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Match hysteria

An unprecedented Match year left hundreds of U.S. medical students with no residency destination, a trend experts say will increase in future years. But MCV Campus students proved to be strong contenders, especially in highly competitive programs.

Chris Woleben’s tool kit is one reason why.

Match Day is supposed to be the culmination of four years of medical school, an exciting day of tearing open the envelope and learning your destiny.

For some students, though, that envelope doesn’t come.

That doesn’t mean they’re not qualified to practice medicine or even that they’re below-average students, says Christopher Woleben, M’97, H’01, who is associate dean for student affairs at VCU’s School of Medicine.

It could mean that their strategy for the Match wasn’t adequate – or unfortunately, there are just not enough residency slots available in the system.

Christopher Woleben, M’97, H’01

By the year 2020, the United States will face a shortage of more than 91,500 physicians, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). By 2025, that number is expected to grow to more than 130,600. It’s a shortfall that’s equally distributed among primary care and specialists.

At first, the solution seems obvious: increase the number of students in medical school. And so VCU and other schools have increased class sizes (the incoming class on the MCV Campus is 216 strong, with plans to increase to around 250) and new programs have sprung up around the country.

But there’s a catch. To complete training, of course, physicians must complete a residency program.

Unfortunately for today’s students, the number of federally funded residency training positions was capped by Congress in 1997 by the Balanced Budget Act.

“The concern is that as medical class sizes increase, as more schools come on line and as more international medical students apply for positions in the United States, the number of open residency first-year positions is remaining stagnant, and the Match process is becoming more and more competitive,” says Woleben.

It’s a basic economic conundrum: demand exceeds supply, and so some students won’t get an envelope. That affects not only the student’s future, but the future of medicine in the U.S.

John F. Duval is chief executive officer of MCV Hospitals and chair elect of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s board of directors. He has a keen interest in ensuring an adequate workforce for the coming physician shortage, and the VCU Medical Center, like many other institutions, funds some residency positions without federal support. But it’s not enough. “There has been some growth, because individual institutions have elected to try and address local needs,” he says. “However, growth is not proportionate to the expansion in the number of medical graduates, be they allopathic or osteopathic.

“And so you have a train wreck in slow motion because you have the rate of growth for residency positions that is lower than the growth rate of new graduates.”

So what can be done? Budgets are tight everywhere. The AAMC and other organizations have lobbied legislators to fund more residency positions, an attempt that has not yet been embraced by Congress.

In the meantime, universities have tried to make their graduates as competitive as possible.

VCU’s School of Medicine typically equals or exceeds the national average of 92-94 percent of students matching, and the school is nationally recognized for measures it takes proactively to ensure stronger matches.

Several years ago, Woleben developed a “toolkit” – a series of student surveys to identify and troubleshoot potential issues students may face in the residency application process. The AAMC recognized its value and published and shared the toolkit with its members nationwide. Since then, other institutions have looked to Woleben for guidance on dealing with potential Match problems.

The toolkit is used during the fourth year of medical school, as students are preparing their rank lists and seeking interviews. It helps spot students who are not receiving as many interview offers as other students. With that knowledge, advisors can intervene to encourage students to apply to more programs or change tactics early enough to be effective.

In fact, Woleben hones in on students’ aspirations well before that.

“I think we do focus a little more individual attention on our students than other schools,” says Woleben. “We’ve developed a four-year comprehensive career advising program so that each year, students are getting key pieces of information that will help them in the Match. We’ve strategically designed our curriculum to be longitudinal. We take time to meet with each student, to develop an individualized plan and track their progress.”

Obviously these are bright students – they got into medical school – but some face unforeseen challenges with family, health or other issues.

“We look at the total academic progress of the student,” says Woleben. “We want to make sure we’re graduating students who meet the competencies that are required to be effective, safe healthcare providers. At Promotions Committee meetings, that’s where we focus our discussion regarding individual students who are struggling. Is this student going to be an effective care provider? That question often goes hand-in-hand with whether they’re going to match into a residency program.”

VCU offers myriad resources to students, says Woleben, including help with study skills, time management, test taking and determining disabilities that may require accommodations. Deans and advisors regularly discuss student progress and work to create individual plans for students.

So if the surveys and administrators identify a student who might be at risk of not matching, what can they do? Advisors are asked to provide realistic expectations, encourage applications to “safety” schools and guide students to consider a residency that might not be as competitive but will still align with their career goals. Students need to have a parallel plan to increase chances of matching.

