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Massey physicians honored with Faculty Excellence Awards

Drs. Hackney, Bear and Grover

VCU Massey Cancer Center physicians Harry D. Bear, M.D., Ph.D., Mary Helen Hackney, M.D., and Amelia C. Grover, M.D., were honored at VCU School of Medicine’s 17th Annual Faculty Excellence Awards on Wednesday, October 21. Awards were presented to faculty members who have demonstrated extraordinary accomplishments in education, leadership and professional achievement through their commitment to excellence, integrity, teaching and service.

Bear, who is a surgical oncologist, the Dr. Walter Lawrence, Jr. Chair in Surgical Oncology, medical director of the Clinical Trials Office and director of the Breast Health Program at Massey as well as professor and chair of the VCU Division of Surgical Oncology, received the MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician Award. Hackney, who is a medical oncologist at Massey and a VCU associate professor of internal medicine, received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. Grover, who is a surgical oncologist and a VCU associate professor of surgical oncology, received the Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine Professional Achievement Award.

The following are excerpts from the Awards program, recognizing the contributions of Bear, Hackney and Grover.

MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician Award
Harry D. Bear, M.D., Ph.D.

Harry Bear, M.D., Ph.D., is the Walter Lawrence, Jr., Distinguished Professor in Oncology, chairman of the Division of Surgical Oncology, and professor of surgery and microbiology and immunology. He is also chair of the Massey Cancer Center Protocol Review and Monitoring Committee and director of the Breast Health Program. He received both his M.D. and his Ph.D. from VCU and completed his surgical residency at what is now the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Dr. Bear returned to VCU for his Surgical Oncology Fellowship and joined the faculty as an assistant professor; he has been on the faculty for 31 years. 

Dr. Bear is particularly known for his pioneering efforts in breast cancer and other breast disease, care and research. He has served on the Board of Directors of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) group for more than 20 years and has been study chair for two of this group's international breast cancer trials. In 2009 he received the NSABP Foundation Distinguished Investigator Lifetime Achievement Award. He has advanced the care of women with breast cancer through the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy allowing for more opportunities for breast conservation.

Dr. Bear has a long record of NIH/NCI funding, and is the local principal investigator for most of Massey Cancer Center’s current breast cancer clinical trials. He is also co-principal investigator on Massey’s Minority-Underserved NCI Community Oncology research program grant, which will provide $4.4 million in funding over five years to support clinical trials at VCU and community partner sites. Dr. Bear was awarded a US patent (US8741642 B2) in 2014 for Methods for Producing Autologous Immune Cells Resistant to Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells Effects. With over 160 peer-reviewed articles and over 100 abstracts, his work has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Surgical Oncology, Journal of Clinical Oncology and other prestigious journals.

Despite this extremely productive research program, Dr. Bear is known as an enthusiastic teacher and mentor and for promoting a collegial and supportive environment, whether teaching medical students or leading his clinical division colleagues.

“From a clinical perspective, Dr. Bear is a caring physician who is devoted to providing the best evidence-based care for patients,” states Giao Q. Phan, M.D., FACS, associate professor, Division of Surgical Oncology. Colleague Brian Kaplan, M.D., professor of surgery, describes Dr. Bear as “one of the go-to clinicians regionally for the treatment of breast cancer. He is always referred tough, complicated cases. His decision-making ability to bring perspective to seemingly unsolvable problems is uncanny.” Dr. Bear has received Richmond Magazine’s “Top Doc” recognition many times, as well as the “Patient's Choice” award twice, and he was named among  “America's Most Compassionate Physicians” in 2013.

Dr. Bear is committed to the training of the next generation of physicians. Colleague Amelia Grover, M.D., FACS, associate professor, Division of Surgical Oncology, comments on Dr. Bear's dedication to teaching:  “He is the program director of our surgical oncology fellowship, reviewing each application every year since I have been here. Under his leadership we attract a strong group of applicants and are able to find the best fit for our program. He also teaches the residents and students in the operating room. He meets weekly with the third-year medical students on our service and provides a comfortable and welcoming environment where they can ask questions and develop a passion for the care of our surgical oncology patients.”

For his dedication to excellence in clinical care, service to VCU and his profession and innovative research yielding discoveries that improve patient care, Dr. Harry Bear is the MCVP Physician of the Year.

Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award
Mary Helen Hackney, M.D. 

This year’s recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine award, Mary Helen Hackney, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine in the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care and a medical oncologist at Massey Cancer Center, has been described as “embodying the true sense of a compassionate physician on all levels.” Dr. Hackney came to VCU in 1988 for her internal medicine residency, completed a hematology/oncology fellowship, and joined the faculty in 1992 as a clinical instructor.

Dr. Hackney worked closely with Dr. Susan Mellette, a pioneering medical oncologist at MCV, who developed a model for cancer care that was "patient-centered" before that was a commonly cited goal. Dr. Hackney, a breast cancer specialist, quickly became involved in providing high-quality care to patients in rural areas; in 1998 she became interim director of Massey’s Rural Cancer Outreach Program and a year later she was appointed director, continuing in this role until 2013. The Rural Cancer Outreach Program was designed to respond to data showing that cancer deaths were much higher than the national average in rural areas outside Richmond. Travel to Richmond for care was identified as a barrier for many patients and their families. This program allows oncologists and nurses to travel to community hospital sites to bring the highest level of care to those who need it, right in their community.

