Brian Kemp recognized Augusta University's leadership in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic during his annual State of the State address on Jan. 14.]]>

Gov. Brian Kemp recognized Augusta University’s leadership in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic during his annual State of the State address Jan. 14.

Speaking to the Georgia General Assembly, Kemp touted Augusta University’s role in expanding coronavirus testing statewide.

“Like every other state across the country, the pandemic introduced the dire need for rapid, accurate, and widely available testing — an infrastructure the Department of Public Health literally created from scratch,” Kemp said. “But we persevered through significant supply chain challenges. We brought in the Georgia National Guard and contracted with Augusta University to boost testing, set up mega sites and drive-thru testing operations, and engage hard-to-reach communities to help identify cases and slow the spread of the virus.”

Kemp also named Augusta University among the state’s top research institutions. The university was granted $159 million in sponsored awards for FY2020.

“Georgia is home to some of health care’s strongest pillars with the CDC, several major health care systems, and premier medical research institutions like Augusta University and Emory,” Kemp said.

It’s all part of fulfilling Augusta University’s mission to serve the entire state, said President Brooks A. Keel, PhD.

“As the state’s only public academic medical center and home to the Medical College of Georgia, it seems only appropriate that our clinical expertise helped to ensure appropriate evaluation and testing of citizens,” Keel said.

Read the full text of Kemp’s State of the State address.

AU Health opens new infusion center at West Wheeler https://jagwire.augusta.edu/au-health-opens-new-infusion-center-at-west-wheeler/ Thu, 14 Jan 2021 20:18:57 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90612 In another effort to better serve patients within the community, Augusta University Health has opened AU Health Infusion at West Wheeler.]]>

In another effort to better serve patients within the community, Augusta University Health has opened AU Health Infusion at West Wheeler.

Located on the second floor inside Entrance D, the center is designed to provide intravenous medications for people who have hematological, nephrological, endocrinological, neurological or similar conditions.

“We’ve been giving these medications at the Georgia Cancer Center downtown, but an outpatient environment is often more convenient for our patients,” said Dr. Charles Howell, CEO of Augusta University Medical Associates.

The center features eight chairs for adults and two for pediatric patients. Included on staff will be a physician, pharmacy team and nursing team.

The move is part of a greater initiative to get outpatient services out into the community to better serve patients. In November, AU Health opened AU Imaging and Children’s Hospital Pediatric Multispecialty on Wheeler Road. The new infusion center joins specialty clinics for orthopedics, heart and vascular care, sports medicine and eye care, to name a few, on the West Wheeler campus.

This effort will ultimately make these services more cost-effective for patients, said Nancy Brady, chief operating officer for AU Medical Associates.

“Part of our reason for doing this was because the patients will end up paying a higher reimbursement if they’re in a hospital outpatient (setting) for some carriers, because the insurance companies are changing their reimbursement policies,” she said. “So if they continue to go into a hospital outpatient site, which is what our cancer center is, they could end up with higher bills out of pocket.”

Also on staff at the infusion clinic will be a pharmacy advisor who can assist patients with financial needs in the event they do not have insurance coverage. The advisor will work with drug programs designed to help patients afford necessary medications.

Currently, only patients who are under care for non-cancer treatments will be transitioned to the new infusion clinic, and patients will need their physician’s referral.

Two new faculty join the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences https://jagwire.augusta.edu/two-new-faculty-join-the-school-of-computer-and-cyber-sciences/ Thu, 14 Jan 2021 17:47:33 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90713 The School of Computer and Cyber Sciences is proud to welcome Dr. Ahmed AlEroud and Dr. Richard DeFrancisco to the school's faculty this semester. ]]>

Augusta University’s School of Computer and Cyber Sciences is proud to announce the addition of two more faculty to its growing school. Dr. Ahmed AlEroud and Dr. Richard DeFrancisco have joined the school starting in the Spring 2021 semester.

Dr. Ahmed AlEroud

AlEroud has joined the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences as an associate professor. He earned his PhD in Information Systems in 2014 from University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). His research focuses on cybersecurity, privacy preserving network data analytics, detection of social engineering attacks, and identifying radical content in social networks using sentiment analysis. He comes to Augusta University from UMBC, where he was a lecturer in information systems. Prior to that, from 2015-20, he was on the faculty of Information Systems at Yarmouk University in Jordan, completing his service at the rank of associate professor. His research has been supported by MITRE, European IP Networks (RIPE), and Maryland Innovation Initiative. He is an author of over 25 research articles and two books.

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Dr. Richard DeFrancisco

DeFrancisco has joined the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences as an assistant professor. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Stony Brook University in August 2019. DeFrancisco’s primary area of research is formal methods, especially at the intersection of concurrency and verification, with specific focuses on model checking and GPU-based parallelism. His dissertation was focused on model checking, including a GPU-based swarm verification solution. Prior to completing his doctoral work, he also served as a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow from 2012-15, with a quarter of that period spent at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. DeFrancisco is an author of several research publications.

“We welcome Drs. AlEroud and DeFrancisco. Their expertise strengthens our school’s research in the areas of networking, cybersecurity, formal methods and parallel computing,” says School of Computer and Cyber Sciences Dean Alex Schwarzmann.

“In the last few months, we have started recruiting for 10 more new faculty to join our school. As we continue toward the goal of adding 30 new faculty in three years, we are not slowing down and continue to attract first-class applicants.”

The School of Computer and Cyber Sciences is steadily growing as the faculty recruitment program continues to gain momentum. Applications for faculty openings in computer and cyber sciences are being accepted now.

Augusta University to hold virtual COVID-19 town hall Jan. 22 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-to-hold-virtual-covid-19-town-hall-jan-22/ Thu, 14 Jan 2021 14:34:14 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90699 Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, will provide updated information for faculty, staff and students regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine.]]>

Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, will host a virtual town hall at 3 p.m. Jan. 22. He will provide updated information for faculty, staff and students regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine.

Information, updated protocols and statistics for the campus can be found on our COVID-19 resource page.

Access the livestream here. Email questions in advance to mediarelations@augusta.edu.

Augusta University welcomes Dr. Neil MacKinnon as new provost https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-welcomes-dr-neil-mackinnon-as-new-provost/ Thu, 14 Jan 2021 14:25:48 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90487 The former dean of the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati says he cannot wait to be a part of the Augusta University family.]]>

Augusta University welcomes Dr. Neil MacKinnon as new provost

As Dr. Neil J. MacKinnon prepares to begin his new role as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Augusta University, he is eager to get to know the students, faculty and staff across the Summerville, downtown and Health Sciences campuses.

The former dean of the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati says he cannot wait to be a part of the Augusta University family. 

 “I realize a lot of people don’t even know what a provost is or they’re seen as some mysterious figure, but my goal here at Augusta University is to be approachable,” said MacKinnon, who starts his role Jan. 19. “I want people to know me and feel comfortable talking with me.”

MacKinnon has an impressive background, serving as dean for the past seven years at the fourth oldest pharmacy school in the country and working as director of the Center for Rural Health at the University of Arizona from 2011-13. However, he has an equally fascinating personal life.

In fact, don’t be surprised to see him occasionally donning a kilt, he joked.

“I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, which Nova Scotia actually is Latin for new Scotland. Most people there have Scottish heritage and I’ve owned and worn a kilt for years,” MacKinnon said, adding he just finished serving as vice chair of the worldwide association for the MacKinnon family for the past four years. “I met my wife, Leanne, in Florida and we now have three teen daughters: Breagh, 16, and twins Ashlynn and Kaylee, who are 14.”

MacKinnon was beaming as he quickly flipped through several photos of his family on his phone.

“While they’ve done everything from ballet to hip-hop to studio dance, all three girls do a sport called Scottish highland dancing,” he explained. “We’ve traveled to Scotland for the World Highland Dancing Championship, where all three girls have competed. So, I’m a proud dance dad.”

His oldest daughter, Breagh, is a three-time U.S. national champion in the sport. A Canadian fashion designer named Veronica Maclsaac, who celebrates the country’s Celtic culture, even designed a dress named after Breagh, MacKinnon said.

“I think Breagh was 13 years old at the time, so for a 13-year-old girl to have a dress named after her was incredible,” MacKinnon said. “I always joke that Breagh is way more famous than I am.”

Much like his enormous pride in his family’s accomplishments, MacKinnon said he is looking forward to promoting Augusta University’s outstanding achievements in his new role as provost.