“When students are selecting programs for their application, I encourage them to have a balance between ‘reach’ and ‘safety’ programs,” says Woleben. “Often, our students find that they end up matching into their reach programs.”

For some specialties such as pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatry, neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitative medicine, students may safely apply to 15 to 20 programs, he says. For residencies that attract a higher number of applicants – surgical subspecialties such as urology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, orthopedic surgery, dermatology or plastic surgery – looking at 60-plus programs with a goal of getting 10 to 15 interviews is often recommended.

Even with that strategic planning, sometimes the worst can happen.

“In 2014, we had 14 students go unmatched, a little bit higher than usual,” says Woleben. “We saw a similar trend that other schools saw: students applying to more competitive programs were going unmatched in higher numbers.

“We all did a good job of advising weaker students to make revisions to their plans, but we saw some of our stronger students were not as successful as in the past.”

“I don’t sleep well for a week before the Match, and I don’t think the students do either,” says Woleben.

By noon on Monday of Match Week in March, students learn if they’ve matched or not (though they don’t find out where they’re headed until Friday, when the envelopes are distributed around the country).

So what happens to those who don’t have a match?

Since 2012, the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) has run the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) for students who come up empty-handed on the Monday of Match Week. Those students submit applications to programs with unfilled slots. For many, it’s a second chance to get
the coveted envelope on the Friday of Match Week.

It’s a very emotional time, says Woleben.

MCV Campus administrators, program directors, career counselors and personnel from University Counseling Services are on high-alert starting at noon Monday to meet with students who might need to consider other specialties.

“By 2 p.m., they have to start applying to open programs, and sometimes that requires they apply to
a specialty they haven’t applied to before. It’s really fast-paced, and there is a lot of emotion in those two hours. We try to supply as much support as we can,” says Woleben.

Over the course of Match Week, applicants who did not match or only matched to an intern year may endure multiple supplemental rounds. Applicants can receive multiple offers during each round and must decide quickly since these offers are valid only for a two-hour period.

Adam Carter, M’13, was shocked on the Monday of Match Week to learn that he only matched for his intern year and not into a full dermatology residency. “Everyone had told me I had nothing to worry about,” he said. “It seemed so simple before Match Day: you go to med school, apply for a residency in dermatology, get it and go. And then Monday hit, and suddenly everything was very complicated.”

He knew he was applying for a competitive specialty and would have a better shot at something less competitive. “It made me step back and think about whether this was something I really wanted to do. And through not matching, I realized that this was absolutely what I wanted to do and nothing else in medicine would make me as happy as dermatology.”

While Carter completed his intern year, he reapplied for dermatology and accepted a dermatology position he acquired outside the Match and SOAP processes. In doing this, he was able to begin his residency this year and is currently a dermatology resident at New York Medical College. He volunteers to talk with fourth-year students who find themselves in the situation he faced last year.

“One of the things I learned from people I met ‘on the trail’ this year was that these applicants are very, very bright individuals,” he said. “But the numbers just aren’t working out for everyone.”

In 2014, by the end of Match Week, only five VCU students remained unmatched. Across the nation, several hundred U.S. seniors still did not have a residency position. Some opted to take a “bridge” year – perhaps earning a master’s degree or doing research – and come up with a new strategy to get a residency position the next year.

Administrators at VCU and other schools ponder whether it’s fair to let students continue on if they’re not good candidates for Match, perhaps racking up more debt. It’s an ethical dilemma, says Duval, without a clear solution. Another topic of discussion at American institutions is whether or not U.S.-trained students should have priority over foreign students, helping the Match numbers, perhaps, but taking away valuable diversity.

For now, the problem is only going to get worse as medical schools graduate more and more students who need residency positions. The AAMC has urged lawmakers to lift the cap on the number of federally supported residency training positions and increase funding soon to avert the looming crisis of physicians.

Lawmakers have responded with proposals in the House and Senate to increase the number of residency positions, but those bills have languished in committee.

What can today’s physicians do? The AAMC encourages them to contact lawmakers to explain the problem and make the case for taking action.

“There is not a front-of-mind awareness that this train wreck is occurring,” says Duval. “I do believe that we need to take the opportunity and start educating the broader medical community about forward-looking issues within the workforce.

“That is a right, reasonable thing for us to do.”

