Volume 2, Number 1 • March/April 2015

SOM Second Year Students Earn Fellowships to
Focus on Research

Congratulations to three students in the School of Medicine - Nathanael Smith, Melinda Paul and Zalaya Ivy – who have earned prominent awards that will allow them to take one year away from their studies to focus solely on research.

“Students from Meharry’s School of Medicine have the potential to be anything they want to be and, although the institution is known for its emphasis on primary care, our students have interests across the medical spectrum. Medicine has become evidence based and personalized and physician-scientists are desperately needed to move this rapidly changing field forward. These three students have the passion and the intellect to be at the forefront of medicine, benefitting the patients they see as well as populations affected by their research. Who would have thought that less than five years ago, when the short-term research experience became a requirement for medical students, we would have three students supported by three prestigious programs, simultaneously taking a year off to focus on research? I am very proud of them and their accomplishments and am excited to see what the future holds for them.”

Dana R. Marshall, Ph.D. associate professor pathology, anatomy and cell biology School of Medicine

Nathanael Smith
Recipient of: The Howard Hughes Medical Institute Medical Fellows Program

The Howard Hughesmith2s Medical Institute Medical Fellows Program is a prestigious program which pairs established research scientists with medical or veterinary students interested in careers as physicians or veterinarian scientists. The selection process is notably rigorous with approximately 60 students participating in the program each year. Smith is the first individual from a Historical Black College or University to receive this fellowship.

He will be conducting research in the Department of Surgical Oncology at Vanderbilt Medical Center in the laboratory of Dr. R. Daniel Beauchamp, the surgeon-in-chief of Vanderbilt University Hospital, who will serve as his mentor along with Dr. Anna L. Means.

Smith’s research will focus on the tumorigenesis of colon cancer, specifically the effect of Smad4 regulation on cell proliferation in colonic crypts and whether it does so in an ERK-regulated fashion. His research will also aim to focus on the effect on Smad4 on the regulation in cancerous, pre-cancerous and normal colonic crypts.

Smith is a graduate of Houghton College where he earned his B.Sc. degree with a double major in general science and writing and a minor in public health. He is pursuing his Doctor of Medicine degree along with a certificate in health policy from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry. After graduation, he plans on working as a resident in emergency medicine or general surgery. Ultimately, Smith would like to have a career in public and global health, developing and setting up health care systems in the rural areas of North America and other parts of the world. Smith was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.


Melinda Paul
Recipient of: The Vanderbilt Medical Scholars Program

As the recipipaulent of the Vanderbilt Medical Scholars Program, Paul will be performing translational biomedical research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center/School of Medicine with Drs. Lorraine Ware and Mark de Caestecker as her mentors. The Medical Scholars Program is a one year, in-depth research experience that has been available to Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical students since 1998. She will be studying the effects of oxidized cell-free hemoglobin on the renal epithelium, its mechanisms and its relevance to sepsis-induced acute kidney injury.

Paul, a native of Gaithersburg, Maryland, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in theater studies at Yale University and is working toward her Doctor of Medicine degree. After Meharry, she is looking forward to going into emergency medicine. Paul is especially interested in critical care, emergency medical services, tactical medicine and disaster medicine. She sees herself using translational research focused on improving the management of acute care, first targeting more effective therapies from behind the bench. Her hope is to then help bring them to life where efficient health care is most needed—with the underserved and the indigent. “Having seen the inequities that can exist in a community while volunteering as a firefighter and EMT-B, prior to coming to Meharry, I hope to bridge gaps in my community from the trenches, by seeking ways to deliver more timely, quality acute care to those in need," said Paul.

Zalaya Ivy
Recipient of: The Doris Duke Clinical Research Mentorship Award

Zalaivyya Ivy, received a grant from The Doris Duke Clinical Research Mentorship Program which facilitates scientific mentoring and a one-on-one relationship between a successful physician scientist and a physician scientist-in-the-making. Ivy was selected as one of ten mentor/mentee teams, on the national level, to receive the grant. She will take a year from her studies as a medical student to engage in a full-time clinical research experience and attend an end-of-the-year meeting to present the project to other grantees. Ivy will primarily conduct her research project from the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University. Additionally, she will make site visits to audit the research records of two of the largest sickle cell disease populations in North America: Emory Children’s Network and the Children’s National Medical Center at George Washington University School of Medicine.