“The provost is the chief academic officer of the university. Therefore, the provost needs to be a mouthpiece and the strongest advocate for the academics of the university,” MacKinnon said.

“I want to help raise the profile of the university and make sure that we’re telling people the impact we are having in new research, clinical care, non-health care research and cyber.”

Augusta University is the “hidden gem” of the Southeast and he intends to vigorously promote its strengths, MacKinnon said.

“I think people here at Augusta University are humble, and that’s a good quality to have, but there are also times when you want to brag about what you’re doing,” he said. “And AU has a lot to brag about, and I intend to tell others about the impressive things happening here.”

“I want people to and feel comfortable talking with me.”

Proven leadership

Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, said MacKinnon’s experience and past leadership made him the clear choice to serve as the new provost.

“Dr. MacKinnon has an accomplished record in public health, research and academic program development, as well as a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Keel said. “Neil’s vision and values align well with Augusta University’s mission to serve all of Georgia as the state’s only public academic medical center. He has a deep understanding of and appreciation for the importance of comprehensive undergraduate programming and enrollment management.

“His leadership will serve us well as we continue to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and keep us moving toward our goal of 16,000 students by 2030 and growth in our research program.”

At the University of Cincinnati, MacKinnon led the college to unprecedented student enrollment in fall 2020, due to the creation of nine new graduate certificates/degree programs since 2013. He also oversaw a $34 million building renovation for the college and completed the largest one-time hire of new faculty positions in the college’s 170-year history.

“During the last three years at University of Cincinnati, we created three new programs of bachelor’s/master’s dual degree programs: two with arts and sciences and one with engineering,” MacKinnon said. “Those are the sorts of moves that you can do at a comprehensive university like Augusta University. You can get colleges to work together to offer something unique.

“That is something I’ll be asking the deans here to look at, especially with President Keel’s goal to grow to 16,000 students by 2030. One way we can do that is take existing courses, repurpose them, be creative and create new dual degrees.”

Such dual degrees can be appealing to new students considering enrolling in Augusta University, he said.

“When students come here, they’ll see, ‘Wow, I could graduate in five years with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree,’” MacKinnon said. “That could be a real win for students and it also gets faculty working together across colleges too, which has many additional benefits.”

“For the last seven-plus years at the University of Cincinnati, one of our main focuses was enhancing

Enhancing diversity

Under MacKinnon’s leadership, the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati set all-time records for the percentage of faculty, staff and students who are under-represented minorities. He also created a new position for the college, hiring a director of diversity and inclusion.

“For the last seven-plus years at the University of Cincinnati, one of our main focuses was enhancing diversity,” MacKinnon said. “We wanted to make sure that our student demographics really represented the community that we lived in.”

The university began partnering with high schools and introduced a summer bridge program to help minority students transition to college life, he said.

“At the end of the day, we fortunately saw a lot of success,” MacKinnon said. “About 8% of the student body is African American at the University of Cincinnati. When I became dean of the College of Pharmacy, only 5.7% of the student body was African American. This year, the College of Pharmacy is at 14.9%. We actually had the highest percent African American student enrollment of any college at the university. We went from being below the university’s average to being the leader.”

As a result of those efforts, the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award in 2018, 2019 and in 2020. It was the only pharmacy school in the country to receive this award in all three years.

“I’m very proud of that accomplishment,” he said. “And I know that’s a goal here at Augusta University, too, so that will be a priority of mine as provost.”

MacKinnon was also was voted by his peer deans at the University of Cincinnati to serve as the chair of an organization called the Council of Deans for the past several years.

“In that role, you serve on the president’s cabinet and you are a liaison between the deans and the provost,” he said. “For me, it was like a dean among deans. And just like Augusta University, the University of Cincinnati is a very comprehensive university, so I was working with deans of business, education and arts and sciences. It was not just health care, which I think is important.”

MacKinnon’s educational background includes a PhD in Pharmacy Health Care Administration and fellowship from the University of Florida; a Master of Science in Hospital Pharmacy and residency from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and a Bachelor of Science from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. He is dedicated to promoting and supporting all of the colleges at Augusta University.

“AU, obviously, is the state’s only public academic health center and that’s a very special calling,” he said. “But the fact that it’s also a comprehensive university with the Summerville campus, and now, of course, with the cyber campus as well, that really creates special bonds and unique opportunities that only strengthen the university.”

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“We’re trying to solve real-world problems. And if you think about this past year, it doesn't get much more practical and real-world than COVID-19.”

Uniting the colleges

While at the University of Cincinnati, MacKinnon learned the value of working with a variety of colleges when he co-chaired a task force on the opioid crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio has the second-highest rate of deaths by overdose in the country, so MacKinnon wanted to help address the problem.

“It was a task force between the university and UC Health, which is just like AU Health,” MacKinnon said. “We had about 70 faculty clinicians that were part of that effort, but we also had faculty that were part of the task force from our College of Arts and Design and the College of Education. So, it wasn’t just the health colleges.”

In fact, MacKinnon teamed up with the Department of Geography to map and follow the opioid crisis in Ohio.

“You wouldn’t think that geography and pharmacy would partner together, but we were looking at the spread of the opioid crisis. And so, one geographer, Dr. Diego Cuadros, was able to look at Global Positioning System mapping for our research to accurately track the crisis,” MacKinnon said. “Then, when COVID-19 hit in March of this year, Diego asked, ‘I wonder if we could apply the same tracking that we’ve used for the opioid crisis and apply it to the spread of COVID-19?’ Sure enough, we did.”

Their COVID-19 tracking efforts attracted the attention of the governor of Ohio, MacKinnon said.

“We had several publications this past year that looked at the spread of COVID, so we created short summaries of our research called policy briefs, which were really two-pagers about COVID-19,” he said. “We prepared three policy briefs this past year for the governor in Ohio and the head of the Department of Health. It was really cool because we were providing valuable information to the governor and his senior staff that they were able to effectively convey to the public.”

The governor even used a map with the information collected by the team at the University of Cincinnati during a COVID press conference, MacKinnon said.

“To me, that’s the strength of research,” he said. “It’s not just some theoretical thing that we do to get funding. We’re trying to solve real-world problems. And if you think about this past year, it doesn’t get much more practical and real-world than COVID-19.”

MacKinnon will be looking for similar opportunities for colleges to work together at Augusta University.

“I know there’s the physical difference of the Summerville and the Health Sciences campuses, but one way to bridge that is to create common interests that will unite people against something like the opioid crisis,” he said. “A crisis like that can impact a lot of areas, so I will be looking for those common themes here as well.”

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Promoting research

Augusta University uses what is informally known as a super-provost model, which means the office is in charge of all academic affairs, the colleges, the deans, the research enterprise, student affairs and enrollment management, among other things. MacKinnon said he looks forward to leading the charge to increase student enrollment and expand research opportunities across all the campuses at Augusta University, he said.

“I know AU actually just came off of a fantastic year of research, and obviously President Keel wants to continue that upward trajectory,” MacKinnon said. “As the dean of the College of Pharmacy at UC, our research funding doubled. I even kept my own research program, to be a role model to my faculty. So, in the seven years as dean, I had 50 peer-reviewed publications.”

In fact, MacKinnon’s fourth book about his research on the opioid crisis will be published later this year. MacKinnon wants to keep that research momentum going at Augusta University.

“I have asked President Keel if it would be OK if I had a research program here, and he has agreed to that,” he said. “That’s very important because I believe research enterprise is what sets some universities apart.”

MacKinnon also hopes to help combat Georgia’s health care crisis in rural communities. Georgia ranks among the 10 worst states for most health measures, with some of the highest incidents of stroke, heart disease and cancer in the nation. To make matters worse, much of the state lacks access to primary care services, making Georgia worse than the national average for areas with a shortage of primary care doctors.

As a result, the Medical College of Georgia has developed a 3+ Primary Care Pathway that will help place doctors where they are needed most in the state. This pathway shortens the traditional MD curriculum to three years instead of four and will provide free tuition or student loan forgiveness to students who commit to a primary care residency and agree to serve in an underserved area for six years.

“As the state of Georgia’s only public academic health center and a leader in health care policy, Augusta University and the Medical College of Georgia are committed to improved health for all Georgians,” Keel announced last year. “That statewide commitment is evidenced in the patients we treat, the education we provide and the research solutions we develop.”

In his role as director of the Center for Rural Health at the University of Arizona, MacKinnon was dedicated to improving access to high-quality, cost-effective health care to the 900,000 residents of rural Arizona.