By Lisa Crutchfield


Tackling Concussions

Awareness, Better Diagnosis and Management are Key

Cade Harris was hit so hard last season that he blacked out for a few seconds. After gathering himself, he walked to the opposing team’s huddle. “The next day, I had a terrible headache,” he says. “It was a little scary.” Doctors confirmed that Cade, a senior at Patrick Henry High School in Hanover, Va., had suffered a concussion, his second in three years.

“There have been thousands of concussions in every war we’ve fought and scores in every football season that’s been played. But for so long there was no awareness. That’s all changing,” says David X. Cifu, M.D., chairman and the Herman J. Flax, M.D. professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Cifu is the principal investigator of a $62.2 million federal grant to oversee a national consortium of universities, hospitals and clinics studying what happens to active duty service members and veterans who suffer traumatic brain injuries. And he is working closely with the NFL, NHL, NCAA and high schools to develop better diagnosis and management of concussions. Gone are the days when a coach asks a dazed player how many fingers he is holding up or what day of the week it is.

“Ninety-five percent of all brain injuries are mild concussions – more than half of all people never see a doctor and probably don’t tell their coach or parents,” he says. “But it can take six months or longer for the brain to return to its normal function. We need to test the brain’s ability to perform multiple functions at once before we let an athlete get hit again, give a soldier a gun or let someone drive a car.”

He hopes to release specific findings and guidelines in the next few months. Already, he has helped develop a Concussion Coach app that supports self-management of symptoms for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Concussions are the oldest injury out there, dating back to when cavemen hit each other over the head with animal bones,” he says. “But we are still improving how we diagnose, assess and manage them. We are making great strides to bring about better health for everyone.”

The Concussion Coach App

The Concussion Coach app is a self-help tool for anyone with persistent symptoms after a concussion. The free app is available for iPads and iPods, and it will be available for the Android platform later this year.

By Janet Showalter


Did you know?
• The Centers for Disease Control reports that about 3 million concussions occur each year in the United States.
• Symptoms include headache, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, fatigue and difficulty remembering new information.• Long-term effects can include dementia and other mental issues.

Football injuries place the need for team doctors in the spotlight

It’s every coach’s worst nightmare.

With time running out in an intense football game, the quarterback drops back and hits his receiver for a first down. The safety comes out of nowhere to deliver a bone-crunching tackle.

A hush falls across the high school stadium as the receiver lays motionless, face down on the hard turf. The coach rushes in from the sideline. With no training to handle such a crisis, he calls 911.

In a perfect world, high school athletes would have access to both team physicians and athletic trainers,
a luxury enjoyed at Hanover County’s Atlee High School thanks to the services of Sally Marks, ATC, and Mike Petrizzi, M.D.

Scenes like this are not uncommon, because less than 20 percent of high schools have a working relationship with a team doctor. And only about 55 percent of high school student athletes have access to a licensed athletic trainer.

“It can be very scary,” says Mike Petrizzi, M.D., clinical professor of family medicine on the MCV Campus. He’s the medical director of Hanover Family Physicians and has been team physician at the county’s Atlee High School since 1991. “I think there are many family doctors and pediatricians who know they are needed on the sidelines, but are insecure about whether they have sufficient training.”

That’s why Petrizzi teamed up with Steve Cole, certified athletic trainer and associate athletic director at the College of William and Mary, to create the Sideline Management Assessment Response Technique (SMART) workshop in 2003. The course teaches physicians the skills necessary to be both competent and confident in their ability to serve the community at athletic events.

“The better trained providers are, the better chance we have of avoiding a catastrophic event on Friday night,” says Jeff Roberts, M’04, program director for the St. Francis Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship Program in Richmond.

Jeff Roberts, M’04

Roberts, team physician for Virginia’s Powhatan High School, is a SMART instructor. The four-hour course emphasizes hands-on learning, with volunteers in football gear bringing the Friday night experience to life. Participants practice how to recognize and manage football injuries, including concussions, stingers, separated or dislocated joints, torn or sprained ligaments and broken bones. They practice the log roll – moving a player with a suspected neck injury onto a backboard.

“Thankfully, I have never had an athlete suffer a c-spine fracture,” Petrizzi says. “But you never know what you might face. It sure does help to have practiced what to do in the event of a catastrophic injury. Our student athletes deserve the best care.”

