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School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

August 27, 2015

Two Medical School Faculty Honored at VCU’s 2015 Convocation

Gordon Ginder, M.D.

Gordon Ginder, M.D.

Earlier this month, I was proud to see a pair of remarkable physicians honored for their work to advance the care of patients in Virginia, Gordon Ginder, M.D., and Ananda Pandurangi, M.D,, were recognized at VCU’s 33rd Annual Faculty Convocation on Aug. 18, 2015.

Gordon Ginder, M.D., was presented the University Award of Excellence. His selfless dedication to delivering the highest quality care to cancer patients in Virginia, many of whom have complex medical and social needs, has created the successful Massey Cancer Center, serving over 15,000 patients each year, that we are all so proud of. His ability to create an atmosphere where everyone associated with the Center feels that they can contribute to its success is remarkable and inspires faculty, staff, volunteers and donors to reach for the highest level of excellence.

Ananda Pandurangi, M.D.

Ananda Pandurangi, M.D.

Ananda Pandurangi, M.D., received the Distinguished Service Award. He has devoted his career of over 30 years at VCU to improving the access to and quality of care for people with mental illness. His research, teaching, and advocacy have had a positive impact on the lives of children and adults in Virginia, the U.S., and beyond, particularly as a leader in our international program with the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research. in Chandigarh, India. His service has enhanced VCU’s positive impact on our global community and advances all four themes of the VCU Quest for Distinction.

You can read more about their careers and contributions in the VCU news release.

August 12, 2015

Stephen Kates, M.D., has been selected to serve as Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Stephen Kates, M.D.

Stephen Kates, M.D.

I am pleased to announce that, following a national search, Stephen Kates, M.D., has been selected to serve as Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He will begin his tenure on November 16, 2015.

Dr. Kates comes to VCU from the University of Rochester where he is the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Associate Director for the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, a top ranked orthopaedic laboratory. He is a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School and did his residency training at Northwestern University and the University of Rochester. He is editor of Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation and is past president of the International Geriatric Fracture Society.

Dr. Kates serves as the PI of the AO Foundation-Trauma Clinical Priority Program on Bone Infection. Earlier this year, Dr. Kates and his research partners won the 2015 Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research/Orthopaedic Research Society Richard Brand Award for the most outstanding clinical orthopaedic research paper, “A multiplex assay of host immunity against Staph aureus for Osteomyelitis patients.” In addition, he serves as the national leader of the NSQIP/AAOS/OTA national focused registry on hip fractures and is an internationally recognized thought leader in geriatric fracture care. Dr. Kates developed the Geriatric Fracture Center Model of Care, which has been emulated by many hospitals in the U.S., UK, Europe, Latin America and Asia. Dr. Kates will relocate to Richmond with his wife, Amy L. Kates, RN, MS, who has vast experience in cardiology and management, and his daughter Hailey Kates who is a national level equestrian. His older daughter Olivia Kates, MD, is an intern in internal medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

Dr. Kates will succeed Robert S. Adelaar, M.D., current Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Adelaar joined VCU in 1976 and was named Department Chair and the John A. Cardea Endowed Chair in 2002. As Chair, Dr. Adelaar has overseen growth in the Department including doubling the number of surgeons and the number of operative cases. The Department has gained recognition by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 50 orthopaedic clinical services in the country. Dr. Adelaar is a past president of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society and the Southern Orthopaedic Association. I am extremely grateful to him for his outstanding contributions to clinical care and education in the School of Medicine and Health System.

My thanks go to Dr. Laurence DiNardo, Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology, who led the national search, and the search committee, who identified Dr. Kates as the next leader of Orthopaedic Surgery.

July 31, 2015

Dean Strauss Commends Gordon Archer’s 40-year career in the medical school

Gordon L. Archer, M.D.

Gordon L. Archer, M.D.

Gordon L. Archer, M.D., our valued founding Senior Associate Dean for Research & Research Training will be retiring at the end of August.

Dr. Archer joined the faculty at the Medical College of Virginia (now VCU School of Medicine) in 1975 and has been here for his entire career. His early research interest was in infective endocarditis and he was one of the first developers and users of the rabbit model of endocarditis. He has been continuously NIH-funded for his research since 1975, including an NIH MERIT grant from 1995 to 2005.

He was the Chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases from 1992 until 2005 when he became the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Research Training in the VCU School of Medicine. In this position he not only coordinated research programs in the SOM but also directs both the M.D./Ph.D. combined degree and the Ph.D. predoctoral programs.