“In our office, we were recruiting physicians to small towns and we were working with county public health offices, first responders and emergency medicine to help serve Arizona residents who didn’t have access to primary care,” MacKinnon said. “The reality is it’s often hard to recruit health professionals to rural areas.

“But, fortunately, I had some valuable lessons learned from my experience in Arizona that I look forward to bringing here. I’m ready to get started.”

Hull College associate dean aids hospital improvement with state ranking https://jagwire.augusta.edu/hull-college-associate-dean-aids-hospital-improvement-with-state-ranking/ Thu, 14 Jan 2021 13:54:07 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90667 Augusta University's Hull College of Business associate dean and professor, Mark Thompson, has covered Georgia Trend’s Top Hospitals in Georgia since 2017.]]>

Augusta University’s Hull College of Business associate dean and professor, Mark Thompson, has covered Georgia Trend’s Top Hospitals in Georgia since 2017.

Hospitals providing a range of services are grouped by size and mission, then ranked in the annual publication based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data.

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Thompson begins his work on the annual rankings in September, where he organizes the data into rankings. Information analyzed includes clinical process, patient experience, outcome and efficiency. Once the rankings are published, Thompson often fields questions from hospital administration, allowing for continuous improvements.

“One of the things that business schools have always done well is taking academic knowledge and providing value to the community, to society,” Thompson said. “When hospitals see where they are, and see where they scored relative to others, it provides a benchmark to look for ways to improve.”

Georgia Trend groups hospitals into four categories: Teaching Hospitals (certified by the Association of American Medical Colleges Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems), Large Hospitals (250+ patient beds), Medium Hospitals (100-249 patient beds), and Small Hospitals (less than 100 patient beds).

Augusta University Medical Center ranked third among the top teaching hospitals in 2019 and 2020.

Georgia Trend has been covering Georgia business, politics and economic development since 1985. It publishes information to its website, a daily newsletter and a monthly printed magazine.

Movie producers donate $10,000 to Children’s Hospital of Georgia https://jagwire.augusta.edu/movie-producers-donate-10000-to-childrens-hospital-of-georgia/ Wed, 13 Jan 2021 17:27:25 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90632 Faith Films Inc. gives back to Children's Hospital of Georgia.]]>

Faith Films Inc., executive producers of The Reason, a 2020 movie starring Academy Award winner Lou Gossett Jr., made a $10,000 donation to the Children’s Hospital of Georgia on Jan. 13.

Movie DVD Jacket
“The Reason” movie, filmed in Augusta and at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, stars Lou Gossett Jr., Tatyana Ali and Alan Powell.

“We are so grateful for their support and generosity,” said Catherine Stewart, associate director of philanthropy for Children’s Hospital of Georgia. “As a not-for-profit hospital, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia relies on the generosity of donors to fund the high level of specialized infant, pediatric and adolescent care we provide to thousands of babies and children. We are incredibly thankful for the partnership of Faith Films, Inc.”

Medical scenes in The Reason, which tells the story of how a boy’s leukemia diagnosis affects the lives of those around him, were filmed in 2016 at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. The movie was released for sale on DVD and digital download formats in December 2020.

A life full of heart: Angela McGahee defied the odds to become a mother and grandmother https://jagwire.augusta.edu/a-life-full-of-heart-angela-mcgahee-defied-the-odds-to-become-a-mother-and-grandmother/ Tue, 12 Jan 2021 18:13:21 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90429 Angela McGahee wasn't expected to survive to see adulthood, but she defied the odds to become the first woman with tricuspid atresia to ever deliver a full-term, healthy baby and went on to become a proud grandmother. Augusta University honors her memory. ]]>

Born with the heart condition tricuspid atresia, Angela McGahee wasn’t expected to survive to see adulthood. But she defied all the odds. She was strongly advised to never get pregnant due to the extreme risks involved, but with the help of her doctors at the Medical College of Georgia, she became the first woman with tricuspid atresia to ever deliver a healthy, full-term baby. Not only was she a loving and devoted mother to her son, T.J. Smith, but she also proudly became a grandmother to her grandchildren, William and Savannah. Her passion for life was contagious, her family says. While she sadly passed away on Sept. 17 at age 54, her courage and strength will never be forgotten. This is her story.

As soon as Angela McGahee was born on May 7, 1966, at St. Joseph Hospital in Augusta, the nurses and doctors immediately realized something was terribly wrong.

“From the day she was born and they laid her in my arms, I knew I would have to fight for her life,” said her mother, Threesa Hood, from her home in Dearing, Georgia. “They told me something was wrong with her, and I remember I couldn’t even see her through the tears in my eyes. I didn’t even know what she looked like because I was crying so hard.

“But, from that day forward, I willed her to live. I would not accept anything else. That’s all there was to it. I willed her to live.”

A photo of Angela McGahee after she was born on May 7, 1966, at St. Joseph Hospital in Augusta.

Doctors informed Hood that her infant daughter had a heart defect called tricuspid atresia. This defect does not allow venous blue blood (less oxygen) to flow to the lungs through the upper and lower chambers of the right side of the heart because of a blockage between the upper and lower chambers.

Therefore, Hood’s baby wasn’t getting enough oxygen through her body and she was known as a “blue baby.” The doctors immediately knew Hood’s child was suffering from this condition because she had shortness of breath and blue-tinged lips. Until the mid-1970s, there was no way to correct this condition, although it could be partially palliated.

“I can’t tell you the times that I cried and cried holding her,” Hood said. “When she was a baby and I would lay on the bed with her, you could hear the blood rushing through the holes in her heart.”

As an infant, Angela was evaluated by doctors in Augusta at the Talmadge Memorial Hospital, which was subsequently renamed the Medical College of Georgia Hospitals and Clinics.

“I remember taking her to Talmadge Hospital when she was 11 months old and, of course, the more they checked her, the worse they told me things were,” Hood said, adding that the doctors told her Angela would eventually need heart surgery. “But, despite the news, she surprised them all because she ran around and played like nothing was wrong with her.

“In fact, they didn’t believe me when I told them that she played and went to school and did all the things like a regular child. But she did. She never, ever once in her whole life complained about her heart or being tired.”

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Strengthening Angela’s heart

Dr. William Strong, a pediatric cardiologist who joined the Medical College of Georgia’s Department of Pediatrics in 1969 and became chief of Pediatric Cardiology in 1972, remembers meeting Angela and her mother in the early 1970s.

“We followed Angela medically and diagnostically with catheterizations until a procedure became available that could prolong her life,” Strong said. “At that time, the average life expectancy of a patient with tricuspid atresia that was palliated was about 15 years.”

Dr. William Strong, a pediatric cardiologist who joined the Medical College of Georgia’s Department of Pediatrics in 1969, treated Angela McGahee over the years.

When Angela turned 12, the family was told to prepare for the fact that she needed to have open-heart surgery.

“Making that decision was just about to kill me, but they called me one day and they said, ‘We’ve decided we can wait a while on Angie’s surgery,’ so they did. They waited a year and then they called us in the office and they said, ‘It’s time. We can’t wait any longer,’” Hood said. “So, by then, that wasn’t a choice that I had to make. There was no doubt that she needed the surgery, so I told them they could do it.”

Cardiologists at the Medical College of Georgia explained to Hood that her daughter required a Fontan procedure. The goal of the original Fontan procedure was to take venous blood from the upper and lower body and have it become oxygenated by connecting a portion of the right atrium, the upper chamber of the right side of the heart directly to the pulmonary artery that carries blood to the lungs to become oxygenated, or red, Strong explained.

Thus, by means of the Fontan procedure, it was possible to eliminate the venous blood from entering the circulation to the body, resulting in the patient becoming “pink.” The initial results of the Fontan procedure suggested a prolongation of life into the third decade, Strong said.

“With Angela, only one of the two pumping chambers of her heart were present. Therefore, the pumping chamber sent out both the red and blue blood, the oxygenated and unoxygenated blood, to her body,” Strong explained. “She was initially helped by having a shunt procedure performed that increased her oxygen in the blood. But when this Fontan procedure became available, then her defect was more appropriately corrected so that all of the blood from the right side of the heart went directly into her pulmonary artery, which took it to her lungs to get oxygen.”

But the doctors told Hood the Fontan procedure was a complex surgery with a number of risks.

“That was a very hard thing to decide, to take your child out of school and hand her over to the doctors when they give you all these different percentages about the risks involved with the procedure,” Hood said. “You must realize, the Fontan procedure was new back then, so that was really scary.”

