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School of Medicine discoveries

October 24, 2018

Women who led the way

A love of math and statistics drew these alumnae to VCU – and laid the foundation for diverse, engagingly challenging, meaningful and rewarding careers.

In a companion story, learn from 8 guiding principles they shared with 12th & Marshall.


Jenna Elder PhD

“You can create your own perfect job in this industry.”

Growing up in the tiny hamlet of Keysville, Virginia, Jenna Elder, PhD’96 (BIOS), dreamed of becoming a math teacher – until a student-teaching practicum in college changed her mind and set her on an unanticipated new path. Today she is chief scientific officer at PharPoint Research, a contract research organization she co-founded. “It’s the coolest,” she says of working in a CRO. “You get to do a variety of things, and that’s what keeps it interesting.”


Chris Gennings PhD

“I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.”

Formerly a professor in the Department of Biostatistics at VCU, Chris Gennings, PhD’86 (BIOS), joined the faculty at Mount Sinai in New York in 2014, where she is chief of the division of biostatistics and a research professor at the Icahn School of Medicine. On taking the leap to her new role she says, “It really was an opportunity to come up here. All the work that I have done over my career, I am able to use in a way that I really like.”


Janice Grechko PhD

“The questions we are trying to find answers to … are so desperately important.”

The first woman to earn a Ph.D. in VCU’s Department of Biostatistics, Janis Goodlow Grechko, PhD’84 (BIOS), says that every day still brings new learning for her. Vice president for quantitative sciences at Alexion Pharmaceuticals – which specializes in developing medications for rare diseases – Grechko says, “Our challenge is to fail as soon as we can,” to keep refocusing research in pursuit of eventual success.


Sally Hunsberger PhD

“Working at the NIH has been a perfect fit for me.”

A math and biology major in college, Sally Hunsberger, PhD’90 (BIOS), “always thought I was going to have to choose between them” until she met a biostatistician during a college summer internship. Today she’s a mathematical statistician in the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH, where a deeply collaborative ethic, she says, supports “working together to attack the most important science problems for our country.”



Anne Lindblad PhD

“What’s important is that you have a passion for what you are doing.”

President of the Emmes Corporation, a CRO based in Maryland, Anne Lindblad, MS’81 (BIOS), earned her Ph.D. at George Washington University after a summer position at Emmes became permanent. With 650 employees worldwide, Emmes works in areas from oncology to transplantation to autoimmune disease. “Our whole mission and purpose,” she says, “is to be part of bringing better treatments to patients faster.”

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Updated: 04/29/2016