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School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

Vanessa B. Sheppard, Ph.D., to be Chair of the Department of Health Behavior & Policy

JFStrauss 160115_206_aj_ar
Vanessa B. Sheppard, Ph.D.

I am pleased to announce that, following a national search, Vanessa Sheppard, Ph.D., has been selected to serve as chair of the Department of Health Behavior & Policy. She will begin her tenure on September 1, 2016. Dr. Sheppard will also serve as Associate Director for Disparities Research in the Massey Cancer Center.

Dr. Sheppard is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University. She has been recognized by the National Institute of Health as a Disparities Scholar and serves as the Assistant Director of Health Disparities Research at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her long-term career goal is to reduce inequities in cancer outcomes through scholarship, teaching and service. She has received funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and other entities to pursue this goal.

She has harnessed her expertise in health services research, clinical trials and behavioral interventions to address gaps in care for African American, African immigrant and Latina populations. Dr. Sheppard has led studies focused on factors that have potential to improve cancer outcomes such as treatment adherence, patient-provider relationships, obesity and physical activity. Her team has been the first to develop and test decision support and lifestyle interventions for African American and Latino women. In 2013 she completed leadership training from the Higher Education Resources Services (HERS) which is focused on supporting women leaders.

Close relationships with community organizations have been a driving force behind her work. Dr. Sheppard is a recipient of the Dr. Herbert W. Nickens Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges and an Outstanding Research Achievement Award from Georgetown University Medical Center. Dr. Sheppard is active in service at the University and in her community as a board member of Georgetown Women in Medicine and has served on several regional and local advisory boards. Recently, she received the Torch Bearer award from the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association. Currently, Dr. Sheppard is completing terms as a permanent member of study sections at the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society. She was recently nominated and selected as a distinguished alumna from the Old Dominion University College of Health Sciences.

Dr. Sheppard received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from James Madison University and Norfolk State University respectively. She received her doctoral degree in health services research from Old Dominion University and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Eastern Virginia Medical School and the Association of American Medical Schools funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Policy.

My thanks go to Dr. PonJola Coney, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, who led the national search, and to the search committee, who identified Dr. Sheppard as the next leader of Health Behavior & Policy. I also want to express my gratitude to Dr. Jennifer Elston-Lafata for her distinguished service as Interim Chair.

Jerome F. Strauss, III, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

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Updated: 08/19/2008