Originally created 02/11/01

Vice dean at Duke wants to be mentor



The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has tentatively set aside time Wednesday to consider who will become the next president of the Medical College of Georgia. University Chancellor Stephen R. Portch likely will recommend either Dr. Russel E. Kaufman of Duke University School of Medicine and Duke University Health Services, or Dr. Daniel W. Rahn of MCG and MCG Health Inc. Both men came to medicine through a love of science. Both are considered skilled clinicians and hard-working administrators with an open style. Their colleagues say they are bright and passionate about their work. Here is a brief look at the two finalists.

He wanted to be a pure researcher but was steered toward medicine and found he liked it. Russel E. Kaufman was then guided by a mentor to Duke University School of Medicine and then into hematology/oncology. Now he is ready to do some steering himself.

"It's probably a tribute to the role of mentoring," Dr. Kaufman said of his career at Duke, where he is now vice dean for education and academic affairs and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at Duke University Health System.

Dr. Kaufman will get an enormous steering opportunity if he is selected this week as the next president of the Medical College of Georgia.

"Do I think he's ready? Yes. I think he's grown enormously in the last couple of years," said Gordon Williams, a fellow vice dean in the School of Medicine at Duke. "I would have no doubts about his ability to assume much greater responsibility and to be the guy in charge."

After meeting Dr. Earl Metz while in medical school at Ohio State University, Dr. Kaufman went to his mentor's alma mater, Duke, where he has been ever since and is continuing the example Dr. Metz set for him.

"It confirmed to me that one could be really an outstanding doctor and also be a scientist and do research," Dr. Kaufman said.

Since being named vice dean in 1999, Dr. Kaufman is helping revamp the way health professionals are taught at Duke into a system that relies more on technology and integrates the latest research.

"There are a number of forces going on in the world, and one should develop a curriculum that is a dynamic curriculum that doesn't need to have a major event to overhaul it," Dr. Kaufman said. "The new knowledge that we create from research really serves the patient, because it's from that we develop new therapies, new diagnostics and new ways of providing care. It all feeds back to the patient, and that really is a core value (to build around)."

His own research is very important to him, and he is still very active in cancer- and blood-cell-related research. Dr. Kaufman is still exploring a protein he patented called K12, which seems to play a role in both blood cell formation and cancer.

"We think that this molecule may regulate the way natural killer cells scan and look for cancers," Dr. Kaufman said. "What we've found is that certain tumors, particularly breast cancers, produce large amounts of this material." When large amounts of K12 are released into the bloodstream, it appears to inhibit the killer T cells, Dr. Kaufman said.

Establishing a cancer center of excellence as envisioned in Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes' cancer initiative is a goal Dr. Kaufman would like to pursue at MCG.

"There's an opportunity there to create a strong cancer program that could serve a regional function and could also then serve to teach students about clinical research," Dr. Kaufman said. "It could also serve as a focus for many of the basic science investigators but could also provide terrific clinical care."

Becoming president of MCG would also provide a personal and professional opportunity, Dr. Kaufman said.

"It provides an opportunity for leadership, for personal growth for me in that there are a lot of challenges, and by meeting challenges and working through them, you achieve personal growth," Dr. Kaufman said. And it is attractive from "the fact that I could have an influence on shaping the direction of this medical college for the next 10 to 15 years."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.

Dr. Russel E. Kaufman

Current position: Vice dean for education and academic affairs, School of Medicine, Duke University; associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, Duke University Health Services

Age: 54

Education: B.S. in zoology and biochemistry from Ohio State University; M.D. from Ohio State University College of Medicine; residency and hematology and oncology fellowship at Duke; research hematologist at National Institutes of Health

Family: Married, two children

Research interests: Differentiation of blood-cell producing cells, cancer genetics