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Endowed professorships, chairs propel medical school forward

2018 Investiture Dinner

Endowed professorships and chairs represent the highest academic honor a university can bestow on a faculty member. They aim to help universities recruit and retain the brightest teachers, research-ers and clinicians, enriching the academic and clinical environment for students and patients alike.

In September 2018, the VCU School of Medicine honored 34 faculty members who have recently been awarded endowed professorship and chair positions. They, along with other faculty across the university, were formally invested and presented with medallions during an Investiture Dinner.

“It’s truly an honor to see this remarkable group of colleagues recognized for their work to advance our missions of education, patient care and discovery,” says Dean of Medicine Peter F. Buckley, M.D., who presided over the ceremony along with School of Business Dean Ed Grier.

“We wouldn’t be able to provide such outstanding recognition of our faculty’s work without the support of our donors,” Buckley says. “An endowed professorship or chair serves as a lasting tribute to the donor who established it, and their generosity will be felt on the MCV Campus — and in the lives of students and patients — for many years to come.”

The School of Medicine celebrated a milestone year for philanthropy during fiscal year 2018, benefiting from more than $42 million in philanthropic giving that put the medical school 80 percent of the way toward its goal in its ongoing $300 million fundraising campaign.

“A successful campaign translates to great things for the students, faculty and programs in our school,” Buckley says. “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.”

2018 Investiture Dinner

Congratulations to the newest incumbents of the following endowed professorships and chairs:

    • Hamid I. Akbarali, Harvey B. and Gladys V. Haag Professorship
    • Douglas W. Arthur, Florence and Hyman Meyers Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology
    • Charles E. Bagwell, Arnold M. Salzberg Professorship in Pediatric Surgery
    • Gonzalo M. Bearman, Richard P. Wenzel, M.D., M.Sc. Professorship of Internal Medicine
    • Vikram S. Brar, Riffenburgh Professorship Endowment
    • Francesco S. Celi, William G. Blackard Chair in Endocrinology
    • Daniel H. Coelho, G. Douglas Hayden Professorship in Otology
    • Alan W. Dow, Seymour and Ruth Perlin Professorship in Health Administration and Internal Medicine
    • Kenneth A. Ellenbogen, Martha M. and Harold W. Kimmerling, MD Chair in Cardiology at MCV/VCU
    • Michael J. Feldman, James C. Roberts, Esq. Professorship in Cardiology at MCV-VCU
    • Zachary M. Gertz, Hermes A. Kontos, MD Professorship in Cardiology at MCV-VCU
    • Gregory J. Golladay, Allison D. and J. Abbott Byrd, III Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery
    • Daniel C. Grinnan, Dianne Harris Wright Professorship in Pulmonology
    • Amy D. Harper, Shirley Van Epps Waple Professorship
    • Robin, Gene N. Peterson, M.D. Professorship in Safety, Quality and Service


  • W. Gregory Hundley George W. Vetrovec Chair
  • Vigneshwar Kasirajan, Stuart McGuire Chair of Surgery Fund
  • Stephen L. Kates, John A. Cardea M.D. Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery
  • John F. Kuemmerle, Caravati Chair in Gastroenterology Fund
  • Victoria G. Kuester, Beverley Boyden Clary Chair in Pediatric Orthopaedics
  • James L. Levenson, Rhona L. Arenstein Professorship in Psychiatry
  • Marlon F. Levy, David Hume Endowed Chair
  • Mark M. Levy, H. M. Lee Professorship in Transplant Surgery
  • John McCarty, G. Watson James Professorship
  • Frederick G. Moeller, C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chair in Clinical and Translational Research: Addiction Science
  • Lawrence D. Morton, John M. Pellock Professorship in Child Neurology
  • Guilherme M. Rocha Campos, Paul J. Nutter, MD Professorship in General Surgery
  • Fadi N. Salloum, Natalie N. and John R. Congdon Sr. Endowed Chair in the VCU Pauley Heart Center
  • Arun J. Sanyal, Z. Reno Vlahcevic Research Professorship in Gastroenterology
  • Keyar Shah, David E. Tolman, MD Professorship in Heart Failure
  • A. Gordon Smith, C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chair in Clinical and Translational Research: Neurology
  • Wally R. Smith, Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professorship in Sickle Cell Disease Research
  • Daniel G. Tang, Richard R. Lower, MD Professorship in Cardiovascular Surgery
  • Steven H. Woolf, C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chair in Clinical and Translational Research: Population Health and Health Equity

M4, Fogarty fellow overcomes imposter syndrome, wins national award

“Imposter syndrome is a real thing.”