He has consulted for and been on the Scientific Advisory Board of a number of pharmaceutical companies including, most recently, Achillion, Cubist and Spero Pharmaceuticals and from 1998 to 2003 was the recipient of a Bristol Myers Squibb unrestricted research grant. He has been on the Board of Scientific Counselors at the NIH for the NIDCR, the NIAID and, currently, the NIH Clinical Center. He is on the Editorial Board of the ASM journal, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. He has published 99 articles in peer-reviewed journals, on 86% of which he was the first or senior author. He has written 26 reviews and book chapters, including the chapter on Antibacterial Chemotherapy for four editions of Harrisons’ Textbook of Internal Medicine. He has also been the editor for two editions of the book, Staphylococci in Human Disease.

In addition to his research interests, Dr. Archer has been involved with student education throughout his career. He was the Director of the M3 Clerkship and then the M3 and M4 medical school years; the Councilor of the medical school honor society AOA for 20 years; and taught Antimicrobial Agents and Antimicrobial Therapy to M1, M2 and M3 medical students as well as graduate students in Microbiology and Immunology. He has been the graduate thesis advisor for eight Ph.D. and two Masters students and the research mentor for 20 Ph.D. and M.D. postdoctoral fellows. As Senior Associate Dean for Research he is also responsible for coordinating research opportunities for medical students and, in 2012, with Kate Lapane, began the summer program Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Public Health Epidemiology (MIDPH) which provides research opportunities for both VCU medical students and college students throughout the country. Finally, as noted above, he has been the Director of the combined M.D./Ph.D. predoctoral training program for 13 years.

Please join me in thanking Gordon for his many years of service at the School of Medicine.

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Ross Mikkelsen will serve as Interim Director of the M.D./Ph.D. program. Dr. Mikkelsen joined the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1988. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. After obtaining his degree, he held a Damon Runyon post-doctoral fellowship at Tufts University School of Medicine with Dr. Donald F.H. Wallach and then continued at Tufts as a faculty member. His research investigates mechanisms of how cells sense cytoplasmic ionization events due to radiation or chronic inflammation and modulate cell survival mechanisms. Dr. Mikkelsen is presently Chief of the Molecular Radiobiology and Targeted Imaging Division of the Department. He has been on the Medical School Admissions Committee since 1993, a member of the M.D./Ph.D. Steering Committee since 2003 and Associate Director of the M.D./Ph.D. Program since 2007.

June 9, 2015

Sometimes I worry about our admissions committee.

Spring 2015 issue of 12th and Marshall

This year, we received a record 9,006 applications. We only have 216 seats. Committee members have the unenviable task of winnowing down the applicant pool, assessing drive, determination and dreams, and assembling the first-year class.

We see great grades and MCAT scores, of course, but the academic record doesn’t tell the whole story. So we look at each applicant holistically. That means the committee did more than 900 interviews.

They discover applicants who have unique experiences that enrich the learning environment for the whole class. At an average age of 24.5, the incoming students bring to medical school a variety of work experiences as well as public health service and medical missions around the world.

When I arrived in 2005, we had 4,877 applicants for 184 seats. Since then, across the nation, we’ve seen an increase in the number of students applying to medical school. By 2014, the national applicant pool had grown by 32 percent. In that same time span, applications to our own medical school increased by nearly double that.

Why does our growth far outpace the nation’s?

I’d say it’s our innovation. We’ve got a state-of-the-art building and one of largest simulation spaces in the country. Even deans and facilities staff from other medical schools visit campus to check it out.

Despite the increasingly competitive Match process that we told you about in the debut issue of the medical school’s 12th & Marshall magazine, we place most of our students into the specialties they want. All over the country. Matching to great residency programs. You can see where this year’s graduating class is headed.

And now this year’s USMLE Step 1 scores are starting to arrive. Our new curriculum gets students through their pre-clinical studies quicker than ever, so they take the licensing exam earlier than ever. (A story in the spring issue of 12th & Marshall will tell you more about that.) With 93 percent of the scores in hand, we’re seeing results that are 12-13 points higher than previous classes.

That’s important not only because it means those students can move into clinical training. Those scores are what residency program directors will look at in a couple of years to decide who they’ll consider for their programs. With scores above the national average, our students will be in a position to follow their dreams into the specialties they love.

