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Dr. Karen Rheuban, Telemedicine Champion, Wins University Of Virginia Women’s Center Leadership Award

September 28, 2005 -- With a touch of her fingertips, Dr. Karen Rheuban, medical director of the U.Va. Office of Telemedicine, saves lives. This year, the University of Virginia Women’s Center will present its annual Elizabeth Zintl Leadership Award to Rheuban for her efforts to develop what she calls an “electronic clinic” that has helped people in need in the Commonwealth of Virginia and brought people face to face around the world.

A reception to celebrate her achievements will be held on Sept. 29, from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Auditorium of the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library.

The Office of Telemedicine, which Rheuban worked to establish in the mid-1990s, brings together a consortium of physicians from about 30 different specialties to consult and diagnose cases around the state via computer networking. U.Va. currently provides “telehealth” services to 60 sites in the Commonwealth of Virginia, including community hospitals, rural clinics, schools and correctional facilities. More than 7,500 consultations, as well as thousands of hours of health professional and patient education, have been facilitated through this network. Patients, some of whom would have to drive long distances for follow-up services, now benefit from the latest knowledge and treatment while remaining under the care of their hometown health-care providers.

“I won’t take all the credit,” said Rheuban, who modestly calls herself a cheerleader as she promotes her dedicated team. “They’ve adopted the motto, failure is not an option.”

Developing telemedicine services involved a lot of convincing — to get equipment, funding and even laws changed. “We knew in our hearts that it was a tool that could make a difference,” she said.

 “Dr. Rheuban is an outstanding leader,” said Dr. Arthur T. Garson Jr., vice president and dean of the U.Va. School of Medicine. She “has consistently developed and expanded traditional positions as teacher, cardiologist, mentor, professor, dean, ambassador and telemedicine guru.”

At U.Va. since her residency, Rheuban joined the faculty in 1980. In addition to providing direct clinical services to patients in pediatric cardiology, both inpatient and outpatient, she has been associate dean for Continuing Medical Education since 1990. She oversees a large, accredited program that includes educational services delivered via on-site lectures or videoconferencing, an affiliated hospital program that provides services to 25 hospitals, as well as computer-assisted instructional materials and Web-based continuing education activities.

When Dr. Robert M. Carey, then-dean of the medical school asked her in 1990 to head a new program on faculty development and mentoring, Rheuban focused her typical passion and thoroughness on the task, creating programs that “were built to last,” said Carey. She brought together a school-wide pool of faculty mentors and organized a series of information sessions on topics such as promotion and tenure, grant writing and effective speaking.

“Dr. Rheuban has made major contributions to the University in pediatric cardiology, continuing medical education, faculty development and mentoring and institution of one of the nation’s best programs in telemedicine,” said Carey.

The National Library of Medicine in 2003 included Rheuban in a tribute to women physicians, and her peers nationwide have repeatedly chosen her to be listed in the Best Doctors in America database. She is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, the American Academy of Pediatrics and a board member of the Center for Telemedicine Law and the American Telemedicine Association.

An active member of the community, Rheuban and her telemedicine team recently set up “freedom calls,” connecting families in Virginia with relatives in the military in Iraq. They also are setting up the network to allow soldiers to watch the U.Va. football game against Georgia Tech on Nov. 12. In addition, Rheuban has offered telemedicine services to health personnel in the Gulf area since Hurricane Katrina.

A New York native, Rheuban says, “We’re a U.Va. family.” She met her husband here. Two of their three children are University students and the youngest has similar aspirations.

Rheuban is the eighth recipient of the Zintl Award, which was created by the Women’s Center to honor the late writer and journalist, Elizabeth Zintl, who served as chief of staff to President John T. Casteen III until her death in 1997. The honorees demonstrate a high degree of professionalism, creativity and commitment that mirrors Zintl’s contributions to the University.

The prize is supported by a gift from the late David A. Harrison III, one of the University’s most generous benefactors. Past recipients, one or two per year, include: Karin Wittenborg, the University’s head librarian; Darden professor and business ethics expert Patricia Werhane; French professor Marva Barnett, who also serves as director of the Teaching Resource Center; Shirley Menaker, associate provost for academic support; both Claire Cronmiller, associate professor of biology, and Louise Dudley, assistant vice president of university relations; Dr. Sharon Hostler, director of the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center; and both Patricia Lampkin, vice president for student affairs, and Sylvia Terry, associate dean of African-American Affairs.

Contact: Anne Bromley, (434) 924-6861

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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