Her dedication to improving health by meeting people “where they are” is also demonstrated by Dr. Hackney's dozens of presentations for community health care providers and the lay public at churches, community centers and health care facilities. She has been recognized seven times as a Richmond Magazine “Top Doc” and received the Sharon H. Kohlenberg Healthcare Service Award from the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (VBCF) in 2005. Dr. Hackney was recognized with the 2013 "Best Bedside Manner Award" by Our Health Richmond magazine, and was named a Virginia Lawyer’s Media “Influential Women of Virginia” in 2014.

Dr. Hackney is recognized as an outstanding mentor, clinician, scientist and teacher here in the School of Medicine as well. She received the 2009 VCU Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine (WISDM) Organization Professional Achievement Award and the Porter Master Clinician Award in 2011, and she was named a Physician Champion by VCUHS Senior Leadership and the Star Service Oversight Committee in 2013. Dr. Hackney is a champion and role model for ongoing professional development, especially that of women in medicine. Significantly, when facing a cancer diagnosis, many VCU Health faculty, staff and their family members specifically seek out Dr. Hackney for care, which is the ultimate accolade and statement of trust.

As director of quality improvement for the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care, co-chair of the Oncology Patient Care Services Committee and co-chair of a task force to develop integrative health programs, Dr. Hackney helps our health system improve interdisciplinary clinical care for our patients.

In nominating Dr. Hackney for this award, her colleague, Stephen Gudas, PT, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, describes her this way: “She is indefatigable, working long hours. Her bedside manner is impeccable. I have seen her talking with the same family for over two hours discussing a new diagnosis. Certainly she is one of the most competent, kind and totally involved physicians I have seen in my 40 years at VCU Health.”

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation sponsors the Leonard Tow Humanism Awards for those who “best demonstrate the Foundation's ideals of outstanding compassion in the delivery of care; respect for patients, their families and healthcare colleagues; and clinical excellence.” Through her exceptional dedication to providing the best possible care for patients and their families at Massey Cancer Center and in our community, Dr. Mary Helen Hackney truly exemplifies these ideals and we are honored to recognize her today.

Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine Professional Achievement “WISDM” Award
Amelia C. Grover, M.D.

It is fitting that Amelia Grover, M.D., associate professor of surgical oncology, would be recognized this year, when the WISDM conference keynote focuses on service. How does a busy surgical oncologist have time to manage multiple leadership roles, earn excellent teaching evaluations, build an impressive CV, pioneer novel approaches to surgical care, pursue professional development, oh, and balance that with a family and interests outside medicine? For the answer, look to Dr. Grover’s example. 

Dr. “Aimee” Grover came to VCU in 2005 after completing a surgical oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute/NIH. She was recruited to help build the endocrine surgery practice, which she has achieved while developing excellent relationships within VCU and with referring physicians. “She has built a remarkable endocrine surgery practice with a multidisciplinary approach with radiology, endocrinology and pathology to deliver the highest standard of care,” states Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D., Stuart McGuire Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery. Dr. Grover is developing a program to track patients who have incidental masses discovered as a result of CT scans ordered for other reasons, impacting approximately 400 patients a year who might otherwise not have had follow-up.

Dr. Grover has developed laparoscopic approaches to adrenal tumors and has developed a robotic program for both thyroid and adrenal tumors, among the first in the country. Five completed grants and research projects, over 20 peer-reviewed publications and over 80 presentations demonstrate the wide recognition of her expertise.  Dr. Grover also serves as an ad hoc reviewer for the journals Thyroid, International Journal of Breast Cancer, Journal of Graduate Medical Education and Annals of Surgical Oncology.

A valued teacher and mentor, Dr. Grover's knowledge and perspective are sought after by college students as well as by colleagues. Jennifer Rhodes, M.D., medical director of the Center for Craniofacial Care, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, says, “She reached out to me early in my career at VCU and has been a constant source of support and guidance over the ensuing years. She regularly takes time to ask about my progress and follow up on our discussion.”

Dr. Grover recognizes the importance of making time for professional development, including her role as a VCU BIRCH (Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health) Scholar from 2008-2012 and participation in the VCU Physician Leadership Institute in 2013. Her service commitments have included membership in the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, the Virginia Surgical Society, Vice President and Program Chair of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and President of the VA Chapter of the Association of Women Surgeons. Dr. Grover currently chairs the ACS Diversity Task Force and is active in the AAMC Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS) Steering Committee. At VCU, Dr. Grover chairs the Clinical Competency Subcommittee of the Surgical Education Oversight Committee and serves as Surgical Simulation Curriculum Co-Organizer. She has been active in WISDM throughout her time at VCU, serving as president from 2011 to 2013.

Honors include a VCU Hospitals Physician Champion Award (2013), a Breastfeeding Champion Award from VA Breastfeeding Advocates and the VA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (2011) and recognition in Richmond Magazine’s“Top Docs” list for many years. 

Somehow, despite her busy schedule, when you meet Dr. Grover, you are very likely to have a conversation about your family, or about an interesting fabric store she has discovered. Her reputation for demonstrating a healthy work/life balance and supporting this challenging goal in others is well deserved. Dr. Grover remembers to be a person, first, with her colleagues and her patients. As colleague Brian Kaplan, M.D., professor of surgical oncology, states, “The things that are not reflected in her CV are her incredible bedside manner, superb communication skills, warm personality and caring nature.”

Written by: Liza Janssen

Posted on: November 10, 2015