Medical school applicants look at outcomes like these. It’s one of the reasons we have applicants from all over the country.

Unfortunately, it looks like the job of our admissions committee is getting even more difficult.

April 29, 2015

Alex Valadka, M.D., named chair of the Department of Neurosurgery

Alex Valadka, M.D.

Alex Valadka, M.D.

I am pleased to announce that, following a national search, Alex Valadka, M.D., will serve as chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. He will begin his tenure on August 24.

Valadka succeeds Harold F. Young, M.D., who is the founding chair of the Neurosurgery Department. I am profoundly grateful to Dr. Young whose leadership has been invaluable since he joined VCU as professor of neurosurgery in 1976. Today he is the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Chair in Neurosurgery and director of the Harold F. Young Neurosurgical Center at VCU Medical Center. I credit Dr. Young with building a department that’s among the nation’s leading head-trauma programs. In addition, the department has generated more than $25 million in sponsored research from the NIH and is a top training program for neurosurgeons, including Dr. Valadka who completed his residency training on the MCV Campus in 1993.

Currently, Dr. Valadka is chairman and chief executive officer of the Seton Brain and Spine Institute in Austin, Texas, the largest, most comprehensive neuroscience program in Central Texas. He has a strong clinical and research interest in neurotrauma and critical care as evidenced by his research funding and record of scholarly publication. Dr. Valadka has been investigator and co-investigator on 18 research grants, including serving as initiating investigator on a $33.7-million Department of Defense research consortium on mild traumatic brain injury. He is author and co-author on more than seven dozen scientific papers and was co-editor on the textbook Neurotrauma: Evidence-Based Answers to Common Questions. He also is an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

He is active on the national front and has served as chair of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Section on Neurotrauma and Critical Care; as chair of the Neurosurgical Specialty Group of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Committee on Trauma; and on the boards of directors of the AANS and the Coalition for American Trauma Care. He has chaired the Washington Committee for Neurosurgery and served as vice president of the AANS. He served as a standing study section member for the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and continues to be a frequent ad hoc reviewer. His current responsibilities include serving as treasurer of the AANS and governor of the ACS as well as membership on the board of directors of the National Trauma Institute. He is associate editor of the Journal of Neurotrauma and section editor for Neurosurgery. He is the Consultant to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, and in that role, he helped create and implement important new initiatives to improve player safety

Dr. Valadka earned his medical degree at the University of Chicago in 1987 and completed his neurosurgery residency training on the MCV Campus in 1993. Afterwards, he joined the faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine. In 2006, he accepted a position as professor and vice chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. In 2009, he moved to Austin where he became CEO of the Seton Brain and Spine Institute and worked to create an academic medical center in Central Texas.

Dr. Valadka is married to Richmond native Patricia Valadka, who earned a pair of bachelor’s degrees from VCU: in psychology in 1982 and in nursing in 1986. Please join me in welcoming them both back to Richmond.

My thanks go to David Chelmow, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who led the national search for a surgeon capable of following in the footsteps of Dr. Young and continuing the department’s traditional strengths in training and advancing the field of neurosurgical care.

February 3, 2015

Four medical school faculty chosen among 2015’s Blick Scholars

The Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences has announced this year’s Blick Scholars. Of the 10 faculty members chosen, four are from the medical school. Congratulations to:

· Carlos R. Escalante , Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics
· Jessica G. LaRose, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Health
· Qinglian Liu, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics
· Lindsay M. Sabik, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research

The Blick Scholars Program is made possible through the George and Lavinia Blick Research Fund housed at the MCV Foundation. Created with a generous $2 million bequest by Lavinia Blick, the fund was her gesture of gratitude for the care she and her family had received at MCV and later at the VCU Medical Center. Her only stipulation was that the gift be used to fund medical research on the MCV Campus.

Blick Scholars are chosen through a nomination process. They must demonstrate documented growth toward achievement of national or international recognition, a developing record of obtaining external research funding, collaborative scholarship and a primary faculty appointment in one of the health sciences schools. The fund made its first awards in 2010.

Every four years, the Blick Scholars Program chooses up to 10 junior faculty who receive an annual award for four years. This year’s awards will begin July 1, 2015.

January 26, 2015

Match season off to a good start with success for students matching in Urology, Ophthalmology

Results are in for students hoping to train in Ophthalmology and Urology — two highly-competitive specialties that have traditionally conducted early Match processes. Again this year, hopeful applicants outnumbered residency slots, and I am proud to see that all our students applying to these specialties have matched to strong residency programs.

