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For physiology alumnus Stephen Rapundalo, science and politics go hand-in-hand

Growing up in Canada, Stephen Rapundalo, PhD’83 (PHIS), says he was raised to give back to the community. It’s a value he brought with him to the MCV Campus, where he served as student government president, carried forward as a city council member in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and continues today as president and CEO of MichBio, an organization driving industry growth and advocacy for the biosciences.

Stephen Rapundalo, PhD’83 (PHIS), brought a scientist’s perspective to the Ann Arbor City Council, where he served from 2005-11.

Stephen Rapundalo, PhD’83 (PHIS), brought a scientist’s perspective to the Ann Arbor City Council, where he served from 2005-11. “I look at things that are problems seeking solutions. It doesn’t matter if you’re left or right.”

In politics, Rapundalo says, he likes bringing a scientist’s analytical viewpoint to the table. “I look at things that are problems seeking solutions. It doesn’t matter if you’re left or right. Your focus is just to get things done. Science certainly shaped my approach to bringing real analytical assessment and solution development.”

Case in point: while serving on Ann Arbor’s city council from 2005-11, he instituted a peer review system for citizens applying for grants through the human and social services committee, and required standardized materials from all applicants — techniques he learned from years of applying for National Institutes of Health grants and serving on study sections.

“The city benefitted from much better returns on grant success and people who utilized the programs, along with better accountability,” he says of the system, which is still in place today.

Rapundalo’s first foray into politics came as president of the MCV Campus Student Government Association. He worked closely with then-VCU President Edmund F. Ackell, M.D., D.M.D., and was instrumental in lobbying for a student representative on the board of visitors.

“That was my legacy,” Rapundalo says. “I still have the VCU newspaper article from it filed at home.”

At MichBio, he alternates much of his time between the Michigan Capitol in Lansing and Washington, D.C., lobbying legislators for support of Michigan’s bio-industry.

“Michigan is home to the first two pharmaceutical companies in the country and world-renowned research centers,” Rapundalo says. “We get more federal R&D funding than the Research Triangle in North Carolina. We need an industry like ours to offer career opportunities to keep STEM talent in our state and develop a sustainable biosciences workforce for the future.”

As president and CEO of MichBio, Rapundalo lobbies legislators.

As president and CEO of MichBio, Rapundalo lobbies legislators in Lansing and Washington, D.C., for support of Michigan’s bio-industry.

Prior to joining MichBio in April 2006, he spent almost 20 years as a senior research scientist, project manager and group leader with Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research and then Pfizer Inc., primarily in the area of cardiovascular drug discovery. He says he owes much of his success to his time on the MCV Campus.

“I was able to work with some true pioneers in the field whom I revered,” says Rapundalo, mentioning his co-advisors Joseph J. Feher, Ph.D., professor emeritus, and F. Norman Briggs, Ph.D., former chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

“Had it not been for the foundation that I got in learning at MCV, the rest of my career just wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have located where I did, worked with who I did and succeeded in the roles that I fulfilled. It all traces back to MCV.”

It’s also where he met his wife, Anne Stiles Rapundalo, an alumna of the School of Allied Health’s medical technology program. He fondly remembers their days living in Bear and Cabannis Halls, crab-picking mixers at friends’ homes, dates in Shockoe Slip and concerts at the Mosque. The couple has four adult daughters.

Rapundalo, who became a U.S. citizen in 2000, enjoys trips to Virginia to visit family, occasionally stopping in Richmond to speak to current graduate students and young department members.

“He embodies the active citizenship that Thomas Jefferson envisioned for our country,” says former advisor Feher. “He enjoys policy making and the role of government in setting science policy. Our university should be proud of him.”

By Polly Roberts


Richmond Academy of Medicine supports new medical student scholarship

VCU School of Medicine scholarships are often created by alumni, faculty or even community members. But in 2015, for the first time, a new medical student scholarship was established by a community-based physicians’ organization, the Richmond Academy of Medicine.