As a high school athlete, Petrizzi remembers watching a news program that asked, “who’s watching your kids?” Even then, he was alarmed to discover that first-aid training was not a requirement for coaches.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “It became a passion of mine to develop a program that would help make sports participation safer for our youth. Trained personnel are needed whether the team is having a bad year or a winning year. If something should happen, these athletes need to be with someone they know and trust. That’s important.”

In an ideal world, Petrizzi says, schools would have an athletic trainer and team doctor working together to provide the best care. He is hopeful that SMART one day will be part of family medicine and pediatric residency training across the country and that those completing the course will, in turn, teach others – a vital step in providing more coverage at the high school level.

“Unfortunately, injuries are part of any sport,” Roberts says. “The question is, how prepared are you to handle them?”

By Janet Showalter

Tips for High School Team Physicians from Mike PetrizziCONCUSSIONS
• When in doubt, keep them out.
• You can have a concussion and NOT lose consciousness.
• Learn the five steps to a graduated return-to-play protocol.

• Master the log roll.
• If an athlete remains unconscious, you must assume a broken neck.

• If an athlete’s arm is stinging or burning but there’s no neck pain, assume an injury to the brachial plexus. Sideline him unless the injured side can move as easily and with the same strength as the uninjured side.

• With a normal neurovascular exam and lacking the experience to reduce the dislocation, immobilize in a splint and transfer to the ER.
• If no pulse and a long drive to the hospital, one attempt to reduce it with longitudinal traction might save the limb.

• Perform a functional assessment by asking the athlete to show you he can use the affected side doing what his sport demands. For instance, very few sports rely only on running straight ahead, so ask the athlete to cut, twist and stop on the injured joint.

Want to learn more?
Since Petrizzi and Cole started SMART, more than 500 physicians, athletic trainers, coaches and emergency personnel have completed the workshop. It has been offered at medical conferences across the country as well as local events and in small group settings. It is also a highlight of the VCU Sports Medicine Update in Primary Care conference. Sponsored in part by the VCU Continuing Medical Education Office, this year’s conference will be held Dec. 5-7 at Kingsmill Resort and Spa
in Williamsburg. Learn more and register at www.vcuhealth.org/cme.


Physician-scientist rises to challenge of DC advocacy position

Margaret “Kenny” Offermann, M’80, PhD’81, honed some serious time-management skills during her years on the MCV Campus. That’s served her well in a career as medical oncologist, biomedical researcher and advocate for health and science policy—jobs which she sometimes holds simultaneously.

Margaret “Kenny” Offermann, M’80, PhD’81
photo by Lawrence Green

Interests in medicine, science and policy – and the ability to juggle them all – laid the foundation for her term as president of FASEB that ended this past summer. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology is the nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers. As its leader, her priorities included educating legislators about the importance of funding and drawing their attention to tough issues – in terms they can appreciate.

“It’s not just advocating for increased dollars,” Offermann says. “It’s looking at our existing system and saying, ‘how can we make the system better so there is a bright future for science in America?’”

Offermann learned early how to balance her many passions, from ballet to basketball to biology.

A native Richmonder, Offermann was familiar with the MCV Campus. She worked with Gaylen Bradley, Ph.D., former chair of microbiology and immunology and dean of basic health sciences, on an undergraduate fellowship. She wasn’t willing to give up the goal of a career in medicine, but that experience, combined with her respect for biochemistry professor Judith Bond, Ph.D., (who later became FASEB’s president) had sealed her interest in research, too.

“I had started thinking of myself as a scientist,” says Offermann. So she added what she describes as a “stealth” Ph.D. to her medical school work. Since the university did not have a formal M.D.-Ph.D. program, she created her own path, keeping the secret from medical school administrators until fourth year. Juggling classes, writing a dissertation and playing intramural sports required discipline. “Paranoia can be a great motivator,” she laughs.

After graduation, Offermann continued to blend research and practice, eventually landing at Emory University’s School of Medicine, where she spent 17 years building a tumor biology program and later serving as associate director of Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.

“There are so many opportunities and so much need for combining science and medicine,” she says. “Most physicians focus on delivery of care, and most researchers focus on one area. It takes a physician-scientist to know unmet clinical needs and to have the tools to be able to address those and move the bar.”