Ivy will conduct a multi-institution single arm feasibility trial, an extension and expansion of a previously funded single institution feasibility trial, to explore the use of budesonide inhalation suspension (BIS) to attenuate pulmonary inflammation after an episode of acute chest syndrome (ACS).

Her mentor, Dr. Michael DeBaun, professor of pediatrics and medicine at Vanderbilt University, School of Medicine; J.C. Peterson chair in pediatric pulmonary and director of the Vanderbilt-Meharry Center for Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease, is a major influence in Ivy's life. She readily admits he is the reason she was able to successfully apply to her program and earn the Doris Duke research grant.

A second-year medical student from Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, Ivy graduated from Montclair State University, cum laude, with a B.S. degree in molecular biology and a minor in chemistry. She then obtained her Master of Science degree in interdisciplinary studies in biological and physical sciences from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City.

Upon graduation, Ivy wishes to complete a combined residency in medicine and pediatrics after which she will complete a fellowship in hematology/oncology. It has been her lifelong aspiration to facilitate a change in the treatment and management of sickle cell disease (SCD). She believes that scientific exploration is the first step in improving the quality of life in patients with SCD and is truly grateful for the opportunity to learn from a physician scientist who is at the forefront of research and innovations in this critical disease.

Ivy V. Parsons Polk Receives the
Esteemed COF Award

Meharry Medical College's 19th annual Circle of Friends Recognition Gala was held Thursday, April 16, 2015 in Meharry’s newest campus building, the Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. This year's theme, "Worthy to be Called,” was chosen as a tribute to Meharry’s donors and friends who have willingly given their continuous support to the College.

At the end of the evening, a stirring tribute was paid to 94-year-old, Mrs. Ivy V. Parsons Polk, a truly special donor and friend.

Read Mrs. Polk’s tribute here. 

A. Cherrie Epps, Ph.D. Annual School of Medicine’s Education Symposium

dean symposium

Students, faculty, staff and special guests attended the officially named A. Cherrie Epps, Ph.D. Annual School of Medicine's Education Symposium which was held on April 14 - 15, 2015 to address "Scholarly Innovations in Educating Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds." The symposium, initially named the "Dean's Education Symposium," was named in honor of Dr. Epps, recognizing her as a pioneer in medical education, the first female dean of the School of Medicine, the only African-American woman with a Ph.D. degree to become dean of a U.S. medical school and first female president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College.

Featured speakers and workshop facilitators included Sondrea Tolbert, J.D., M.Div., assistant pastor, Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church & director, National Consortium of Black Women in Ministry, Nashville Chapter, who provided the invocation;  Marquetta L. Faulkner, M.D., M.B.A., FACP, FASN, acting senior vice president, health affairs and interim dean, School of Medicine, who provided an overview of Dr. Epps' life achievements and Larry Gruppen, Ph.D., professor and former chair of the Department of Medical Education, University of Michigan Medical School, who served as the Association of American Medical Colleges Medical Education Research Certificate Program workshop facilitator.

During her remarks, President Epps recognized Dean Faulkner and Cassandra Ward, Ed.D., associate dean, School of Medicine Curriculum Evaluation & Effectiveness and assistant professor, Department of Professional & Medical Education, for organizing and developing the symposium. Dr. Epps went on to thank students, staff, employees, alumni and the board of trustees for all they continue to do to move the mission forward.

In a letter describing the anticipated impact of the symposium, Dean Faulkner wrote, "Meharry Medical College was founded more than 100 years ago to improve the health and health care of minorities and medically underserved communities. As part of this mission, Meharry seeks to increase the competitive applicant pool for health professions' schools and expand programs to enhance underrepresented minority student academic performance. The A. Cherrie Epps, Ph.D. Annual School of Medicine's Education Symposium builds on these principles, offering activities to enhance knowledge of innovations to stimulate interest in health professions' schools among elementary and high school students."

