Monday, November 17, 2014

Tour Scotland this Summer! Special Trip Created for Our 250th

Penn Alumni Travel has arranged a July 2-10, 2015, trip to Scotland. Among other activities, the tour will explore the Perelman School’s historic roots with University Archivist Mark Frazier Lloyd. For details, please visit the Penn Alumni Travel Page.

Fall 2014 Brings New Ways to Mark Distant and Quite Recent Past

As the mild summer began to wane, the Perelman School kicked off its 250th year with a 500-cupcake salute, announced a November celebration in DC and summer tour of Scotland, and picked the winner of the new Student Summer Photo Contest.

Birthday Party Makes the News

Local TV reporters were on hand to capture highlights from the September 8 cake-cutting celebration that kicked off the Perelman School of Medicine’s 250th year. Ray Perelman, the School’s largest benefactor, who, along with his late wife Ruth, pledged $225 million to the medical school in 2011, joined hundreds of faculty, staff, and students, for slices of three Penn-themed cakes and 500 cupcakes. Reports by NBC10 and 6ABC put the spotlight on America’s first medical school, and the festivities hosted by University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, and Ralph W. Muller, CEO of the Penn Medicine Health System.

250th Road Show: Penn Medicine in DC

The 16th Administrator of USAID, alumnus Rajiv Shah, M’02, GRW’05, will be the featured local speaker at the Nov. 20 reception celebrating the 250th. Shortly after being sworn in on New Year’s Eve 2009, Dr. Shah led USAID’s response to the devastating 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Regional alumni leaders Lou Kozloff, C’65, M’69, and Martin Kanovsky, M’78, INT’79, RES’81, FEL’83, invite you to join them along with Dean J. Larry Jameson and Senior Vice Dean for Education Gail Morrison for the Thursday event, to be held in the Ronald Reagan Building of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“We have many alumni in the DC and Baltimore area – the NIH is there, too – and this is an ideal opportunity to let them know about cutting-edge changes to the curriculum and physical changes to the campus,” said Dr. Kanovsky. Added Dr. Kozloff, “I’m most proud not that we’re the oldest school but that we’re doing some of the newest, most innovative work, and we hope to get fellow alumni engaged and excited about our impressive progress along with the celebrations scheduled in May.”

For more information, email or call 215-898-8412

Celebrating the More Recent Past

What did you do during the summer break? Our students’ answers show that they continue to make the Perelman School a dynamic and influential place. Please go to our Facebook page to see the first Student Summer Photo Contest and enjoy some amazing vistas, near and far. Contest winner Prioty Islam, M'15, said, “I had high expectations for one of the seven natural wonders, and our excursion to Victoria Falls was my most anticipated trip while in Africa. Long after I could see the Falls, my ears were filled with its deafening roar. This is Victoria Fall’s native namesake – ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya,’ the Smoke that Thunders.”

Friday, November 7, 2014

Giving Back: Rider’s Motivation to Conquer Cancer

This October, cyclists from throughout the Philadelphia area will be riding approximately 150 miles to raise money for cancer research at the Abramson Cancer Center through The Philadelphia Ride to Conquer Cancer.

Here are two stories of riders who are making an impact in The Ride to Conquer Cancer.  

"I've been given the opportunity to live." - Eileen

In early 2013, Eileen Doyle went to the doctor concerned about inconsistencies in her menstrual cycle. That March, at the age of 26, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer. A large tumor was removed, and later she had both of her ovaries removed. Eileen endured six months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which took a huge toll on her and seriously affected the active lifestyle to which she was accustomed.

Facing a cancer diagnosis and managing treatment can be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life – the physical pain is terrible, but the emotional challenges that cancer brings can be even tougher. For Eileen, not only did she have to undergo aggressive treatments, but she was still grieving the loss of her 23-year old sister, who had passed away just one year earlier from stage IV metastatic nasopharyngeal cancer. Eileen found it helpful to participate in weekly support groups – finding strength in sharing experiences with others facing or having faced cancer.

Participating in The Ride to Conquer Cancer means everything to Eileen, not only to help her become more active again, but also to give back to her medical team at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center who saved her life. “It means everything to be able to give back to The Abramson Cancer Center and to share with my friends and family the amazing support that the staff gave me to help me get better.”

Eileen will tell anyone how much easier her visits are because even though she’s going to the hospital, it is a great atmosphere with staff that are welcoming and supportive to each individual patient. “I have been given the opportunity to live and with this new perspective I am determined to keep going with as positive of an attitude as I possibly can.” 

Read more of Eileen's story on her participant page.

Kevin wants to raise money that stays local, to help local people with cancer

Kevin Kelly was diagnosed over 15 years ago with leukemia.

