The Columns

The Intersection of Art and Science: Lauren Sturdy ’11 Finding answers in the space where science and art intersect.

— by on January 6th, 2017

Lauren Sturdy ’11

“I found W&L to be a close-knit community where professors care about students”

Fans of the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow” know that the art experts often recommend to a guest that their painting be restored.

What they might not realize is that there is a body of science behind the conservation of a painting. It is this intersection of art and science that attracted Lauren Sturdy ’11 to a Ph.D. program in materials science and engineering at Northwestern University.

A chemistry and art history major, Sturdy conducts research on the relationship between the structures of matter on a molecular- and macro-scale level. Her research looks at the aging of artists’ paints — how they change over time and how different environmental conditions make them dry differently. Changes in chemical properties affect the mechanical properties of paint.

“My research is a couple of steps removed from the actual conservation of art,” she explained. Changes in temperature and oxygen levels affect paint, but she said it is hard for a conservator to actually experiment with these effects without fear of damaging the painting. That’s where her research is valuable to predict outcomes under various scenarios.

Now completing her fifth and final year of the program, Sturdy hopes to teach engineering on the collegiate level, after first obtaining a post-doctoral academic position. She received a National Science Foundation fellowship to underwrite some of her doctoral studies.

Sturdy also is conducting research for another project examining the mechanical properties of rubber that could benefit the tire industry. Although tires and art seem far removed from one another, Sturdy says there are some links. For instance, she uses the same instrument — a quartz crystal microbalance — to conduct research for both projects. She also gets similar types of information that helps her in both areas.

Attracted to art conservation since she was in high school in Williamsburg, Virginia, Sturdy was able to explore the topic in more depth at W&L, where she also began looking at textile conservation. She received a Johnson Opportunity Grant to do a summer internship at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Conservation Institute.

While there she helped re-house the Black Fashion museum collection — photographing, vacuuming, cataloguing and packing objects for long-term storage. She also co-designed an experiment to deposit goethite onto wool, polyester and linen fabrics, using her chemistry background to adapt an established process to a much smaller scale.

The internship also accomplished something else important to Sturdy. She realized that she was still more interested in art conservation science than in textiles.

The summer after her freshman year at W&L, Sturdy had an internship at the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage in Amsterdam. “I learned there that research is hard and tedious,” she said.

Sturdy came to W&L because of its “great academic reputation,” and because she met Erich Uffelman, the Bentley Professor of Chemistry, during a weekend program for prospective students. “I found W&L to be a close-knit community where professors care about students,” she said.

She enrolled in Uffelman’s course on Art and Science, which “opened my eyes to how many different ways art could be studied from a scientific point of view,” she said.

As a student, Sturdy worked at the Reeves Center, which houses the university’s collection of Asian, European and American porcelain, and University Collections, where she helped catalogue and inventory the collection. There, she was influenced by Patricia Hobbs, associate director, and Peter Grover ’73, who confirmed her interest in the broad field of art conservation, she said.

While at the Reeves Center, Sturdy and another student conducted an experiment to analyze a plate from the George Washington dinner service, decorated with the insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati, against a fake. The two provided scientific proof of the forgery, using W&L’s portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometer to match minerals from the two plates. They presented their findings at a conference of the American Institute for Conservation.

When not in the lab at W&L, Sturdy served as president of the Craft Guild for two years. The group of students and some staff met to work on handicrafts, such as knitting, crocheting or origami.

She also sang for four years in the a cappella group The Washingtones. The group performed on campus for Parents Weekend and for open mics on the campus radio station.

Like most scientists, Sturdy is motivated by finding answers. She wants to know why paintings age the way they do and find better ways to preserve them. “I enjoy doing experiments and understanding the outcomes,” she said. “I am intrigued by the why questions.”

Standing Up for LGBT Rights Leading the Fight for Equality for All Americans

— by on November 30th, 2016

 

Roddy Flynn '12LRoddy Flynn ’12L

“When marriage equality was resolved, there was a vacuum in discussing LGBT issues. Now that is changing.”

When legislation focused on LGBT issues works its way through the U.S. House of Representatives, there is a very good chance that Roddy Flynn ’12L has been involved behind the scenes, crafting strategy and educating members of Congress.

For the past year, Flynn has served as executive director of the LGBT Caucus, a group of 87 representatives engaged in strategy to turn issues of concern to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people into legislation or executive action.

“My job is to give shape and strategy to LGBT legislation,” he said. While the job is self-directed — “I can plan my own initiatives” — he tries to be responsive to what House members want. “We focus on policy development and ask what we can do to help.” The answer might be to draft legislation or ask the executive branch to act.

Flynn discussed his job and the issues he tackles on the national level at a recent Embracing Diversity symposium on campus.

He is proud that during his first year with the caucus, he was able to organize a landmark congressional forum on violence against the transgender community — the first time transgender issues have been the sole focus of congressional testimony.

The forum was set up much like a formal congressional hearing. “I reserved a hearing room and had 12 House members on the dais,” said Flynn. He recruited witnesses to discuss transgender issues in such areas as employment and housing discrimination. “It is a multi-faceted problem.”

News outlets from around the world covered the forum, which Flynn said successfully raised transgender issues to high levels of government, such as the departments of Justice and Education.

