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Trendsetters - April 2006

Dr. Deanna Wathington

University of South Florida
Associate dean, Academic Enrichment, College of Medicine
Mother of 4:
Ages 8 to 20
Started at age 4. Performed off-Broadway until her mid-20s. Still takes classes.
Learned from her father after taking too many beatings in public middle school. "I was bright, and I wasn't ashamed I was bright."
But still:
A big public school fan and a boxing fan. "I know it's a real barbaric sport, and I know as a physician I shouldn't like it, but I do."
M.D., University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey/New Jersey Medical School; master's, public health, Temple University.


Family doctor Deanna Wathington has followed an interesting path to becoming associate dean at a medical school. A ballerina by choice, a boxer by necessity, she knew at 9 she would become a doctor but earned a master's in public health and worked in the Philadelphia projects before starting medical school at 29.

It's fitting that someone with an unusual background has become a core part of the University of South Florida medical school's non-traditional training program. When she went to med school, students took two years of class work and labs and then were thrown into the sink-or-swim third year of clinical work -- "fairly hard-nosed and competitive," she says.

USF, by contrast, puts first-year students in mock exam rooms with people hired to simulate symptoms, has them shadow local doctors and learn to listen to patients. "They learn medicine and also about the business of medicine," says Wathington, 43.

USF is one of six innovative schools being studied by the Carnegie Foundation, along with six traditional schools, as it rewrites standards of medical education that have been in place for nearly the last 100 years.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Wathington's grandparents included Southern sharecroppers and a New Jersey Native American. Her father was a high school baseball star who became a computer programmer; her mother was a medical assistant.

Wathington came to Florida 10 years ago, finished her residency at Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg and joined the USF faculty in 2003. She was voted teacher of the year by second-year students and teaches groundbreaking courses in clinical diagnosis and reasoning and outpatient care. She sees the future in USF's methods: "I believe that the way we are attempting to teach it now is more responsive to the patient. The patients have been asking for a different kind of physician."


? Radiologist Dr. Barry Katzen, 59, a pioneer in non-invasive, non-surgical treatments for vascular problems outside the heart, repaired Vice President Dick Cheney's leg aneurysms last year. Katzen founded and is medical director of Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute in Miami.

? Gasper Lazzara, 63, CEO, founded Ponte Vedra Beach-based Imagine Orthodontics last year with offices in seven markets nationally.

? Diana Robinson stepped down as president of trade group BioFlorida to become director of business development for New York life sciences private equity firm Aisling Capital. She will work from Florida.

Dr. Ron Brown


Managing partner, founder, Orlando

Recommended reading:
"The Great Influenza" by John M. Barry; "The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu" by Mike Davis
Air travel health tip:
Wash your hands. Illness doesn't come from the circulating air. Illness comes from touching seat belts, tray tables and armrests contaminated by passengers and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
Plague transporter:
Commercial aircraft. "That's how it's going to be spread."

Air defense

In 2002 and 2003, as SARS spread from Asia, Dr. Ron Brown, then Seminole County's emergency management services medical director, was asked to consult with local authorities about setting up a quarantine center for potentially contagious air travelers. "OK, great, we'll take care of the patients," he recalls saying at a meeting. "Who's going to take care of the planes?"

"That was met with a lot of blank stares," says Brown, who attended the University of Central Florida as an undergrad and the University of South Florida for med school.

Brown was staring at opportunity. At great cost, Asian airlines had parked jumbo jets for weeks to let the virus in contaminated interiors die. Chemical treatments applied by hand weren't good solutions for planes or the workers who cleaned them.

Brown has raised $2.5 million from investors and developed a trailer-sized device that manipulates airline cabin temperature and humidity to kill viruses without harming the airplane's avionics or workers. Authorities in public health foresee using it in airplanes, subways, buses, rental cars, buildings, ambulances, cruise ships and other transports.

Brown, 50, expects to begin selling units this year for $600,000 to $750,000 to Asian airlines and U.S. airport and military officials. He hopes final assembly will occur in Orlando but says that depends on how generous the state's incentives package is. As AeroClave evolves, Brown is the principal investigator for a private firm on Centers for Disease Control-sponsored small pox vaccine trials.

Twenty years ago, Brown earned an MBA from Rollins College "just because" he was interested. Now, business is more than just a fancy. "We really think it will be a $1-billion industry a year for Florida in the next couple years."

Dr. John May
Disease Lockdown

Health Through Walls - Founder, Miami

Job: Corporate medical director, Armor Correctional Health Services, the healthcare provider to Broward County's jails.
Demanding sideline: May, 43, flies monthly to such places as Haiti and Jamaica to advise jailers there on sanitary practices, curbing the spread of disease, and to treat inmates. He hits the local flea market for supplies to take with him.
Financial support: His own resources and family and friends.
Organizational hope: Make the non-profit self-sustaining, get grants and more private support.
Ultimate vision: "To be a vehicle for U.S. correctional health professionals to volunteer their time and services in the prison systems of developing countries."
Challenge: "The need's enormous. As long as we know we can make a difference, that keeps us motivated."

Sue Washer
Applied Genetic Technologies
CEO, Gainesville

Protein Provider
"It's every businessperson's dream when you're doing a startup to ride with it all the way to success," says New England native and University of Florida MBA Sue Washer. Applied Genetic, the startup she joined five years ago, has raised $26 million. Using technology developed by its founding professors -- four from UF and one from the University of North Carolina -- Applied's niche is people whose bodies can't make certain proteins. It hopes for a license in 2009 to treat an inherited cause of emphysema that afflicts one in 2,500 Caucasians. Applied also has joined with Massachusetts-based Genzyme to treat age-related macular degeneration, which can cause blindness.