President Epps noted in her remarks the importance of helping students achieve, "Many of the students taught today are up against some of the very same challenges that you and I may have faced as a student in terms of learning," said Epps. "That is why we work hard every day to make a difference in the lives of our students. We know their struggles."

Dr. Epps has recently published an article entitled The Strategic Impact of a Post Baccalaureate Pre-medicine Intervention Program on Medical School Academic Performance which was featured in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved (JHCPU). The first fifty (50) attendants received a free copy of the JHCPU.

Adopt-A-Grandparent Day

On April 10, 2015, The Wilda Seibert Adopt-A-Grandparent Day celebrated 31 years of providing free dental care to low income seniors. Since its inception, in 1984, more than 3,000 seniors have benefitted from dental screenings and dentures. Dental services are provided by third- and fourth-year dental students, also known as "grandchildren." More than 100 "grandparents" participated in the program this year, enjoying a beautiful luncheon before taking their seat in their dentist's chair.

Read complete story here.

Match Day 2015 Finally Arrives

Match Day 2015

Fourth-year medical students, their families, friends and guests, gathered in the Compton-Nelson Auditorium to learn where they will be going to practice their residencies. Another step toward becoming a physician!

See Match Day in Photos!

Ebony Weems Wins Top Prize at The 59th Annual Student Research Day

Ebony WeemsThis year, with over 150 student posters on display, the 59th Annual Student Research Day 2015 was the largest Research Day since its inception. All participants should be extremely proud of their work. Some have spent years preparing for this day. This is the first time Research Day was held in Meharry's newest structure, The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. Ebony's abstract is titled "The Divergent N-terminal Domain of Tim17 in Trypanosoma brucei is critical for its Function."

The speaker for the James A. Pulliam Memorial Lecture was Juanita Merchant, M.D., Ph.D. professor of the Department of Internal Medicine and Integrative and Molecular Physiology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Congratulations to Dean de Fatima Lima and to all of the presenters.

Read more about Weems, Dr. Juanita Merchant and see the complete list of winners.

Meharry's New President is Announced

Dr. James E.K. HildrethOn Friday, March 6, 2015, James E.K. Hildreth, M.D., Ph.D. was announced as Meharry's 12th president and chief executive officer by Meharry's board of trustees' chairperson, Frank S. Royal Sr., M.D. '68.

The event took place in The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. Hildreth will succeed A. Cherrie Epps, Ph.D. with his tenure beginning July 1, 2015.

See additional information.


NOW Diversity Presents Check to Meharry's

School of Dentistry, Class of 2016

NOW Diversity presents check to SOD

Left to right: Walter Owens, D.D.S., FACD, FICD, assistant professor and director, development and external affairs; Mayor Karl Dean; dental students: Justine Jimenez, Alex Akbari, Kristle Hill, Kimberly Tavares; Jacky Akbari, president of NOW Diversity and Ken Youngsted, treasurer of NOW Diversity

The National Organization for Workforce (NOW) Diversity presented a check to Meharry's School of Dentistry's Class of 2016 recognizing them as leaders in the field of dentistry at the 2015 Workforce Diversity Forum and Awards held on February 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. The event was hosted by Bass Berry and Sims Law Firm.

Mayor Karl Dean commended the students on their important work at Meharry and their individual contributions to the health care needs of the city. Business and community leaders, elected officials and health care advocates joined Mayor Dean in supporting the students, both financially and otherwise.

The mission of the NOW Diversity is to provide the world’s leading organizations with the resources needed to improve performance to meet and exceed the mission's critical goals. "These dental students are remarkable in every way and represent everything right with health care," stated Jacky Akbari, president of the NOW Diversity. "We are fully committed to supporting [Meharry] and the mission of Meharry Medical College. We would like to collaborate with these students to host 'Community Coffees' to inform the community of resources available from the School of Dentistry at Meharry. This $1,000 is just the beginning of many more to come. We are honored to support this good cause."