Flynn has also helped create and serves as managing director of Equality PAC, a political action committee that works for the election of openly LGBT candidates and strong allies to federal office.

Flynn received his undergraduate degree from American University, where he majored in interdisciplinary studies in political communication and economics. After graduating from W&L School of Law, he clerked for Justice Henry DuPont Ridgely of the Delaware Supreme Court and then spent two years practicing commercial and intellectual property law with Richards, Layton & Finger PA, in Wilmington, Deleware.

While in Delaware, Flynn helped form an LGBT bar association, which now is a section of the Delaware Bar. He also coordinated LGBT pro bono efforts in such areas as family court and insurance. Through those activities, Flynn got to know his congressman, Rep. John Carney.

Through Rep. Carney, Flynn learned of the House caucus job, and although the job “was completely unplanned,” he saw it as an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. “I’ve learned not to plan too much,” he said.

Flynn thinks the caucus is making progress. “When marriage equality was resolved, there was a vacuum in discussing LGBT issues. Now that is changing.”

He has worked hard to develop strategy for the House’s Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act. “It is a comprehensive nondiscrimination bill that creates more awareness of how LGBT issues reach into areas other than marriage,” he said, citing employment, housing, public accommodation, jury duty and other areas

While at W&L, Flynn was the head Kirgis Fellow, which gave him the opportunity to run orientation for the 1L class. He also was a Burks Scholar, a position that allowed him to teach legal research and writing to 1Ls.

He fondly remembers Ann Massie, professor of law emeritus, who taught bioethics and constitutional law. “She pushed everyone to think through issues, such as assisted suicide and surrogacy.” Brian Murchison, the Charles S. Rowe Professor of Law, taught him administrative law and is someone Flynn continues to consult when he wants another opinion. He also credits professors Sarah Wiant ’75L and J.D. King with influencing his career path.

Flynn acknowledges some frustration that Congress moves so slowly. “I’m goal oriented and like to accomplish things,” he said. What makes him happiest in his work is “when I can get a member who doesn’t understand the urgency of an issue to become a full activist or co-sponsor.”

He doesn’t have much time for hobbies these days. “My job is my entire life,” he said. However, he likes to cook and says baking relaxes him. Cooking Italian or American comfort food “provides satisfaction and makes me feel good.”

His path toward his current work on behalf of the LGBT community might have been set at his graduation from W&L Law School, when he received the Calhoun-Bond Award for exceptional service to the university. He believes it was an acknowledgement of the work he did on campus on behalf of the undergrad LGBT population.

W&L Connections at Work Forging a Future Through the W&L Network

— by on November 3rd, 2016

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“W&L was a grounding mechanism that has helped me in my search for what is important in life.”

When Andrew Elliott graduated from W&L in 2007, he was at a crossroads. He knew he was interested in real estate, but he didn’t have the experience or connections to find his way into the field.

Networking with W&L alumni paved the way for him to pursue a career that has evolved to his current position as manager for Deloitte Consulting.

“I used Colonnade Connections (alumni directory) to research alumni in real estate and made a short list of people on the East Coast,” he recently told an audience at W&L’s Embracing Diversity symposium. Elliott’s next step was to set up meetings with them during a two-week travel blitz from his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Not only did he meet with alumni up and down the East Coast, but some also invited him to stay with them to save on the expense of the trip. One alumnus with a real estate investment trust (REIT) in Atlanta, told Elliott about an open position with his company in Chicago. He paved the way for Elliott to interview for the job, which he got.

For the next two years, Elliott worked in Chicago as a property administrator, managing a portfolio of seven grocery-anchored shopping centers valued at more than $150 million. When the recession hit, many of the businesses in his portfolio went out of business or filed for bankruptcy, leading Elliott to seek his next opportunity.

Again, networking through his W&L connections led to a job. He contacted Harlan Beckley, executive director of the Shepherd Poverty program, in which Elliott had participated as a student. Beckley put him in touch with an alumnus who had just become president of Greater Camden Partnership (since merged and renamed Cooper’s Ferry Partnership) in Camden, New Jersey.

Since the two men had backgrounds in real estate and the partnership was looking for someone with his skills, “I was offered the job on the spot,” Elliott said.

He worked with the partnership to help develop a business district that provided extra services not available through the city in order to maintain a clean and safe environment for customers. “Camden was a living example of a post-industrial city suffering from increased amounts of blight, poverty, and drug-related activities,” Elliott said. “We wanted to provide a presence on the street for people to feel safer and to promote investment.”

Elliott managed an annual budget of more than $1.3 million and met with corporate partners and local businesses to develop strategy and annual plans for the business district. “We asked, ‘What can we do to make this a better area to attract businesses?'”

After a couple of years, Elliott realized that he was interested in developing strategy on a larger scale and began to plan his transition. He knew he needed more education and an expanded skill set, so he applied to the MBA program at the Johnson Graduate School of Management program at Cornell University. He was accepted and received a Roy H. Park Leadership Fellowship. The full-tuition scholarship, with additional requirements for leadership beyond the classroom, allowed him to earn the degree and move into a senior consultant position with Deloitte Consulting.

Promoted to manager, he now focuses his work on business transformation in the firm’s strategy and operations practice. Ironically, his very first project was to work with a REIT, whose new CFO wanted to position the company to double its revenue in a short period of time. Elliott’s job was to conduct an assessment of the company, including what skills were available and what skills were lacking among his client’s employees. He and his team provided the company’s executives “with a solid view of their position.”

