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School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

September 2018 Archives

September 28, 2018

Serving Our Community – Pride in Our Commitment

Dear Colleagues-Friends:

One hundred years ago, when the School of Medicine was in its 80th year, the 1918 Influenza outbreak was an unprecedented health care pandemic. A century later, it is being remembered and recognized world-wide.

Last week, a lecture on this historical catastrophe was the latest installment in an ongoing important collaboration between the Virginia Museum of History and Culture and the MCV Foundation. Representing the two organizations were our hosts Mr. Jamie Bosket and Ms. Margaret Ann Bollmeier. The evening’s speakers outlined how far U.S. medicine has come in disease disaster management as well as the formative role of our School of Medicine both then and now.

Acclaimed author John M. Barry who studied the 1918 pandemic and wrote “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History” set the stage, starkly describing the pandemic and its staggering impact world-wide. As his book notes, “at the height of World War I, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in 24 months than AIDS has killed in 24 years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century.”

Locally, a writer for the Richmond Times Dispatch in 1918 noted, “October has been pronounced the saddest month in the medical history of this nation…” MCV faculty and staff served the sick in emergency facilities set up in the city, and third- and fourth-year students served as assistants to physicians across the commonwealth. The pandemic had second and third waves that left MCV providing constant care throughout the winter of 1918-19. In spite of the efforts, thousands caught the flu and nearly 1,000 lost their lives, including three students and a much loved professor who’d gone to Chicago to care for an ailing family member. Our faculty and medical students gave valiantly to their city during the great pandemic and demonstrated the enduring value of this medical institution.

Today on the MCV Campus, we have continued to lead and innovate in infectious diseases, as evidenced by the recent recognition for VCU Health as one of 25 hospitals for its quality in infectious disease management.

Modern-day advances were highlighted during a panel discussion that featured Mr. Barry along with two of VCU’s present-day and nationally renowned leaders in infectious diseases, Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases and associate hospital epidemiologist, and infectious disease physician Dr. Michael Donnenberg, who is senior associate dean for research and research training. The panelists addressed topics ranging from influenza’s changeability, to research on the protective factors of flu vaccines.

In addition, Dr. Bearman highlighted our Unique Pathogens Unit and its readiness to respond to infectious disease outbreaks like the Ebola crisis. And Dr. Donnenberg shared with the audience how one of our very first M.D.-Ph.D. alumni, Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger, is at the forefront of influenza vaccine development and actually discovered and sequenced the genome for the 1918 influenza virus. He noted cutting-edge studies led by medical school faculty, including the investigation of vitamin C’s potential to boost the body’s immune system and combat overwhelming infections. He also described urgent approaches to vaccine development. At the forefront are our researchers’ work in developing a vaccine for Lyme disease that is already available for animals and is now being considered for and under development for humans.

The audience responded in a lively discussion and, to round out the evening, MCV Foundation Chair Mr. Harry Thalhimer thanked Mr. Austin Brockenbrough III for his vision to establish a partnership between the Virginia Museum of History and Culture and the MCV Foundation that’s brought a fascinating series of lectures to the Richmond community. The series underscores what a great asset our academic medical center is, whether facing a moment of great need in 1918, or in serving as a resource every day since then. As highlighted in recent AAMC research, it’s this kind of service that the public depends on us for: medical innovation and research that makes America healthier and stronger.

Just as our faculty were on the front of the response to influenza in 1918, today VCU Health and the School of Medicine carry forward our mission of providing preeminent education to physicians and scientists in order to improve the quality of health care for all Virginians. We take great pride in our commitment to our community through our 180 years of service.

Thank you for your leadership.

With every good wish,

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

September 20, 2018

Milestone year for philanthropy

This is a milestone year for our medical school in many ways, one of which is the success we experienced in our fundraising during fiscal year 2018. Please join with us in celebrating an outstanding accomplishment by our development team and their partners.

Last fiscal year, the medical school benefited from more than $42 million in philanthropic giving. That’s the second best year in the school’s current campaign, and in its history. This is due in great part to our alumni body who has stepped up in unprecedented ways during the course of this campaign. We took advantage of every opportunity and exceeded the medical school’s FY18 $30 million goal by 40 percent.

This remarkable year is also due to strong partnerships that the medical school development team has forged with the teams at VCU Health and the MCV Foundation, as well as with our own dedicated faculty. This kind of momentous work can only be done through collaboration.

