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The Value of Visiting Scholars

Urology Hosts Third Annual Harry C. Miller Visiting Professorship Symposium and Awards Luncheon

Area clinicians joined GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) faculty, alumni, and residents to hear Edward “Ted” Schaeffer, M.D., Ph.D., present a pair of keynote addresses during the third annual Harry C. Miller Visiting Professorship Symposium and Awards Luncheon, March 19, 2016.

Schaeffer, the Edmund Andrews Professor and chair of the Department of Urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, discussed the latest advances in prostate cancer care and the role of social determinants at play in the disease in his addresses, “The Role of Precision Medicine for Men with Prostate Cancer: Which, When, and Why” and “Racial Disparities in Localized Prostate Cancer: Social and Biological Drivers of Disease Aggressiveness.”

“It’s an honor for me to welcome Ted Schaeffer today,” said Tom Jarrett, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Urology at SMHS, as he introduced his friend and colleague of more than 15 years. “Ted was one of the best residents I’ve ever worked with. He was smart, ambitious, and knew how to do all of the right things. It’s really an honor to have him here as a scientist, a surgeon, and a great friend.”

Schaeffer is an internationally recognized physician-scientist specializing in urologic oncology, particularly open, laparoscopic, and robotic surgery, with an emphasis on at-risk populations, as well as diagnosis, treatment outcomes, and the molecular biology of lethal prostate cancer. Schaeffer also hails from a family of prominent urologists; his father served as chair of the department at Northwestern University for many years, and his brother, who specializes in pediatric urology, trained at Johns Hopkins and is now an assistant professor at the University of Utah.

Schaeffer returned the compliment, crediting Jarrett as one of his favorite professors during his residency at Johns Hopkins. “For me, I stalked his schedule so that I could do all of TJ’s [Jarrett’s] cases,” Schaeffer recalled. “That’s where I learned laparoscopy. When I think about who my great medical educators were, my top clinical educator was [Patrick C. Walsh, M.D., University Distinguished Service Professor of Urology at Johns Hopkins]. But if it weren’t for Pat being such a dominating force in prostate cancer, I would have studied kidney cancer because of TJ.”

The symposium, explained the event’s namesake, Harry C. Miller, M.D., has been a catalyst for the department. “This symposium has been increasingly successful because of the quality of the visiting professors Dr. Jarrett has brought to GW,” he said. Miller joined SMHS as professor and chair in 1973 and guided the department for 22 years before retiring in 1995 as Emeritus Professor and Chair.

“One of the great things about residency is being able to attend conferences and listen to and meet physicians such as Dr. Schaeffer presenting papers, as well as circulate with other residents in your specialty,” he added. This symposium also enables the department to bring some top talent in clinical practice and research to campus.

As if to reaffirm Miller’s goals for the annual event, Schaeffer dove in during the case presentations that preceded each keynote address, engaging with the residents as well as the audience, asking questions about the cases and offering suggestions or reassurances about the diagnoses and decisions. That type of exposure and interaction, argued Miller, is key to the development of the residents: to be able to relate to attending physicians, or visiting physicians, or others in authoritative positions. “You are teaching these doctors more than just how to perform a procedure. You’re also teaching them how to present a case, how to argue a case, how to defend a case, how to relate to referring physicians, how to discuss things at medical societies, everything about being a person. It’s all part of a resident education because it makes a good doctor.”

Following the keynote addresses and case presentations, the symposium participants gathered for an awards luncheon. The 2016 Distinguished Urology Alumni Award recipient was Jean L. Fourcroy, M.D., Ph.D., RESD ’79, M.P.H. Miller, who established the annual alumni recognition, presented this year’s prize to his former resident. Fourcroy was among the first five women to earn board certification in urology in the United States. Together, the five created what would ultimately become the Society of Women in Urology, which Fourcroy led from 1981 to 1991.

Miller noted that women have traditionally been under represented in the specialty, adding, “I counted five women in the audience today. Those women should realize that it all started with Jean Fourcroy. You’re here because of her.”

Also honored at the luncheon was resident Brenton Winship, M.D., PGY-4, who received the Hrant Semerjian, M.D., Urology In-Service Award, named for GW’s clinical professor of urology who has served on the faculty since 1972 and who pioneered the first kidney transplant program in Washington, D.C. Each year the award is presented to the resident with the highest in-service exam score. Winship, who begins his final and chief year as a resident this July, has already begun applying for fellowships to continue his training in endourology as a subspecialty.

“This year’s Harry Miller symposium was the best yet,” said Winship. “Dr. Schaeffer did a great job stimulating conversation and sharing with us the most current information on prostate cancer, which is a cornerstone of urology no matter how or where you practice.

“Such interactions are extremely valuable,” he added. “We have great faculty who are teaching us all the time, but when you have an expert come from outside with the express purpose of teaching in his area of expertise, your education is broadened and deepened in new ways.”