Monday, July 21, 2014

22 Outstanding Students Receive Donor-Funded Prizes at 2014 Graduation

This year, more students than ever received recognition and a financial token of appreciation through awards created by alumni, alumni families, and friends of the Perelman School of Medicine. Congratulations to our students for their achievements in academics, research, and patient care, and thank you to the generous donor families who made these honors possible. 

The 2014 Prizes and Winners

Nancy C. Bell, MD Memorial Prize in Dermatology: John Samuel Barbieri

Emily and Francis Botelho Prize for Excellence in Basic Science: Shaan Syed Khurshid

Sarle H. Cohen Award for Geriatric Medicine: Nina Wanning Zhao

James B. Couch, M’81 Prize: Alexander Li-Che Chin

Gertrude M. and Ezra M. Eisen Prize: Shaan Syed Khurshid

Jesse H. Frank, MD Prize in Pathology: Ellen Miriam Fraint

Theodore Friedmann Prize: Andrew Robert Fisher

Byron S. Hurwitz, MD, M’66 Memorial Prize: Keirnan Lovewell Willett

Peter H. Hutchinson, MD, M’06 and Rebecca N. Hutchinson, MD, M’06 Prize: Joseph John Ruzbarsky

Rose and Hershel Kanovsky Prize in Internal Medicine: Maria Ciocca Basil

Herbert and Faye Moskowitz Prize: Catherine Louise Auriemma and Austin Srinivas Kilaru

William G. Munns Memorial Prize: Daniel Caldwell Austin

The Gary M. Phillips, MD, C’87, WG’91, M’92, RES’97 and Helen Apostolou Phillips, C’87 Prize: Michael Elias Abboud

Dr. I. S. Ravdin Prize: Elizabeth Marie Sonnenberg

The David S. Seller, MD, M’22 and Robert H. Seller, MD, M’56 Prize for Excellence in Primary Care Diagnosis: Shaan Syed Khurshid

Dr. Ramon Sifre Prize for Excellence in Diagnostic Medicine: Austin Srinivas Kilaru

Russell J. Stumacher, MD Memorial Prize: Lauren Emily McCollum

Robert Suskind, C'59, M'63 and Leslie Lewinter-Suskind Prize in Global Health: Julie Anne Caplow

The J. George Teplick MD FACR Memorial Award: Dania Daye

Nikitas J. Zervanos, MD Prize in Family Medicine: Nathalie Claire Boittin and Lori A. Atkinson

Rare "Incision-less" Brain Surgery a Specialty at Pennsylvania Hospital

When 28 year-old Jonathon was too tired to go shopping with his wife, he had no idea what was about to follow. The Reading native had only been married for four months and all was going well. But that day, his arm suddenly cramped, he collapsed, and began having seizures. He was taken to Reading Hospital, where tests revealed an epidermoid cyst in his brain that was creating pressure and triggering the seizures.

Upon seeing that the tumor was in a challenging location, physicians in Reading recommended Pennsylvania Hospital neurosurgeon John Y.K. Lee, MD, medical director of the Penn Gamma Knife Center and assistant professor of Neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine.
Dr. Lee is one of the few physicians in the country who specialize in removing brain tumors in difficult-to-access areas without performing a standard craniotomy. Instead, he operates via an "incision-less" brain technique using 3-D endoscopic techniques. His microscopic, minimally invasive techniques, offer patients like Jonathan less invasive treatment options with a shorter recovery time than traditional brain surgeries.
In partnership with Jason Newman, MD, director, Head & Neck Surgery at PAH and assistant professor of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, Dr. Lee removed the benign brain tumor without cutting open Jonathan's skull.
The surgery took eight hours, in large part, because they used a rare, less-invasive approach through Jonathan's nose in order to preserve most of his sense of smell.
Jonathan recovered successfully and does not have any permanent scars from the procedure. His story was featured on 6ABC's  "Action News." To watch the segment and see Dr. Lee demonstrate the procedure, click here.
The research and training that goes into providing this level of advanced health care is supported by Friends like you. To learn more about Dr. Lee and his work, please contact Sarah Evans at (215) 746-3005, or

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Take a Step Forward in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Join Penn’s 5K for the IOA and Memory Mile Walk

This fall, get outdoors to exercise with family and friends, enjoy prizes and giveaways, and view the Philadelphia skyline – all while supporting Alzheimer’s research and care at Penn’s Institute on Aging (IOA).