He has since consulted for an international power and utility company, a multi-billion-dollar global healthcare company and a multi-billion-dollar global professional services company.

In addition to Professor Beckley, Elliott attributes his success to at least three other professors: Marc Conner, interim provost, who taught him freshman English and African American studies; Ted DeLaney, associate professor of history and program chair of Africana Studies; and Art Goldsmith, the Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics. “He modeled real life situations, incorporating a social aspect with economics,” Elliott said.

Elliott learned leadership skills as president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, a historically black fraternity whose chapter operated jointly with James Madison University. He was also involved with the Nabors Service League and Campus Kitchen, among other activities. Two study-abroad experiences exposed him to the world. At Queen Mary, University of London, he studied economics and architecture, and during Spring Institute in Senegal, he learned about the country’s culture and language.

Elliott believes that “giving back to W&L is highly, highly important.” Until now, “it has been hard to get back to campus,” he said. With a more flexible schedule, he is happy to return to the campus where he remembers a more simple and carefree time in comparison to the complexity he faces on a daily basis now. “W&L allowed me to be more idealistic, with free-flowing thoughts and perspectives,” he remembered.

As for his future, Elliott says he is motivated by the unknown. “I’m excited about the future challenges, and what’s next for me.” As he moves along with life and career, he now thinks more about “how it aligns with helping others.” He thinks his interests and future will become more aligned with entrepreneurship and small businesses, and he wants to refine and gain the skills to be in the position to help others.

He is able to understand his interests and hone the necessary skills because W&L helped build a foundation that “created a very high level of self-awareness,” he said. “W&L was a grounding mechanism that has helped me in my search for what is important in life.”

One Fish, Two Fish Sasha Doss ’13 is in the final stage of completing a master’s degree in fish and wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech.

— by on October 18th, 2016

Sasha Doss '13Sasha Doss ’13

“Fish have amazing traits. I want to share that with people, help them feel connected to fish and help them understand how important fish are to the world we live in.”

While she readily admits that she’s terrible at fishing — “I’ve only caught a handful of fish in my life,” Sasha Doss ’13 has made the underwater creatures the focus of her graduate work.

“Fish are really cool,” she said. People often connect better with furry fauna — “bears or large cats,” for instance. “I want people to feel that way about fish.”

Doss is in the final stage of completing a master’s degree in fish and wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech. She took time between her W&L graduation and starting the master’s program to undertake an internship with the Environmental Defense Fund in San Francisco.

Doss interned for six months in the Oceans Department. “One of the major problems the department worked on was how to better manage fisheries with deficient data. Many countries and agencies just don’t have the resources for extensive data collection, but still need to make decisions. Ironically, a lot of those places are typically home to the most unique resources.” One project Doss worked on involved creating a computer-based model that could be used to stimulate coral reef systems using minimal data input.”

Since then, most of her field research at Virginia Tech has been in collaboration with Joe Williams, a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They search for and study muskellunges or “muskies” in the New River to study their diet and population patterns.

Doss said that muskies were introduced into the New River in the 1960s for sport fishermen, but over time, many started to think that muskies were preying on smallmouth bass, the New River’s most popular sport fish. Through their research, Doss and Williams have concluded that muskies eat a wide variety of other fish, and that smallmouth bass make up less than 1 percent of the muskie diet.

Their research has shown that “muskies do not have a substantial predatory impact on the smallmouth bass population,” she said.

Last winter, Doss received the Robert D. Ross Graduate Scholarship, given to a graduate student in Virginia who has demonstrated academic excellence and promise for future contributions to fisheries and aquatic resource conservation.

Doss will complete work on her master’s degree this semester and then move to Washington, D.C., to begin a Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. Fellows are paired with a host in either the executive or legislative branch of government to work directly on marine resource policy development and application.

Doss will be placed with an executive branch agency, but won’t know her exact placement until December. Previous executive fellows have been placed in agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The fellowship begins in February and will last one year. After that, she hasn’t decided on her next move. “I hope the fellowship will help me decide what side of science I want to be on,” she said. “Research or management.”

A native of Martinsville, Virginia, Doss visited W&L and “fell in love with the campus and the traditions,” she said. “All the people I met were wonderful.” She arrived as a Johnson Scholar and knew she wanted to pursue science.

Robert Humston, associate professor of biology, introduced her to the fisheries field. “He has been involved in every aspect of my early professional career,” she said. He took her to a conference of the American Fisheries Society, where she presented her research. “It was a big turning point” — the first time she felt comfortable amid a group of professional scientists. “I regularly talk to him for professional advice,” she said.

“W&L in general fosters a creative atmosphere,” said Doss. In less traditional courses for a science major, such as environmental and natural resource economics with associate professor Jim Casey, she learned new perspectives on environmental management.

Outside of class, she was a cheerleader for four years, a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, Beta Beta Beta biology honor society, the Lexington Literacy Campaign and Women in Technology and Science.

Doss may not be an expert at fishing, but she does like to get into the water and become one with her subject’s environment. She says diving or snorkeling on coral reefs is one of her favorite things to do. Out of the water, she and her German Shepherd, Bernard, love to hike and spend time outdoors.

