School of Medicine Newsletter

Volume 6


December 2012

From the Desk of Dean Nancy Andrews

Dear Colleagues:

Each year around this time, I like to stop and reflect. I find it’s an exercise that allows me to acknowledge and celebrate successes and also learn from the challenges that we have faced and how we chose to address them.

This time of reflection never fails to remind me of all for which we have to be thankful. After five years serving as dean of this wonderful school, I find myself more proud today than ever before of our 2,000 faculty, more than 3,000 students and learners, and 9,600 staff. In the midst of an increasingly difficult financial environment, our School of Medicine family has risen to the challenge. We have seen remarkable progress and achievements during the past year including the announcement of Duke’s first Nobel Prize recipient, Robert Lefkowitz, MD, and construction of the Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center for Health Education which officially opens for occupancy this month. This center is a magnificent hallmark of our School and will provide our students, faculty and staff with a state-of-the-art environment in which to learn and grow.

Also in 2012, we held our first two Clinical Science Days and celebrated the outstanding work of our students and investigators. These events, along with Basic Science Day held in the fall, give us the opportunity to showcase our faculty and students’ scientific achievements across the biomedical science continuum – and there are many.

Indeed, we have a lot to celebrate. It has been an incredible year, and I am confident 2013 will prove to be just as exciting. In particular, I want to express my appreciation to each of you for the work you do to continue to make the School of Medicine the premier institution it is. It is because of your efforts we can call 2012 a year to remember.

Happy Holidays,


Lefkowitz Receives Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator who has spent his entire 39-year research career at Duke, shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Brian K. Kobilka, MD, of Stanford University School of Medicine.

Lefkowitz and Kobilka are being recognized for their work on a class of cell surface receptors that have become the targets of prescription drugs, including antihistamines, ulcer drugs and beta blockers.

“We are thrilled that the Nobel Committe recognized Bob’s incredible body of work, and very proud that he has been on our faculty for his entire career,” said Dean Andrews.

“Bob is not just an extraordinary scientist but also a remarkable mentor; he has had a profound influence on the careers of more than 200 students and postdoctoral fellows.”

Lefkowitz met with President Obama in early December and received the Nobel Prize at a Dec. 10 ceremony in Stockholm.

Trent Semans Center For Health Education Set to Open

After nearly five years of planning, the Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center for Health Education is set to open early next year, and will quickly become the heart of Duke’s newly transformed medical campus.

Final touches are still in the works in the forms of outdoor landscaping, furniture and AV installation. Also in transit are administrative offices to their new suites. When the facility is complete in early January, Stacey McCorison, Associate Dean for Medical Education Administration, believes it will reshape the School of Medicine experience.

“This facility will bring together faculty and health learners from across the School of Medicine and the University,” says McCorison. “Its design spares no detail in the creation of an academic atmosphere that puts medical innovation front and center.”

The eagerly anticipated 104,000-squarefoot, glass and stone building cost approximately $53 million, which was largely made possible by The Duke Endowment and generous donors. Senior leaders, faculty, staff and students worked together to influence its design. For example, early in the process, students told architects there was no suitable place to study in Davison, the home to medical education at Duke since it was built in 1930. 

As a result of their input, students will now be able to study, relax and socialize in spacious areas on the new building’s fourth floor. “There is an open living room with a wide screen television on which they can watch everything from
educational programs to Duke basketball games,” says McCorison. The floor also includes a student lounge and kitchenette, as well as an expansive rooftop terrace.

Students and faculty can grab a bite to eat on the second floor’s Jo Rae Café – named in memory of Jo Rae Wright, the School’s former Vice Dean for Basic Science. NOSH, a local restaurant and Duke favorite, will service the Café.

State-of-the-art technology will be on display throughout the facility, but is most prominent in the fifth-floor, medical and surgical simulation suites. The second floor’s impressive Learning Hall features moveable tables and chairs to facilitate large and small team-based learning programs. Conference rooms, classroom and lab space can also accommodate various sized groups. The Great Hall, on the ground floor, will seat up to 440 for large School events.

“The new building offers a wide variety of spaces that brings health professions learners together so that they can realize practical benefits from communicating and learning from each other,” said Edward G. Buckley, M.D., Vice Dean of Medical Education. “The center hopefully will serve as a resource for medical, physician assistant and physical therapy students, as well as alumni and faculty and other life-long learners.”

Celebrating Basic Research and Clinical Science

During the third week in October, Clinical and Basic Science Days celebrated the broad array of research underway throughout the School of Medicine.

Nearly 300 scientists, post-docs, students and staff attended the third annual Basic Science Day, which featured talks by Duke scientists from each of the basic science departments, as well as presentations by basic science colleagues from the Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry.