He was treated by David L. Porter, MD, at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, who is part of a comprehensive team of experts whose vision helped establish one of the oldest and largest Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Programs in the country. Fortunately, Kevin had a brother who was a match, which enabled him to undergo a successful bone marrow transplant and work towards recovery from his cancer.

About four years ago, during a routine bone marrow biopsy, Kevin’s doctors discovered that his cancer had returned. He is now on a daily medication that stabilizes his cancer, but it requires him to go to the hospital every 45 to 60 days for tests. It was during one of these checkups that he saw an advertisement for The Ride to Conquer Cancer and registered without hesitation. To be able to be part of supporting the research that helped provide Kevin with treatment options was all the motivation he needed.

“I’m happy to be a part of this ride so that I can share my own experiences at Penn and help raise money that stays local to help local people.”

Despite his treatments, Kevin feels great and is training regularly, now up to 65 miles in a single ride. Training helps him get through the psychological effects of his cancer by keeping him focused on positive health. 

“Participating in The Ride is a goal. Not many people can ride 150 miles in a weekend, but with the training and support from The Ride guides, you will accomplish something great that will go towards a great cause.”

Read more of Kevin's story on his participant page. 

Join the Crew

Are you interested in getting involved in The Ride to Conquer Cancer, but don’t want to ride 150 miles? We still need you!

We are actively seeking people to join our crew team, volunteering to support the hundreds of riders along their route by:
  • Providing snacks and meals on the route
  • Setting up camp
  • Providing medical care if you need it
  • Marking the route with directional signage
  • Driving our event vehicles
  • Helping with route safety
  • And much more!
Crew members are the backbone of the event. They are our bike mechanics, route guides and food distributors. Because of all their hard work and dedication, crew members experience the same perks as the riders such as access to a hot shower, catered meals and a cozy tent at Camp.

Join us today and be part of a great team!

Learn more about becoming a crew member, or contact Bridget at 215-323-5005 or

Turning 250: Q&A with Jonathan Epstein, MD

“Penn is special, and unusual, in that we are among the best at what we do, and we’re also friendly and encouraging. Often in academic medicine, these are mutually exclusive, but at Penn, they go together.”

Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research and chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, offers his thoughts on the Perelman School’s significant birthday.

Q: You have been with Penn Medicine since 1996. What makes you most proud about your career here?

A: I’m most proud to be part of a faculty with such rapidly growing impact on the international stage. During my time at Penn, the trajectory has been unbelievable, and it’s so exciting to see new knowledge transformed into new cures.

In my own lab, discoveries we’ve made in basic science and in model organisms through the last 10 years are finding their way to the clinic. It’s very exciting to be setting up clinical trials to test some of our theories about heart failure. Specifically, we’ve proposed some chemicals and drugs that might be beneficial for patients who have had heart attacks, and we are now in a position to test them in patients.

Q: What stands out among your experiences at Penn?

A: The people. For whatever reason when I set about my career, I didn’t expect that my colleagues would also be among my best friends. But it didn’t take me long to see that the faculty here is welcoming, interactive, and scientifically challenging. I enjoy working with so many of my colleagues – it makes coming to work fun.

One example out of many: Mike Parmacek, MD, former Chief of Cardiology and current Chair of the Department of Medicine, for instance, has been a terrific friend and longtime collaborator. We share scientific interests about how the heart and vasculature develop and function. As important, though, is what Mike has taught me about leadership. His straightforward, honest approach with people has been a source of inspiration, and he’s been a great friend.

Q: Who are some of your key collaborators?

A: Within the Penn Cardiovascular Institute, I’ve worked closely with Dan Rader, MD, one of the most productive and well-respected cardiologists and researchers in the nation. He has a particular interest in lipids, and our work has been very complementary. I’ve also worked very closely with Ed Morrisey, PhD. He is the Scientific Director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine and one of the leading experts in both heart and lung formation. Ed has been a leader at Penn with regard to new research technologies and approaches, and we have had a number of productive collaborations and large multi-investigator research grants together.

I’ve also worked with Ken Zaret, PhD, and Shelley Berger, PhD, and I am proud to say I helped to recruit them to Penn. They have built an extremely influential program in epigenetics, a cutting-edge area of research that is impacting every realm of medical therapy.

Q: What would make a good birthday present for the Perelman School?

A: An endowment that allows our students to pursue their dreams without worrying about financial support.

And for those who are here when it’s time to celebrate the 300th anniversary, my wish is that things are as good for them as they are for us right now. I hope that they will have continued the traditions of collaboration and collegiality that make science and health care fun for the people who work here and that make us among the very best in the world.