FASEB, Immediate Past President
Salutramed Group, Inc., Managing PartnerPREVIOUS POSTS:
Emory University School of Medicine, Professor of Hematology and Oncology, Co-Director of MD-PhD training program, Associate Director of postgraduate training program, Associate Director of Winship Cancer Institute

American Cancer Society, Deputy National Vice President for Research

BA, Mount Holyoke College
M.D., Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University

Internship/ residency in internal medicine at University of Chicago Hospitals; training in medical oncology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School

• Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
• The nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers, comprised of more than 120,000 researchers worldwide from 26 scientific societies
• Founded in 1910 and located in Bethesda, Md., one mile from NIH

Several years ago, Offermann left academia for the health and science policy arena. At the American Cancer Society, she honed a natural talent for putting complicated ideas in layman’s terms, an important skill when she advocated for funding in a tough Washington environment.

With one daughter in medical school and another planning to attend veterinary school, the need for reform has hit home. “It seems tremendously wasteful and also very dangerous for the future by disincentivizing the best and the brightest. Many have said we’re likely to be sacrificing a generation of scientists because of funding policies.”

Offermann’s experience and insight made her uniquely qualified to lead FASEB in today’s challenging environment, says Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D., the organization’s deputy executive director for policy. “She brings a wonderfully diverse perspective on how and where science improves peoples’ lives.”

Offermann was a visible presence in Washington, advocating for reforms including a more stable, sustainable funding environment, decreased regulatory burden and re-structuring training to fit workplace needs. “Much of the training now doesn’t give students opportunities to customize their research for jobs they might want to pursue,” she explains. “They’ve been the workforce in the lab, doing technical and demanding and important work, but it doesn’t necessarily fit their career goals.”

Offermann remains involved in FASEB as its immediate past president. “She has been a great, enthusiastic spokesperson for FASEB,” says Bond, Offermann’s former mentor who went on to her own term as FASEB president. “Kenny has great breadth from her training and experience in academia, science funding agencies, and entrepreneurial enterprises. It gives her a unique perspective to represent biomedical scientists and engineers in our country.”

Now she has more time to devote to her job as managing partner at the Salutramed Group Inc., an Atlanta-based consulting firm. And because one job is never enough, she and husband Russell Medford, M.D., Ph.D., own Artetude, an art gallery in Asheville, N.C.

By Lisa Crutchfield


After 6,000 students, 37 Match Days, the original golden apple retires

You knew you were always in good hands

For many, Janet Mundie was their mother away from home, providing a shoulder to cry on without fail.

WANT TO SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION? Visit www.support.vcu.edu/give/JanetMundie to make a gift to the Janet H. Mundie Scholarship.

Others considered her a trustworthy friend, doing everything in her power to ease an emotional crisis. And for others still, she has been a teacher, a reliable guide through the challenges of medical school.

“She is so loving and helpful and goes way outside her job description,” said Debbie Armstrong, M’02, who practices family medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. “She’s incredible.”

After 42 years at the university, Mundie retired on June 30. For most of her tenure, she served as student services specialist, helping more than 6,000 students through 37 Match Days.

“I feel like I’ve played a big part in helping our students get into their residency programs,” Mundie said. “That makes me very proud.”

A rite of passage for fourth-year medical students, Match Day is also incredibly stressful and emotional. It isn’t every day that aspiring doctors learn where they are headed for residency training.

“She has been there to hold their hand and help them determine the best places to apply,” said Ike Wood, M’82, H’86, F’88, the senior associate dean for medical education and student affairs. “She is one of the most caring, compassionate people I know.”

When Mundie joined the university staff in 1972, she worked as the supervisor of the parking office. Five years later, she moved to the School of Medicine. Back in the “early days,” as Mundie likes to call them, the fourth-year students came to her office regularly for face-to-face counseling and help with paperwork.

Mundie was always there to assist them with their applications, compiling transcripts, letters of recommendation, Dean’s letters, medical board scores and class grades. For each of the 20 or 25 residency programs they applied to, Mundie made sure each package was complete.

As competition intensified over the years, students applied to more programs, up to 125. And the process became computerized, with Mundie monitoring and compiling applications online.

Still, the friendships have flourished. Over the years, Mundie has won 19 Golden Apples, an award the graduating class gave through 2010 to an esteemed faculty or staff member. And earlier this year, the school established the Janet H. Mundie Scholarship, which is part of the ongoing 1838 Campaign.

“When they told me about the scholarship, I was speechless…and I’m never speechless,” Mundie said. “What an incredible honor.”

