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Heart Surgeon Denton A. Cooley to Speak at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Convocation - 05/19/2009

Heart Surgeon Denton A. Cooley to Speak at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Convocation

Pioneering practitioner and Johns Hopkins graduate chosen by graduates for ceremony on May 22
Release Date: May 19, 2009

May 19, 2009 - Denton A. Cooley, M.D., an American pioneer in heart surgery, will be the guest speaker at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s 114th convocation on Friday, May 22, 2009 at 10:30 a.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

Cooley, 88, who completed his medical degree (class of 1944) and surgical training at Johns Hopkins, was chosen by the class of 2009’s 235 M.D., Ph.D., M.A. and M.S. graduates.

This year’s ceremonies will bestow 114 M.D.s, 97 Ph.D.s, 11 M.D./Ph.D.s, 10 M.A.s, and three M.S.s to a class of 130 men and 105 women. The class is the 114th since the school opened in 1893 and 119 of the M.D. candidates plan to continue residency post-graduate training at 58 hospitals and medical institutions in 20 states. Entry into the School of Medicine remains highly competitive, with 3,655 applicants for 120 slots in this fall’s entering class.

In 1969, Cooley became the first surgeon to implant an artificial heart into a man, Haskell Karp, who lived for 65 hours after the procedure. He pioneered novel techniques for repairing and replacing diseased heart valves and is widely known for his surgical treatment of cardiac anomalies in infants and children, a specialty that for him began in 1944. That year, as a new intern, he assisted Johns Hopkins Surgeon in Chief Alfred Blalock in the first “blue baby” operation to repair a blood vessel malformation that severely restricted oxygen flow and produced a bluish tint in its victims. Since then, Cooley and his team have performed more than 100,000 open heart operations, most of them at the Texas Heart Institute.

He completed his surgical residency under Blalock and moved to England where he joined Dr. Russell Brock, who at that time was the leading British chest and heart surgeon and one of the pioneers of modern open-heart surgery.

In addition to Cooley, the graduating medical students chose their classmate Louis Dang, an M.D. /Ph.D. candidate, to give the medical student address. During his training, Dang worked in pediatrics and conducted neuroscience research at Hopkins’ Institute for Cell Engineering. He will be doing his residency in pediatrics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and plans on becoming a pediatric neurologist.

Ph.D. candidates selected speaker Fatemeh Rajaii, an M.D. /Ph.D. candidate, whose research focused on the role of chemical signaling in the developing brain.

“The students in this class were an amazing group with interesting lives, and once again we are proud to have some of the world’s best and brightest pass through our doors,” says David Nichols, M.D., vice dean for education at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Also speaking at the event are Edward D. Miller, M.D., dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; Thomas W. Koenig, M.D., associate dean for student affairs; and Peter C. Maloney, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate student affairs.

The School of Medicine convocation for graduating students will take place a day after The Johns Hopkins’ University-wide commencement on Thurs. May 21 at the Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus.

A Sampling of Graduates

Among the M.D. candidates is Sophie Griswold, 39, who enrolled at Johns Hopkins following professional careers as a teacher, a clothing production manager and a transportation consultant. She plans to move to Oakland, Calif., where she will do her general surgery residency training at University of California San Francisco-East Bay, her top choice.

Edward Chu, another M.D. candidate has been praised by colleagues and supervisors for his involvement in the East Baltimore community during his medical training. At the end of his second year of medical school, Chu was selected as the school of medicine representative on the executive committee for Bienestar Baltimore (formerly known as Programa Salud). The organization consists of student leaders from each of the JHU health professional schools (School of Nursing, School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health) to assist the Latino community in East Baltimore. Chu, along with Hopkins resident Christine Durand, created the program’s community advisory board and incorporated a pilot TB screening program. Since then, according to Chu, “the programs have expanded to include a six-week curriculum for diabetes education and another for prenatal education.” Chu, who will do his emergency medicine residency training at University of California Los Angeles/Olive View, says he looks forward to living in a city with a large and cosmopolitan immigrant population and working with a primarily Spanish-speaking immigrant patient population, which influenced his residency selection.

M.D. candidates Amit Vora and Gargi Khare received more than just a medical education at Hopkins; they found each other. Vora and Khare met while Khare was an undergraduate senior at MIT visiting Johns Hopkins and Vora, who has a public health degree from Harvard, was a first-year medical student at Hopkins. Although they both say that they “loved our time at Hopkins,” they will be relocating to Boston, a city that is close to their hearts. They participated in the Residency Match as a couple, Vora in Internal Medicine and Khare in Ophthalmology, and were one of seven 2009 couples from Hopkins matching. Vora will do his residency training in internal medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Khare will do her preliminary residency training in internal medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, followed by ophthalmology training at the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.

On the Ph.D. side, Michael Acker, working with Jon Lorsch, Ph.D., in the department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry, discovered that one of the many proteins involved in the manufacture of proteins in a cell acts as a molecular air-traffic controller by directing all of the other players to act at the correct time. He already has moved to a post-doctoral position at Harvard Medical School working on understanding how natural antibiotics are made.

Janna Merte, a student in the neuroscience Ph.D. program, pioneered a mouse genetic screening technique in the lab of David Ginty, Ph.D. She has discovered new hints into mechanisms of how cells “orient,” or which direction they’re facing, how the spinal cord develops, and how nerve cells interact with each other and other cells during nervous system development. Ginty adds that “several members in the lab are now following up on Janna's pioneering work.”

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