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WASHINGTON (July 19, 2010) — Dr. Burke “Mickey” Syphax, a pioneering surgeon and an educational pillar who helped steer Howard University College of Medicine through one of its most difficult periods, died Monday, July 19, 2010, at Howard University Hospital. He was 99.

Dr. Syphax, one of the first medical residents trained in the Howard University Department of Surgery, was a faculty member under Dr. Charles R. Drew in 1950 when Drew, a medical giant who revolutionized health care through his system of storing blood plasma, died following an automobile accident.

Dr. Syphax is credited with helping keep the medical school’s faculty, staff and students together following the untimely loss of Drew, then chair of the Department of Surgery.

“That was an unthinkable loss,” Syphax, then 98, told Howard Magazine in 2008.  “He was just that significant that some wondered how we’d continue.  But we just picked up and went on.  More or less, you do what you’ve got to do. You don’t think of it as insurmountable.  You just think about what you need to do and keep going.”

Dr. Syphax was chief of the Division of General Surgery from 1950 to 1970, where he was primarily responsible for directing the general surgery residence program.  He was professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1958 to 1970.

During those periods, Dr. Syphax personally trained 61 surgeons and helped train over 90 percent of the surgeons in the metropolitan Washington. In his years at Howard, he taught some 5,000 medical students and helped train approximately 275 general surgeons. Because of his superb diagnostic acumen, clinical judgment and technical dexterity, Dr. Syphax earned the moniker “Master of the Abdomen.”

He received the Department of Surgery’s first Distinguished Surgeon’s Award, the department’s highest honor, in 1974.  In 1978, the College of Medicine’s annual Charles R. Drew Lecture renamed the Drew-Syphax Lecture and Seminar, to honor two of the department’s most outstanding faculty members.

In 2008, the University and Howard University Hospital renamed the minimally invasive, bariatric, surgical endoscopy and colorectoral cancer service as the Syphax Service in his honor.

Dr. Edward Cornwell III, surgeon-in-chief at Howard University Hospital and the chair of the Department of Surgery at the College of Medicine said Dr. Syphax was one of the cornerstones of medicine at Howard University.

“He has been part of the Howard family for over 80 years,” Dr. Cornwell said.  “Dr Syphax’s stabilizing influence--following the presence of three Chairs in seven years from 1950-1957 is a seminal feature in the history of this Department.  His impact on our craft through his clinical mastery, research and teaching and training of generations of medical students and surgical residents is incalculable.”

Dr. Syphax was born Dec. 18, 1910, the youngest of three children, to William “Cus” and Nellie Burke Syphax in the District’s historic LeDroit Park neighborhood. His neighbors included Ralph J. Bunche, the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., the first African-American general and commander of the World War II Tuskegee airman; poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and pianist and composer Duke Ellington.

Dr. Syphax received his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in 1932 from Howard and his Medical Degree from the University in 1936.  He interned at Freedmen’s Hospital, now known as Howard University Hospital, and under the direction of Dr. Edward L. Howes in 1937 became the second general surgical resident in the newly formed surgical training program.  He completed the program in 1940.

It was during this time that he met and married his wife, Sarah Juanita Jamerson.  They had three sons.  In 1941, he served as a Rockefeller Fellow in Surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester in New York.

Dr. Syphax returned to Howard in 1942, working with Dr. Drew. He distinguished himself in 1944 as one of the first African-American surgeons to become certified by the American Board of Surgery. In addition, He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, member of the Washington Academy of Surgery, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, the National Medical Association and the Medico-Chirurgical Society.  He was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

After 1970, he served as the senior professor in the Department of Surgery and in 1974 was elected honorary member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.  Dr. Syphax retired in 1978, but continued to aid the department until December 2001.  In 1990, he was honored as one of the “Magnificent Professors” of the College of Medicine, an honor bestowed on retired professors.

Dr. Syphax is survived by three sons, Michael Burke Syphax, Gregory Custis Syphax Stephen Wyatt Syphax, all of the District of Columbia; six grandchildren, and one great granddaughter.

Services will be held 11 a.m. Monday, July 26, at the Dunbarton Chapel at Howard University School of Law, 2900 Van Ness Street, NW. The viewing will be at 10 a.m.