Open to individuals and teams, the third annual 5K for the IOA kicks off at 8 am on Sunday, September 21, in Penn Park. The Memory Mile Walk (approximately 1.5 miles) begins at 8:10. Runners and walkers will meet at the Shoemaker Green entrance, on 33rd between Walnut and South.

Proceeds go to the IOA’s Pilot Grant Program, which promotes innovative research for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Participants have the option to create a personalized online giving page that invites friends to support their run and raise vital research dollars for the IOA.

Every participant receives a gift bag with a t-shirt and valuable coupons. Prizes include a $100 Doc Magrogan’s gift card for the fastest team, and $75, $50, and $25 Philadelphia Runner gift cards for the top three men and women. Medals will be awarded to the first-place individuals in each age group.

Sign up, volunteer, or donate here. The registration fee is $25 ($30 after September 7) or $20 with a Penn Student ID. Walk-up registration is available on race day – and parking is free!

Questions? Contact Mary Tong, associate director of development at Penn Medicine, at 215-746-2204 or

Monday, July 7, 2014

CurePSP and Penn Launch 2014 Challenge to Fund Immunotherapy for Neurodegenerative Disease

Contributions needed to reach $1 million goal

CurePSP has committed $600,000 to Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) – and promised to join with Penn to raise up to $400,000 more in 2014.

“For years our focus was simply to understand this constellation of related disorders,” said CNDR director Virginia Lee, PhD, MBA. “Now we have the information to make therapeutic breakthroughs a real, even imminent, possibility.”

Dr. Lee and John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, director of Penn’s Institute on Aging, are counted among the world’s most influential neurodegenerative disease researchers. The duo made the pivotal discovery that the “tangles” in Alzheimer’s brains contain the protein tau.

Now, their research suggests that stimulating the body’s own immune cells could eliminate this abnormal protein, which is present in many related diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).

CurePSP awarded the CNDR the Special Initiatives Grant because the foundation judged Penn’s research to be the most promising new development in the field. CurePSP is dedicated to advancing research, education, and patient advocacy for PSP and related neurodegenerative diseases.

Patricia Richardson and her father.
Today there are no treatments for PSP. Actress Patricia Richardson lost her father to PSP in 2005, and has become a spokesperson for CurePSP. She recalled that when the disease left him practically immobile, he used a thumbs-up – a familiar gesture from his days as a Navy test pilot – to communicate with family.

“I can’t tell you what a loss it was when Dad could no longer give his trademark thumbs-up,” Richardson said. “He was just trapped in the prison his body had become.”

Private support is essential to funding innovative studies like these, which are not eligible for government dollars before the clinical stage. CurePSP’s partnership, with the support of generous donors, makes it possible for the CNDR’s discoveries to become therapeutic advances – not just missed opportunities.

Drs. Lee and Trojanowski will speak at the Penn Club in New York, NY, on Tuesday, September 9, 7:00 – 9:00 pm. To learn more about this event, and how to support the CurePSP challenge, contact Michael Sofolarides, director of development at Penn Medicine, at 215.573.0187 or

MVP: Gift of William Bates, Jr., Supports Young Scientists, Advances Alzheimer’s Research, and Connects to Family Heritage

By giving to the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR), William Bates, Jr., has become one of Penn Medicine’s Most Versatile Players. Among his gift’s many roles: A tribute to his wife of 61 years, Elizabeth, who died from Alzheimer’s disease. A contribution to a cure. A strike against the escalating crisis in research funding for young scientists. And, more unexpectedly, a renewal of his lifelong connection to Penn.