Oberlin,Austin receives award at conference

The Class of 2019’s Austin Oberlin wins the Young Investigator Award at the Infectious Disease Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology’s 2018 annual meeting for his work in South Africa as a Fogarty Global Health Fellow.

In August 2017, the Class of 2019’s Austin Oberlin had just received a prestigious Fogarty Global Health Fellowship. Chosen from a national applicant pool, he was one of seven doctoral trainees selected to spend one year abroad conducting research through the UJMT Fogarty Consortium.

He headed to Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2017 as a step toward his dream of working in global health. Yet when he arrived, his initial excitement dwindled.

“I felt very out of place,” Oberlin says. “I kept wondering, ‘am I really supposed to be here’?”

While he had taken a year off from medical school to complete the fellowship, many of his Fogarty counterparts around the globe already had earned their Ph.D.s, with completed research projects under their belts. So he turned to his principal investigator and mentor, Carla Chibwesha, M.D., M.S.c., an associate director with the consortium.

“You’ve made it through three years of medical school,” she told him. “That tells us you’ll figure it out and will do whatever it takes to get it done.”

Taking her advice, Oberlin threw himself into the research, not being afraid to ask plenty of questions along the way. Two months later, he found his footing. “I can make it through this,” he told himself.

Six months after that, Oberlin launched his primary research project — a study of women’s preferences for cervical cancer screening — and was feeling “really good. It’s all about completing a project from beginning to end. I knew I could get it done.”

Not only did he finish the research project, he also submitted the results to the Infectious Disease Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology’s 2018 annual meeting. A year after arriving in South Africa, he presented his research and took home the Young Investigator Award.

“They chose the best project by a researcher under the age of 40,” says Oberlin, who competed against residents and practicing physicians for the award.

The Fogarty experience reinforced what Oberlin first learned when he traveled to Ghana as an undergraduate — and saw poverty and health care disparity like never before. “I had a desire to do something about it and that thing for me was medicine. If someone is in trouble, you can change somebody’s life right there with the proper health care.”

Austin Oberlin and research team

During his Fogarty fellowship in South Africa, the Class of 2019’s Austin Oberlin managed a cervical cancer research team ranging from research associates to nurses to co-investigators.

In South Africa, cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women. Yet only one-third of women who should get screened actually do, according to Oberlin. The research he completed alongside PI Chibwesha provided insight into the types of testing that may be more desirable to South African women, including same-day test results and a home screening kit.

“I definitely want to incorporate research into my long-term career,” Oberlin says. “I’m especially interested in where the research world and public health intersect.”

As Oberlin begins applying to OB-GYN residencies with a public health focus, he leans on mentors like Chibwesha, assistant professor in OB-GYN at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and Siddhartha Dante, M’12, who first met Oberlin on a VCU School of Medicine HOMBRE clinical mission trip to Peru. It was Dante who suggested Oberlin apply for a Fogarty fellowship.

“He took it from there and ran with it,” says Dante, a pediatric critical care fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital who continues to serve as an HOMBRE volunteer. “That’s Austin in a nutshell. He’s been driven from day one in global health and making a functional career abroad.”

Oberlin is part of the School of Medicine’s I2CRP program, or International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship, a four-year program for students who declare an interest and commitment to working with medically underserved populations in urban, rural or international settings.

“I2CRP is what sold me on VCU,” Oberlin says. “I hadn’t heard about anything like it at other places. My closest colleagues in medical school are all people from I2CRP and I hope will continue to be long-term connections as we move forward in our careers.”

