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Psychiatry's Nemeroff Caught in Controversy over Journal Article
October 4, 2006

Several scientists, including one from Emory, recently reviewed vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), a controversial treatment for depression, in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. But the article failed to state that all of the authors are paid advisers to the company that manufactures a VNS device that was approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration. The resulting hubbub was described in the August 4 issue of Science.

The article’s lead author, Charles B. Nemeroff, professor of psychiatry and chair of the psychiatry department, who also happens to be editor-in-chief of the journal, said that he and his co-authors informed the journal about their ties to Cyberonics in Houston, Texas, manufacturer of the device, and that the failure to mention those ties in the article, as required by journal policy, was an “oversight and nothing more.” Nemeroff had recused himself from the journal’s editorial process for this article.

Critics were troubled not only by the convergence of Nemeroff’s position at the journal but also that the first draft of the paper was prepared by a professional writer hired by the device’s manufacturer who was not listed among the authors. Some in the field have strongly reproached Nemeroff.  Bernard Carroll, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University, emailed colleagues and the press accusing him of running a “slick public relations disinformation campaign” and “incestuously" placing the article in his own journal. Psychiatrist Richard Wurtman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the incident has “sorely devalued” both the journal and ACNP, “and I'm afraid this perception won't disappear for a long time."
           
Others rose to his defense. Alan Schatzberg, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, said that “these things are being hypermagnified beyond their importance,” and called Carroll’s accusations “outlandish.” A September 19 Wall Street Journal letter to the editor, written by two Emory faculty, Boadie Dunlop, assistant professor of psychiatry, and Kerry Ressler, associate professor of psychiatry, and signed by forty-five other professional colleagues of Nemeroff, stated “the concern about this is much overdone, as Nemeroff has reported his collaboration with the maker of vagal nerve stimulators in numerous other publications, as well as public and academic presentations. Nemeroff's decision not to pursue another appointment as editor of Neuropsychopharmacology is highly unfortunate, as this journal is more focused on the biological mechanisms of psychiatric diseases and their treatments than any other, and Nemeroff is extremely well-qualified to lead it.”


An-Na'im Featured in New Yorker Article
September 28, 2006

“I was very torn. I am a Muslim, but I couldn’t accept Sharia” (Islamic law). “I studied Sharia and I knew what it said. I couldn’t see how Sudan could be viable without women being full citizens and without non-Muslims being full citizens. I’m a Muslim, but I couldn’t live with this view of Islam.” That’s what Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler professor of law, said in the article “A radically peaceful view of Islam,” in the September 11 issue of The New Yorker.

An-Na’im, a native of Sudan, was torn between his conservative Muslim upbringing and his drift toward the political left. He found a resolution when he first heard Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, an unorthodox Sudanese mystic whose viewpoints ran counter to conservative Islamic thought. Taha favored, among other reforms, a new Sudanese constitution that reconciled “the individual’s need for absolute freedom with the community’s need for total social justice,” which, he argued, could be best achieved not through Marxism or liberalism but through Islam in its original, uncorrupted form, in which women and people of other faiths were accorded equal status.

An-Na’im told The New Yorker that hearing Taha speak created in him a profound sense of peace and changed his life. “I never saw him frustrated, I never saw him angry, I never heard him shout,” An-Na’im said. “Taha could not transmit his religious enlightenment to us by talking about it. We would see the fruit of it by his personal life style, in his attitudes. His honesty, his intellectual vigor, his serenity, his charisma—those are the things that we can observe, and from them I understood that this is someone who had a transformative religious experience.” Taha was executed in 1985 by the Sudanese dictatorship for sedition and apostasy.

To view the entire article, visit http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060911fa_fact1


Hazing Among Medical Students Can Be Fatal
September 20, 2006

U.S. medical students typically face harassment, insults, and intimidation by attending physicians and resident doctors, according to an Emory researcher. In some cases, pressure on students becomes so bad that it spurs depression and even suicide.

“Most medical students in the United States are graduating from medical school having had experiences that they report as being either belittling or harassing,” says lead author Erica Frank, an associate professor and vice chairwoman of the Emory School of Medicine. Frank was quoted in a September 17 issue of the Chicago Tribune.

She found that 42 percent of seniors said they had been harassed by other students, residents, preclinical professors, clinical professors, attending physicians, or patients. Eighty-four percent said they had been belittled, and 40 percent said they had been harassed and belittled. Some students felt faculty did not care about them, and others said they regretted training to become a doctor.