Scholarship recipient Jessica Li (center) with former School of Medicine Dean Jerry Strauss III, and RAM President Harry D. Bear, M’75, PhD’78Scholarship recipient Jessica Li (center) with former School of Medicine Dean Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., and RAM President Harry D. Bear, M’75, PhD’78, professor of surgery and chair of the Division of Surgical Oncology.
Photography: Skip Rowland

With a gift of $100,000, the academy endowed a scholarship that aims to benefit a top student with financial need who exemplifies the desire, attributes and skills necessary to become a physician leader. The inaugural recipient is Jessica Li, a second-year student who already demonstrates those qualities.

She volunteers with the geriatrics and palliative care student groups and traveled to the Dominican Republic last spring on a relief trip that provided medical and surgical eye care in the underserved community of Santiago. Li put her Spanish skills to use taking vital signs and helping translate for patients before and after their surgeries in days that often lasted more than 12 hours.

The scholarship is renewable; academy leaders are looking forward to getting to know Li as she completes her four-year medical degree. Li will also receive free membership to the academy, which enables her to attend its regular meetings.

This story was first published in Vol. 9 of Impact, the magazine for donors and friends of Virginia Commonwealth University.


The Class of 78’s Tom Carrico Receives Barney Distinguished Service Award

On behalf of the Lynchburg Academy of Medicine board of directors, LAM president Ann Thomas, MS’01, M’05, presented the William H. Barney Distinguished Service Award to Thomas J. Carrico, M’78, H’83, F’85, at the annual Centra Health-LAM New Physician Reception on Oct. 5

Thomas J. Carrico, M’78, H’83, F’85, accepts the Lynchburg Academy of Medicine’s William H. Barney Distinguished Service Award.Thomas J. Carrico, M’78, H’83, F’85, accepts the Lynchburg Academy of Medicine’s William H. Barney Distinguished Service Award, named for a Class of 46 alumnus and longtime Lynchburg internist.

Carrico has been continuously active in the affairs of the academy for over 20 years and is known to every member, either personally or through his regular contributions to the LAM Light. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and the Medical College of Virginia. He remained on the MCV Campus for a residency in general surgery and a fellowship in plastic surgery, completed in 1984. He then entered private practice in Richmond. In 1992 the Carricos moved to Lynchburg. After a 10-year stint with Plastic Surgery Associates, Carrico reinvented himself as the founder and director of Centra’s Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, where he continues to bring cutting-edge wound care to central Virginia.

Carrico has served the academy as chair of the public relations committee, a delegate for six years to the Medical Society of Virginia, editor of the LAM Light from 1997 to 2005 and president of the academy 2006-2007. Most members know him best for his thorough, beautifully written book reviews, a staple feature in the LAM Light for two decades. His thoughtfulness and creativity helped to guide the academy during his long tenure on the board and over the many years since.

With LAM’s support, he founded the Healthy Teen Initiative in the late 1990s, which sought to provide Lynchburg youth with safe, healthy social opportunities. As president, he more than doubled LAM’s charitable fund at the Greater Lynchburg Community Trust by holding a non-event, wherein members paid to not have to go to another fund-raising event. He has served the larger medical community as a council member of the Virginia chapter of the American College of Surgeons and on various committees at Centra Health and Centra Medical Group. He served for 23 years as an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Surgery on the MCV Campus.

Thomas J. Carrico

In his spare time, Carrico plays guitar, currently with the band “Spare Parts.” He and Ellen have raised three sons and a daughter. Their eldest, Tom, is an ordained minister, father of two, and currently a Ph.D. candidate. Bobby, PhD’12 (BIOS), is a statistician employed by the United Network for Organ Sharing. Brian is an attorney in the public defender’s office in Fredericksburg, and Elizabeth is a recreational therapist and yoga instructor in Richmond.

Named for William Barney, M’46, H’51, the Barney Award was established by the LAM board in 1997 to honor academy members for distinguished service to the academy and the larger community. It has been awarded annually since then, and was awarded posthumously to George Craddock, H’40. Barney, an internist who practiced in the city from 1951 to 1990, was active in civic affairs for many years. He served as president of LAM (1966-67) and president of the MSV (1988-89).

By James Wright, M.D., for LAM Light, the newsletter of the Lynchburg Academy of Medicine, Vol. 32, No. 6, November-December 2016