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School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

Honoring our past: Justice, peace and respect

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

At our medical school executive committee of the faculty meeting this morning, we discussed the East Marshall Street Well Projects and tomorrow’s public meeting. Accordingly, we wish to ensure you are also aware of this initiative with respect to both the historical context and tomorrow’s public event.

As some of you may already be aware, during the excavation of the construction site for Kontos Medical Sciences Building in 1994, human remains were found in a well dating to the 19th century. These remains were sent to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History for examination are were determined to be largely of African descent. Apart from that examination, the discovery went largely unaddressed until awareness of the well’s history was included in VCU professor Dr. Shawn Utsey’s documentary, “Until the Well Runs Dry,” which examined the issue of grave robbing and use of African American cadavers in medical education during the 19th century.

In 2013, the university initiated a planning committee, consisting of community and university members, to help determine the best way to study, memorialize and rebury the remains, known as the Family Representative Council. For more information about this important work, please reference Dr. Rao’s blog and its helpful links.

The committee considered how the individuals whose remains were recovered in 1994 had not been given the respect nor dignity they deserved in life or death, and how this might now be best addressed. The committee considered that “there is no path to a better future that does not go through the troubled past.” The committee held a series of community forums to gather input and recommendations and through further study provided their recommendations to President Rao last week. This important work will continue beyond the presentation of the recommendations. There will be a public meeting tomorrow, December 13, 2018 from 6-7 p.m. in Kontos MSB where these recommendations will be presented. You are most welcome to attend.

Respectfully,

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

Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Medical Center
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Updated: 08/19/2008