Suffolk couple honored for work at EVMS

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

A Suffolk husband-and-wife pair of doctors at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk is among five faculty members that were recently presented Dean’s Faculty Achievement Awards. They and the three other doctors were recognized for their accomplishments in teaching, scientific investigation and institutional service.

Christine C. Matson, M.D., professor of family and community medicine, received the Award for Institutional Service. As associate dean for education, Matson has been responsible for major innovations in the medical school’s curriculum. She was recently appointed interim chairman of the department of family and community medicine.

David O. Matson, M.D., professor of pediatrics, received the Award for Achievement in Research. From his laboratory at the Center for Pediatric Research – a joint project of EVMS and Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters – Matson is internationally recognized for his research involving childhood gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus, calicivirus and astrovirus.

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For her part, Dr. Christine Matson said, &uot;I think that the award was given more for some sustained contributions …not a recent service, but a record. (Both doctors have been at EVMS for nine years). The major thing that precipitated it was the generalist curriculum revisions, initiated in 1994. The focus was on curriculum development, integration and revision.&uot;

An example of how this has proved beneficial can be found in medical students who get early clinical experience with patients; they can meet with them in their first year, rather than having to wait until the third or fourth year of study. Dr. Matson said that few schools were doing this when EVMS started this practice.

She said, &uot;I want to emphasize this award represents a lot of collaboration among multiple faculty, students and disciplines.&uot;

Dr. David Matson explained that his award was given, &uot;not for one project so much as a set of projects that all deal with the issue of determining what tests can we use to find out that a child is protected from rotavirus infection. And we came up with several answers that were all based on several epidemiology studies.

&uot;To give you an idea of the scope, in just one of those studies, 35,000 stool specimens and 1,600 blood specimens were collected over two years of weekly home visits to 200 children in Mexico. We did all the testing for rotavirus in Norfolk, and the fieldwork was done by our Mexican collaborators.

&uot;Rotavirus is the most common cause of serious gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) in children worldwide. That virus kills 800,000 under the age 5 each year. In the U.S., it hospitalizes 100,000 each year. Fortunately, we have few deaths in the U.S.

&uot;The research showed what a vaccine has to do to protect a child. We are in the midst of vaccine trials now. There’s a large trial that’s being conducted in the U.S. and Finland with 60,000 children to test one of the possible rotavirus vaccines.&uot;

The couple met while students at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. By the time he was recruited nine years ago, David was on the Infectious Disease faculty, &uot;and I was acting chair of Family Medicine,&uot; she said. &uot;David was recruited and I was the trailing spouse.&uot; Dr. Matson added that she was also recruited. In February a year later she got a job as associate dean for education.

So why did the couple chose Suffolk for a residence rather than live closer to work?

&uot;We picked Suffolk because of our daughter, (who was 8 years old then), so that she could have a horse,&uot; Dr. Matson said. &uot;We picked Cedar Point. Ironically no horses are allowed, but there’s a stable close by.

We really appreciate the country atmosphere. There are nesting birds (like Carolina Wrens) and wild animals. We can see the James and Nansemond and a tidal marsh from one side. On the other side is the ninth green.&uot;

The other three recipients are Dr. Robert P. Archer, Dr. Timothy Bos and Dr. Alfred E. Denio.