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.
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., 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or 804-828-5880.
Jerome F. Strauss, III, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System