Jump to content
School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

January 2012 Archives

January 13, 2012

The White House Comes to Richmond

It’s not every day that you get to share the stage with the First Lady.

Dean Jerry Strauss shared the stage with First Lady Michelle Obama

Dean Jerry Strauss shared the stage with First Lady Michelle Obama. He represented the 101 medical colleges that signed a pledge to support the Joining Forces initiative.
Photo courtesy of VCU Creative Services

In fact, one of our students was much more precise when she told me afterwards that it was a once in a lifetime experience.

It’s an enormous source of pride for me that our university had the honor of hosting Michelle Obama for her announcement of the Joining Forces initiative. The White House said we were selected because we are a national leader in TBI research and a strong partner with the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.

Medical students at the Joining Forces announcement

About 200 of our medical students were on hand for the Joining Forces announcement, some in the audience and others on stage, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with service members from Fort Lee.
Photo courtesy of medical student Sneha Kondragunta

The First Lady spoke powerfully about the need to conduct new research in the areas of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. And more than 50 deans from the country’s other medical schools were on hand as a visible demonstration of our commitment to doing so.

Today we have a far better understanding of combat-related injuries than when I first learned about them some 40 years ago as a medical student. That was during the Vietnam conflict. Little was known at the time, and there was no formal medical education related to these significant issues. I remember the uncertainty and frustration of caring for the warriors, whose lives had been changed dramatically because of their injuries and battle experience.

Joining Forces

The White House chose VCU for the site of its Joining Forces announcement because our medical center is a national leader in TBI research and a strong partner with the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.
Photo courtesy of VCU Creative Services

However, physicians working in the combat zones were developing new approaches to manage TBI. Some of them, like our chair of Neurosurgery, Dr. Harold Young, applied what they’d learned when they returned to America. Dr. Young partnered with basic scientist Dr. John Povlishock, our chair of Anatomy and Neurobiology. Their research, and that from faculty at other medical schools across the nation, has positioned us today to commit to our service men and women that they will receive the medical care they deserve.

Partnering with Veterans Administration Medical Centers, of course, is vital to meeting that goal. We on the MCV Campus are fortunate to be affiliated with the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center and to have Dr. David Cifu leading that partnership. His Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is one the country’s top programs, and it works alongside the VA to conduct groundbreaking research and to establish nationally recognized clinical programs, like the polytrauma center that treats seriously injured American soldiers and Marines.

I had the honor of standing behind the podium this week. But I could only do so knowing that I was speaking on behalf of our faculty, our students and our alumni who have and will play such significant roles in delivering and improving the care that our veterans and service members receive.

See photos from the announcement.

Watch highlights from the Joining Forces Announcement. (2:11 minutes)

Watch the announcement in its entirety. (33:38 minutes)