This type of treatment can have serious consequences for students’ mental health, Frank told the Tribune. “Rates of depression and suicide are higher. They are also less likely glad that they trained to be a physician if they were belittled or harassed.” The study appears in the September 6 online edition of the British Medical Journal.


Neurologist Receives First Research Award to Study ALS
September 13, 2006

Michael Benatar, assistant professor of neurology, has received the first clinical research award of its kind to study new therapeutic approaches for familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) through the ALS Association (ALSA) and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

Funded by the two organizations through a new initiative called Translational Research Advancing Therapy for ALS, or TREAT ALS, the initiative aims to accelerate drug discovery and create clinical trials for ALS. The award, totaling $155,000 over two years, will be granted to one clinical researcher each year.

Benatar, in collaboration with colleagues Jonathan Glass, professor of neurology, and Meraida Polak, ALS research nurse, will use the funding to continue exploring the feasibility of a research study involving people with a strong family history of ALS and people who may carry one of the inherited genetic abnormalities known to cause ALS.

“If enough of these people can be identified, then we will be in a better position to design and implement a clinical trial in asymptomatic people at risk for developing the disease, with the end goal of determining whether it is possible to delay or prevent the onset of disease,” explains Benatar.

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that usually attacks both upper and lower motor neurons, producing progressive weakness of muscles critical for moving, speaking, and eventually, breathing. Cognitive functions are usually left intact. Familial or inherited ALS is very rare, with only 10 percent of those diagnosed inheriting the disease from a parent.

For more than a year, the team has been advertising for people who think their family carries the disease, and the response has been overwhelming. So far, 147 families have come forward with derived pedigrees that cover 7,000 people.

“This effort helps us to identify the number of people at risk of developing familial ALS, and how many would be willing to take part in a trial to test treatment and reduce that risk,” says Glass. “This research award, along with other funding, will help us move forward in our mission.”


Chimps Transmit Cultural Behavior Through Generations
August 30, 2006

For the first time, researchers have shown that chimpanzees exhibit generational learning behavior similar to that in humans. Unlike previous findings that indicated chimpanzees simply conform to the social norms of the group, the results show that behavior and traditions can be passed along a chain of individual chimpanzees. The findings will be published online in the August 28 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using a research design that simulated transmission over multiple generations, Victoria Horner of the University of St. Andrews and the Yerkes Research Center, along with Yerkes researcher Frans B.M. de Waal, and St. Andrews researcher Andrew Whiten, closely examined how chimpanzees learn from each other and the potential longevity of their culture. They confirmed that a particular behavior can be transmitted accurately along a chain of up to six chimpanzees, representing six simulated generations equaling about ninety years of culture in the wild.

In the study, chimps in two social groups learned a to open a special testing box one of two ways—by sliding or lifting the door—to reveal fruit inside. Chimps in a third, control group, were allowed to explore the testing box but given no instruction. Once each individual animal from the first two social groups proved successful, another animal from the same social group was allowed to observe the process before interacting with the testing box. Once the second animal succeeded, another chimpanzee would enter and observe the technique, and so on down the chain. In the two social groups trained to slide or lift the door, the technique used by the original animal was passed to up to six chimpanzees. The chimpanzees in the control group were able to discover both methods through individual exploration, suggesting the exclusive use of a single technique in the noncontrol groups was due to behavioral transmission from a previous animal.

“The chimpanzees in this study continued using only the technique they observed rather than an alternative method,” said Horner. “This finding is particularly remarkable considering the chimpanzees in the control group were able to discover both methods through individual exploration. Clearly, observing one exclusive technique from a previous chimpanzee was sufficient for transmission of behavior along multiple cultural generations.”

Gearing up for the rankings race, 2006-07
August 16, 2006

Playing the rankings games while pretending that they don’t matter has become an annual ritual in the academic calendar. As an August 16 New York Times piece noted, “Early this morning, U.S. News & World Report will send e-mail messages to hundreds of college administrators, giving them an advance peek at the magazine’s annual college ranking. They will find out whether Princeton will be at the top of the list for the seventh straight year, whether Emory can break into the top 15 and where their own university ranks.”  

One bit of news is already public knowledge:  Emory has been named in Kaplan/Newsweek’s 2007 “How to Get Into College Guide” as one of the “New Ivies”—colleges whose first-rate academic programs, combined with a population boom in top students, have fueled their rise in stature and favor among the nation’s top students, administration, and faculty.