Three current students and one former graduate saw success in the 2015 Ophthalmology Residency Match:
• Steven Fish – West Virginia University Eye Institute ( Morgantown, W.Va.)
• Katherine McCabe – New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (New York, N.Y.)
• Adam Pflugrath – VCU School of Medicine (Richmond, Va.)
• John Le, M’12 – VCU School of Medicine (Richmond, Va.)

Both the students participating in the Urology Match have secured positions:
• Zachary McDowell – Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, Texas)
• Jordan Southern – Geisinger Medical Center (Danville, Penn.)

In addition, 11 students have participated in a variety of military scholarship programs, which cover medical school tuition and fees. In exchange, after graduating, the students will serve one year of active duty for each year of scholarship support received. This year, three of the students elected to take a civilian deferment, and we are proud to see the remainder have matched into the specialties of their choice:
• Geoff Bader – Internal Medicine at Keesler AFB
• Erin Connor – Family Medicine at Madigan AMC
• Albert Marle – Internal Medicine at Eisenhower AMC
• Barbara Saber – Ob-Gyn at Portsmouth NMC
• Matthew Schorr – Transitional Year at Eisenhower AMC
• Philip Sholes – General Surgery at Walter Reed AMC
• Scott Toney – Pediatrics San Diego at NMC
• Brittany Wootten – Emergency Medicine at Portsmouth NMC

The Urology, Ophthalmology and Military match processes are independent of the National Resident Matching Program.

Recent years have seen the National Resident Matching Program become an ever-more competitive process. I’m glad to report that our medical school’s graduating class typically equals or exceeds the national average of students matching. We’ve also been nationally recognized for the proactive measures we take to ensure strong matches. Our students benefit from a toolkit developed by Christopher Woleben, M’97, H’01. He’s our Associate Dean for Student Affairs, and his toolkit helps him identify and troubleshoot potential issues our students might encounter. It’s proven to be so valuable that the AAMC published and shared the toolkit with its members nationwide. Since then, other institutions have looked to Dr. Woleben for guidance on dealing with potential Match problems.

When the clock strikes noon on Friday, March 20, envelopes will be handed out from coast to coast at our nation’s medical schools. I wish our students well as they finalize their rank order lists and prepare for that momentous day.

January 25, 2015

Dean Strauss’ salute to Sheldon Retchin

Sheldon Retchin, M.D., H’79

Sheldon Retchin, M.D.

Sheldon Retchin, M.D., H’79, first arrived on the MCV Campus in 1976 as a trainee. This month he departs, having risen to the posts of Senior VP for Health Sciences and CEO of the VCU Health System.

He is headed to Ohio State University where he’ll lead its Wexner Medical Center, and they’re fortunate to get him.

His leadership was one of the reasons I chose to come to Richmond in 2005, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to work closely with him over these past nine years. That experience has shaped my life, in professional, personal and lasting ways.

His energy and vision has transformed our campus. He’s overseen about a half-billion dollars in new construction in the last decade alone. He’s led a hospital, a physician practice plan and a Medicaid HMO that’s won acclaim as one of the few cost-effective programs for caring for an inner city, uninsured population.

That same concern for patients birthed his goal for us to become America’s safest health system. He’s seen us on our way to achieving that: our progress was honored last year with the AHA–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize.

Those initiatives have created a great training environment for the more than 4,500 students enrolled in VCU’s health science schools. The students have a true respect and affection for him. That was in evidence last year when the medical school’s graduating class of 2014 asked him to be its convocation speaker. Dr. Retchin responded with the unforgettable story of Otis, a blues-playing toll-booth attendant who became his friend and eventual patient. In Otis’ memory, Dr. Retchin himself pulled out a harmonica to deliver his own blues riff.

I will always admire the humor, enthusiasm, dedication and, yes, musicality that he brought to his responsibilities. Our campus carries his indelible mark. He deserves to be proud of the work he’s done. And I am grateful to call him my friend.