Doss intends to continue her work with fish. “They have amazing traits. I want to share that with people, help them feel connected to fish, and help them understand how important fish are to the world we live in.”

—Linda Evans

Crisis Responder David Sugerman ’99

— by on October 17th, 2016

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“In the emergency room, unlike public health, doctors can immediately alleviate suffering on an individual basis.”

When recent floods hit Louisiana, many people lost homes and businesses. Among them was a homeless man, who lost his only shelter — a cardboard box under a highway overpass.

Responding to the disaster in his capacity as a physician and commander in the U.S. Public Health Service, David Sugerman ’99 got to know the man and, while treating his medical needs, heard his story of military service, drug abuse and a life that spiraled out of control.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to provide him medical care and to help him get needed services, an apartment and job training,” Sugerman said.

That intersection of medicine and social services attracted Sugerman to a nontraditional form of medicine — one that has taken him throughout the world responding to medical crises.

After graduating from Washington and Lee in 1999, Sugerman earned a medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University and completed his residency in emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

Today, he is a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assigned there through the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), with the rank of commander. The uniformed service, modeled after the military, is overseen by the surgeon general and is the largest division of the Department of Health and Human Services. Commissioned officers serve in more than 20 duty stations throughout the federal government.

Sugerman entered USPHS as an officer with the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) in San Diego. For two years, he helped respond to such crises as a measles outbreak among intentionally under-vaccinated children, the first case of pandemic H1N1 flu and meningitis across the U.S. – Mexico border. For two months, he was stationed with the U.S. Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo responding to an outbreak of monkeypox.

He then joined the Global Immunization Division, where he worked on polio eradication in Nigeria, improving oral polio vaccine coverages. He responded to the earthquake in Haiti, the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and Hurricane Sandy. In Sierra Leone, the opportunity to train local staff, set up screenings and isolate patients in the hospital or their homes, was rewarding and worth the effort, when, after three years, the country was officially declared Ebola free in March 2015.

Sugerman has been based in Atlanta since 2009. At the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, he helped establish guidelines for training, triage and transport for trauma patients, and worked on new guidelines for prescribing narcotic pain medications in order to prevent drug overdose.

Now with the Center for Global Health, he oversees training of epidemiologists in developing countries. Originally begun in 1975, the program has trained more than 8,000 epidemiologists in investigation, surveillance and intervention for disease control.

“We station senior epidemiologists to live in the countries and provide direct technical assistance to the government,” he said, noting that the program handles about 62 programs in 46 countries.

Once a week, Sugerman works at the Emory University Hospital Emergency Department, where he teaches medical students and residents emergency medicine.

“Being a teacher and mentor is very gratifying,” he said. “In the emergency room, unlike public health, doctors can immediately alleviate suffering on an individual basis.”

Sugerman’s father was a trauma surgeon at the Medical College of Virginia, in Richmond, and from an early age Sugerman was interested in science. He began thinking about a career in medicine in high school, but knew he wanted to follow a less traditional path.

Working with an organization called Metro Town Institute, in Richmond, to help improve diversity in the public schools, Sugerman met a W&L graduate who told him about the university’s small size, honor system and pastoral setting that would allow him to indulge his interests in hiking, biking and camping.

He enrolled as a biology major and participated in the Shepherd Poverty Program, where Professor Harlan Beckley’s class “made me think of a career to connect medicine and social science. I became more knowledgeable of the risk factors for poverty.”

At W&L, he also continued his service with Habitat for Humanity, which he had begun in high school. He became president of the W&L chapter his junior year and values the mentorship of advisor Professor Brian Richardson.

Sugerman also values the support he received from then-President John Elrod and his wife, Mimi, who often invited him to their home for dinner. Mrs. Elrod served on the board of Project Horizon, a nonprofit organization for which Sugerman volunteered.

He also served as president of PRIDE, a program to increase diversity in education and recruitment and encourage a welcoming atmosphere for all ethnicities.

Sugerman and his wife, Ciara, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology, are parents to three children under the age of 3: an adopted son, 26 months; a daughter, 18 months; and a son, 5 months. His wife also works for CDC, helping oversee global diarrheal disease response, including cholera and typhoid.

Reflecting on his career, Sugerman said he gets tremendous satisfaction in training others to increase the knowledge of disease control and prevention. He enjoys working closely with his counterparts around the globe and said the trainees are very thankful for programs that make them part of the solution.

Bebe Goodrich ’07 Founder, Icebox Coffee

— by on October 7th, 2016

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“If I had a normal job, others would not have a job.”

Bebe Goodrich ’07 doesn’t own a drip coffee maker, but she has built a fast-growing business cold brewing coffee in the tradition of her native New Orleans.

“I only own a French press and a Toddy,” she said, referring to two lesser-used methods for brewing hot and cold coffee at home.

Goodrich started her company, Icebox Coffee, like many entrepreneurs — in her garage in Birmingham, Alabama. She brews a specially sourced coffee that is ideal for her cold brew method. “Cold brew coffee is what we call low and slow,” she said. It takes 20 hours to brew at ambient temperature, using a reliable water source and a good processing system.

Her method is based on her early years in New Orleans, where her father roasted coffee for fun, and she became accustomed to the rich, flavorful taste of his and her grandmother’s cold coffee, which they kept in their iceboxes.