According to Newsweek, “the demand for an excellent education has created an ever-expanding supply of big and small campuses that provide great academics and first-rate faculties.”

 At the same time, however, eleven of Canada’s universities made their opinion known about such rankings. The schools are refusing to participate in the Maclean’s university ranking issue because they hold the magazine’s methodology to be “oversimplified” and “arbitrary.” The issue is a Canadian version of the controversial college ranking issue published by US News & World Report.

According to an article in The Globe and Mail, a national Canadian newspaper, a coalition of the school presidents sent a letter to Maclean’s saying that they will no longer provide data to the magazine for it’s annual fall survey of universities. The letter stated that “ in various ways and for some years, many institutional spokespersons have expressed considerable reservations about the methodology used in the Maclean’s university survey and the validity of some of the measures used. Thus far, these serious concerns have gone largely unaddressed, and there is still no evidence that Maclean's intends to respond to them.”

Tony Keller, managing editor of special projects at Maclean’s, said that the ranking issue will continue, and that none of the boycotting schools will be “punished” or excluded from the rankings.

Peter George, president of McMaster University, said that rankings may sell magazines, but they do not provide information to students about their particular programs or university life in general.

To view the New York Times article, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16/business/media/16leonhardt.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

To view the Newsweek story, visit http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14325172/  

To view the Globe and Mail story, visit
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060814.wuniversities15/BNStory/Front/home

To view the AE article “By a Nose: Jockeying in the rankings race,” visit http://www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2005/octnov/lead.html.


Preaching to the Pocketbook
August 9, 2006

“Recently I visited the Atlanta church led by the Reverend Creflo Dollar—yes, his real name. In the middle of an otherwise good sermon, he began to speak adoringly about a Rolls Royce given by a friend. He urged listeners not to confuse this Rolls with the one provided by the church years earlier.”

That’s how Professor of Theology Robert Franklin began a scathing commentary aired on a recent broadcast of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.

Didn’t ministers use to promise amazing grace for people burdened by bad choices, Franklin wondered? He went on to criticize the mercenary bent of “prosperity preachers” who distort “the simple ethic of love, forgiveness and service at the heart of the religion of Jesus.” 

In Franklin’s view, such preachers do a disservice to their flocks by purveying little more than a culture of feeling good. These “religious entrepreneurs” are more concerned about wealth, success (their own), and patriotism. It was not always so, he observed, calling up images of preachers who, in troubled times, rallied the faithful by calling for repentance, intellectual clarity, and unity in pursuit of righteous goals.

“Once again, the country is in conflict,” said Franklin. “But our most visible preachers have departed from a noble American tradition of social-ethical preaching. They’ve entered the pulpit with strange manuscripts that answer questions no one’s asking. I’d love to hear fewer sermons about luxury cars and seed gifts, and more of them about economic justice for those left behind by a growing economy. Today’s preachers of prosperity and piety should rediscover the social-ethical values in that old-time religion. Maybe then our pulpits will thunder with the sounds of truth, justice, and the American way.”

To hear Franklin’s complete commentary, visit http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5624473


HIV Researchers Receive Major Grant
August 2, 2006

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given $4.5 million to two Emory researchers seeking a vaccine for HIV and AIDS. The grant, announced last week, is part of a $30.1 million donation from the foundation to the worldwide effort to develop such a vaccine, according to a July 29 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The two faculty spearheading the Emory effort are Bali Pulendran, an immunologist and professor in the Department of Pathology in the medical school and a researcher in the Emory Vaccine Center, and Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center and professor of immunology.

Pulendran says that vaccines are in the developmental pipeline and that “tremendous progress” has been made in finding drugs to keep people who are infected with HIV alive and living better, but an effective vaccine probably won’t emerge for another decade or longer. “There are some processes we understand very much, but there are some huge unsolved puzzles,” Pulendran says. “There is every reason to be hopeful, but that must be balanced by a sense of realism. This virus has so many tricks up its sleeve that we have to figure out how to combat those.”

Specifically, the two Emory scientists will be studying the immune system and looking for ways to encourage it to adapt to offer immunity to HIV, which means, according to Pulendran, harnessing the innate immunity to boost the body's defenses against HIV.

Transatlantic Slave Voyages Data To Go Online
July 27, 2006

Backed by grants totaling more than $350,000, Emory will revised and expand a renowned database of slave trade voyages, according to a recent article from the Associated Press. The records, which contain eight-two percent of the entire history of the slave trade, will be made available for free on the Internet for the first time.