December 19, 2014

2014 End-of-Year Letter to the Alumni

One of the great pleasures of being Dean of this Medical School is hearing about the outstanding things that happen in our community. The alumnus who’s been named Pediatrician of the Year in Wisconsin. The student who was one of just five winners in the American College of Physicians’ research abstract competition. Or the alumnus who was named Best Young Investigator at the Department of Defense’s premier scientific meeting. I am proud to learn these stories and am glad we have a new magazine, 12th & Marshall, in which to share them with you. This magazine was not intended to take the place of the MCV Alumni Association’s Scarab. Instead, 12th & Marshall will be devoted entirely to the life of our Medical School and Health System. We need your input to make future issues as interesting as the first. Please be in touch with us at MedAlum@vcu.edu to share your story ideas and latest news.

Each year, Dean of Medicine Jerry F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., sends greetings to the alumni body in the form of an end-of-year letter. This is the 2014 edition, reporting the latest happenings from the MCV Campus.

Like other major medical centers across the country, we have been preparing our Ebola response. Along with the University of Virginia, we are one of the Commonwealth’s two designated hospitals – and among 35 in the nation – for evaluating and treating patients. Our expanded simulation center has been key for training and assessing the readiness of the 30 physicians and 35 nurses who are preparing to safely care for an Ebola patient. Center Director Ellen Brock and her team have been working with health system educators to develop a rigorous simulation-based training program that equips interprofessional teams to collectively devise solutions to anticipated and unanticipated needs. Simulations are used not only for training how to safely don and doff personal protective equipment but also for performing patient-care tasks in the isolation unit. Trained observers are on hand for each session to spot areas of difficulty and provide feedback to the trainers. The level of evaluation being conducted was commended as unique and novel to other institutions during a recent visit by the CDC.

This kind of intensive preparation is an example of why the VCU Medical Center won the American Hospital Association’s McKesson Quest for Quality Prize earlier this year, and why we have a dozen Beacon award-winning units – the most in the U.S. – recognized by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. To borrow a favorite phrase from John Duval, the CEO of MCV Hospitals: “You can’t train a good doctor in a bad environment.” Be assured our hospital continues to be a place to learn best practices.

I’ve written to you in previous years about how the new McGlothlin Medical Education Center made it possible for us to dramatically transform our curriculum. Students from the Class of 2017 are the first to be fully immersed in our new approach, and by the time you get this letter, they will have completed their three semesters in the preclinical curriculum. They study in an environment that promotes self-directed learning and team-based problem solving, skills that will serve them well in their clinical years and for their entire career. It’s more than just instilling knowledge. They’re developing skills for reasoning, critically examining materials, making decisions and knowing their limitations so they can seek the right resources at the right time. When they get back from winter break, they’ll prepare for Step 1 of the USMLE boards. That will be our litmus test for how the compressed preclinical curriculum stacks up.

By reducing the time spent in preclinical study, we’ve been able to expand clinical training by nearly an entire semester. After the students take the boards in March, they’ll begin that phase of their training. The seven traditional rotations are still in place, but added to those are opportunities for foundational and advanced electives that can be matched to a student’s specialty interests. We’ve built in both time and flexibility for students to map out a path that will best prepare them for residency. Our goal is to maintain the reputation we’ve earned over time: “I was so much better prepared than my fellow interns from other schools.”

More students than ever before are vying to study with us. We have 9,006 applications in hand, and our admissions committee will conduct over 900 interviews for the 216 seats in next year’s class. Because it is so competitive, please advise applicants you know that they’ll need not only great grades and MCATS but also significant medical and community service experiences.

University-wide, our research enterprise hit an all-time high of $262.3 million this past year. A major driver of that record-breaking total is the Medical School, which represents more than half of the year’s grant awards. What’s most interesting is the success we’re having competing for interdisciplinary, multi-program awards. These projects involve several investigators, who typically span multiple departments, schools and even campuses. I’d like to share with you two good examples of that.

A $6-million grant will create a center to develop medications to treat cocaine addiction. Despite 30 years of research, no approved medication yet exists. Our lead investigator Gerard Moeller, M.D., believes the field’s history of failed clinical trials is due to insufficient preclinical and early clinical evaluation to thoroughly characterize compounds. That’s where we’ll concentrate our efforts. A second, $6.9-million grant will expand the VCU Alcohol Research Center’s focus on preclinical and clinical studies. A nearly decade-long collaboration spans the Departments of Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Human and Molecular Genetics. Together they combine expertise in animal models with a research program in the human genetics of alcoholism, which gives us a better chance to understand what makes us vulnerable to alcoholism. There are only 15 other similar centers in the U.S.

