Foundation’s Strauss Award Honors Dr. Ralph Clark for Modeling Steady Servant-Leadership

Few individuals have impacted the upward trajectory of VCU Health in the last three decades more so than Ron Clark, M.D. 

Ron Clark, M.D. Photo: Daniel Sangjib Min, MCV Foundation

Dr. Clark served as chief medical officer for VCU Health Center for 19 years. He also stepped in often to fill positions when needed, including serving as interim president of the VCU Medical Center, interim president of MCV Physicians and chief medical officer of Ambulatory Care Services.  

Dr. Clark’s tenure includes membership on more than 40 major health system internal committees, spanning education and finance to technology, with nearly half of those as chair or co-chair. He also played a critical leadership role in guiding the response to COVID-19 during the pandemic. 

All of that, and he is a VCU School of Medicine alum. 

"Servant leader” is how some describe Dr. Clark, as his leadership has touched almost every aspect of the MCV Campus, from the wellbeing of his colleagues and medical students, to transforming patient experiences and outcomes.  

He has years and years of history here and for that reason, he’s a sought-out leader.

Denise Lynch, R.N., ASAP program coordinator

To honor such service, Dr. Clark was awarded the MCV Foundation’s distinguished Strauss Award during its annual awards event on June 10 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Established in honor of Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., former dean of the VCU School of Medicine, this award is presented to a VCU administrator, faculty or staff member who has demonstrated extraordinary service and stewardship to MCV Campus alumni, donors or other members of the community.  “Ron is somebody who is absolutely essential to our health as an organization,” said Marlon Levy, interim CEO of VCU Health System and interim senior vice president for Health Sciences at VCU, who noted that he met Dr. Clark during his own recruitment process with VCU. “I was really impressed with his composure, his insight … and his incredible span of responsibilities.” 

A year into his career, Dr. Clark embarked on a mission to change the landscape of safety for patients and medical team members. Working across the campus, he initiated new processes, training and best practices that ultimately led to the medical center earning top honors from The American Hospital Association in 2014 for, in part, a 50% reduction in serious safety hospital events.  

Additionally, under Dr. Clark’s leadership, positive patient experiences soared thanks to several actions and initiatives, including the creation of the Access Assistance and Support Program, or ASAP, in 2010. ASAP provides patients with a continuum of care throughout their treatment at VCU. That program is funded by VCU Health, MCV Physicians and the MCV Foundation.  

In 2023 alone, the program helped more than 80,000 patients.  

“He has years and years of history here and for that reason, he’s a sought-out leader,” said Denise Lynch, R.N., ASAP program coordinator. “He’s very well-loved by many people and just overall, a good-hearted, kind man.”   

Art Saavedra, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine, called Dr. Clark “a moral imperative to our health system.”  

“He has allowed us to not just be nimble and to consider when and why we should change, but he does it in a way that puts people first,” Dean Saavedra said. “He’s happy to celebrate successes, but he’s happy to support the ways in which we all need to improve.”  

He added: “Dr. Clark’s greatest legacy is that people matter.”