Engaging Alumni in the Drive Toward 250

Dean Jameson opened the fall meeting of the Medical Alumni Advisory Council (MAAC) by reflecting on the immediate and enduring impact of the medical school on regional, national, and global medicine.

Examples abound, providing multiple points of pride that encourage alumni involvement. The dean started at the beginning with founding professor and physician-in-chief of the Continental Army, John Morgan, MD, C’1757.

Dr. Howard Eisen (left) as John Morgan, with His Excellency
General George Washington
“Dr. Morgan connects our School to the founding of the country,” said MAAC member Howard Eisen, M’81, shown here as John Morgan in last December’s reenactment of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River. “It’s truly remarkable that our School has been involved in such critical moments.”

Dean Jameson highlighted the School’s Nobel and Lasker Award winners, and the ongoing impact of today’s faculty members, such as Carl June, MD, Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, Garret FitzGerald, MD, Katherine High, MD, Jeffrey Drebin, MD, PhD, and Daniel Rader, MD. The dean also noted Penn Medicine’s increasing role in providing leading-edge health care for the region, calling attention to the multidisciplinary facilities in Valley Forge and Radnor, the recent opening of Penn Medicine University City, and the new space above the Jordan Medical Education Center that will house the Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics (CACT).

As the January 2015 opening of the Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center approaches, Senior Vice Dean for Education Gail Morrison, M’71, FEL’76, thanked alumni for making it happen and recognized recent alumni contributions:

Joseph Zebrowitz, C’88, WG’06, and Lauren Wylonis, RES’98, for naming the Center for Student Activities
Louis Matis, M’75, for naming a seminar room
Barry Gertz, C’73, GR’79, M’79, INT’82, for naming a quiet study lounge.

The City View Patio, East Pavilion Event Space and Dais, and mezzanine conference rooms are among the naming opportunities still available in the Jordan Medical Education Center.

One of Penn’s most successful global projects, the Botswana-UPenn Partnership, celebrates its 10th anniversary in October. Harvey Friedman, MD, FEL’75, HOM’81, provided an overview of the program, which has helped to establish over 32 antiretroviral treatment sites where none existed as recently as 2008. This program also annually attracts a significant number of Perelman students committed to global health. Country Director Doreen Ramogola-Masire added to the presentation by highlighting the benefits of mobile health and telemedicine in the success of the partnership in which the Ministry of Health has also played a key role.

Looking ahead, Robert Smith, M’16, and Kay Negishi, M’15, student representatives of the Perelman School of Medicine Houses, and master clinician E. Cabrina Campbell, RES’93, representing the Wood House, described the Perelman School’s recently enacted house system. These virtual associations encourage social interaction and mentorship between classes, and organize all current medical students into four houses named after four Perelman School luminaries: John Morgan; Helen O. Dickens, GM’45, HON’82; Jonathan E. Rhoads, GRM’40, HON’60; and Francis C. Wood, M’26, INT’30, HON’71.

MAAC Chair Lou Kozloff, C’65, M’69, closed the proceedings with the call to further engage alumni at what couldn’t be a better time – celebrating 250 years and a sparkling future.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Celebrating the Human Connection: An Endowed Chair for Michael D. “Dr. Mike” Cirigliano

A wide array of Penn Medicine leadership, faculty, patients and staff gathered November 5th at the Smilow Center for Translational Research to honor a man widely lauded for his humanistic approach to medicine. Michael D. “Dr. Mike” Cirigliano, MD, FACP, was named the inaugural chair holder of the Founders Associate Professorship in General Internal Medicine. When Dr. Cirigliano retires, the Professorship will bear his name in perpetuity.

At the professorship celebration honoring “Dr. Mike”: (left) Ed Snider, Dr. Michael D. Cirigliano, Dean J. Larry Jameson

Dr. Cirigliano is a 1990 graduate of the Perelman School of Medicine and also completed his internship and residencies at Penn. In addition to his internal medicine practice, “Dr. Mike” is a popular medical commentator on television’s Fox 29 in Philadelphia.

Speaking at the professorship celebration, Spectacor chair Ed Snider called Dr. Cirigliano “one of the greatest human beings I have ever met.” Snider detailed how the internist saved his life through aggressive testing that uncovered an early, treatable cancer. “I’m cured, thanks to this man,” said Snider. “And I know I’m not the only one,” he added. Snider and his wife Lin were among the lead donors for the endowed chair, in addition to Tom and Linda Knox, Aileen and Brian Roberts, the Biesecker family and Laddie and Linda Montague.

Perelman School of Medicine Dean J. Larry Jameson commented on the challenging field of internal medicine, declaring that good internists such as Dr. Cirigliano “need to know a little bit about every disease.” Dean Jameson also lightheartedly paid tribute to “Dr. Mike’s” television popularity, noting that, “Like Cher, Madonna and Dr. Ruth, you’re really special when you are known by just your first name.”