Funding includes $324,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and $25,000 from Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research. The expansion of the current database is based on the seminal 1999 work “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” a CD-ROM that includes more than 27,000 slave trade voyages and has been popular with scholars and genealogists.

“We’re trying to do for African Americans what’s been done for Euro-Americans already,” says David Eltis, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History and one of the scholars who published “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.” Eltis and Martin Halbert, director of digital programs and systems for Emory’s libraries, are directing the project. 

“There are more data on the slave trade than on the free migrant movement simply because the slave trade was a business and people were property, so records were likely to be better,” says Eltis. “What the database makes possible is the establishment of links between America and Africa in a way that already has been done by historians on Europeans for many years.”
The expanded database making its debut on the Internet will include auxiliary materials such as maps, ship logs, and manifests. It also will be presented in a two-tier format: one for professional researchers, another for K-12 students and general audiences. At the end of the two-year project, online researchers also will be able to submit new data to an editorial board for vetting and future inclusion in the database. 

The project is part of Emory Library’s MetaScholar Initiative, which focuses on supporting a range of scholarly work with the goal of realizing the possibilities for research and scholarship in the digital age. Through the initiative, Emory is gaining a national reputation as a leader in digital library development. In the past five years, the initiative has received more than $3.6 million in grant support from organizations such as the Mellon Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and NEH.


Emory Pulls Physicians from Grady Hospital Staff
July 24, 2006

In a move reflective of tensions between Emory and Grady Hospital, Emory Medical School is dismissing seventeen physicians who work on the Grady staff, according to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Money has gotten tighter and tighter for Emory and Grady,” Claudia Adkinson, executive associate dean at Emory School of Medicine, told the AJC. "We are trying to focus our resources more on our academic mission. These physicians in neighborhood clinics were not carrying out our academic mission.” The clinic doctors were employed as a courtesy to Grady, she added, and the amount Grady owes Emory tends to increase when Grady struggles financially. “Grady would pay us if they could,”

Emory, the article continued, said it hoped the doctors would stay at the clinics as Grady employees. The medical school plans to keep other doctors now working at Grady in place, and Grady has offered to hire the Emory physicians. But since the dismissals were announced last year, six doctors have departed, and it’s not known how many will continue at the clinics as Grady employees. The doctors will no longer be Emory employees beginning September 1.
           
The situation underscores Grady’s precarious financial position. Emory has provided physicians to the hospital for decades, and in turn the school trains medical residents and students there. Emory provides about 80 percent of the physicians who care for patients at Grady facilities. The rest come from Morehouse School of Medicine. Grady pays Emory about $60 million annually for use of hundreds of its physicians, but the hospital is currently past due on $43 million that it owes to the school.

Emory “is abandoning its commitment it made to these doctors,” said Henry Kahn, a volunteer physician at a Grady clinic and retired Emory School of Medicine professor. “Emory doesn’t appreciate the importance of primary care.”
           
Adkinson, however, said that is not the case. “Grady is undergoing difficult times. We try to work with them very closely.”


Emory Recognized as Among "Best Workplaces for Commuters"
July 12, 2006

Emory has been named one of the “Best Workplaces for Commuters” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in the EPA’s first annual list of notable schools. The school is among seventy-two institutions of higher education that earned the designation as environmental leaders that improve air quality, save energy, and reduce traffic congestion in their communities. The U.S. Department of Transportation cosponsors the recognition program with the EPA, and Emory first made the EPA’s general list of workplaces in 2001.

Emory’s administration has spent the past decade encouraging employees to ditch their cars or hitch a ride with colleagues. This fall, the number of campus shuttle routes will nearly double, and the Park-and-Ride program will expand. More than half of Emory’s buses are alternatively fueled (CNG and electric) and the university is developing a recycled biodiesel program (creating fuel from its own used cooking oil) that should help fuel the rest of the fleet by fall. The university’s efforts to ease traffic congestion and improve air quality have also been recognized each year since 2000 by Atlanta’s Clean Air Campaign, and the school has been cited by The Chronicle of Higher Education as a “green campus.”

Commuter options at Emory provide employees with a wide range of choices. The university has twenty-four vanpools operating from eight counties. Both employee and student carpoolers receive parking discounts, and employee carpools with more than three riders qualify for a free parking hangtag and a reserved parking space. Employees in the bike/walk program receive twenty one-day passes on MARTA every other month for a total of one hundred passes per year. Employees registered in the transit program receive free monthly MARTA passes.