Former president of the Republic of Malawi Visits Meharry and Nashville General Hospital

Banda visit

Left to right: Robert S. Poole, senior vice president of institutional advancement; Arikana Chihombori, M.D. '86; Mrs. Clara Elam, wife of the late Lloyd C. Elam, M.D., sixth president of Meharry Medical College; Joyce Banda, M.D.; Henry A. Moses, Ph.D., executive director of Meharry's National Alumni Association, Inc. and professor emeritus, biochemistry; Linda R. Witt, senior associate vice president for development; Nii S. Quao, M.D., husband of Dr. Chihombori and Gloria Sanders, senior development officer for major gifts.  

Africa's second female president and the first female president of the Republic of Malawi, Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, paid a visit to Meharry Medical College on Monday, March 2, 2015. Dr. Banda was president of Malawi from April 7, 2012 until May 31, 2014.

Voted as Africa's most powerful woman by Forbes magazine for two years and voted as one of the most powerful women in the world, Dr. Banda is a champion for the rights of women, children, the disabled and other marginalized groups.

In her presentation, Dr. Banda spoke about the rights all women deserved, but in many cases, are denied. Believing in equality of women, especially in the fields of health services, education, employment and leadership, she began the Joyce Banda Foundation with the purpose of helping Malawi women become financially independent through saving circles, business training and other empowerment activities.

After her talk, Banda met with A. Cherrie Epps, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College and Joseph Webb, D.Sc., FACHE, chief executive officer of Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. From there she visited with Edward Hills, M.D., professor of OB/GYN in the School of Medicine and a Guardian of Our Legacy, to discuss the advancements made in the field of obstetrics and gynecology.

The opportunity for Dr. Banda to speak at Meharry was made possible by Dr. Henry A. Moses, Arikana Chihombori, M.D. '86 and the Division of Institutional Advancement.

U.S. Ambassador Deborah Birx Meets With MMC Researchers for HIV Roundtable Discussion

U.S. Ambassador Deborah BirxU.S. Ambassador Deborah Birx, M.D. met with representatives of Meharry Medical College Thursday, March 12, 2015 for a roundtable discussion concerning HIV and AIDS health disparities around the world.

Ambassador Birx is the coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and U.S. special representative for Global Health Diplomacy. Birx is a world-renowned medical expert and leader in the field of HIV/AIDS. Her three-decade-long career has focused on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research and global health.

She told those gathered for Thursday’s meeting that, in her 30 years of research, she has seen results that were both good and bad. Some, she said, were “uplifting” as more and more people get help and live longer. Others, however, were less so due to “criticism, stigma and discrimination” of the disease that often leads to people not accessing care. “HIV/AIDS is an urban problem and an urban disease,” Birx said.

Speaking on behalf of her organization, Birx said her goal was to make program data available in order to more readily understand what works, what doesn’t and the implementation of quicker solutions.

Consuelo Wilkins, M.D., executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA), said the MVA has provided an avenue for “thoughtful conversation and execution efforts to improve and leverage” the programs at Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University.

The Nashville Duffers Continue to Raise Money for Meharry's Sickle Cell Center

Duffers check presentationOn March 18, 2015, the Nashville Duffers Golf League presented a $10,000 check to Maria Del Pilar Aguinaga, Ph.D., co-director of the Meharry Sickle Cell Center (MSCC), during a thank you luncheon given in their honor. The luncheon was attended by 15 Duffers' members who were proudly dressed in their uniforms. Meharry medical students who volunteer with the MSCC also attended the luncheon. Booker White, president of The Nashville Duffers, was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Audra Cox from the Department of Institutional Advancement. To date, The Nashville Duffers have contributed close to $200,000 to the MSCC toward the advancement of the Meharry Sickle Cell Center mission.

The Nashville Duffers Golf League has been fundraising for the MSCC since 1988 through an annual golf tournament known as the Duffers Sickle Cell Golf Tournament occurring annually during Memorial Day weekend. One of the original members of the Duffers was Lloyd C. Elam, M.D., Meharry's sixth president and founder of the Lloyd C. Elam Mental Health Center who, in conjunction with Dr. James W. Davis, Meharry professor and former MSCC director, propelled the idea of having the Golf Tournament proceeds go to the MSCC.

