There is much to reflect on as another year comes to an end on the MCV Campus.
We have honored mentors and trailblazers, celebrated anniversaries and health equity initiatives, and seen a continued expansion of research driving innovation. All of this while continuing the bedrock of support for education and patient care that will ensure a brighter, healthier future for the community.
VCU Health is growing, and we remain proud to support this excellent institution. As we prepare to welcome a new year, here are 10 stories that leave us feeling hopeful about the months ahead.
On behalf of the MCV Foundation team, we wish everyone a safe and happy new year!
Under the leadership of Robert A. Winn, M.D., the first African American to lead a cancer center to comprehensive status, VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center has effectively championed a community-centered approach, recognizing community members as equal experts and strategic partners in its research efforts. With Massey’s new comprehensive status, those living in its catchment area are promised even greater access to lifesaving cancer screenings and clinical trials offering leading-edge treatments, more resources for critical education about cancer risk and prevention, and care informed by the top scientific minds brought to Massey through recruitment as well as its training of the next generation of physician-scientists.
This year, the VCU School of Pharmacy marked a milestone of 125 years, celebrating its rich history of training pharmacy leaders and commemorating trailblazers like the first woman faculty member and the first Black graduate. Today, the School of Pharmacy has embraced and grown from that history to recognize an unparalleled strength in diversity: A full 30% of the Pharm.D. Class of 2024 are members of an underrepresented minority. The school also ranked 12th among U.S. pharmacy schools and colleges in NIH funding, with $10.5 million in support for FY22, according to rankings from the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research.
VCU Health researchers and scientists are charging ahead to find the answer to a decades-old opioid crisis that, in Virginia, now claims more lives than automobile accidents and guns combined. Joining that fight is Yan Zhang, Ph.D., professor of medicinal chemistry at the VCU School of Pharmacy and member of the VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies. In July 2022, he was awarded a $2.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to advance his research into the development of specific opioid receptor antagonists that would reverse the acute and chronic toxicity of fentanyl.
When she began working in community nursing, VCU School of Nursing alumna Crystal Goodwin noticed a gap in the needs of vulnerable patients. That insight helped inspire her and her late husband, Hunter Goodwin, to create the Crystal Goodwin Community Engagement Fund to help support the School of Nursing’s programs that are coordinating care for vulnerable older adults in their residential communities. One of the programs the fund will support is the Mobile Health and Wellness Program, formerly known as the Richmond Health and Wellness Program, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Head and neck cancers are the sixth most common type of cancer globally, and they are among the types of cancer becoming more prevalent in developed countries. Research and treatment options have stagnated for decades, but researchers at the Philips Institute for Oral Health Research at the VCU School of Dentistry are on the cusp of a breakthrough. This fall, alumni and other donors helped the school unlock a matching challenge grant that will ensure $500,000 in funding to support efforts to advance a novel therapy for head and neck cancers.
Firefighters protect us, and now it’s time for them to be protected. VCU Massey Cancer Center, in partnership with Richmond Fire and Emergency Services and the Virginia chapter of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, are working together to gather data on a range of occupational and lifestyle risk factors experienced by Virginia firefighters to better understand ways to prevent and mitigate cancer in the force.
Ann Dunbar, D.P.T., a former adjunct faculty at the VCU College of Health Professions, established the Honoring Our Mentors Physical Therapy Scholarship to provide support for physical therapy students who demonstrate financial need. Her hope is that this fund will inspire other donors to give and share stories of mentors like the late Dan Kahsar who was a VCU alum and a natural teacher with a contagious thirst for learning who had a knack for inspiring his physical therapy students and peers to challenge themselves.
Taylor and Sarah Jefferson’s bustling family of four could be considered miraculous. After two years of trying to have children, they were told they would not be able to conceive without medical intervention. They turned to VCU Health for in-vitro fertilization. Their experience before and during the process led them to seek out ways to help individuals who cannot conceive without medical intervention or those who’ve gone through one unsuccessful round of IVF and cannot afford a second round. In May, the Jeffersons donated to the OB-GYN Development Fund at the VCU School of Medicine.
VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center is looking to develop ways to reduce the inequities by designing education and outreach efforts that overcome barriers and connect people with often lifesaving knowledge and care. This year, Massey rolled out the second phase of its Community Grant Initiative — known as cultivate grants — that invests in community-led efforts to promote health, health equity and person-centered care. In addition to supporting community organizations working to increase cancer education and screenings, Massey deployed two mobile health education units this summer to serve parts of Central and Southside Virginia.
VCU School of Medicine alum Merle McCann, M.D., retired after a 25-year career as an inpatient psychiatrist at Sheppard Pratt Hospital when he and his husband Jared Christopher decided to make a gift to create a first-of-its-kind scholarship at the school. The Merle C. McCann, M.D., and Jared Christopher, RN, Scholarship Fund will support students who have a demonstrated commitment to advancing the LGBTQIA+ community at-large or addressing health issues experienced by that community with preference for students with demonstrated financial need.
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