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Societies vie for the inaugural Strauss Cup

Strauss cup logo

The Strauss Cup Society Field Day will be held on Saturday, March 22, 2014, at Abner Clay Park.

A year’s worth of bragging rights are at stake.

Over the past seven months, a series of competitions have been waged in the School of Medicine, pitting its four medical student societies against one another in athletic, academic, spirit and community service challenges. Known as the Strauss Cup, the competition takes its name from Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D.

“The Strauss Cup is designed to build both camaraderie within each Society and a healthy sense of inter-Society pride and competition,” says the Class of 2016’s Shikha Gupta, the Medical Student Government’s vice-president of societies.

The Societies have earned points in each of this year’s academics, spirit and service challenges. “The Societies were all neck-and-neck until the SOUPerbowl, a week-long Society and Faculty food drive competition benefiting FeedMore and the Central Virginia Food Bank,” Shikha said. “The Baughman Society collected nearly 400 food items, earning them a healthy lead in the Tournament standings.”

The other Societies have plenty of time to catch up. The competition’s inaugural year will culminate in the Strauss Cup Society Field Day to be held on Saturday, March 22, from noon to 4 p.m. at Abner Clay Park, located at the corner of Brook Road and Leigh Street. Points will also be awarded for participation in a Society Spirit Week that will be held in advance of Field Day.

The Field Day will give the four societies a final chance to win points before the Strauss Cup is awarded. The event will include the medical school’s traditional M1/M2 Powderpuff Football game along with tug of war, egg tosses and three-legged races. There will also be Dunk Tank featuring favorite faculty members and student leaders from all the MCV Campus schools.

The Field Day is free of charge and open to the VCU community and their families. Some activities will carry a suggested donation, which will be used to benefit United 2 Heal, a non-profit organization based on the Monroe Park Campus. United 2 Heal provides recycled or discarded high-need medical supplies to developing countries at no cost. The organization was founded by Mohamed Ibrahim, a first-year medical student who died suddenly in November. Admired by faculty and students from both of VCU’s campuses, Mohamed’s life has inspired a number of memorial activities.

The school’s 780 M.D. students are assigned to one of four medical societies according to their career and specialty interests, learning styles and proficiencies. The Baughman, Benacerraf, Harris and Warner Societies each carry the name of an alumnus or faculty member to honor the rich history and tradition of MCV.

Each year, the winning society’s name will be engraved on the Strauss Cup, which will take up temporary residence on that society’s floor in the McGlothlin Medical Education Center until the next victor is crowned.

The Societies’ leaders chose to honor Strauss with the naming of the Cup as a way for the medical student body to show its appreciation for the work he does on their behalf.

“It’s our hope that this tournament will continue long after we all leave MCV, so future medical students will be reminded of Dean Strauss’ legacy,” said Shikha. “As a student leader, I’ve been incredibly impressed both by Dean Strauss’s unwavering support of student initiatives and by his commitment to transparency in communication between students and administrators. The autonomy given to our student leaders by the administration to make decisions and implement programs without direct faculty oversight is a demonstration of Dean Strauss’s faith in the student body’s ability to participate in the process of MCV’s growth and development in a meaningful way.”


Medical students team up with Richmond non-profits in DOCS 2013

Baughman Society

Members of the Baughman Society

On Saturday Nov. 2, medical students showed up en masse to lend a helping hand to community organizations in need. More than 150 students signed up for the Day of Community Service – known as DOCS for short.

In the School of Medicine, M.D. students are assigned to one of four medical societies according to their career and specialty interests, learning styles and proficiencies. The societies are designed to maintain the medical school’s close-knit camaraderie, and DOCS 2013 provided an opportunity to serve four community non-profits together.

Benacerraf Society

Members of the Benacerraf Society

The non-profit organizations were selected by the society leaders based on the history of their societies.

The Baughman Society worked with Safe Harbor Shelter to assemble toiletry packages for the men and women residing at the shelter. The Society is named for Mary Baughman, who was among MCV’s first female graduates.

Students in the Benacerraf Society built a jogging and walking track at Bellwood Elementary School with Fit4Kids. The Society carries the name of Baruj Benacerraf, an alumnus of the medical school who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology.

Harris Society

Members of the Harris Society

The Harris Society assembled welcoming baskets for children who participate in programs with SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now). The baskets included healthy snacks, school supplies and toys. The Society is named for Jean Harris, the first African-American student admitted to the medical school.

Students in the Warner Society worked with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Richmond to clean-up a stream near the James River. The Society is named for Augustus L. Warner, the medical school’s first dean.


Members of the Warner Society

One of the event’s organizers was the Class of 2016’s Miki Nishitani, VP of Community Service for the Medical Student Government. She says that “One goal is that the students in these societies will maintain long-term relationships with these non-profits through their commitment to service over the years. This way, the event will continue on annually and perhaps even bi-annually.”

For a closer look at the four medical school societies and their DOCS experience, click any of their images above to enlarge, or view a photo gallery capturing their day.


The day the first-year students discovered a new tradition and were sorted into four medical societies.

There was no Hogwart’s sorting hat in evidence. Instead, the first-year medical students were assigned to one of four new medical societies according to their career and specialty interests, learning styles and proficiencies.

The 50-student societies are a new initiative designed to maintain the medical school close-knit camaraderie, even in the face of recent increases in class size.

“We have always been extremely proud of the individualized attention our students get and their satisfaction in their relationships with the faculty and administration of the school,” says Isaac Wood, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and student affairs. Wood speaks from the special perspective of a school alumnus – he was a member of the Class of 1982 – who joined the faculty and is now responsible for the students’ educational and campus experience.

In response to warnings of an impending physician shortage from national groups like the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical schools across the country have begun expanding their enrollments. This fall, the VCU School of Medicine’s incoming class numbered 200, a gradual increase from 184 in 2003.

“To emphasize our rich history and tradition,” says Wood, “the societies bear the names of four distinguished individuals with ties to the school.”

Faculty nominations were pared down to a top-10 list that was submitted to a vote among the first-year students. The four resulting honorees are: Mary Baughman, who was among MCV’s first female graduates; Baruj Benacerraf, a medical school alumnus who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology; Jean Harris, the first African-American student admitted to the medical school; and Augustus L. Warner, the medical school’s first dean.

The new societies will be headed by school administrators and faculty who will meet with the students individually to assist with academic and personal issues. The medical school’s new educational building set to open in 2013 will also promote unity within the groups by providing dedicated classrooms, small-group and breakout areas.

The academic year will culminate in a weeklong competition to be known as the Society Olympics. The society that demonstrates its academic and physical prowess will have its name inscribed on the Medicos Trophy, which takes its name from the MCV intercollegiate football team whose remarkable record included defeating William and Mary, Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech.

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Updated: 04/29/2016