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Quillen college honors four outstanding alumni

Contributed • Jul 26, 2019 at 12:00 AM

East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine honored four of its alumni for outstanding achievement and service at the annual Quillen Reunion Dinner, held on Saturday, July 20, at the Blackthorn Club. 

This year’s recipients included Dr. David A. Ashburn Jr. (’98), who was honored posthumously for his legacy of accomplishments as a cardiothoracic surgeon; Dr. Anita S. Everett (’85), who now serves as the director for the Center for Mental Health Services at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Dr. Marjorie R. Jenkins (’95), who was recently appointed dean of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville and chief academic officer for Prisma Health-Upstate; and Dr. Theresa F. Lura (’84), who serves as assistant dean of Medical Education at Quillen College of Medicine.

Dr. David A. Ashburn Jr.

When Dr. David A. Ashburn Jr., a native of Bristol, Tennessee, graduated from Quillen College of Medicine in 1998, he was on his way to establishing a successful career in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.

After Quillen, he completed his general surgery residency at Wake Forest University while also electing and competing an additional two-year congenital heart surgery fellowship at the University of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. He joined the University of Michigan in 2005 as a cardiothoracic surgery fellow.

Ashburn was just two weeks from the start of an additional fellowship in pediatric cardiac surgery at the University of Michigan when the Survival Flight aircraft in which he was traveling as a member of the University of Michigan Organ Transplant Team crashed into Lake Michigan on June 4, 2007, killing him and the entire flight team.

While his life was tragically cut short, he leaves a legacy of professional accomplishments, and his impact on his field continues. 

At Wake Forest, one of the most prestigious awards for faculty was named in his honor. In addition to the teaching award at Wake Forest, Ashburn’s legacy includes a contribution to ongoing research in congenital heart disease through the fellowship he founded and completed with the Congenital Heart Surgeons’ Society. 

Ashburn was the first John W. Kirklin Fellow. He spent two years researching, collecting, and evaluating data for a global database of the CHSS at the Hospital for Sick Children under Dr. Bill Williams. The fellowship continues today, and was posthumously renamed the John W. Kirklin/David A. Ashburn Fellowship.

“I had the privilege of working with Dr. David Ashburn throughout his five years of surgical training,” said Dr. Edward A. Levine, chief of Surgical Oncology at Wake Forest. “I am also a proud recipient of the award named for him after his untimely passing. 

“David was an outstanding young surgeon with keen insights into clinical problems. He approached patients with respect and dignity, tempered with good humor. He was an excellent and patient teacher, so it is only fitting that the Wake Forest teaching award is named in his honor.”

The award was accepted by Ashburn’s widow, Candice Ashburn, and his three children, Maddie, Annabelle and David III.

Dr. Anita S. Everett

Dr. Anita S. Everett is a nationally recognized psychiatrist whose work affects millions of Americans and their families.

As the director for the Center for Mental Health Services at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, she provides executive leadership for federal efforts to improve the nation’s mental health service systems. 

Prior to her current role, she served as the section chief of The Johns Hopkins Bayview Community and General Psychiatry in Baltimore. She was on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. At Hopkins, she directed 22 community psychiatry programs that provide a range of services to individuals from preschool age to older adults. 

She has also served as the senior medical advisor to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and as the inspector general to the Office of the Governor in the Department of Mental Health in Virginia. 

Everett is most proud of her work and leadership positions with the American Psychiatric Association, most recently serving as president from 2017-18.

“I’ve had a sense of calling to the profession of medicine and psychiatry for a long time, but this concept of making a difference on a larger scale has been rewarding,” Everett said. “I am glad to be a part of bringing attention to community psychiatry and providing a space to care about the value of working with the underserved.”

Everett’s husband, Dr. Allen Everett, is also a Quillen alumnus. He is a pediatric cardiologist and professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

“We are both proud to have come from Quillen,” Everett said. “The school has clearly met its mission of providing increased availability to health care.” 

Dr. Marjorie R. Jenkins

Dr. Marjorie R. Jenkins might have a much different life if she had believed her high school guidance counselor, who once told her that she was too poor to become a doctor.

“I had wanted to become a doctor from the time that I was 5 years old, but because of my socioeconomic background, I was told that I couldn’t,” said Jenkins, who grew up as one of eight children in Belfry, Kentucky.

Jenkins not only proved her counselor wrong and became a physician, but she has also established herself as an international expert in the field of sex and gender-based medicine. 

In August, Jenkins will begin a new role as dean of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville and chief academic officer for Prisma Health-Upstate.

Jenkins begins her new position with significant experience with the health sciences, including roles as founding executive director and chief scientific officer of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health.

She has served as the Director of Medical Initiatives and Scientific Engagement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of the Commission Office of Women’s Health.

In addition, she has worked in academia as a graduate research program director at Johns Hopkins University and as a professor of internal medicine and associate dean for women in health and science at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

She is the founding director of the center’s Sex and Gender Health Curriculum Project and has served nationally in a variety of positions, such as program chairwoman of the 2015 and 2018 National Sex and Gender Medical Education Summits, and senior advisor to the 2020 summit.

“Part of my story inherently is wrapped up in being at Quillen,” Jenkins said. “The foundational training I received at Quillen taught me to be my patients’ advocate. That paved the way for the rest of my career.”

Dr. Theresa F. Lura

Dr. Theresa F. Lura has spent her career improving the quality of health care in Northeast Tennessee by serving students and alumni at Quillen College of Medicine.

Lura’s impact on Quillen students is far-reaching, and much of it has focused on curriculum. She started teaching pathology and cytopathology, but was eventually asked to create a course to help seniors prepare for residency training. The result was the “Keystone: Transition-to-Residency Course,” started in 2002.  When national examinations started including professionalism and ethics content, she developed the “Profession of Medicine: Patients, Physicians & Society Course” in 2009 (now part of Doctoring I and Doctoring II).

She also created other courses when she saw a need, such as the senior electives in Women’s Health and in Medical Humanities.

In addition to her work in the classroom, Lura has also represented Quillen on several national boards and organizations and was instrumental in starting the first alumni society and the first class-sponsored scholarship at Quillen.

Throughout her career, Lura has instilled the importance of service in hundreds of Quillen students through various projects, including an annual Community Agency Fair, which she developed. The fair is attended by representatives from 20-25 nonprofit groups. Students receive an introduction about the agencies and then visit each table to learn something about unmet community needs that particular agency fills. 

The students then choose of one of the agencies or another community nonprofit to work with through the rest of their first year and complete a Service-Learning Project report at the end of the year.

“I just finished reviewing the 73 Service-Learning Project reports from the Class of 2022, and it was very rewarding to read how meaningful this experience was to them,” Lura said. “It was especially rewarding to learn how many of them plan to continue their service throughout their medical school training, and into residency and their future practice of medicine.”

To learn more about Quillen College of Medicine, visit www.etsu.edu/com.

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