WASHINGTON (June 28) -- The Howard University Family Medicine Residency Program at Howard University Hospital and the College of Medicine has been named recipient of a 2010 American Academy of Family Physicians (AAPF) Foundation Pfizer Immunization Award.
Howard University was one of 10 recipients of the awards, which are given to “family medicine residency programs that have achieved excellence in clinical practice by developing creative solutions that result in increased immunization rates in their communities,” AAFP Foundation announced.
Richard G. Roberts, M.D., J.D., president of the AAFP Foundation, said he hoped other physicians would be inspired to replicate the efforts of Howard and the other Family Medicine Residency Programs.
“Thanks to immunizations, deadly diseases like small pox and polio no longer kill or disable millions,” Roberts said. “Getting our children immunized at the right time protects them and improves the health of our community.”
Dr. Babafemi Adenuga, program director for the Family Medicine Residency Program, interim chair of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at the College of Medicine and the hospital, said the program was grateful to receive the award.
“We strive to give back to the community,” said Adenuga, also president-elect of the hospital’s medical and dental staffs. “This is a way that we can help prevent diseases among children. So, we see it as a community focus.
“I particularly would like to applaud the efforts of Dr. Kandie Tate, an uprising third-year resident in the Family Medicine program who took on the initiative and developed the process for improving our immunization rates amongst infants and children at the Family Health Center.”
The awards provide monetary grants and scholarships for medical residents to attend the AAFP’s National Conference, a three-day event held during July in Kansas City, Mo., designed for residents and medical students to share ideas with family medicine educators and leaders from across the nation.
The other recipients of the awards were:
•    Brooklyn Hospital Center Family Medicine Residency, Brooklyn, N.Y.

•    Glendale Adventist Family Medicine Residency Program, Glendale, Calif.

•    Medical College of Wisconsin St. Joseph Family Medicine Residency
Program, Milwaukee, Wis.

•    RiverStone Health/Montana Family Medicine Residency, Billings, Mont.

•    St. Joseph Regional Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program,
South Bend, Ind.

•    St. Louis University Belleville Family Medicine Residency, Belleville, Ill.

•    University of Alabama Huntsville Family Medicine Residency Program,
Huntsville, Ala.

•    Wesley Family Medicine Residency, Wichita, Kan.

•    Western Reserve Care System Family Medicine Residency, Youngstown, Ohio
The 2010 AAFP Foundation Pfizer Immunization Award winners were chosen for their ability to find and implement team-based solutions that increase immunization rates, said Craig M. Doane, executive director of the AAFP Foundation.
“The AAFP Foundation applauds this year’s program winners for their dedication to protecting children from infectious diseases and to raising awareness of the importance of immunizations to a community’s health and well-being,” Doane said. “We are proud to recognize programs that share our vision of achieving optimal health for everyone.”

WASHINGTON (June 21, 2010) -- The nation’s top drug officer received a briefing by Howard University College of Medicine educators on their efforts to fight drug and alcohol dependency Monday morning. The visit was part of a tour of various efforts in the District of Columbia to combat drugs and rehabilitate offenders.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, met with Dr. Robert E. Taylor, dean of the College of Medicine and founder of the University’s Alcohol Research Center, Dr. Eve Higginbotham, senior vice president and executive dean for Health Sciences, as well as other members of Taylor’s team to familiarize himself with the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program.

SBIRT is a federally funded program that trains medical residents how to identify people with substance abuse problems and how to intervene appropriately. Howard is one of 11 recipients of a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Since receiving the grant in 2008, Howard has trained 146 medical residents in SBIRT.

Kerlikowske’s visit to Howard was part of a tour of four facilities in the District of Columbia, which included the D.C. Superior Court for Family Treatment, the District’s Youth Work Intervention program and the Behavior Health Urgent Health Care Clinic.

Kerlikowske said his tour had two purposes.

“We travel all over the world looking at drug treatment, prevention and enforcement programs,” he said. “I felt we needed to spend more time in our own backyard. Second, we are following a model using prevention, treatment and the criminal justice system. The District has already done a good job of blending these together.”