Katherine Franz, PhD, from the Department of Chemistry, was a guest speaker from Arts and Sciences, and Brigid Hogan, PhD, chair of Cell  Biology, gave the keynote speech. Clinical Science Day brought together noted faculty and alumni who were in town for Medical Alumni Weekend.

Clinical faculty reported their research findings, and noted alumnus James Gavin, III, M.D., PhD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine and Indiana University School of Medicine, was the keynote speaker.

The event offered CME credit to those who attended.


Using Animal Models to Study Human Disease

The Duke Animal Pathology Core Facility offers experimental pathology support to investigators using animal models to study human disease.

The core facility can provide analysis and interpretation of gross and microscopic findings (including blinded review), correlation of pathologic changes with clinical signs and clinical diagnostic results, identification and photography of representative findings for publication, and advice on investigative approaches.

Also available is training in animal model analysis techniques including perfusion, necropsy, organ dissection and tissue preparation. Training in photomicroscopy is available for investigators wishing to do their own data acquisition or analysis, and qualified users may operate the core’s imaging and photographic equipment by appointment. The core also provides a referral service to connect investigators with pathologists in the Duke community who have expertise in particular organ systems.

The facility is directed by Ann Buckley, MD, PhD, who is board-certified in anatomic pathology and neuropathology, and has extensive experience in interpretation of animal models of disease. Dr. Buckley is, herself, an active investigator.

The core facility is located in the RP IV building, Room 112. It is equipped with a Leica DM 5000B research microscope with Plan Apo objectives and Differential Interference Contrast, with an automated transmitted light axis for all transmitted light techniques.  For image capture, there is an attached Leica DFC 450 (5 megapixel) color digital camera and software with image stitching capabilities.

For more information about the Animal Pathology Core Facility, contact Dr. Buckley at 919-684-1369.

Awards & Achievements


8 Faculty Members Elected as Fellows to AAAS

Election as a Fellow of AAAS is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers. Fellows are recognized for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications. This year, the following faculty were elected as AAAS fellows:

Michael Krangel, PhD, Chair, Department of Immunology – For distinguished contributions to the field of immunology, particularly for clarifying the mechanisms by which antigen receptor repertoires are created by V(D)J recombination.

Soman N. Abraham, PhD, Professor of Pathology – For distinguished and pioneering contributions to the elucidation of mechanisms of bacterial pathogenicity and host immune responses, particularly the important role of mast cells.

Pat Casey, PhD, James B. Duke Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Professor of Biochemistry – For distinguished contributions to the fields of biochemistry and pharmacology, particularly to the study of protein modifications and their impact on cellular signaling processes.

Arno L. Greenleaf, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry – For distinguished contributions to understanding eukaryotic transcription and RNA polymerase II, with special contributions to illuminating CTD phosphorylation and its functional consequences.

Kenneth Kreuzer, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry – For outstanding contributions to the understanding of the modes of action of anti-topoisomerase drugs and the functional linkages between DNA replication and recombination.

Hiro Matsunami, PhD, Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology – For distinguished contributions to the field of chemical senses, particularly for characterization of mammalian chemosensory receptors.

Maria Schumacher, Associate Professor of Biochemistry – For distinguished contributions in structural biology leading to critical insights into fundamental processes in nucleic acid transactions including DNA packaging, segregation and gene expression.

Raphael Valdivia, PhD, Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology – For significant contributions to the development of new technologies and approaches to study the genetic and molecular basis for virulence of pathogenic microbes.

Faculty Awards and Achievements

Thomas D. Petes, PhD, is the 2013 recipient of the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal for lifetime achievement in the field of genetics from the Genetics Society of America. Petes, the Minnie Geller Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine, specializes in the study of yeast as a model for understanding genomic instability and chromosomal abnormalities commonly found in cancer cells.

Following an extensive national search, Christopher O’Connor, MD, has been named chief of the Division of Cardiology of Duke Medicine. O’Connor began his medical career at Duke as a resident and joined the faculty in 1989. “Throughout a deliberative and comprehensive national search for a new chief of the division, Chris remained the top candidate among a prestigious list of leaders in cardiovascular medicine,” said Mary E. Klotman, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine. “His dedication, service and stewardship of the division, as well as his clear vision for how Duke cardiology can strive forward in a changing health care environment, were essential determinants of his selection.”

SOM Adds Director of Communications

Jill Boy, widely known for the numerous contributions she’s made to Duke’s cancer communications and marketing efforts, is the
School’s new Director of Communications. Jill will report directly to Dean Andrews and work closely with the School’s Vice Deans to oversee the development and implementation of communications strategies and programs.

Individuals needing assistance with communications projects should contact Jill at or call 919-613-8637.