CHRISTIAN DE VIRGILIO, M.D. ’86, was 20 years old when he started medical school and took the first steps to fulfill a futurist essay he wrote when he was 12 – a high school assignment in which he described attending medical school at UCLA and becoming a physician.
Today, Dr. de Virgilio is a professor of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, where he has taught since 1993. A dedicated teacher, he is respected by his students and has received high honors for his teaching, including the 2007 National Golden Apple for Teaching Excellence Award by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA). AMSA presents the National Golden Apple Award annually to honor the contributions of a medical school professor who has made a significant impact on the educational value that a medical student receives from his or her coursework.
Moreover, Dr. de Virgilio received UCLA’s Golden Apple Award as Faculty Teacher of the Year in 1998 and again in each year from 2000 through 2006. In addition to serving as a career and research mentor for more than 80 undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students and residents over the last 10 years, Dr. de Virgilio hosts an informal dinner at his home for medical students interested in surgery and MAA members who are in surgical careers or residencies.
Currently, Dr. de Virgilio serves on the MAA Board of Directors and he is the vice chair of education and director of the General Surgery Residency Program at Harbor- UCLA Medical Center. Through his professional life, he upholds the mission of the MAA: to advance the cause of medical education, contribute to the excellence of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and encourage fellowship among the members of the MAA.
(FROM LEFT) Hannah Holcombe (M.D. '08), Christian de Virgilio, M.D. '86, Bryan Correa (M.D. '08) and Lorraine Kelley (M.D. '08) at the surgery student/alumni dinner hosted by Dr. de Virgilio at his home in May 2007.
ROLE MODEL, TEACHER AND FRIEND. Dr. Christian de Virgilio has been all three to me during the time I have known him while a medical student at UCLA. Rarely have I had a teacher believe in me the way that Dr. de Virgilio did. He has been a constant source of encouragement and support, and has mentored me since I decided on a career in surgery. What makes Dr. de Virgilio so special is that he is real, honest and relatable. Everyone who knows him loves him, whether it is a patient in the county hospital or a medical student getting her first exposure to surgery. His humor, humanistic qualities and spirit of leading by example help shape students’ lives, and I am no exception. He has touched my life and helped define my goals, and it was an honor for me to nominate him for the 2007 National Golden Apple for Teaching Excellence Award by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) at AMSA’s 57th Annual National Convention in Washington, D.C. — Kimberly Shapiro, M.D. ’07
RATHER THAN LET UNUSED MEDICAL BOOKS and journals gather dust on the shelf, UCLA medical alumni, students, faculty and emeriti have donated their texts to a program launched earlier this year by the Medical Alumni Association (MAA) to collect educational materials for hospitals and medical schools in Iraq.
Books Without Borders has been a collaboration of the MAA and the U.S. Army, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, UCLA School of Nursing, UCLA Health Sciences Store and the Los Angeles County Fire Department to collect and donate used texts, journals and reference materials published since 1994.
Response from the UCLA community has been outstanding. One group from the San Francisco Bay sent a container filled with 100 pounds of materials. A professor in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA donated her microscope from medical school. More than 2,000 medical texts and journals – nearly 5,000 pounds of material – have been delivered to medical schools and hospitals throughout Iraq by the U.S. Army.
The materials are used to teach medical students, nurses, laboratory technicians, EMTs and others in ancillary fields. Providing the tools for Iraqi doctors and medical students to improve their skills and education will be a critical step in reconstruction. Much of the decay in the Iraqi healthcare system began with the reign of Saddam Hussein. The medical system became very isolated during the last decade of his regime, and doctors weren’t allowed to go outside of the country to train. It really shut down progress in medicine. Today, Iraqi doctors are working to restore the medicaleducation system at all levels and in all fields, and they are grateful for donations of medical textbooks or journals. It is a difficult effort, however, because insurgents have targeted medical professionals, and many doctors have fled the country.
Any materials published since 1994 are considered current in Iraq. While Iraq’s doctors and students would benefit from all the information that is available on the Internet, the lack of electricity, slow access and limited availability of computers make it difficult for most doctors and students to access its resources.
English is the language of medical instruction in Iraq. Books covering the basics of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology are in particular demand, and multiple copies will be beneficial for the medical schools and reference libraries at Tikrit Teaching Hospital and Mosul University. There are several nursing and vocational schools across the north of Iraq, including Diyala and Tikrit, that also needed materials.
Though the program is no longer accepting donations of books, it still is receiving journals. To donate, call MAA Director Valerie Walker at (310) 794-4025, or email [email protected]. —Dr. Laura Pacha, M.D. ’98
To read more about Books Without Borders, go to www.uclalumni.net/BooksWithoutBorders
ABOUT THE WRITER
DR. LAURA PACHA, M.D. ’98, grew up an Army brat, following her father as he moved from base to base around the country. Today, she is a major in the U.S. Army. In August 2006, she was deployed with the 25th Infantry Division to northern Iraq, where she served as the public-health officer responsible for more than 20,000 soldiers, service members, contractors and civilian Department of Defense employees in the region. Dr. Pacha attended UCLA medical school on an Army Health Professions Scholarship and completed her residency in preventive medicine at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Photography courtesy of Dr. Laura Pacha
ARE YOU A MEMBER of the Class of: 1958, 1963, 1968, 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993 or 1998?
Mark your calendar for the weekend of April 11-12, 2008, to reconnect and reminisce with classmates from medical school. The weekend's events will offer wonderful opportunities for you to return to the Westwood campus and reflect upon your experiences as a medical student and the friendships you formed at UCLA.
Each class needs reunion representatives to be in touch with classmates and encourage attendance. If you would like to be a reunion representative, call the UCLA MAA offi ce at (310) 825-0988, or email [email protected].
Loretta Gilker Milburn, M.D. '62 (left), and Lucia Carpenter Dean, M.D. '62, reunite at Reunion 2007.
For more information on MAA reunions, visit medschool.ucla.edu/current-alumni