Taylor said he wanted to drive home two important points to Kerlikowske during his group’s presentation.

“I wanted him to understand that Howard is at the forefront of addiction medicine,” he said. “We use the latest technology and a personal touch to advance our social and academic mission of fighting drug and alcohol addiction.

“Also, we also wanted him to know that we here at the College of Medicine ‘get it’ that alcohol and drug addiction is a big public health problem.”

Substance abuse costs the nation an estimated $346 billion annually in health care expenditures, lost earnings and costs associated with crime and accidents. Studies have shown using SBIRT in emergency rooms and other health care settings can reduce substance abuse related health problems and injuries.

Routine screening helps identity those patients with substance abuse or dependence as well as those patients who are not yet dependent, but who may be at risk for future problems.

Despite the proven effectiveness of screening for substance abuse, studies also show that less than half of those eligible are receiving services in alcohol screening.

Kerlikowske, former chief of police in Buffalo, N.Y., and Seattle, is the nation’s 6th “drug czar” and coordinates all aspects of federal drug control programs and implementation of the president’s National Drug Control Strategy.

He will also appear on Howard University Radio WHUR, 96.3 FM, at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, to discuss the nation’s drug policy and efforts with Daily Drum host Harold Fisher.

WASHINGTON (June 21, 2010) -- Howard University College of Medicine’s dean explained on a syndicated National Public Radio program Monday the college’s emphasis on social responsibility in its curriculum and why Howard was ranked third among America’s 141 medical schools in producing doctors that meet the nation’s new health care needs.

Dr. Robert E. Taylor explained during an hour-long discussion on the Kojo Nnamdi Show that instilling in students a sense of social responsibility has been a part of the college’s academic training and admission policies since its inception in 1868.

Taylor appeared on the program with Dr. John E. Prescott, chief academic officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges; Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan, Murdock Head Professor of Medicine and Health Policy at George Washington University School of Public Health and clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine, and Dr. Luis Padilla, medical director and family physician at Upper Cardozo Health Center, Unity Health Care.

Howard received its ranking in a study released June 14 by George Washington University, the first study ever to score all U.S. medical schools on their ability to meet a social mission. The study showed wide variations among institutions in their production of physicians who practice primary care, work in underserved areas and are minorities.

The authors said the findings are important in the context of U.S. health care today.

“The social mission of medicine and medical education should be important to everyone,” said Mullan, who was the lead author. “It isn’t just about rural areas or just about poor people, it’s about the entire fabric of how we deliver care.

“As patients are insured through health reform, the first place they will go is the primary care office. Medical schools need to be mindful of the nation’s requirements for primary care, for doctors prepared to work in underserved communities and for minority physicians to help meet the growing and changing needs of the country.”


WASHINGTON (May 7) — Parents, families and friends cheered, and faculty and students were honored as scores of Howard University College of Medicine graduates received their hard-earned medical degrees and took the Hippocratic Oath in Cramton Auditorium on Howard’s campus.

Class valedictorian Menarvia K.C. Nixon was the star of the morning’s proceedings, collecting 10 awards, seven for having the highest scholastic average of the class.

They included the Grafton Rayner and Edna Spriggs Browne Award, the Michael Oliver Dumas Prize, the Howard University Medical Alumni Association Alumni Award, the Dr. M. Wharton Young Prize, the O. Anthony Ogundipe, M.D., Endowed Academic Achievement Award, the Merck Manual Award and the American Medical Women’s Association’s Glasgow-Rubin Citation for Academic Achievement.

Nixon also received the Dr. John L. Townsend Award for the highest score on the National Board of Medical Examiners Subject Examination in Medicine, the Department of Neurology Award for the highest grades in neurosciences and the Department of Pathology’s Robert S. Jason Memorial Award.

Graduate Mariel Ames Kerr also picked up an armful of awards.

Her eight awards included the Merck Manual Award, the American Medical Women’s Association’s Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation for Academic Achievement, Admissions Office Service Award, Raymond P. Jackson Award, the Department Of Community and Family Medicine’s, Dr. Joseph J. Nidiry Family Medicine Clerkship Award, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Award for Second Highest Clerkship Grade in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ Charles Prudhomme, M.D. Award and a Department of Radiology Award.