In 2008, Mr. Bates established the Bates Family Travel Fellowship, an endowed fund supporting postdoctoral fellows at the CNDR. Conference attendance is a professional necessity for these young scholars, but often they cannot afford the associated expenses. This award enables recipients to travel and attend meetings with top scientists from around the world, fostering the intellectual collaboration needed to advance a cure.

Given decreased federal dollars for science, gifts like this are more crucial than ever. Currently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can fund just half of viable proposals, leaving many promising ideas – and careers – unrealized.

“We have a serious risk of losing the most important resource that we have, which is this brain trust, the talent and the creative energies of this generation of scientists,” said NIH director Francis Collins.

As home to the largest Biomedical Graduate Studies program in the nation, Penn educates the researchers who will meet the biggest scientific challenges of the coming decades, including the urgent search for an Alzheimer’s cure. Today, five million Americans suffer from the disease; by 2050, that number is projected to grow to 14 million.

Federal cutbacks mean that further progress depends increasingly on the philanthropy of friends like Mr. Bates, who takes the mission of Penn’s young scientists seriously – and very personally. “I don’t think anything would please me more than to see a breakthrough in my lifetime,” he said.

William Bates, Sr., chief surgeon at both
Graduate Hospital and Penn Presbyterian
For Mr. Bates, a personal connection to Penn Medicine is nearly a birthright. His father, William, earned both his undergraduate and medical degrees from Penn; his mother, her nursing degree. During World War I, his parents were part of a Penn initiative to establish wartime medical facilities in France. After the war, Dr. Bates set up his medical practice in Philadelphia, eventually becoming chief surgeon at both Graduate Hospital and Penn Presbyterian. Mr. Bates vividly recalls the telephone – “always ringing” – next to his father’s seat at the dinner table.

Mr. Bates’s 45-year career in banking was highlighted by his becoming vice chairman of the Philadelphia National Bank (now Wells Fargo) and at the same time serving a term as chairman of the board of VISA, the credit card organization. He “retired” at 65, only to launch Consumer Loan Services, a first-of-its-kind consulting firm serving small lenders. Within five years, the company grew from a single room furnished with a folding table and chairs to a 200-employee operation.

But his well-earned retirement was overshadowed by his wife’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. After her death in 2006, the memory of her suffering “became an overwhelming desire to try to do some good.” This desire is shared by Mr. Bates’s two sons, William and Jeffrey, who have pledged to continue support for the CNDR past his lifetime.

For Mr. Bates, philanthropy has yielded new connections to Penn. Over the years he has met with CNDR directors Drs. Virginia Lee and John Trojanowski and the recipients of the travel award. “I get so much pleasure from seeing these young people at the beginning of their careers, with all of it ahead of them,” he said.

Supporting Penn’s next generation of scientists also led Mr. Bates to recover a little piece of his own history. With the help of Penn Medicine’s development staff, he located a portrait of his father that once hung in the lobby of Graduate Hospital. Today, the portrait resides in his home. At 92, Mr. Bates has an extraordinary connection to Penn’s past. But the CNDR’s search for an Alzheimer’s cure keeps him looking to the future. “I hope I’m still here when this puzzle is solved,” he said. “It would be the most wonderful gift I could have.”

To learn more about how to support the Institute on Aging contact Michael Sofolarides, director of development at Penn Medicine, at 215.573.0187 or

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Distinguished Graduate Awards Presented

Congratulations to this year's winners: William A. Eaton, C'59, M'64, GRM'67 and Alan J. Wein, M'66, INT'70.

The Distinguished Graduate Award honors highly accomplished alumni for their outstanding service to society and to the profession of medicine and for their notable accomplishments in biomedical research, clinical practice, or medical education. Previous recipients include Nobel laureates Michael S. Brown, C'62, M'66, HON'86 and Stanley B. Prusiner, C'64, M'68, and former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, GRM'47, HON'90.