After the family agreed to the surgery, Hood remembers Dr. Syamasundar Rao, who was Angela’s cardiologist at the Medical College of Georgia at the time, walking into the room to reassure her that she had made the right decision.

“I will never forget it. Dr. Rao came into the room and said, ‘Mrs. Hood, don’t pay any attention to those percentages. It doesn’t matter if it’s 99-to-1. If you’re in the one, then you are in the one, so don’t listen to the percentages,’” Hood said. “He gave me faith that everything would be all right.”

teen girl
A photo of Angela McGahee around the time of her Fontan heart surgery.

Hood said that Angela, who only weighed 78 pounds at the time of the surgery, was on a heart and lung machine for approximately nine hours. When the family was finally allowed in the recovery room following the surgery, Hood recalls some of her relatives couldn’t handle seeing Angela connected to the machines.

“My sister was just so upset when she looked at Angela after the surgery that she ran downstairs and got sick. She couldn’t take it. But when I looked at Angela, all I saw were pink lips,” Hood said, smiling. “I thought those pink lips were the most wonderful thing in the world because that meant she was getting the oxygen that she had not gotten before.

“So, I didn’t pay any attention to all the wires and tubes. Her little lips were just as pink as they could be and, to me, that was truly beautiful.”

A new life emerges

Angela had to stay in the hospital for several challenging weeks to fully recover, but once her body began healing, her daughter was back to her old self, Hood said.

“She was an active child, who loved going on trips to the mountain or the beach and she absolutely adored Disney World. I bet we went to Disney World more than 40 times,” Hood said, laughing. “She also loved roller coasters. When we’d go to Disney World and Universal Studios, she insisted on riding every roller coaster there was. You couldn’t drag her off a roller coaster.”

During one of Angela’s doctor visits as a teenager, Hood remembers Strong speaking frankly to her daughter about the future.

“She was a young teenager and Dr. Strong looked right at her and told her, ‘Now, if you ever decide to get kissy face with any boys, you come talk to me,’” Hood said. “I remember that day because I didn’t think she could get pregnant. The doctors always said she can’t get pregnant. Well, I thought they meant, physically, she couldn’t get pregnant. I was wrong.”

Not long after getting married and moving to Alabama, Angela returned to Georgia with some news for her mother.

“She called me and wanted to come home. We had some land available, so we put a trailer on the property for her,” Hood said. “When she got here, I found out she was pregnant, and I was beside myself. I was truly devasted.”

A photo of mother and daughter
Threesa Hood’s favorite photo with her daughter, Angela McGahee.

Hood knew the doctors had said it was too risky for Angela to attempt to have a baby and it would likely result in both her and the child’s death.

“I remember I was so upset and I said, ‘That’s it. You’re having an abortion. This is not going to kill you,’” Hood said. “Now, you must understand, I don’t believe in abortions. Not at all. But I was trying to save my child’s life, so we went down to the hospital and they did a sonogram.

“I remember the baby opened his little hand and closed it. That was it. There was no abortion in the picture. She was in love with that child and she was keeping the baby.”

When Strong heard that Angela was pregnant, he was immediately concerned.

“Since no woman with her diagnosis had ever, as far as I could ascertain from the literature, become pregnant and delivered a typical, full-term baby, I had recommended that she not become pregnant and gave her all kinds of options,” he said.

“But as things happened, she became pregnant and elected to carry the baby. To my amazement, she did so without any complications, whatsoever. It was just an incredible feat.”

Despite her heart condition, Angela, who was 21 at the time, remained strong throughout the pregnancy, he said.

“She was a true hero,” Strong said. “She had the courage to carry the baby to full term. At that time, most physicians would have recommended that she have a therapeutic abortion. But that was something that she did not want. She had the courage to say, no. She wanted to have her baby, regardless of the risk to her.”

Mother and son
Angela McGahee never thought twice about becoming a mother, despite the risk to her health.

And the risk to a mother with tricuspid atresia was exceedingly high, probably greater than 30% mortality, Strong said.

“When she finally got to term, she delivered a full-term, big baby. Her son, T.J., weighed something in the range of nine pounds or so,” Strong said. “So, it was a chore for her to just carry him around. But she had T.J. and continued to be followed by us in pediatric cardiology and as an adult in our congenital heart disease clinic. She did very well and had only minor problems over the years.”

Hood said Strong’s support of the entire family meant the world to Angela.

“She loved him dearly,” Hood said, smiling. “She used to tell people, ‘Dr. Strong is my other daddy.’ He always took great care of Angela.”

After T.J. was born, Hood said she had never seen her daughter so happy. She was extremely proud of her new family.

“They told me then she was the first in the world that had the Fontan procedure who had a baby, and now her son has babies,” Hood said. “So, she was able to become a grandmother, as well.”

Unfortunately, Hood said, her daughter became pregnant a second time a few years after T.J. was born, but she lost the baby in a miscarriage.

“The second time she got pregnant, that’s when she started having health problems again,” Hood said. “When she lost the second baby, her heart would not stay in a normal sinus rhythm and she started suffering from atrial fibrillation.”

For a little while, Hood said the drug Amiodarone helped control her daughter’s heart rhythm. But eventually, doctors had to use a defibrillator to restore her daughter’s normal heartbeat, she said.

By that time, Hood said her daughter decided to have a procedure called cardiac ablation at another hospital outside of Georgia.

Cardiac ablation is a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in a patient’s heart that is allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm. But Hood said there were problems during the surgery and doctors determined she needed a pacemaker.

“After getting the pacemaker, she actually felt much better, but about four years ago, doctors told her she needed another surgery which would basically remove the right atrium,” Hood said. “Angela went through all of the tests and was ready to have the surgery, but then she found out that her son, T.J., and his wife were pregnant.  She told the doctors that she wasn’t having surgery until after the baby was born.

“She so loved that baby and was in the room when he was born.”

woman holding a baby
Angela McGahee holding her grandson, William, just minutes after he was born.

Once her first grandchild was born, doctors again urged her to have the surgery, but she refused, Hood said.

“Angela later told people that she was not having the surgery because she simply didn’t want to go through another open-heart surgery. She was just tired,” Hood said. “I honestly thought she would get sick and go into the hospital where she could have the surgery and we would have a chance.

“But we did not get that chance. I believe that if she’d had the surgery, she would be here with us today.”

The strength of a mother

Growing up, T.J. Smith said he didn’t realize his mother had a serious heart condition because she never wanted to discuss it.

“Mama never talked about it with anybody,” said Smith, who is now 33 years old. “If I wanted to know anything, I’d have to talk to my step daddy or my grandma. They knew about her health problems. Mama was not going to ever talk about it.”

Instead, Smith said his mother simply wanted to enjoy life and she treated each day as a blessing.

“My mom did exactly what she wanted and if she didn’t get to do it, she was upset,” Smith said, laughing. “She was a very good person to be around. She always wanted everybody to get along and to just live your life the best you could.”

His mother was also determined that he get a good education and behave in school, Smith said.

“She sat down at the table with me every night just to make sure I did every single bit of my homework. And if I didn’t, she’d be mad,” he said. “I mean, we would sometimes sit there for hours and hours, but she wouldn’t move until we got done with it.”

There wasn’t a day that went by that Smith didn’t know how much his mom loved him, he said. But when he learned his mom actually risked her life to give birth to him, their bond became even stronger.

“When I found out, I was like, ‘I am a miracle,’ even though sometimes I don’t feel like it,” Smith said. “But my mom loved me very much. She was my mom, but she was also my friend. I talked to her two or three times a day.”

In fact, on the day his mom passed away in September, Smith said he stopped by to check on her.

“She did a lot for other people and couldn’t say no if anyone needed her help. She was always putting everyone before herself,” Smith said. “So, I kept in touch with her and checked on her all the time. I was actually there when it happened. To this day, I can’t believe she’s gone.”

Family photo
From left: T.J. Smith at the beach with his son William, grandmother Threesa Hood, mother Angela McGahee and his wife Kelly.

He only wishes his children had more time with their grandmother.

“It hurts me that she can’t be here to see her grandchildren grow up. That was Mama’s world,” Smith said. “Our son is almost 3 years old and Mama found out before she died that we were having a little girl and that we were going to name her Savannah. She was getting excited and already buying stuff for her. I hate that she’s going to miss out on spending time with them.”

But Smith said he knows his mother is watching after their entire family.

