The MITAC Organization has its headquarters on the medical campus of the Virginia Commonwealth University. MITAC is a NASA sponsored research lab within the Department of Surgery.

Back Row: (Left to right) Brett Harnett, Dr. Azhar Rafiq, Debbie Rice, Xiaoming Zhao, Russell Hummel, Dr. Vladimir Lavrentyev, Dr. Lucian Panait, Debbie Justis, Dr. Ahmed Kamal
Front Row: Charles Doarn, Dr. Ronald Merrell, Dr. Timothy Broderick, Nathaniel Merriam


Ronald C. Merrell, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Stuart McGuire Professor & Chairman
VCU Department of Surgery

Dr. Ronald C. Merrell joined the VCU Department of Surgery July 1, 1999 as Stuart McGuire Professor and Chairman. Previously he was the Lampman Professor and Chairman of Surgery at Yale University School of Medicine. He obtained B.S. and M.D. degrees from the University of Alabama, which is his home state. Dr. Merrell completed his residency and fellowship training at the Barnes Hospital, Washington University in St. Louis. After a brief tour of duty in the Army, he joined the faculty at Stanford University. At Stanford, Dr. Merrell established a laboratory to address transplantation of Islets of Langerhans, chaired the Curriculum Committee and won the Kaiser Foundation Award for excellence in teaching. In 1984, he moved to the Texas Medical Center where he became Professor of Surgery, led the Endocrine Tumor Section of the MD Anderson Cancer Center and ultimately became the Vice Dean of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. He was honored for his work in curriculum and teaching and led programs in clinical medicine, education and research. In Texas, Dr. Merrell began a long relationship with NASA and telemedicine beginning with relief efforts in Armenia. He established successful programs in industry for research and development and continued his interest in international programs in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Greece, Egypt, Brazil, Iceland, Turkey, Kosovo and Ecuador.

Dr. Merrell leads the Medical Informatics Technology Applications Consortium, a NASA Commercial Space Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, which is dedicated to telemedicine and medical informatics. He is Chairman of the Aerospace Medicine and Occupational Health Advisory Subcommittee, and serves as a member of the Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications Advisory Committee -- both a part of NASA.

He is Editor of New Surgery, a journal of surgical innovation, which premieres in January 2001 and serves on the Editorial Board of Annals of Surgery and Current Surgery. He is a member of many medical organizations including Alpha Omega Alpha, Society of University of Surgeons, American Surgical Association. He is listed in Who's Who and has authored over 100 works. He is frequently invited to speak for conferences both nationally and abroad.


Azhar Rafiq, MD
Assistant Professor

Dr. Azhar Rafiq is an Assistant Professor for NASA's Commercial Space Center for Medical Informatics and Technology Applications Consortium in the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Virginia Hospital at Virginia Commonwealth University. He comes to MITAC with a vast knowledge of implementation and application of a wide spectrum of software and hardware issues relevant to telemedicine and medical informatics. Dr. Rafiq's extensive research and teaching experience at MCVH includes the identification of unique neuronal circuitry and development of novel techniques in the field of Status Epilepticus. He has published extensively in peer reviewed journals and had presented his findings at national conferences. Dr. Rafiq received his undergraduate degree from City College of New York, and graduate degree from Hunter College of New York. Dr. Rafiq completed his medical degree at St. George's University with clerkship trainings at Yale University School of Medicine.


Nathaniel Merriam
Media Director

Originally from Texas, Nathaniel spent five years in New York City as an artist in comic books and commercial illustration.  He received his degree in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts.  Nathaniel served as the technical specialist on the MedITAC mission to Mount Everest in 1999.  He designed the web site for this mission,, as well as the MedITAC website.  He has his own refuge online at


Russel Hummel
Assistant Professor

Russell S. Hummel, III is a faculty member in the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Virginia Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. He received a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1977, and a Masters Degree in Biomedical Engineering from VCU in 1991. His background includes extensive experience with radio and electronic communications system, as well as computer based data acquisition systems. He is a Nationally Registered Paramedic.


Debbie Rice
Administrative Assistant

Ms. Rice serves as the administrative assistant for the MITAC.



Xiaoming Zhao
Telemedicine Engineer

Xiaoming serves as telemedicine and biomedical engineer at the MITAC. His responsibilities include the design and implementation of the telemedicine systems software, design and maintainence of medical instruments, management of the network and teleconference systems as well as website programming and administration. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Jilin University, China. He received his Master of Science degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Zhejiang University, China in 1997 and from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2001. He worked as a software and system engineer at Zhongxing Telecom from 1997 to 1999.


Chasity Roberts
Editorial Assistant

A Richmond native, Chasity earned her Master's degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, Washington, DC in 1996. She also has a bachelor's degree in English and Secondary Education from Averett College, Danville, Virginia. She joined the group at MITAC to serve as editorial assistant to Dr. Merrell and MITAC.

Stephen Cone, M.D.
Post Doctoral Fellow

From South Carolina, Stephen earned his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina. After an internship in surgery, here at the Medical College of Virgina / Virginia Commonwealth University, he joined the group at MITAC to serve as the post doctoral fellow involved in the Ecuador testbed.


Vladimir Lavrentyev, M.D.
Post Doctoral Fellow

From Russia, Vladimir earned his medical degree from the Moscow Medical Stomatological Institute. He did his internship in urology, Hospital #52 in Moscow. At VCU Vladimir serves as a post doctoral fellow and is the prinicipal liaison between MITAC and several organizations with which we coordinate activities within Russia, Armenia and the Ukraine.


Lucian Panait, M.D.
Post Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Lucian Panait earned his medical degree from the School of Medicine of "Ovidius" University of Constanta, Romania. After completion of studies, he served as a general surgery resident in the Clinical County Hospital of Constanta, Romania. He joined MITAC in July 2002 as a postdoctoral fellow. He is currently involved in several projects, which include: research in robotic surgery, coordination of the Romania Telemedicine Project, and coordination of the CME activity offered by the Department of Surgery at VCU through the MITAC web site.


In August 1999, the MITAC established a board of directors and science advisors. Board members, representing academic, industrial and governmental organizations, share common vision and ideas in medical informatics and telemedicine. Several members serve as science advisors rather than as board members. This is due to the circumstances of their employment.

The purpose of the board and the science advisors is to provide advice and guidance to the MITAC on technological innovation and current philosophy in the disciplines, which the MITAC is involved in.


Faye Baggiano, Ph.D Healthcare Global Industry Group
Sultan Bahabri, M.D. King Faisal Specialist Hospital
David Boor MIT
Conrad Clyburn Georgetown University
Bernard Harris, MD Vesalius, Inc.
Donald Lindberg, Ph.D. National Library of Medicine
Yves Lussier, M.D. Columbia Presbyterian
Robert Mattauch, Ph.D VCU Dept. of Engineering
Dena Puskin, Ph.D Office of Telehealth, HHS
Steve Schendel, MD Stanford University
Robert Skunda Virginia Biotechnology Research Park
R. Carter Scott McGuire Woods
Yulun Wang, Ph.D.

InTouch Health


Arnauld Nicogossian, M.D. George Mason University
Col. Ronald Poropatich, M.D. Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Jay Sanders, M.D. The Global Telemedicine Group

1101 E Marshall St
PO BOX 980480
Richmond, VA 23298
Questions or Comments? Contact Us.
Copyright 2000 MedITAC
April 22, 2004