 A brief description of their recent accomplishments follows:

William A. Eaton, MD, PhD, receiving Award from Dean J. Larry Jameson MD, PhD
William A. Eaton, MD, PhD, is Chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Physics at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and Chief of the Biophysical Chemistry Section at NIH. He serves as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He has received numerous awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal of the United States Public Health Service.

Alan J. Wein, MD, PhD, receiving Award from Dean J Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Alan J. Wein, MD, PhD, is Founders Professor and Chief of the Division of Urology at the Perelman School of Medicine, and Chief of Urology and Director of the Urology Residency Program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He is the editor-in-chief of Campbell-Walsh Urology, the textbook considered to be the gold standard in urology.

Visit Medical Alumni web site for more details of their contributions.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Words from the Heart: Graduation 2014

This year’s Perelman School of Medicine graduation left no doubt -- medicine inspires the strong of heart.

Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, congratulated the graduates and welcomed the faculty, family, alumni, and trustees filling Verizon Hall to the occasion that “makes tangible all your hard work,” and officially marks the transition from student to physician.

For several trustees on stage, the day was particularly meaningful. Raymond H. Welsh, W’53, witnessed his granddaughter, Christina, receive her degree; Raymond G. Perelman, W’40, HON’14, attended on the eve of receiving his own honorary Doctor of Laws degree, and Walter J. Gamble, M’57, as is his custom, personally congratulated the latest class of Gamble Scholars.

The Dean noted that with alumni looking back on 50 years in practice, joined by students just setting out on careers, graduation brings 100 years of medicine into view. He commented that while technology and demographics have changed (this year’s class is about half men and women), the primacy of the physician-patient relationship endures. He called on students to keep the passion and altruism that brought them to medicine as they set out to “make the world a healthier and more equitable place.”

Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD
President of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, offered the day’s first address. Around the time of her own graduation, Dr. Nabel cared for a young woman in a Boston ER, sending her home after tests ruled out any reason to keep her. Two days later, the patient returned with a full blown heart attack. She recovered, and gave Dr. Nabel a glimpse she never forgot of a “hidden story waiting to be told.”

Years later, as director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Dr. Nabel launched the Red Dress Heart Truth campaign. Joining forces with First Lady Laura Bush, Diet Coke, and, through the Red Dress Fashion Show, celebrities and fashion designers, this advocacy effort set out to change the way patients, physicians, and the public think about heart disease.

“Look deep with yourself,”Dr. Nabel said. This era of “change in overdrive” will bring “opportunities for advocacy and action.”

“Keeping your patients first,” she concluded, “will lead you to the life of integrity embodied in the Hippocratic oath.”

Arlene Parsons Bennett, ED'60, M'64
The 50th year class was represented by Arlene Parsons Bennett, ED’60, M’64, the first African-American woman to graduate from the School.

Dr. Bennett was born at Women’s Hospital in West Philadelphia, where she received her early medical care. “Until I was nine or ten,” she said, “I thought most doctors were women.”

Dr. Helen Dickens and Dr. Mary Dickens Varker stand out in her memory, and early on she decided to become a physician.

After three years in the United States Air Force Dr. Bennett was able to attend Penn. One of only 9 women in her medical school class, she reported that her “male classmates were very protective - they still are.”

She worked in general pediatrics for the next 10 years.

“By then,” she said, “I had had quite enough of treating parents on the side. I decided that treating them directly would be a more effective approach. So I did a residency in psychiatry.”

She has been an active staff psychiatrist at Pennsylvania Hospital since 1980, and a Clinical Associate at HUP since 1977.

“I love every minute of my work, even at 80 years old,” she said.

She advised students, “Your heart and mind must be engaged for you to truly be a great doctor,” and challenged the graduates to report back in 50 years on how they have enhanced medicine.