“I didn’t realize I had become a coffee snob,” she laughed, until she left New Orleans and couldn’t find the same coffee experience in other cities.

Entering Washington and Lee as a physics major, Goodrich got to know her advisor, William F. Connelly Jr., the John K. Boardman Professor of Politics, who encouraged her to learn more than math. “He made me read, and I didn’t like to read or write,” she said. Connolly convinced her that if she couldn’t communicate well, she would not succeed. Following his advice, “made my life more dynamic and helps me move my message forward,” Goodrich said.

She changed her major to political science and after graduation, went to work in Washington, D.C., for Rep. Rodney Alexander from 2007-10.

Another change in her life came when she married fellow alum Thomas Goodrich ’07, and moved to his hometown of Birmingham. For the first year, she worked for a nonprofit organization, but began to realize her skills were more suited to a manufacturing environment.

The W&L network helped her when she met Hatton Smith ’73, owner of Royal Cup Coffee and the resident mentor for W&L grads in Birmingham. Smith gave her a part-time job working in product development for RCC while she started Icebox Coffee in 2012.

After the birth of her second child, Goodrich decided to leave RCC and concentrate on building Icebox Coffee. With a goal of going national, she started small, selling online to family and friends and going to farmers’ markets. Soon she had a solid customer base and expanded into independent grocery stores and restaurants.

Now featured in Whole Foods stores in the Southeast and Florida and Central Market in Texas, the company is experiencing 200- to 300-percent growth per year, she said. Another break came when Cheesecake Factory restaurants began offering her coffee in 2016.

She now employs 10 people: four full time, two part time, and several high school and college interns, who work in manufacturing and business operations.

Goodrich says that her W&L experience was critical to her success. She became “literate,” and the W&L network has helped her with jobs and resources to start her business. She attributes everything that fell into place during her first year in business to “one degree of separation” from W&L.

She also models her business values after the integrity and honorable lifestyle taught at W&L. “That is how we run our business. We feel proud that we can grow in a way that we feel good about, with integrity and transparency.” She says the core values of her business reinforce the right decisions.

In addition to learning communications skills at W&L, Goodrich also learned to always be prepared. In her Lincoln’s Statesmanship class, Lucas Morel, the Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics, called on each student during every class. “I learned to be prepared, to be part of the discussion. That has served me extremely well,” she said.

Goodrich sometimes thinks about going to work at a normal job, but whenever those thoughts nibble at her during a bad day, “Thomas reminds me that if I had a normal job, others would not have a job.” She is proud to be an employer who can create jobs and train the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Goodrich expects her company to continue to grow. “Our category — cold brew coffee — is on fire,” Goodrich said. In Whole Foods alone, there are six competitors on the shelves, and some coffee shops are now cold brewing their own versions. Future plans for Icebox Coffee include a soda product and a tea product, in addition to the New Orleans, Madagascar Vanilla and decaf concentrates and ready-to-drink cold brew coffees she currently sells.

Icebox Coffee, she says, is all about “creating experiences for people for what is an ordinary event.” To capture those experiences — like the ones she remembers from growing up in New Orleans — “is the backbone of our business.”

— Linda Evans

The Intersection of Poverty and Health

— by on March 7th, 2016

“I realized that large, systemic issues often prohibited people from having the capability to achieve good health, and that without good health, people couldn’t live a life they valued.”

Kate LeMasters '16Kate LeMasters ’15

Kate LeMasters ’15
Edwin A. Morris ’26 Distinguished Research Scholar
Cluj, Romania

By taking advantage of all that Washington and Lee has to offer, Kate LeMasters ’15 forged an educational path that took her from Lexington to the Southwest United States, Western Africa and Romania to tackle issues of poverty and public health.

Back in Romania this year through The Edwin A. Morris ’26 Distinguished Research Grant, a post-graduate grant from W&L, she continues to expand her research on maternal health among disadvantaged and ethnically marginalized women.

LeMasters first explored how societal context shapes peoples’ well-being through the Bonner Scholar and Shepherd Programs, her work with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) with Ellen Mayock, Ernest Williams II Professor of Spanish, and through courses in global politics and economics of social issues taught by Tyler Dickovick, Grigsby Term Associate Professor of Politics, and Arthur Goldsmith, Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics.

“I realized that large, systemic issues often prohibited people from having the capability to achieve good health, and that without good health, people couldn’t live a life they valued,” LeMasters said.

Dickovick, who was LeMasters’ advisor and continues to be her mentor, encouraged her to explore public health and think critically about how institutional and political contexts influenced peoples’ health. The summer after her sophomore year, LeMasters conducted research with the West Africa AIDS Foundation in Accra, Ghana, where she interviewed HIV-positive pregnant women about disclosure of their HIV status to partners and families.

“In many situations, women did not take their medication for fear that loved ones would discover their diagnosis and abandon them,” she said. Throughout that summer, “it became clear that the health of many families, including that of unborn children, was sacrificed by medical establishments and society ignoring the implications of HIV’s stigma.”

Returning to W&L, LeMasters arranged a semester-long study abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, to learn how public health issues in developing areas were being approached at the international level.

At the end of the semester, LeMasters conducted an independent study in Romania, at the suggestion of Anne Wallis, professor of epidemiology and population health at the University of Louisville. Wallis formerly lived in Lexington and had given a lecture on maternal health at W&L, after which LeMasters discussed her research interests with her.