University of Pennsylvania Health System CEO Ralph Muller stated that while Penn Medicine is an institution firmly grounded in science, it remains critically important to honor the person- to-person experience. Dr. Cirigliano, Muller said, “is a prime example of our tradition of listening to our patients.” Michael Parmacek, MD, the chair of Penn’s Department of Medicine, remarked on Dr. Cirigliano’s multiple awards for his teaching, and how he continually advocates for a greater emphasis of patient-focused policies throughout Penn Medicine.

Dr. Cirigliano said that he tries to create a Norman Rockwell-type experience for his patients throughout their medical journeys. “For me, it’s all about the human connection. I’m well aware that every day, I live on the doorstep to eternity.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dancing Sparks a Commitment to a Cancer Cure

The McNichol Family, from left to right: Joseph, Nancy, Katie, Patrick, 
Jared Ingersoll, Charlie Ingersoll, and Leigh Ann Ingersoll.
When Patrick McNichol signed up to participate in THON—Penn State’s year-long student run fundraiser that culminates with a forty-eight hour dance marathon in support of pediatric cancer patients, family, research—as a senior, he unwittingly set a course for a life committed to philanthropy.

“I got involved with THON a little late in my college career, and felt that I could have done more,” Patrick said. “The summer after graduation, a few friends and I started a fundraiser down the shore in Avalon, NJ called War on the Shore.”

War on the Shore, which supports The Four Diamonds Fund, just held its 10th annual event—and has successfully raised over $250,000 since 2004.

Capitalizing on their common goal of building a strong philanthropic network in support of cancer research and care the group, consisting of Vice President Erik T. Christian, Secretary James D. Krugh, and Treasurer Corey M. Talone, started the Elpis Foundation. Named after the Greek goddess of hope who was the last deity to be released from Pandora’s Box, Elpis personifies the promise of a world without despair

And that is the Elpis Foundation’s intention: to build a community that inspires hope, raises awareness, and offers unwavering emotional and financial support for cancer research, treatments, and care.

“War on the Shore expanded into other events, golf outings and bowling tournaments that support different cancer research,” Patrick said. “This isn’t our day job—we keep Elpis going in our free time, and are motivated by our shared vision of world without cancer.”

One Father’s Fight Inspires a New Era of Hope

But in September 2011, Patrick’s connection to cancer became deeply personal. His father, Joseph F. McNichol, was diagnosed with Stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer— sadly losing his battle only a year later, in July 2012.

The McNichol Family
 “Lung cancer is incredibly hard to detect and diagnosis often comes too late. It kills more people than breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined yet continues to be one of the lowest funded forms of cancer in terms of research and treatment,” Patrick explained. “There is such a negative stigma as well, that people deserve it, when some of the worst lung cancers are not caused by tobacco use.”

The Elpis Foundation wants to change that – and in February 2013 held its inaugural JFM Memorial Gala to honor his father’s life, the treatment he received at Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania by Charles B. Simone II, MD, and to inspire hope.

The Elpis Foundation pledged $200,000 to the Abramson Cancer Center, establishing the Joseph F. McNichol (JFM) Lung Cancer Research Fund to support the advancement of lung cancer research and awareness through Penn’s Interdisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program, specifically as it relates to early detection and screening, treatment, and advances in radiation oncology.

Why Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine’s Thoracic Oncology Program is one of the few centers in the world that is able to offer a full spectrum of personalized treatment options that aren’t available everyone else.

“We are at the cutting edge technology for radiation therapy, revolutionary discoveries in the lab, translational research in the clinic, surgical options, and world-class pulmonologists,” says Dr. Simone, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology who specializes in lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other thoracic malignancies. “We are uniquely able to handle encompassing expertise across the care modalities.”

Early detection is critical, and to this end, the JFM Fund supports research of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) — the cells shed from primary tumors or their metastases that circulate in the bloodstream. CTCs hold information researchers at the Abramson Cancer Center believe could be a lynchpin to a better understanding of cancer diagnosis, metastases, and recurrence. Unlocking the potential within CTCs opens up the possibility for a “liquid biopsy,” a non-invasive blood test that will provide live information about the patient’s disease status, and a roadmap to personalized targeted cancer therapies.

“Beyond the amazing, compassionate care my father received at the Abramson Cancer Center, the more we learned about the disease during his treatment, the more we knew this was the place for the Elpis Foundation to direct much needed resources to lung cancer research and care,” said Mr. McNichol.

To make a gift to lung cancer research, click here or contact Natalie Reznik at or (215) 746-3009.