The mission of the Nashville Duffers is "To give our time, talent and resources to support the Meharry Medical College Sickle Cell Center as they provide excellent health care education, specifically in the field of sickle cell diagnostics, clinical care, counseling, research and service to those most in need." 

Sickle cell disease affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan, Africa, Spanish-speaking regions (South America, the Caribbean and Central America), Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

Functioning since 1971, the MSCC is one of the oldest centers of its kind in the nation and has been recognized as an honorary chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. It houses the Confirmatory Reference Laboratory for Hemoglobinopathies for the state of Tennessee's Department of Health-Newborn Screening Program. Every baby born in the state of Tennessee is tested for hemoglobinopathies and if the initial screen is positive, a blood sample will be automatically sent to the MSCC for confirmation and final diagnosis.

The MSCC continues to be involved in several important initiatives to improve sickle cell care and diagnostics in the country and globally.

MSCC Staff Members

Dr. Maria del Pilar Aguinaga, co-director
Dr. Robin Jacob, co-director
Dr. Robert S. Mushi, laboratory supervisor
Dr. Celestine Mgbemere, Med Tech II
Lanique Woodson, program coordinator
Lisa Walker, administrative assistant

Southerland Moderates Ebola Conference


Janet Southerland, D.D.S., MPS, Ph.D. was the moderator for the "Ebola: Protocols, Precautions & Prevention" Symposium held Saturday, April 18, 2015 at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Continuing Education Credits were offered and the event was open to all health professionals and health profession students.

Student & Faculty Affairs Receives TNCPE Honors

logoThe Division of Student & Faculty Affairs has earned Interest Level Recognition in the annual Excellence in Tennessee recognition program administered by the Tennessee Center for Performance Exce llence (TNCPE). TNCPE is Tennessee's only statewide quality program and is patterned on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the national standard for recognizing performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. A. Dexter Samuels, Ph.D., senior vice president, Division of Student & Faculty Affairs & executive director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy, accepted the award at the 22nd Annual Excellence in Tennessee Awards Banquet held on February 18, 2015 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs.

The Division of Student and Faculty Affairs at  Meharry Medical College provides student support services and support for the development and advancement of faculty.

Through an annual evaluation and assessment process, TNCPE recognizes high-performing organizations that demonstrate continuous improvement and role model processes. This year, TNCPE has named 48 organizations as 2014 Award winners that represent outstanding achievement in the following industry sectors: health care, manufacturing, service, education, government and nonprofit.

"We want to congratulate Meharry Medical College - Division of Student & Faculty Affairs on this recognition," Gov. Bill Haslam said. "Organizations that participate in the TNCPE Award program show an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement and performance excellence. Our state is a better place to live and work because of organizations like Meharry Medical College - Division of Student & Faculty Affairs that are helping to build a better Tennessee."

"This program helps organizations look at the big picture. But it's not easy, if it were, every organization in the state would be participating," said TNCPE President Katie Rawls. "Organizations like Meharry Medical College - Division of Student & Faculty Affairs are truly passionate about performance excellence and have chosen TNCPE and the Baldrige framework to help them become the best they can be."

Established in 1993 as a public-private partnership, the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence strives to promote economic development and drive organizational excellence by helping companies and organizations grow more competitive in today's global marketplace through affordable, in-depth assessments.

A statewide nonprofit, TNCPE is grounded in the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence—a holistic framework used by organizations across multiple industries to improve their performance and achieve sustainable results. More than 1,300 organizations have participated in and benefited from the TNCPE program. Four Tennessee businesses—Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation, Pal's Sudden Service, Eastman Chemical Company, and Federal Express—have been honored with both the prestigious Baldrige National Quality Award and the TNCPE Excellence Award.

Remember, your newsletter is designed to Recognize, Inform and Motivate. If you have an item you would like to include in MeharryLIFE, please email the details to:

MeharryLIFE is a campus news service of the Department of Marketing and Communications in the Division of Institutional Advancement at Meharry Medical College.

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Gayle Starling-Melvin • Writer-Editor
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