Funded by W&L’s John M. Evans Endowment for International Study, the research in Romania involved studying the social determinants of smoking during pregnancy and strengthened LeMasters’ interests in maternal health, which had been growing since her time in Ghana.

Back in Lexington during the summer before her senior year, she worked with Dickovick and Niels-Hugo Blunch, associate professor of economics as a Summer Research Scholar to analyze how Ghana’s localizing of its institutional structures affected health after the country decentralized from 65 districts to more than 200.

While her international experiences and internationally focused research were invaluable to LeMasters’ growing body of knowledge of public health, she wanted to learn more about marginalized groups domestically. So, through the mentorship and guidance of her global politics thesis advisors Dickovick and Jon Eastwood, Laurent Boetsch Term Associate Professor of Sociology, during winter break of her senior year, she traveled to Arizona to speak with Western and traditional healthcare workers on the Navajo Nations.

Funded through a Mellon grant from the Provost’s Office, the experience “helped shed light on how medical practices often ignore cultural context,” she said.

“While health issues in Navajo Nation, Ghana and Romania are distinct challenges, they are all examples of how health problems are rooted in societies misunderstanding the lives of those suffering, specifically the socially marginalized.”

LeMasters’ collective experiences enabled her to write two honors theses for her majors in global politics and economics and a capstone for her minor in poverty and human capability studies, all of which focused on understanding maternal health risk factors for ethnic minorities across political and cultural contexts and the injustices involved in those risk factors. Howard Pickett, director of the Shepherd Program, advised her capstone and encouraged LeMasters to explore not only risk factors but the ethical issues involved in administering healthcare to ethnic minorities, which greatly expanded the scope of her work.

But she wasn’t finished with her work just yet.

“I was looking for a way to go back to Romania after graduation to research Roma women’s pregnancy experiences,” she said, “because while the health inequalities between Roma and non-Roma women in Romania intensify throughout life, they often begin in utero.”

She says that experiences of Roma women “are best understood by complementing a traditional epidemiologic approach with one that reexamines the boundaries of assumed pregnancy experiences, gathers the life experiences of women, and examines the interplay of Roma women’s lives and their pregnancies.”

LeMasters expressed her desire to return to Romania to faculty, including her economics thesis advisor, Katherine Shester, assistant professor of economics, and Robert Straughan, now dean of the Williams School.

The school offered her the first Edwin A. Morris ’26 Distinguished Research Grant for post-graduate research. She returned to Romania in September 2015 and will conclude her work in summer 2016.

LeMasters is back at the Cluj School of Public Health as an international fellow, where she has the support of a research team, including a translator for field work (although she is learning Romanian), and continues to receive support and guidance from W&L professors and staff. She has interviewed academics, general practitioners, gynecologists, social and community workers, Roma health mediators and others.

The final component of her research now involves collaboration with World Vision for interviews with Roma and non-Roma women who have given birth within the past five years. “I hope that my work will elucidate the determinants of pregnancy-related health among the Roma and will help others better understand this stigmatized population, as they are increasingly scrutinized,” she said.

She’ll return to Lexington next year to give a talk about her experience. LeMasters will enter graduate school next fall for global public health, and hopes eventually to earn a Ph.D. and teach and conduct research at a university.

LeMasters says she is driven by believing that “better understanding the lives of those suffering from poor health is the first step towards ending unjust health inequalities that affect children before they are even born.”

She would like to thank Professors Blunch, Dickovick, Eastwood, Goldsmith, Mayock, Pickett, Shester, Wallis, and Ms. Carol Karsh for their invaluable mentorship and support while at W&L, and their continued guidance today. She would also like to thank Professor Razvan Chereches and Ms. Alexandra Brînzaniuc, Andreea Silaghi, and Andreea Varga for their research support in Romania.

Matt Simpson’s Road to Rio When Matt Simpson ’12 rang in the new year of 2016, he knew it was going to be one that would change his life.

— by on February 22nd, 2016

“I get to train every day to be the best in the world in something — not for external gain, wealth or notoriety.”

Matt Simpson '16Matt Simpson ’16

Matt Simpson ’12
Paralympic Athlete
Fort Wayne, Indiana

When Matt Simpson ’12 rang in the new year of 2016, he knew it was going to be one that would change his life.

“It’s a big year; it’s really here,” he said. Simpson has been working toward this year since he was 10 years old and joined his first goalball team. In September, he will represent the U.S.A. in the sport at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Goalball is a sport developed for blind and visually impaired athletes like Simpson, who has a congenital disease of the retina that leaves him unable to see anything but shadows. The three-person teams compete on a court, trying to roll a ball past each other into a net. The balls contain bells that allow the players to hear where they are and try to prevent them entering the net. Because players have varying levels of sight, all players wear blindfolds. With balls coming at players at 50 miles per hour, the sport requires a high level of physicality and agility.

The U.S. team narrowly missed qualifying for the 2012 Paralympics in London, and for the past four years, players worked hard to qualify for 2016. That determination has taken a step further, with Simpson and several of his teammates moving to Ft. Wayne, Ind., in January to train full time.

Being able to train together full time “is huge for us,” said Simpson, noting that top teams from China, Brazil and other countries live and train together to attain a competitive advantage.