Mundie, 62, grew up in the Northern Neck. She worked as a telephone operator, mail messenger and in banking before joining VCU. “Once I got here, I knew this was home,” said Mundie, who lives in King William with her husband of 43 years, Dennis. “I’ve been so blessed to have wonderful bosses and co-workers. And what a privilege to watch these students grow up and figure out their life’s path.”

Mundie, who has two children and four grandchildren, keeps in touch with many graduates. Some return for guidance long after graduation. Armstrong, for example, changed her specialty twice and sought out Mundie for help.

“Janet’s love and patience helped me through not one, but three Match Days,” Armstrong said. “Even though I was no longer a student, she was with me every step of the way. I never could have weathered it without her.”

Reunions also take place in doctors’ offices and hospitals. A few years ago, when her granddaughter had surgery, Mundie discovered the anesthesiologist was a recent graduate.

“I was so relieved, because I knew she was in good hands,” she said.

Just like fourth-year medical students have known all these years that they were in good hands with Mundie.

“That they trusted me means the world to me,” she said. “I’m really sad to be leaving, but you can bet I will keep tabs on them all.”

By Janet Showalter


3 tips from the MCV Foundation

Use your IRA to support student scholarships

The Individual Retirement Account (IRA) has long been a tool for forward-thinking physicians and scientists planning for a secure retirement. Those funds can also be an overlooked resource for charitable giving.

The Class of 1965’s Donald Francis Perkins, though, spotted the opportunity and used his fund to give a helping hand to students following in his footsteps.

Perkins completed an ophthalmology residency at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. Calling on his training and skills, he went on to open an ophthalmology practice in his native New Jersey.

Long before his death in April 2014, Perkins made arrangements for his IRA to provide student scholarships that will give others the kind of education that laid the foundation for his career.

“My hope is that my contribution would specifically be used for financial aid for deserving students who need it,” he wrote when he informed the school of his plans, calling himself a “grateful out-of state student.”

The gift sounds like the generous friend he remembers from medical school, says classmate Harry G. Plunkett, Jr., M’65. “He was determined and dedicated. He loved all the experiences of studying medicine. He was consistent and always upbeat.” Dr. Plunkett fondly remembers getting to know Perkins over a cadaver in their first-year anatomy class. He also recalls how Perkins, a classically trained musician, would rush to the student center after exams to play the piano to relax and entertain friends.

“When you’re going through medical school, it’s tight. It’s tough. You watch every penny, and it’s great when someone can help you along,” says Plunkett, who also has donated to the school.

Donating an IRA is a way to remember MCV and to ensure that tomorrow’s student doctors have the resources they need to succeed. Letting the medical school know of your plans can qualify you for membership in the Medical College of Virginia Society.

“Dr. Perkins’ gift testifies to his commitment to ensuring the legacy of excellence in medical education on the MCV Campus,” says Brian Thomas, interim president of the MCV Foundation. “Future generations of medical students will benefit from Dr. Perkins’ generosity.”

By Lisa Crutchfield

Donating an IRA could have significant tax advantages. Consider:
1. IRA OVERFUNDED? As some individuals approach retirement, they realize they have accumulated a significant amount of money in their IRS-qualified retirement plans where taxes are due when money is distributed. Some even find that their retirement accounts are over-funded for their retirement income needs.
2. AGE MATTERS In many cases, minimum distributions are required at age 70. Depending on your tax situation, you could face a sizeable tax bill since distributions are taxed as ordinary income. Charitable contributions can reduce taxable income, so think of using your IRA as a source for giving. The income tax due on the IRA distribution can be offset by the charitable income tax deduction creating a “wash” for tax purposes.
3. DON’T LEAVE A BURDEN Leaving your retirement account to your spouse can be a fine idea if he or she rolls the lump sum into another traditional IRA. However, that route may not be open to other heirs who could find the inherited account subject to a substantial tax burden both at the federal and state level. Instead, consider avoiding such tax problems by leaving your children or other non-spouse heirs other assets like stock and bequeathing your IRA to charity where the full amount of the retirement account value can go to the organization. Thomas notes that every case is different, so consulting with advisors familiar with your particular estate plans and individual tax situation is essential.To learn more about joining the MCV Society, contact Tom Holland, associate dean for development and alumni affairs at 800.332.8813 or tehollan@vcu.edu.