“She’s been giving me signs,” he said. “For months after Mama died, we kept seeing a bunch of yellow butterflies. So, I think she’s there, sending us her love.”

An undying love

As a physician who cared for Angela as a child and followed her through adulthood, Strong said it was difficult to hear of Angela’s death at 54 years old.

“She was always delightful and positive and always had a smile on her face,” he said. “Virtually every time I saw her, her mother had accompanied her to the appointment, even as an adult. It was always a pleasure to see both she and her mom and how they were carrying on. Angela was just a very lively young woman who thoroughly enjoyed life.”

Woman looking at photos
Threesa Hood looks at photos from the memorial service for her daughter following her death last year. She says whenever she touches the photos, she can’t help but cry because she misses her daughter each day.

Even though it’s been months since her daughter’s death, Hood said she still expects to see Angela walk through her front door.

“We went everywhere together and talked every day. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t wrap my head around it,” Hood said, as tears rolled down her cheeks. “I feel guilty. I feel like I let my guard down. If I hadn’t let my guard down, I would have gotten her to the hospital.

“I always looked after her before and I knew before anyone else knew that something was wrong. I just didn’t make it this time.”

While her friends and family have insisted there wasn’t anything she could have done to prevent Angela’s death, Hood said the last few months have been hard.

“I had Angela for 54 years, which is a lot longer than I thought I would, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Hood said. “She meant the world to me and I am grateful for every minute we shared on this earth. No one had anything bad to say about her. Everybody loved her.

“I tell people all the time, ‘I didn’t lose my daughter. I lost an angel.’”

Yale School of Medicine professor to speak as part of Greenblatt Seminar Series https://jagwire.augusta.edu/yale-school-of-medicine-professor-to-speak-as-part-of-greenblatt-seminar-series/ Tue, 12 Jan 2021 18:10:20 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90583 Schwartz will be speaking on “Fluid Shear Stress Mechanotransduction in Vascular Health Disease” on Thursday, Jan. 14 via WebEx.]]>

The Augusta University Department of Physiology’s 27th Dr. Robert Greenblatt Lectureship welcomes Dr. Martin Schwartz of the Yale School of Medicine.

Schwartz will be speaking on “Fluid Shear Stress Mechanotransduction in Vascular Health Disease” at 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, via WebEx.

Schwartz is a professor of medicine (cardiology), biomedical engineering and cell biology at Yale.

He was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, Scripps Research Institute and the University of Virginia prior to moving to Yale in 2011.

His current research program combines studies using biophysical, cellular and animal approaches to important questions about integrin signaling, mechanotransduction and disease in the vascular system.

Join the lecture here. Meeting password: seminar (7364627 from phones and video systems). Join by phone at 415-655-0002.

Roosevelt Warm Springs congratulates new registered nurse https://jagwire.augusta.edu/roosevelt-warm-springs-hospitals-congratulates-new-registered-nurse/ Tue, 12 Jan 2021 16:25:34 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90221 “We are all very proud of Maggie for taking and passing this rigorous test."]]>

Maggie Scogin, who has worked as a licensed practical registered nurse at Roosevelt Warm Springs Rehabilitation Hospital in Warm Springs, Georgia, since 2014, was recently accredited as a certified rehabilitation registered nurse.

Scogin passed her national boards as a CRRN on Dec. 18. She is the day shift nurse in the hospital.

“We are all very proud of Maggie for taking and passing this rigorous test,” said David Mork, CEO of Roosevelt Warm Spring hospitals, which are part of the Augusta University Health System.

Former UN ambassador to speak at Tri-College MLK Jr. Celebration on Jan. 15 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/former-un-ambassador-to-speak-at-tri-college-mlk-jr-celebration-on-jan-15/ Tue, 12 Jan 2021 14:01:48 +0000 http://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90441 Augusta University is co-hosting the annual Tri-College MLK Jr. Celebration from noon to 2 p.m. Jan. 15. The event will be virtual this year, and livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.]]>

Augusta University is co-hosting the annual Tri-College MLK Jr. Celebration from noon to 2 p.m. Jan. 15. The event will be virtual this year, and livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.

This celebration, hosted annually, serves to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event is part of Weeks of Welcome and is a collaboration between Paine College, Augusta Technical College and Augusta University.

flyer of 2021 MLK Celebration eventThis year’s guest speaker is Andrew Young, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former mayor of Atlanta. Young was active in the civil rights movement and was a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to the livestream, Augusta University is offering two service opportunities throughout the month of January to honor the legacy of Dr. King.

Students, faculty and staff can donate hygiene items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, bandages, feminine products, soap, socks, etc.) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Student Life and Engagement suite on the second floor of the Jaguar Student Activities Center. Collections will be accepted from Monday, Jan. 11 to Wednesday, Jan. 27 and then donated to the community.

Augusta University is also hosting an MLK Day of Service on Jan. 30. The Office of Civic Engagement, a unit of Student Life and Engagement, is partnering with Bridge Ministry of the CSRA to serve meals and pass out blessing bags to those in need. Students interested in volunteering for the MLK Day of Service can email Roberto Aragon.

For more about the livestream, email MSE@augusta.edu or view the preview on YouTube.

What you need to know about Bamlanivimab treatment for COVID-19 patients https://jagwire.augusta.edu/what-you-need-to-know-about-bamlanivimab-treatment-for-covid-19-patients/ Tue, 12 Jan 2021 13:30:29 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90450 Augusta University Health's Dr. Phillip Coule shares details on COVID-19 treatment Bamlanivimab.]]>

Patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19 now have a treatment option that may help speed up their recovery process and lower their chances of being admitted to the hospital.

Bamlanivimab is an investigational drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19 pediatric and adult patients experiencing mild to moderate symptoms.

In this video, Augusta University Health‘s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule shares what you need to know about Bamlanivimab and more important facts about the coronavirus.

Visit AU Health’s Virtual Care to find out if you qualify for this treatment, and keep up with the latest COVID-19 news and statistics here.

Einstein Bros. Bagels and Sub Connection coming to campus https://jagwire.augusta.edu/einstein-bros-bagels-and-sub-connection-coming-to-campus/ Mon, 11 Jan 2021 19:48:44 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90224 Two new campus eateries opening in late spring.]]>

As part of Augusta University’s contract with dining partner Sodexo, an Einstein Bros. Bagels will open on the Health Sciences Campus and a Sub Connection on Summerville in late spring.

Einstein Bros. Bagels offers fresh baked bagels, breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches, coffee and catering. Einstein will replace the Commons Café in the J. Harold Harrison, MD Education Commons building, which is now closed for the transformation. Sodexo will operate a temporary Starbucks cart in front of the Commons Café during construction.

Sub sandwich eatery drawing
A Sub Connection will replace the former Allgood Café in Allgood Hall this spring.

Sub Connection features cold or toasted subs and wraps, prepared to order with high-quality meats and cheeses, fresh produce, and a variety of freshly baked breads. Hearty soups and fresh salads round out the menu. Sub Connection replaces the former Allgood Café in Allgood Hall, which is also closed for remodeling.

The Augusta University Sub Connection franchise will be the first in the nation to feature new branding and order kiosks.

For convenient, alternative dining during the construction phase, options include:

Summerville Food Court

Starbucks, Hissho Sushi, WoW Cafe

7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday

Slice of Life Pizza

10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday

Starbucks Cart in Education Commons Lobby

7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday

For more information, please email Auxiliary Services.

98-year-old former nurse gets COVID-19 vaccine at AU Health https://jagwire.augusta.edu/100-year-old-former-nurse-gets-covid-19-vaccine-at-au-health/ Mon, 11 Jan 2021 19:41:59 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90266 Retired nurse Sherry McGinty is hoping to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren more this year after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination at AU Health. ]]>

Like most people in 2020, Sherry McGinty was confined to her home, avoiding in-person visits from friends and family and using the computer to see anyone.

She summed up the entire situation in one word: “Bad.”

Nurse giving a woman a shot
Registered nurse Min Gong administers the COVID-19 vaccine to retired nurse Sherry McGinty.

But McGinty, a former nurse who worked at the Medical College of Georgia for 24 years, is determined to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren this year. That’s why she, along with her son, Gene, who is also a former Augusta University employee, were determine to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The two received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Jan. 8. Sherry McGinty, who will turn 99 on Feb. 9, said it was great that AU Health was providing the shots.

“I knew I need it and I felt safe getting it from here,” she said.