In order to train full time, Simpson left a job with the U.S. Association for Blind Athletes in Colorado Springs, Colo., which he had held since graduating from Washington and Lee. He now has part-time status with the organization, which provides athletic opportunities in various sports including track and field, Nordic and alpine skiing, biathlon, judo, wrestling, swimming, tandem cycling, powerlifting and goalball.

As membership and outreach coordinator for USABA, Simpson promoted and advanced the cause of sports for people with visual impairments. He worked on grant writing, helped with programs for disabled veterans and children, and worked with partner organizations around the country to build programs on the local level.

“I want people to know they are not bound to a life on the couch or a life of obesity,” Simpson said. Visually impaired people “can be fit and active.”

Goalball has also provided Simpson with opportunities for world travel. The U.S.A. team takes several trips each year, often to Europe. He has competed in Toronto, Lithuania and Poland, and the team will go to Rio in May, where officials will hold “test” matches prior to the official games in September.

U.S. Paralympics is a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee. USOC provides the majority of funds for the team’s travel, entry fees, room and board, as well as a stipend to each athlete. The Paralympic games take place every four years, usually just after the Olympics and in the same host city.

A native of Atlanta, Simpson plays for the Georgia Renegades when not occupied with the national team. Not new to winning goalball titles, Simpson’s Under-19 team won an international title in 2009, and he was a member of the team that won the National Goalball championships in 2011 and 2014, advancing through a field of about 25 teams.

Simpson credits his time at W&L for developing his athleticism. He came to the university as one of the first Johnson Scholars, after spending a weekend on campus and found it a good fit for him.

A political science major, he spent a lot of time in the weight room under the guidance of Chris Schall, associate professor of physical education and director of the Fitness Center. “I told him of my desire to be a Paralympic athlete, but I knew I was not ready,” said Simpson. “He helped me develop the skills, going beyond the call of duty” for a student who wasn’t on a W&L varsity team. “He put as much into my development in the weight room” as he did for varsity athletes, and took Simpson from an “aspiring young person with a dream to one of the strongest people” on his goalball team.

Neil Cunningham, director of physical education and assistant athletic director, “also took an interest in me and helped me with drills” in the weight room, said Simpson.

Academically, Bob Strong, Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics, was Simpson’s advisor, who helped me “all the way.” W&L President Ken Ruscio also encouraged him, along with the entire politics department. “I was well supported by community and staff.”

Simpson also was a member of the Student Judicial Council for four years, serving as chairman his senior year. He was an R.A. and served on the Student Advisory Council his senior year.

Now as he prepares for the biggest year of his life, Simpson is elated. “I get to train every day to be the best in the world in something — not for external gain, wealth or notoriety,” he said. Speaking for himself and his teammates, he said, “We find it fun, and we want to be the best in the world as representatives of the U.S.A.”

Ultimately, his goal is to educate the public about the abilities of blind people. He has done a lot of outreach with schools, talking about the ways that visually impaired people can excel. “We are athletes. I train just as hard as other Olympic athletes,” he said. “I want to be the best athlete I can be who happens to be blind.”

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Back on the Field Wiemi Douoguih ’92 pursued two passions to find career satisfaction.

— by on October 21st, 2015

As much as Wiemi Douoguih ’92 wanted to be a doctor, he also wanted to stay close to his love of sports.

Wiemi Douoguih '92Wiemi Douoguih ’92

An All-American and ODAC Conference Player of the Year in lacrosse at Washington and Lee, Douoguih noticed that injured teammates were able to take some time off and return to play again. What happened to them during that interim period — being treated by doctors — made him realize that he could specialize in sports medicine and combine both of his passions.

Now an orthopedic surgeon, Douoguih has been the medical director for the Washington Nationals baseball franchise for the past seven years. Recently he added the same title with the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. In addition, he sees collegiate, high school, adolescent and professional and recreational athletes at his private practice at MedStar Orthopedic Institute at Washington Hospital Center.

After majoring in chemistry at W&L, Douoguih earned his medical degree at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and did his residency at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. A fellowship in sports medicine and orthopedics at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, one of the world’s leading clinics in the diagnosis and treatment of sports medicine injuries and illnesses, “exposed me to athletes affiliated with the Dodgers, Angels, Kings (hockey), Galaxy (soccer), and USC Trojan football,” he said.

“I was exposed to the full gamut of sports medicine and also the nuances of dealing with management,” he said.

Prior to joining the Nationals, he was assistant team doctor for the Washington Redskins, where he worked under world-renowned senior consultant James Andrews. Recommendations from Andrews and Frank Jobe (a co-founder of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic) led to his hire by the Nationals at age 34.

Douoguih is on site for about 70-75 percent of all Nationals’ home games, where he treats any injuries from both the home and away teams. At the ballpark, he has an office and treatment area, and he supervises the trainers, physical therapists, a chiropractor and the strength and conditioning specialists.

A specialist in elbow, shoulder and knee injuries, Douoguih said the most common injuries he sees are hamstring and oblique injuries and elbow injuries to pitchers that require “Tommy John” surgery, a reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. Douoguih is one of only five doctors who have performed three or more Tommy John surgeries on major league pitchers.

Following an injury to a player, Douoguih and his staff can recommend placing a player on the disabled list or “DL,” but the final decision is made by the general manager.