Emergency Rooms Stretched Too Thin
June 30, 2006

American emergency rooms are stretched to the breaking point and are not prepared to handle widespread illness or an event with mass casualties, according to a study released June 14 by the Institute of Medicine.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, if our 911 services are struggling to handle our daily and nightly 911 calls, how in the world are they going to handle a mass-casualty event, a terrorist strike, an outbreak of infectious disease or a natural disaster?” Arthur Kellerman, a report co-author and chair of emergency medicine at Emory said at a news conference and reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

According to the report, the system’s failures leave patients waiting hours for treatment at overcrowded emergency departments or being turned away altogether. Authorities say that correcting the problems will require millions of dollars— preferably redirected bioterror money—as well as attention to patient diversions, hospital bed space, and nursing shortages.

Kellerman also said that there’s no regionwide coordination of hospital emergency rooms “to make sure the right person gets to the right hospital at the right time. In many cities like Atlanta, there is no control tower.”

In a June 15 interview on National Public Radio, Kellerman, while touring the Grady Hospital emergency room where he practices, estimated that 80 to 86 patients were in the ER waiting room, yet the earliest check-in had been ten hours before.

One reason his emergency room is backing up, Kellerman said, is that few beds in the main part of the hospital open up at night. So when a patient is stabilized in the ER, there’s no place to move them to.

The problems, the Institute of Medicine said in its three-volume report, grow from the need for emergency rooms to provide routine care for millions of uninsured patients, a shortage of nurses and medical specialists, and failure to use modern methods of managing the flow of patients.

“We value emergency care in this country so much that it is the only medical care to which Americans have a legal right,” Kellerman told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “But we value it so little that we’re not willing to pay for it. It is, in the congressional parlance, an unfunded mandate.”

New Vice Provost For Academic Initiatives appointed
June 21, 2006

Emory University has named Santa Ono to the newly created post of vice provost for academic initiatives. Ono, who currently is associate dean of students and GlaxoSmithKline Professor of Biomedical Sciences at University College, London (UCL), will also serve as deputy to Provost Earl Lewis and as professor of ophthalmology at the School of Medicine. He will begin his new post on July 3.

“Santa’s considerable administrative experience in strategic planning and student academic services, as well as his enthusiasm for innovative research and teaching, are ideal for this new role. I am confident he will make great contributions to the university and provide key leadership as we work to achieve Emory’s immediate and long-range goals,” said Lewis.

As vice provost, Ono will work with other senior staff to coordinate
the implementation of the university’s strategic plan and oversee specific projects.

“It is a distinct honor to join Emory,” said Ono. “Emory is a stunning institution, both steeped in tradition and renowned for its pioneering spirit. But it is the university’s future that has attracted me to join the provost’s office. On the landscape of leading global universities, there are very few that will keep pace with what shall be accomplished at Emory in the next ten years.”

Ono received his undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in experimental medicine from McGill University in Montreal. He finished his postdoctoral training in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at Harvard.

In 1992, Ono was appointed assistant professor of medicine, pathology and biology at The Johns Hopkins University, where he won both the American Diabetes Association Career Development Award and the Investigator Award from the National Arthritis Foundation. In 1996, Ono was recruited back to Harvard University, where he was an associate professor and director of the Immunity, Inflammation and Transplantation Focus Group at the Schepens Eye Research Institute. He was recruited to the GlaxoSmithKline chair at UCL and Moorfields Eye Hospital in 2001.

Ono has published more than 125 articles and scholarly abstracts and has been continuously funded as a scientist-researcher since 1985. He serves on the Medical Research Council’s Medical Advisory Board and College of Experts, and the Hypersensitivity, Autoimmune and Immune-Mediated Diseases Study Section of the National Institutes of Health.

Safe Water Initiatives Earn World Bank Awards
June 15, 2006

The World Bank’s Development Marketplace recently selected two projects from the Center for Global Safe Water (CGSW) as winners in its 2006 global competition. The winning proposals are for collaborative projects in Bolivia and Kenya that use income-generating local enterprises to increase access to safe water and improved sanitation in poor communities. 

The CGSW is a partnership among Emory University, CARE USA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Housed in the Rollins School of Public Health, the center was formed to help improve access to safe water and adequate sanitation and to reduce the burden of waterborne disease and death. 