Gene McGinty said that aside from a small, physically distanced Thanksgiving, they haven’t seen much of the family aside from gatherings on the computer. They had a good time during the Thanksgiving festivities, they are determined to have more family time in 2021.

“This has been hard on her,” Gene McGinty said. “She can’t go out and exercise, and so, physically she’s gotten a little bit worse over the past year. Today she had a little bit of pep in her step but that can change from day to day.

“I’m very proud of AU for giving us the opportunity to get vaccinated here and hopefully allow her to resume a more normal lifestyle as much as she can,” he added.

two women posing
Sherry McGinty (left) and Min Gong.

Registered nurse Min Gong, who has worked at AU Health for five years, said she was honored and felt very special to administer the vaccine.

“It makes me proud to be an AU employee,” said Gong, who also received her first vaccine dose on Jan. 8. “I know she used to work here as a nurse, and now I work here as a nurse. I feel like our employer truly cares about our employees. No matter whether you are currently working here or you have been retired, it doesn’t matter. AU always remembers you, and always cares about you.”

Augusta University Health appoints new chief financial officer https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-health-appoints-new-chief-financial-officer/ Mon, 11 Jan 2021 16:14:09 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90264 Financial management expert Allen Butcher named new chief financial officer for Augusta University Health.]]>

Allen Butcher, a national leader in financial management, has been named chief financial officer for Augusta University Health, effective Monday, Jan. 11.

A man with a suit
Allen Butcher has been named chief financial officer for Augusta University Health.

With extensive experience leading complex change in large-scale matrixed organizations, Butcher’s professional competencies include organic growth, cost reduction and funding integration practices. His experience in health care financial management includes leading the financial turnaround of Columbus Regional Health System, where he drove a comprehensive turnaround process that garnered significant increases to the health system’s bottom line. Prior to that, he served as the chief financial officer for WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center, West Virginia United Health System, and University Health Associates in Morgantown, West Virginia.

“Allen is a seasoned health care executive, who possesses a wealth of experience in financial and commercial growth strategies and who understands the importance of reshaping the organizational finance function to better serve our patients and caregivers,” said AU Health CEO Katrina Keefer. “His commitment to stewardship and profitability will allow us to further secure AU Health’s financial foundation.”

Butcher brings more than 30 years of financial experience to AU Health. He has served in a cross-section of industry, including most recently as the chief financial officer for The Concrete Company, the southeast’s largest producer of concrete pipe and precast products, where he implemented financial strategies to significantly boost organizational revenue.

In his new role at AU Health, Butcher will be responsible for directing AU Health’s financial functions and practices to improve the health system’s overall operation and effectiveness.

Butcher earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from West Virginia University and received his certification as a public accountant with the West Virginia Society of CPAs.

What’s happening at Augusta University next week? Story ideas for Jan. 11-15 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/whats-happening-at-augusta-university-next-week-story-ideas-for-jan-11-15/ Mon, 11 Jan 2021 15:21:38 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90239 Need a story for next week? Our experts are ready to help.]]>

Next week at Augusta University, find out how to lower your chances of contracting COVID-19 even after being vaccinated and learn more about AU Health’s latest advancements in telemedicine. Below are a few of the news stories to consider next week at Augusta University.

Can you still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated? Experts explain 

There is still a chance to test positive for the coronavirus even after getting vaccinated, some health experts said. It could be weeks before a person builds up a protective number of antibodies, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention. Schedule an interview with AU Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and get the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic.

AU Health launches comprehensive Virtual Care app 

 Health services once offered only in the Augusta University Medical Center or an Augusta University Health System clinic are now available in the palm of your hand. AU Health has introduced AU Health Virtual Care, a comprehensive telehealth system that gives patients access to prescriptions and health care providers for any type of non-emergent condition and from the convenience of their personal device. Speak with Dr. Matthew Lyon, medical director for Telehealth at Augusta University Health, to find out more on how AU Health is using telemedicine to provide quality care to patients.

Teleconferencing and phone interview opportunities are available for these story ideas. Call 706-522-3023 to schedule an interview on any of these topics. Also, check out the Augusta University Expert Center to view a complete list of our experts.

$2.25 million NIH grant enables exploration of a pathway to better vaccines https://jagwire.augusta.edu/2-25-million-nih-grant-enables-exploration-of-a-pathway-to-better-vaccines/ Mon, 11 Jan 2021 13:26:44 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90226 To build better vaccines, scientists want to know more about how our bodies make adequate numbers of effective, durable antibodies against the influenza virus.]]>

To build better vaccines, scientists want to know more about how our bodies make adequate numbers of effective, durable antibodies against the influenza virus.

They are looking at a key pathway in how immune cells, called B cells, see the virus, then become the plasma cells that make the antibodies that can destroy it, or at least keep it from infecting us.

This ufmylation pathway is known to modify proteins and so cell function, and immunologist Dr. Nagendra Singh has evidence that it is key to our essential production of antibodies.

A $2.25 million grant (1RO1AI155774-01) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is helping Singh, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, further explore these molecular mechanisms behind protective plasma cells and the longevity of the influenza-specific antibodies they make.

His longer-term goals include designing small molecules, drugs and/or using gene-editing technology like CRISPR-Cas9, to shore up problems that result in a less than optimal immune response. Selective upward adjustment of ufmylation in key cells could mean more effective vaccines, while turning it down might help allergy sufferers and individuals with autoimmune disease resulting from an over-aggressive immune response, he notes.

Our normal antibody production looks something like this: B cells develop from stem cells in the bone marrow, then migrate to the spleen and other lymphoid tissue, like the lymph nodes, and circulate in the blood, keeping an eye out for pathogens like the influenza virus or novel coronavirus.

When the influenza virus Singh is studying gains access to us, typically via the nose after an infected person nearby sneezes or coughs, part of the virus will reach our lymphoid organs. There, through a process called VDJ recombination, B cells have the ability to rapidly recognize and develop receptors that enable them to respond to more than 10 billion different antigens. When the invader binds to the specific receptor B cells made, it sets in motion the B cell becoming a plasma cell that produces an antibody that targets that virus. It’s usual for several different B cells to each make different plasma cells that each produce a unique antibody in response to a single virus, Singh says.

Once plasma cells emerge, they go back to the bone marrow and take aim with their antibodies, which Singh likens to long-range missiles. A single plasma cell can make about 10,000 of these missiles per second that also end up in the blood, which carries them throughout the body. If all goes well, we may never know we were attacked.

Vaccines for the seasonal flu as well as new coronavirus vaccines, work different ways to essentially trick B cells into thinking they have seen a specific pathogen, which initiates the same process.

In this complex production, ubiquitin-fold modifier, or Ufm1, is a polypeptide that targets proteins through the ufmylation process and modifies their function. Ufm1 attaches to the protein Ufbp1, which Singh’s lab has shown has a novel role in enabling B cells to become plasma cells and in plasma cells stepping up antibody production.

Inside plasma cells, Ufbp1 gets upregulated to enable expansion of the endoplasmic reticulum, a membranous network inside cells that in the case of plasma cells functions like a manufacturing plant for antibodies. Singh’s lab has shown that bigger is better in this case since smaller plants produce fewer antibodies. He also has shown that the endoplasmic reticulum gets smaller when even one of the ufmylation pathway components is missing.

Now Singh and his team are deleting the components of ufmylation from B cells in mice and also expressing a mutant form of Ufbp1 in the lab animals. Mice are then infected with the influenza virus, and monitored for development of plasma cells and the neutralizing antibodies that target the virus.

“We want to see how it effects how many influenza-specific plasma cells develop in these mice who do not have Ufbp1 or Ufm1 or the other components of the ufmylation pathway in B cells,” Singh says. They expect, and have some evidence, they’ll see far fewer plasma cells against influenza without some or all these key components, but want to ensure they are correct about ufmylation’s key role.

They also are infecting mice with the influenza virus and, once plasma cells develop in response and the antibodies they produce occur, deleting the  ufmylation components from the plasma cells, then watching how long the influenza-specific plasma cells and antibodies survive.

They also are looking again at what happens to the size of the endoplasmic reticulum where the antibodies are made, and how many antibodies get made. Again, they have some evidence, but need more, that when even a single component of the ufmylation pathway is missing, the antibody production site will be smaller and so will antibody production.

“Plasma cells have only one job in the body: To make antibodies,” Singh says. If they can learn more about how long these cells survive, they can design those small molecules, drugs or other methods to maximize their longevity and their antibody production.

