To the medical school’s alumni, students and faculty,
When I joined VCU in 2005, I knew I was coming to a school steeped in tradition and with a history I would take pride in. It has been one of my great pleasures over the past eight years to learn about the accomplishments of alumni, faculty and students who have shaped our medical school’s reputation and the rich legacy of the Medical College of Virginia.
Since 1968 our history has been conjoined with the Virginia Commonwealth University’s. The merger between MCV and RPI that created the university was necessary for our future in an era when free-standing medical schools were vulnerable. Being part of a larger university has benefited our school in many ways, but you know there have been growing pains along the way.
You may know that we recently encountered another hurdle when the Medical College of Virginia Campus designation was removed from the university’s diplomas. When the students learned of this decision, many contacted the university’s administration to urge them to reconsider. These students are proud of our school’s long history, just as our alumni and faculty are. Many of the alumni spoke up, too, and I know that university administrators heard from many families whose connections with the MCV Campus span multiple generations.
I, together with other leaders at the university, listened carefully to the concerns of our students and alumni. Today, I am pleased to report to you that this issue has been resolved in a manner that I believe we can all be pleased with. Our students will now be able to elect to receive a “legacy diploma” which includes “Medical College of Virginia Health Sciences Division” on the diploma as specified in the Code of Virginia when VCU was created. This option will be available to all students who are eligible to receive degrees from a health science program at VCU.
I try to see issues like these as opportunities to remind our community that MCV’s history is one of VCU’s crowning jewels. To be sure, our medical school benefits from the relationship, especially now, as we witness a new wave of mergers between stand-alone medical schools and universities. We have been fortunate: the strong engineering school on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus opens important and productive opportunities for our faculty and students. The School of Education has collaborated with faculty at the medical school to sharpen teaching skills. And VCU Arts – the nation’s top public arts school – is our partner in creating a unique standardized patients program that will give our students regular and intense case-based training.
Our recent conversations have encouraged a new appreciation for the respect and affection that the MCV name inspires. It is a unifying connection among thousands of physicians and scientists. As it happens, this is the perfect year to celebrate that tradition, as we mark the medical school’s 1838 founding. It is a point of particular pride for me that the celebration is not limited to the medical school. The whole university will embrace the 175th anniversary.
In this milestone year, we will add new accomplishments to our storied tradition. In April, the McGlothlin Medical Education Center will open its doors to generations of future physicians who will train in innovative, clinically based learning spaces. This building is a testament to the support that our alumni have shown their alma mater – making $190 million in gifts and pledges that have fueled the first phase of what will clearly be the most successful fundraising campaign in the medical school’s history.
This year we will also establish the 1838 Fund. Representing the second phase of the medical school’s campaign, the 1838 Fund will build a scholarship endowment on par with those at our peer medical schools. We must provide meaningful scholarship support to medical students who study in the tradition of the Medical College of Virginia.
In my conversations with those students, it’s clear that they love the MCV tradition. They also feel a responsibility to live up to what one student described as “a bar set by 175 years of history.” Thank you for what you’ve done to raise that bar.
Jerome F. Strauss, III, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System