Oberlin also benefits from the Jason Lee Arthur Scholarship.

“A scholarship is important for someone like me who plans to work in the public sector,” Oberlin says. “I don’t want my biggest concern to be getting out from under loans and taking a particular career track because of money instead of helping as many people who need it as I can.”

Oberlin extends that helpful approach toward mentoring younger medical school classmates, spreading the word about I2CRP and Fogarty whenever he can. “Fogarty was such a transformative experience for me and I want everyone to know it’s available — and attainable. It was a career-defining moment and I want everyone to have access to the same opportunity.”

I2CRP director Mary Lee Magee calls Oberlin a “shining example” in the I2CRP program. “He has worked steadily to foster the knowledge, skills and experiences to make his dream of serving low-resource communities into reality,” she says. “He never misses an opportunity to share what he has learned along the way with other students to shine a light on lesser known career paths and nurture the potential of fellow classmates.”

By Polly Roberts


Medical School lands pair of AMA grants to study student experience

A pair of $30,000 grants from the American Medical Association will support research into students’ experiences.

“The two grants are great opportunities for VCU to partner with the AMA and other institutions to improve medical education,” says Sally Santen, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate dean for assessment, evaluation and scholarship. “One project will incorporate coaching and individualized learning plans to improve wellness for students entering surgery and other specialties, and the second will explore inclusion and engagement in medical students.”

Stephanie R. Goldberg, M.D.

Stephanie R. Goldberg, M.D.

The first project will explore the role of wellness coaching for fourth-year students who are applying to surgery residencies.  A collaborative effort among four medical schools, the study is led by VCU’s Stephanie R. Goldberg, M’03, H’10, an associate professor in the Department of Surgery, and includes VCU, Oregon Health & Science University, University of Connecticut and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Physician wellness and resiliency is necessary to alleviate burnout and promote career satisfaction,” Goldberg says. “Surgeons have some of the highest burnout rates among physicians, and so this pilot project will focus on fourth-year medical students who are preparing to transition into surgery residencies. If we can show its usefulness, the program will be application to all medical students regardless of specialty.”

The project will pair students with faculty coaches in monthly sessions that guide students in areas like self-directed learning, professionalism and maintaining physical and emotional health. Each student will create a personalized plan that identifies areas for growth that could include understanding communication styles and goal setting as well as recognizing warning signs for burnout and what to do when it occurs.

In a second project, Donna Jackson, Ed.D., will collaborate with the University of Connecticut University of California Davis to study student diversity and engagement.

Donna Jackson, Ed.D.

Donna Jackson, Ed.D.

Jackson notes that a diverse and culturally humble health care workforce is a critical component in addressing the persistent disparities in health and health care in the U.S. While pipeline and pathway programs in and to medical school are essential, this project aims to address retention, wellness and the social determinants of the medical schools’ learning environment, an equally important goal of.

“Medical school may be a journey through comfortable, familiar, friendly territory; or the journey of a stranger in a strange, confusing and sometimes hostile land,” Jackson says. “Unfortunately, students may experience alienation, isolation, microagressions, and the goal of this effort will be to validate and implement a survey that is a useful tool to provide a 360-degree perspective on students’ experience in specific courses and clerkships. Its results will help us identify spaces where students question their sense of belongingness so that we can work toward making those places more inclusive.”

The three public medical schools will collaborate on creating a holistic tool to that surveys students’ experience of inclusion/engagement at multiple times throughout the academic year. They also will evaluate the relationship between student inclusion/engagement and academic performance. The researchers believe the assessment tool could be used to prompt interventions to improve student experience and achievement and result in further workforce diversification and inclusion to better address healthcare disparities. Toward that end, the lessons learned will be shared with other medical schools across the country.

The studies are supported through the AMA’s 2018 Accelerating Change in Medical Education Innovation Grants Program that aims to develop common solutions to transform medical education in key areas like coaching medical students and student well-being.

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Updated: 04/29/2016