Douoguih came to W&L on an academic scholarship. A native of suburban New Jersey, Lexington was a bit of a culture shock to him, but after some adjustment, “I found it to be a special place that helped shape the rest of my life.”

His advisor in the chemistry department, William Watt, encouraged him in his quest to be a doctor and also to play lacrosse. “It was a challenge to do pre-med and play a varsity sport,” Douoguih said. “He encouraged me and gave me tips on study and discipline.”

Other mentors were Michael Pleva, emeritus professor of chemistry, “a lacrosse fan,” and Lisa Alty, professor of chemistry, who “kept me in line and made sure my work was done.”

He credits his lacrosse coach, Jim Stagnitta, with being “like a father away from home.” The coach “taught me life lessons that still serve me to this day.”

As a busy alumnus, Douoguih takes time to talk to W&L student athletes who are interested in medical careers. “I encourage them and sometimes write letters of recommendation” for them, he said.

He is living proof that medicine and sports do mix and that pursuing your dual passions can lead to success in a career.

Liz Berry ’09 Vanderbilt University Medical School, Nashville, TN

— by on June 6th, 2015

Liz Berry '09Liz Berry ’09

A tragedy set the course for Liz Webb Berry’s career.

The 2009 Washington and Lee valedictorian is finishing her first year of residency at Vanderbilt University Medical School, after obtaining an M.D. degree there in 2014. She and husband Vance Berry ’09, will then move to Atlanta, where Berry will spend the next three years as a resident in dermatology at Emory University Medical Center.

As a child, Berry was extraordinarily close to her mother, a part-time emergency medical technician, whom she describes as “a born healer.” While Berry doesn’t know how her life might have turned out in the absence of tragedy, it was the death of her mother from melanoma when she was 13 that made her dedicate her life to treating people with the deadly form of skin cancer.

“I think about her every day,” said Berry. As she has matured and earned the M.D. after her name, she says she has “a unique perspective as a doctor, having understood and cared for a person and not a disease.”

Berry’s quest to become a dermatologist began in earnest in 2008 when she served as an intern in melanoma research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Berry grew up in Colorado before her family moved to Virginia in 1998, and while at the center, she met the doctor who first diagnosed her mother with melanoma, Dr. William Robinson. A few years later, that connection would be instrumental at another turning point in her life.

Berry knew she wanted to be a dermatologist, and during her senior year at W&L, she decided to pursue a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research with leaders in the melanoma field in Brisbane, Australia.

Dr. Robinson had been a Fulbright Scholar and helped her make connections to researchers studying human pigmentation genetics. After corresponding with them, she formulated her project proposal with the help of George Bent, Sidney Gause Childress Professor in the Arts, who served as W&L’s Fulbright advisor.

Erich Uffelman, Bentley Professor of Chemistry, read and helped her revise the proposal, and then-Provost June Aprille signed off on it. After a long wait, Berry came back to her dorm one evening after a track meet to get ready to attend that evening’s Fancy Dress Ball. Between her “sweaty track clothes” and donning formal attire, she received word that she had received a Fulbright.

The rest of the semester and the following summer were busy – graduation from W&L, followed by a wedding in July and the move with her new husband to Australia.

There was more good news, however. Berry learned that she had received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship to help pay her medical school tuition.

An award-winning runner for W&L’s track and cross country team, Berry said her track career was “serendipitous.” She said she wasn’t very good at high school track; however, Kris Hoey, W&L’s coach at that time, wanted her on the W&L team. “Under her coaching, I thrived,” said Berry. “I dropped nearly 4 ½ minutes from my 5K time. I competed at a national level. It was an incredible experience.”

In Brisbane, Berry worked with three leading researchers, Dr. Adele Green, the scientist who first proved that sunscreen use decreases the likelihood of developing skin cancer; Dr. Rick Sturm, a prominent human pigmentation geneticist; and Dr. Peter Soyer, a dermatologist who is pioneering digital imaging. In addition to conducting research, Berry met with patients to photograph their moles and collect saliva samples. The photographs, along with DNA extracted from their saliva, helped the team understand the genetic underpinnings that might put a person at risk for skin cancer.

After 10 months in Australia, she returned to the states to enroll at Vanderbilt Medical School. “I adore Nashville. There was a similar feel to W&L in my medical school class,” she said, citing the supportive, nurturing environment.

When her four-year residency is completed and she passes an exam to be board certified in dermatology, Berry hopes to become associated with an academic medical center, so she can teach as well as treat patients. She is also looking for a framework to provide care to people who can’t afford health care or don’t have access to a dermatologist. “I want to provide compassionate, comprehensive care to those who otherwise would not have access,” she said.

Berry recently traveled back to her high school in The Plains, Va., to give the graduation speech. She spoke about leadership and communication, things she learned at W&L. As a student leader on the track team, she participated in several workshops conducted by Burr Datz, then-director of leadership development and coordinator of religious life. Those experiences taught her that the two most important things a leader can say are “I need help” and “How can I help you?”

“I have taken these lessons through medicine,” she said. “Clear communication in a non-threatening environment is essential for patient care.”

As Berry remembers the concern for others she saw in her mother’s eyes, she aspires to use the skills she learned at W&L and in Australia and medical school to be the same type of healer and comforter that she saw exemplified in her mother.