Total giving to SOM in Make it Real Campaign through June 30, 2018

As a result, we’re also marking another important milestone: we are 80 percent of the way to the medical school’s goal in our ongoing $300 million fundraising campaign. And since the School of Medicine is the top driver in the success of the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, this means good things for the university’s overall $750 million goal as we look toward our 2020 campaign finish line.

A successful campaign translates to great things for the students, faculty and programs in our school. It is vital to sustaining our core values of cultivating a life-changing learning experience for students and trainees, exceptional care for the sick, and a curiosity for medical research and discovery.

While this year is marked by great success, we have our sights set for even greater things. That’s going to take even more partnership – from all of us. For those of you who have worked with our development office in their fundraising efforts, thank you. In the coming months many of you are going to hear more from Mr. Tom Maness, Chief Development Officer, about more ways to partner with our development team so that we can reach our full potential, including philanthropy training for us, which will help all of us develop and hone this important skill set. By garnering the highest level of philanthropy possible, we can truly enable our vision to become a reality.

Again, we could not be more grateful for your help in reaching this milestone. Congratulations and thanks to all of our development team for this mighty successful year. Our heartfelt thanks also goes to each and every one of the 3,849 donors who made a gift to the medical school last fiscal year – many of you are among them. We are on the cusp of new and exciting opportunities to partner together in supporting our stellar students, our remarkable faculty, and our great medical school.

With every good wish to you and yours,

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

September 19, 2018

Alan Dow, M.D., M.S.H.A., to head continuing education organization

Dear Colleagues-Friends:

We are pleased to share the news that the board of UHS Professional Education Programs, Inc., has named Alan Dow, M.D., M.S.H.A., as its president. UHS-PEP is VCU Health’s continuing education organization that provides professional development for physicians and other health care professionals, within Virginia and beyond.

Alan Dow, M.D., M.S.H.A.Our institution is committed to life-long learning and to contributing to medical knowledge and clinical competence that will improve patient outcomes and population health. Through UHS-PEP, we aim to serve our alumni as well as the faculty and staff of our schools, of VCU Health and of the McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center. We also serve the greater community of Richmond and beyond. These are important educational collaborations, and we greatly value these partnerships.

Dr. Dow has a compelling vision and enthusiasm for that mission, and we welcome his leadership on this front. He has been instrumental in directing the popular Practical Frontiers in Primary Care Conference, the Emswiller Interprofessional Symposium, and the online Safe Opiate Prescribing in Virginia course that serves as a resource for licensed prescribers in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the fight against opioid abuse. Consonant with national trends in health professions education, Dr. Dow and colleagues will help us advance the continuum of interprofessional education as well as harnessing technological innovation in the delivery of training for life-long learning. These collective efforts also will position us for submission for joint accreditation for continuing education on emergent standards of best practices in health sciences professional education.

A professor of internal medicine, Dr. Dow holds the Ruth and Seymour Perlin Professorship of Medicine and Health Administration. He will continue to serve as director of VCU’s Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care that fosters collaborative practice across the schools at VCU, in VCU Health and in the surrounding community.

We are grateful to Linda Meloy, M.D., who has led UHS-PEP since the death of its previous president, John Pellock, M.D., in 2016. Under her leadership, the organization was awarded a full four-year accreditation by the ACCME in 2017. UHS-PEP now also holds Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) continuing education accreditation. Annually, more than 17,000 physicians and health care professionals participate in VCU-sponsored and jointly-sponsored continuing education activities. Dr. Meloy will continue in the interim role of associate dean for continuing medical education.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Dow and working alongside him to advance our professional education mission.

Warm regards,

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

September 17, 2018

Leadership transition in the Department of Psychiatry

Dear Colleagues-Friends:

One of the marvelous things about our medical school is its continuity in leadership. Our faculty build careers here, and our school benefits from their wisdom and experience. There is no better example of that than Joel Silverman, M.D., who is the longest serving chair in the medical school and the longest serving psychiatry chair in the entire nation.

After a remarkable tenure, Joel has announced his intention to step down from his role as chair, and we will begin a national search for his successor. Meanwhile, we are grateful he has agreed to continue to lead the department until a new chair is in place.

The Department of Psychiatry plays a vital role in our overall neurosciences academic portfolio. During his tenure, Joel has helped to make the neurosciences a top priority for the university and to assemble an outstanding cadre of neuroscientists and mental health clinical and educational leaders. He has recruited stellar faculty who have made advances in all academic areas of teaching our future practitioners, caring for their patients, making scientific discoveries and partnering with the community.