He notes huge individual variability in how long antibodies to a virus or bacterium live and how many we have. Exposure to the novel coronavirus, for example, has produced antibodies in some individuals that last a few weeks and in others that last several months. Established vaccines also produce a wide range of timeframes for effectiveness, from the measles vaccine, for example, which is considered to afford lifelong protection while protection from pertussis, or whooping cough, and pneumonia are expected to last five to 10 years. The influenza vaccine is recommended yearly, both because the prevalent strains of virus vary from year to year and because the plasma cells the virus inspires also only live about one year, Singh says. The half-life of these antibodies is a few weeks, so antibody levels will drop soon after plasma cells expire. The hope is to enable all vaccines to have long-term effectiveness, he says.

Singh doesn’t yet know if individual variations in the ufmylation pathway also help explain the wide range of responses — from asymptomatic to death — different people experience from infection by the influenza virus as well as what is being seen with the coronavirus, but it must be a factor, he says.

“We do not know yet if there is a difference in your ufmylation pathway that dictates how much antibody you are making against, say the coronavirus, or how long those antibodies live in your body,” Singh adds. Looking at ufmylation components in B cells and plasma cells should eventually help provide insight, he adds.

Singh published in 2019 in the journal Nature Communications that Ufbp1 suppresses the enzyme PERK to help B cells differentiate into plasma cells. PERK helps correct problems with improperly folded proteins (proteins have to be folded correctly to function correctly) but PERK also stops new protein production in the process, so Ufbp1 stops it to enable ample protein folding and plasma cell production.

Dr. Caprice Greenberg named MCG Department of Surgery chair https://jagwire.augusta.edu/dr-caprice-greenberg-named-mcg-department-of-surgery-chair/ Fri, 08 Jan 2021 15:10:20 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90208 Dr. Caprice C. Greenberg, a renowned health services researcher and surgical oncologist, has been named chair of the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. ]]>

Dr. Caprice C. Greenberg, a renowned health services researcher and surgical oncologist, has been named chair of the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

Greenberg, the Morgridge Distinguished Chair in Health Services Research in the Department of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, will join the medical school this spring. Pending approval by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, she also will be named the Moretz/Mansberger Distinguished Chair in Surgery.

Her career focus has been using research to improve the quality and safety of surgical care. She has been at the forefront of the push to move surgical investigation, including video capture and analysis, into operating rooms to study the way care is delivered and to focus on system, team and individual provider performance.

“Dr. Greenberg is not only an outstanding surgical oncologist, with more than a decade of experience treating breast cancer patients, but is also a prolific health services researcher,” says MCG Dean Dr. David Hess. “Her research and innovative ideas are practical and have led to improvements in the quality of surgical care in Wisconsin and across the country. I’m excited to welcome her to MCG. I also want to thank Dr. Steve Holsten for graciously stepping up and expertly leading the department through this transition. I am grateful to him for his continued support and leadership.”

Greenberg helped develop the concept of surgical coaching, which is modeled after athletic coaching and encourages continuous professional development throughout one’s career to set action plans, achieve goals and optimize performance. She formed The Academy for Surgical Coaching, a nonprofit group working to disseminate that practice across the country.

She is the principal investigator on several multimillion dollar grants aimed at improving surgical education, training and outcomes, including a $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to train surgical oncologists; and a $2 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to develop a video-based collaborative learning program to help improve ventral hernia repairs.

Greenberg previously worked with the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology to help define the emerging field of Cancer Care Delivery Research (CCDR). She served on the NCI’s inaugural steering committee for CCDR, actively investigating how the health care system influences the care of cancer patients.

She developed the Surgical Collaborative of Wisconsin, a network of surgeons at three-quarters of the state’s hospitals, including all of the major health systems, who work together to create structured approaches to quality measurement and improvement.

Greenberg also created the Wisconsin Surgical Outcomes Research Program (WiSOR), a multi-investigator research program she directed until 2019. WiSOR was developed in 2011 to improve the quality, safety, effectiveness and efficiency of surgical care through research and innovation. When she joined the Department of Surgery faculty in 2011, there was no funding for health services research. Since then, nine faculty have obtained career development awards and seven faculty have been  independently funded for a total of $39 million in awards.

It is an effort she intends to replicate at MCG and across Georgia, Hess says.

She is past president of the Association for Academic Surgery and the Surgical Outcomes Club, a consortium of surgeons and scientists interested in advancing health services and outcomes research in surgery that she helped found. She serves on the editorial boards of Annals of Surgical Oncology and Annals of Surgery.

Greenberg earned her medical degree with honors from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and a master’s of public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She completed a general surgery residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Fineberg Fellowship in surgical oncology at Dana-Farber/Mass General Brigham Cancer Center.

School of Computer and Cyber Sciences faculty receive leadership appointments https://jagwire.augusta.edu/school-of-computer-and-cyber-sciences-faculty-receive-leadership-appointments/ Thu, 07 Jan 2021 21:53:58 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90207 Congratulations to School of Computer and Cyber Sciences faculty members Dr. Gagan Agrawal and Dr. Michael Nowatkowski in their new leadership appointments.]]>

Congratulations to School of Computer and Cyber Sciences faculty members, Dr. Gagan Agrawal and Dr. Michael Nowatkowski on their recent leadership appointments.

Dr. Gagan Agrawal
Dr. Gagan Agrawal

Dr. Gagan Agrawal has accepted the position of Interim Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education. In this role, Agrawal will be responsible for building continued research momentum, establishing new graduate programs and sustaining and developing current graduate programs in the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences. Additionally, Agrawal will be responsible for building and enhancing research relationships with existing partners of the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences, including the Georgia Cyber Center, Savannah River National Laboratory, DoD agencies at Fort Gordon and other Augusta University colleges.

Prior to joining the Augusta University team, Agrawal was a professor of computer science at Ohio State University. In that role, he served as his department’s graduate studies committee chair for 15 years, managing MS and PhD programs with combined enrollments of nearly 300. Agrawal’s research has been strongly funded by both NSF and DOE, including winning the prestigious NSF Career Award.

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Dr. Michael Nowatkowski

Dr. Michael Nowatkowski has accepted the position of Head of the Cyber Program of Study in the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences. In this role, Nowatkowski will be responsible for overseeing the cybersecurity education and scholarship opportunities for School of Computer and Cyber Sciences students, and serving as the head of our DHS/NSA designated Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. This includes guiding our cybersecurity curriculum development, leading scholarship opportunities and identifying research collaborations within Augusta University, the Augusta community and the region as a whole.

Prior to joining the Augusta University team, Nowatkowski served in the United States Army for 26 years as a Signal Corps Officer and a Cyber Operations Officer. During his Army career, he served in a variety of positions at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Since joining Augusta University in 2016, Nowatkowski has made significant contributions to our cybersecurity education program, including developing our newest degree program, Cybersecurity Engineering.

“The new appointments of Dr. Agrawal and Dr. Nowatkowski amplify our momentum in research and graduate education, and uphold our commitment to cyber education and scholarship,” says School of Computer and Cyber Sciences Dean Alex Schwarzmann. “I look forward to working with Gagan and Michael in their expanded leadership positions.”

Faculty, staff receive grants from Office of Diversity and Inclusion https://jagwire.augusta.edu/faculty-staff-receive-grants-from-office-of-diversity-and-inclusion/ Thu, 07 Jan 2021 17:23:07 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90174 Augusta University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion offered several new programs this year to advance diversity, equity and inclusion. One of their new initiatives awarded faculty and staff grants for research.]]>

Augusta University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion offered several new programs this year to advance diversity, equity and inclusion across the AU community. One of their new initiatives awarded faculty and staff grants for research.

Dr. Trent Kays is the recipient of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Research Grant. Kays is an assistant professor of English and world languages in the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. He was awarded $2,250 to support his research investigating how and in what ways college composition programs across the United States understand and implement concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion.

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Dr. Trent Kays

“I am immensely honored that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion found my proposed project worthy of support,” he said. “It is always exhilarating to be supported by one’s peers, and I will do my colleagues proud in using the grant for my spring 2021 research project.”

The ODI grant-funded research project investigates how and in what ways diversity, equity and inclusion concepts are focused and implemented in college composition programs around the United States, Kays said.

“As the university’s director of college composition, I know that DEI concepts are critical to contemporary writing curriculum, and, in investigating such concepts at other universities, I hope to better understand how those concepts can manifest at Augusta University and in the broader discipline of rhetoric and writing studies,” he said. “This research project is a pilot study, and the research I collect over the spring 2021 semester will be included in a scholarly article on DEI and writing program administration. The ODI grant will fund two student assistants to help with data collection, analysis, and writing.”