The two CGSW projects were among only 30 winners selected from more than 2,500 submissions. Winners will share $5 million for initiatives to provide clean water, adequate sanitation, and access to energy in developing countries. 

The Bolivia proposal will assess sanitation behaviors and attitudes in the community to identify key factors that relate to household latrine usage. Access to safe sanitation facilities is among the most effective ways to reduce diarrhea morbidity and mortality, which in Bolivia is among the highest in the Western Hemisphere. The project is led by Christine Moe, associate professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health.

The Kenya proposal builds on the existing Rotary Safe Water Project in Kenya’s Nyanza Province, and is a partnership among CGSW, the Rotary Club of Atlanta, and CDC. Its goal is to decrease water-related illnesses and generate income for rural women (in HIV/AIDS self-help groups) through sales of affordable household water treatment and safe storage products.
Almost three-quarters of Nyanza’s population rely on unsafe water sources to meet their daily needs. This claims the lives of many young children and AIDS victims suffering the effects of diarrhea. Poor roads make delivery of preventive household water treatment and safe storage products difficult and expensive. This project aims to mobilize 700 local women’s groups to teach other women in their communities about the approaches they can use for safe water; establish 1,500 vendors to distribute 25,000 affordable water treatment products per month; and give 200,000 people a safe water solution. The project is led by Trish Anderson, CGSW project coordinator in Nyanza Province, Richard Rheingans, research assistant professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health, and Rob Quick of CDC. 

To read the AE special issue on water, click here.

Creative Writing's Mitcham wins Townsend Award
June 8, 2006

Judson Mitcham, who teaches fiction part-time for Creative Writing, has won the Townsend Award for his second novel, Sabbath Creek. Mitcham also won the Townsend Prize for his first novel, The Sweet Everlasting. This is the first time in the twenty-four-year history of the award that an author has won the prize twice.

“I'm very moved by this. It means a lot to me as a Georgian,” Mitcham told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in a May 25 article. Mitcham was born in Monroe and has lived in Macon all his adult life. He was a poet before becoming an novelist, and he said that his hero is Savannah-born writer Flannery O’Connor. Mitcham taught psychology for years at Fort Valley State University, a historically black school near Macon, until his retirement in 2004.

Sabbath Creek tells the story of a friendship between a ninety-three-year-old black man and a fourteen-year-old white boy in a rundown South Georgia motel owned by a grumpy former baseball player in the Negro Leagues. The hotel becomes a refuge for the boy and his mother after their car breaks down.

The Townsend Prize is awarded every two years for an outstanding novel or short-story collection published by a Georgia author. The award, including a $2,000 prize, is sponsored by Georgia Perimeter College and the Chattahoochee Review. Winners are chosen by three anonymous out-of-state judges.

The award is named for the late Jim Townsend, founder of Atlanta Magazine and a former editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Previous winners include Alice Walker and Ha Jin, who was teaching at Emory at the time, as well as Celestine Sibley and Ferrol Sams.


Center for Health in Aging Hosts Art and Aging Contest
June 5, 2006

Emory medical student Riley Smyth was awarded the grand prize and $500 in the second annual Art and Aging contest. The contest is sponsored by the Emory Reynolds Program, a part of the Center for Health in Aging. 

Second place went to medical student Jesse Jung for his pencil sketch titled “The Touch,” and third prize was given to Jessica Keil Leeb, also a medical student, for a photograph taken in Thailand. Gabrielle Berger, the 4th place winner, submitted an original short script that focused on medical and psychosocial issues related to aging.

Smyth described his winning photo of snowfall on a flower: “I took this picture after the first snowfall in Wisconsin of a rose toward the end of its life as winter sets in. This picture is not the classical image of a beautiful rose, and the rose certainly does not look like it did when it was budding in its youth or growing during the summer months. However, its beauty is immediately recognizable as it stands with quiet dignity. A lifetime of marks on its petals add character and individuality to this rose. It think it is a powerful metaphor for aging, and a reminder that while youth may fade, beauty is ageless.”

The contest is open to all Emory medical students and residents. Essays, art work, photographs, and literary works are accepted, as long as they are “related to and expressive of aging.” Ten entries were submitted this year, and a total of $1,000 in prize money was handed out to the top four entries.

Though the awards were announced in May, an awards ceremony is planned for September. To view the winning entries, visit http://cha.emory.edu/reynoldsprogram/pastEvents/event9.html.