Under Joel’s leadership, half dozen endowed professorships were established in support of the work of dedicated faculty members. Additional endowments reward teaching, support the work of residents, fellows and researchers in his department. Joel, alongside his wonderful wife and life partner, Phyllis, has built deep relationships in the Richmond community that also benefit VCU’s mission and have enabled tremendous philanthropic support for mental health causes.

A past president of the American Association of Chairs of Departments of Psychiatry, Joel is known as an advocate for patients and for his fight against the stigma that’s too often associated with seeking treatment. His vision has won the backing of university leadership, legislators and our community. Just recently, Joel co-hosted a mental health ‘mini-university’ with Virginia’s legislature, and the Department of Psychiatry maintains several collaborations with public mental health systems and key partnerships.

During Joel’s tenure, the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics (VIPBG) was established, and as a result we’ve made dramatic advances in understanding the genetic and environmental causes of psychiatric and drug abuse disorders. Joel has been a great supporter and longstanding advocate for Dr. Kenneth Kendler, VIPBG director, and his team, in placing VCU on the forefront globally of psychiatric genetics.

In addressing the contemporary great concern about addiction, Joel and his team have developed an addictions program to grow research and clinical care in the field. Last year, the Department of Psychiatry opened the Motivate Clinic in its newly appointed outpatient facility in Jackson Ward. Joel also worked with the School of Medicine to bring to VCU the world-renowned addiction leader Dr. Gerry Moeller who leads the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies. The Department of Psychiatry has excelled in neuroscience and clinical research and currently ranks in the top 35 departments in federal funding nationally in psychiatry.

Joel’s career at VCU has been characterized by leadership by example, and he is a consummate educator and compassionate clinician. Joel has trained more than a generation of mental health clinicians, including most recently spearheading an above-national career selection rate for psychiatry among VCU’s medical students.

Among all his accomplishments, Joel’s leadership and partnership with community leaders to establish the newly opened Virginia Treatment Center for Children is a remarkable legacy. In this landmark $65 million, 119 square foot facility, patient care, teaching and research come together in an astounding, beautiful center, and all to serve the mental health needs of Virginia’s children.

Fortunately, we will not lose access to Joel’s wisdom and experience. He will remain on the faculty, continuing to teach and to see patients as well as to contribute his effort on the philanthropy front. As a personal friend of Joel’s for over 20 years, I look forward to continuing our work and friendship together.

This formal communication does not do justice to all the Department of Psychiatry has accomplished throughout Joel’s tenure. Accordingly, we invite you to a special grand rounds in the Department of Psychiatry on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Sanger Hall, room 1-044. Dr. Silverman will present on the accomplishments of his departmental colleagues and also highlight the exciting opportunities our future holds.

Please join me in congratulating Joel on a remarkable 43-year tenure (35 of those as chair) and in thanking him for all he has done to strengthen his department, our school and mental health treatment in our commonwealth and beyond.


Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

September 11, 2018

Outstanding contributions of our faculty, staff, students and alumni

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

From new programs here on campus, to programs that span VCU’s campuses or even span the globe, it’s invigorating to learn about the work of our colleagues.

  • For Greg Hundley, M.D., the Pauley Heart Center’s inaugural director, his arrival on the MCV Campus this summer was a homecoming. Even before pursuing his M.D. here as part of the Class of 1988, he got his start as an undergraduate student under the mentorship of Hermes A. Kontos, M.D., Ph.D., who served both as dean of the medical school and as VP for health sciences. More recently, Dr. Hundley has participated in research funded by more than $71 million in NIH grants and was first in the world to demonstrate MRI stress testing can identify those at risk of heart attack. His work here is supported by the opening of a new Cardiovascular Imaging Suite made possible by an investment from the Pauley Family Foundation.
  • We’ve seen wonderful programs and projects grow out of partnerships between faculty from the School of Medicine and the School of the Arts. Now, John E. Nestler, M.D., has been named the inaugural physician-scientist-in-residence at the VCU School of the Arts, and we are particularly enthusiastic about his new role because he will be looking so broadly for new opportunities. From solutions to clinical problems to teaching medical students empathy, humanism and observation skills, or even building resiliency and fighting physician burnout, the intersection between arts and medicine has the potential to be life-changing.
  • Almost every year since 2009, Urology Chair Lance Hampton, M.D., has traveled to Vietnam as a volunteer mentor for IVUmed’s Traveling Resident Scholarship Program, thanks in part to support he receives as the holder of the Barbara and William B. Thalhimer Jr. Professorship in Urology. “These trips have enhanced my surgical practice in many ways and have helped me to educate future urologists and help the patients of central Virginia as well.”

I hope you’ll enjoy reading their stories.

With every good wish,

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

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