Dr. E. Nicole Meyer is the recipient of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Faculty Development Small Grant. Meyer is a professor of French and women’s and gender studies in the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. She was awarded $3,050 to support the completion of her book examining diversity, equity and inclusion from scholars in the field of French and Francophone studies.

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Dr. E. Nicole Meyer

“I am very grateful to the DEI Research Grant, which helped in producing the manuscript for Teaching Diversity and Inclusion: Examples from a French-Speaking Classroom, co-edited by E. Nicole Meyer and Eilene Hoft-March (Routledge, 2021),” she said. “Through awarding us with the DEI Research Grant, the ODI recognizes the value of the work I have been doing these past years, which have resulted in several past publications, including my previous Routledge volume, as well as several forthcoming articles.”

Melissa Thompson received the $500 Staff Development Small Grant. Thompson is a library assistant in the Department of Libraries. This grant supported her membership to the American Library Association.

Charmaine James also received the $500 Staff Development Small Grant. She is the senior admissions counselor in the Medical College of Georgia. This grant supported her membership to the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions.

Applications for 2021 are expected to open in the summer. Learn more about the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Jags Live Well initiative expands, introduces more mental health resources https://jagwire.augusta.edu/jags-live-well-initiative-expands-introduces-more-mental-health-resources/ Thu, 07 Jan 2021 17:14:14 +0000 http://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90181 Jags Live Well, an initiative of the Dean of Students Office, has launched new mental health resources on its website.]]>

Jags Live Well, an initiative of the Dean of Students Office, has launched new mental health resources on its website.

Launched in December 2019 out of Student Wellness Programs, the Jags Live Well initiative serves to educate students on the importance of being healthy in every dimension of life. This includes fostering emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, financial, social, environmental, and spiritual well-being.

Given the emotional and mental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the program is working to emphasize mental health resources as part of the University System of Georgia’s Mental Health Initiative.

“All dimensions of wellness are important, and our emotional wellbeing was especially challenged in 2020,” says Dr. Scott Wallace, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at Augusta University. “That’s why we’re so excited to expand the Jags Live Well initiative, and use it as a platform to promote mental health — and the USG’s important initiative — during this time.”

New services available or soon to be available on the Jags Live Well website include a 24/7 after-hours support line (which can be reached at 833-910-3364), a comprehensive online wellness hub, and after-hours psychiatry prescribing services.

“These new services expand our ability to serve students during these challenging times by supplementing our existing Student Counseling and Psychological Services and psychiatry services offered through Student Health Services,” says Dr. Susan Davies, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs.

Questions about Jags Live Well or the USG’s Mental Health Initiative can be directed to deanofstudents@augusta.edu.

PFCC Conference postponed to March 16 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/pfcc-conference-postponed-to-march-16/ Thu, 07 Jan 2021 17:07:44 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90187 The Patient- and Family-Centered Care (PFCC) Conference has been postponed from Jan. 20 to March 16.]]>

Due to the recent surge in patients with COVID-19 at Augusta University Medical Center, the Patient- and Family-Centered Care (PFCC) Conference has been postponed from Jan. 20 to March 16, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Health care workers posterThe theme, “We are Stronger…Because of COVID,” celebrates Our AU Heroes who have rallied during this difficult time. Also, the PFCC Conference will highlight unprecedented AU Health innovations… because of COVID.

This year’s conference is a bit different, because of COVID, and will be held in a new hybrid format. Limited physically distanced seating is available for those who would like to attend in person, while live-streaming is available for those who prefer to attend virtually. A recorded version will also be available following the conference.

Click here to register. For those already registered, no need to re-register. For more information, email PFCC or call 706-721-7322.

Students, faculty and staff: Here’s what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine https://jagwire.augusta.edu/students-faculty-and-staff-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-covid-19-vaccine/ Wed, 06 Jan 2021 22:04:23 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=90165 Augusta University Health added a dose of hope to the new year when COVID-19 vaccination clinics opened for employees involved in direct patient care on Dec. 17.]]>

Augusta University Health added a dose of hope to the new year when COVID-19 vaccination clinics opened for employees involved in direct patient care on Dec. 17.

Since then, nearly 6,000 caregivers and clinical support staff in Georgia Department of Public Health’s Phase 1A have received the first dose, with second doses beginning Jan. 7. That total will continue to grow as we receive more shipments, and all who qualify for the vaccine in Phase 1A will be alerted via email about upcoming clinics.

Vaccine availability and qualifying factors will continue to change in the coming months, but we hope to offer the vaccine to university faculty, staff and students as part of Georgia’s Phase 1B. While we understand many on our campus are anxious to receive the vaccine, we are required to follow CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health prioritization guidelines in administering the vaccine. We appreciate your continued patience and understanding as we work with public health officials to prioritize our highest risk populations.

While the vaccine offers hope for a return to normal, it is important that we continue to follow public health guidance and safety precautions by avoiding large gatherings, wearing our masks and washing our hands. Please remain vigilant to ensure not only your health, but also the health of our entire community.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the Augusta region and the number of positive inpatients in our health system remains high. Our campus has consistently shown a dedication to service, and staff and student volunteers can help ease the burden of staffing vaccine clinics by volunteering for the AU Medical Reserve Corps.

We will continue to share updates and information regarding vaccine distribution and campus safety throughout the semester. A virtual town hall with Augusta University leadership is planned for 3 p.m. Jan. 22. Please send your questions in advance to mediarelations@augusta.edu. Updates will also be provided in President Keel’s weekly COVID-19 video update.

While there is a lot of information circulating, Jagwire, leadership communications, and primary Augusta University and Augusta University Health social media accounts should be viewed as the single source of truth regarding vaccine updates for students, faculty and staff.

Find answers to some of your questions regarding the vaccine and its distribution in our vaccine FAQ. Find more resources regarding campus safety here, and keep up with the latest COVID-19 news and statistics here.

JagNation’s Vivian Rice: ‘It’s rewarding facilitating communication to patients’ https://jagwire.augusta.edu/jagnations-vivian-rice-its-rewarding-facilitating-communication-to-patients/ Wed, 06 Jan 2021 14:59:49 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=89737 In this series, Jagwire continues to feature people from around Augusta University and AU Health who keep JagNation running. Email the media relations team to share your story. This week we speak to Vivian Rice of Interpreter and Translation Services.]]>

In this series, Jagwire continues to feature people from around Augusta University and AU Health who keep JagNation running. Email the media relations team to share your story. This week we speak to Vivian Rice of Interpreter and Translation Services.

Where is your spot in JagNation?

Manager for the Interpreter and Translation Services Department. My office is located inside the Center for Patients and Families Conference Room on the eighth floor in the adult hospital.

How long have you been a part of JagNation?
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Vivian Rice

For 31 years. I started in 1989 working for the university’s School of Nursing. In 1990, I transferred to the medical center working for the Department of Surgery/Urology, then worked as a human resources specialist, employee relations specialist and recruiter for HR prior to accepting the position as manager for Interpreter and Translation Services in 2005.

Most interesting thing about your job?

It is very rewarding, as we are facilitating communication to patients. In addition, as interpreters, we are routinely asked to perform the duties of the health care worker (i.e. triage patients, discharge patients, schedule appointments and procedures, obtain consents, etc.). However, we can only interpret, meaning facilitate communication between hospital, staff, patients and their families.

Favorite thing about JagNation?

I started as a unit clerk and worked my way up to a manager’s position. JagNation gave me the opportunity to complete my bachelor’s degree while working full time and provided me with opportunities for advancement within the organization.


Married with four children, ages 38, 34, 25 and 18; and three grandkids, ages 15, 13 and 5.

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I love going to music concerts and watching movies. Love spending time with family and babysitting grandchildren.

Something JagNation does not know about you?

My family has hosted the Georgia State Amputee Golf Tournament since 1993.

Augusta University values are compassion, collegiality, excellence, inclusivity, integrity and leadership. Describe how you fulfill one or more of these values.

In January 2005, I established the Interpreter and Translation Services to provide meaningful access to trained medical interpreters, which ensures that our staff can communicate with patients who have limited English proficiency in a consistent and effective manner. Hand-in-hand with our Patient- and Family-Centered Care philosophy, the development of the department has improved access to care, quality of care, advanced health equity and eliminated health care disparities to a diverse patient population.