A number of College of Medicine graduates also received multiple awards, including:

Raolat Mosunmola Abdulai, key founder of the College of Medicine’s free clinic, who received the Dr. Percy O. Batipps Jr. Achievement Award, the College of Medicine’s Service Citation, the Department of Medicine’s Dr. W. Lester Henry Jr. Award and the Department Of Obstetrics And Gynecology Certificate for Outstanding Performance in Obstetrics and Gynecology;

Elliot Amponsah Asare, who received the Outstanding Performance in Obstetrics and Gynecology Certificate from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a Department of Radiology Award and the Dr. Avram Cooperman Prize from the Department of Surgery;

Umar Bowers, who received the Dr. Emile C. Nash Award, the Admissions Office Service Award, the College of Medicine’s Service Citation and the Dr. Charles H. Kelley Award;

Angelle Avian Denise Brebnor, who received the Howard University Medical Alumni Association’s Pioneer Award, the College of Medicine’s Service Citation, Department of Medicine Departmental Award, the Leroy R. Weekes, M.D., Clinical Award in Obstetrics and Gynecology;

Kerry-Ann Cadogan, who received the Department Of Anatomy’s Dr. W. Montague Cobb Prize for Excellence in Anatomy, the Department Of Medicine’s award for Outstanding Female Student in Medicine, the Department of Surgery’s Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. Award;

Jacques Dorcé Jr., who received the Dean’s Alpha Omega Alpha Award for Professionalism, the Raymond P. Jackson Award and the Department Of Pathology’s Robert S. Jason Award;

Shakir Étienne-Toussaint Emel, who received the Dean’s Alpha Omega Alpha Award For Professionalism, the College of Medicine’s Service Citation and the Dr. Charles H. Kelley Award;

Giuliana Patricia Genge, who received the Merck Manual Award, the Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation for Academic Achievement, the Admissions Office Service Award, the Normal Lee Award and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology awards for Highest Clerkship Grade and Highest Score on the Special Board National Board Clerkship Examination;

Kito Akin Obasi Lord, who received the Howard University Medical Alumni Association’s Pioneer Award, the College of Medicine’s Service Citation and MedSTARS Health Careers Opportunity Program Scholar Award;

Jabari Ian Justin Martin, who received the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery’s Dr. Charles H. Epps, Jr. Prize in Orthopaedic Surgery, The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Walter H. Bradshaw, M.D. Award and the Department of Surgery’s Honorable Mention;

Jessica Abidemi O’Babatunde, who received the American Medical Women’s Association’s Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation for Academic Achievement, the College of Medicine’s Service Citation and the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health’s Bertran F. Cooper, M.D., Class of 1978, Memorial Award;

Kristin Marie Trulear, who received American Medical Women’s Association Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation for Academic Achievement, the Department Of Anesthesiology’s Clyde W. Jones, M.D., Award. Department of Pediatrics And Child Health Honorable Mention and the Department Of Surgery Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. Award

Staff and faculty receiving awards from the 2010 Class were Rozanna J. Aitcheson, financial aid manager; Dr. Dawn L. Cannon, retired associate dean for Student Affairs and Admissions; Dr. Bonnie C. Davis, Department of Radiology, Dr. Christopher N. DeGannes, Department of Medicine; Sterling M. Lloyd Jr., special assistant to Dean Robert Taylor, and Dr. Leikidelu Taddese-Heath, Department of Pathology.

Dr. Julie Holland-Hughes, an anesthesiologist and member of the College of Medicine’s 1990 class, gave the graduation address.

She told the students that in all things, put the patients’ needs first.

“Society has entrusted us with its health and well-being, and, with that trust comes a responsibility that is unmatched in other professions,” Holland-Hughes said.

She also assured the students that despite the heated debate regarding health care, one the she and her colleagues endure during President Bill Clinton’s administration, they and their profession will be fine in the future.

“Sure, times are turbulent, as they were years ago,” she said “but everything I know tells me that America is a nation of wise people who, eventually, will come to a sensible way of dealing with health care. And, whatever the ultimate outcome, we as doctors will be fine.”