Our faculty continue to be leaders in their fields and are regularly elected to serve as presidents of national specialty societies. You will recognize some of their names: Domenic Sica, M.D., leads the American Society of Hypertension; Celeste Powers, M.D., Ph.D., the United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology; and Curtis Sessler, M.D., the American College of Chest Physicians. Additionally, in the coming year, Michel Aboutanos, M.D., M.P.H., will take the reins of the Pan-American Trauma Society; Bruce Curran, M.S., the American Association of Physicists in Medicine; Babette Fuss, Ph.D., the American Society for Neurochemistry; and Tony Kuzel, M.D., M.H.P.E., will head the Association of Departments of Family Medicine.

This month, we marked progress on two important building projects that will improve our delivery of medical and psychiatric care for children. The first was a topping-out ceremony for a Children’s Pavilion that will open in early 2016 to provide comprehensive ambulatory services. We also broke ground on a construction project on Brook Road that will relocate and expand the 50-year-old Virginia Treatment Center for Children.

Please join me in celebrating this past year’s success.

July 2, 2014

Two Medical School Faculty to be Honored at VCU Convocation

Later this summer, we will see two of our faculty recognized for their truly remarkable contributions to the School of Medicine, VCU Health System and University at VCU’s 32nd Opening Faculty Address and Convocation. Robert L. Balster, Ph.D., will receive the Presidential Medallion and Marc P. Posner, M.D., will be honored with the Distinguished Service Award.

Robert L. Balster, Ph.D.

Robert L. Balster, Ph.D.

Between the two of them, they have 70 years of service on the MCV Campus, long and distinguished careers that have raised our national and international reputation. Hailing from two very different arenas – Dr. Balster’s skill and expertise has shaped our nation’s drug abuse policy, and Dr. Posner has been a pioneer in the transplant field – they are alike in their commitment to students and trainees. In untold hours of mentoring, teaching and inspiring, these two faculty have influenced generations of scientists and surgeons and have built a remarkable legacy.

Robert Balster, Ph.D., is the Luther A. Butler Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology. His 40 years on faculty have yielded a remarkable list of accomplishments that includes continuous funding from the NIH since 1976. He has applied his scientific knowledge to drug abuse policy as a former chair of the FDA Drug Abuse Advisory Committee and as a former member of the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence. Here on campus, he became the founding director of VCU’s Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies with the mission of assembling a multi-disciplinary effort that would attract faculty from throughout the university. By 2013, the Institute had attracted 48 faculty representing 13 departments in five schools. In FY2012, they were the recipients of 93 grants and contracts totaling $21.3 million.

He has advised 13 doctoral students and 15 postdoctoral trainees. In 2000, this dedication was recognized when he was named the first recipient of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence’s Mentorship Award and, six years later, with the NIDA International Program’s Excellence in Mentorship Award.

Marc P. Posner, M.D.

Marc P. Posner, M.D.

Marc P. Posner, M.D., professor and the David M. Hume Chair of the Division of Transplant Surgery, has served in many capacities over 30 years, including being at the helm of the Hume-Lee Transplant Center for the past decade. Over his tenure, the transplant field has changed significantly, from being considered an experimental therapy to becoming today’s standard of care. A true pioneer in the field, he worked with legendary surgeon H.M. Lee, M.D. to perform some of the first successful liver transplants in the U.S. In 1998, he started one of the country’s first living donor liver transplant programs, offering the hope of a shorter waiting period for the 17,000 people in need of a liver transplant. Creating the program involved overcoming truly complex challenges from both the ethical and surgical perspectives, but Posner persevered and led the VCU Medical Center to its current position as one of the most successful living donor liver transplant programs in the U.S.

On a national level, Posner has helped to develop the United Network for Organ Sharing’s National SWAP program that allows someone to donate an organ on a patient’s behalf so that he or she can receive a compatible organ from someone else in return. It has the potential to create an extra 2,000-3,000 kidney transplants a year. Despite his busy clinical schedule, he is dedicated to sharing his knowledge. He has authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications and is revered for his commitment to weekly sessions for trainees to help them appreciate the complexities of the acute and chronic diseases our patients face each day.

VCU’s 32nd Opening Faculty Address and Convocation will begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, August 20, 2014, at the Stuart C. Siegel Center with a reception immediately following. If you plan to attend, please RSVP by Aug. 15, 2014, to Kathleen Blankenship at blankenshike@vcu.edu, or 804-828-5880.