VCU Update #5


Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Health System

Office of the President

December 14, 2009

TO: The VCU and VCU Health System Communities
Michael Rao
VCU Update #5

Here’s another update for the university and health system communities.

As the first semester of the academic year comes to a close, I hope that you find another update of interest.  This provides a good opportunity to thank so many of you who have helped make Monica’s and my first five months so productive.  We are most grateful to the entire VCU community for so warmly welcoming our family. 

Much of my own time seems to have been consumed working to understand many unique aspects of our complex institution, particularly in the context of the most significant reductions in state support that the university has ever experienced.  Despite the situation we face together, it is important that none of us lose our enthusiasm for a university that has made tremendous strides in 171 years with particularly noteworthy accomplishments in this century.  As we consider challenging choices, most important will be our ability to make an unwavering commitment to excellence and student success in the context of our mission as a research university.  Our priorities will be geared toward resource development, increasing student scholarships, and — at least long term — increasing the size of our faculty.  For VCU and the Health System, we are proudly a people-intensive organization; our people are committed to excellence and compassion in learning and healthcare.  As president of the health system, I am reminded daily of the value of the university’s commitment to research and education in every discipline, school, and the college benefits our patients in our hospitals and clinics in a range of ways. 

It has been a sincere pleasure to meet so many people who care so deeply about VCU. It was delightful to kick off the semester by participating in student move-in day and in the Student Convocation ceremony for first-year students, and over the course of the semester, I have enjoyed many opportunities to meet with students in between meetings.  While some of these meetings have involved students, I have attended many department meetings as allowable, and continue to visit with the Schools and the College.  At the beginning of the semester, I enjoyed meeting with the Faculty Senate, and Faculty Senate President Linda Corey is an excellent colleague who keeps the academic vice presidents and me well-informed.  In addition, I had the honor of participating in the Faculty and Student Convocations.  I have spent a great deal of time with members of the VCU Health System team, learning, listening, participating in meetings, and viewing and meeting with team members in our hospitals and clinics.  Much of my time has been invested with the members of the boards of VCU and the VCU Health System, as well as the boards of VCU’s foundations, all of whom play a vital role in supporting VCU’s commitment to excellence.  Finally, more than 60 legislators have made time for visits prior to the legislative session, and Monica and I have enjoyed meeting hundreds of alumni, and dozens of community and business leaders from across the state and in the Richmond region. 

Wishing you a restful and enjoyable break, please accept my gratitude for your hard work and dedication to a mission that is so important to the lives of so many other people. 

Chief of Staff

Wayne Turnage has been named Chief of Staff in the Office of the President, beginning January 16, 2010.  Mr. Turnage currently is Chief of Staff for Governor Kaine, managing the staff and budget of the governor’s office and cabinet and working with state agencies to develop and implement the Governor’s legislative policy agenda.  He will be part of my senior management team, managing the president’s office staff and assisting university leaders with implementation of VCU’s strategic initiatives.

Mr. Turnage, who has more than 20 years management experience in government, received a bachelor’s degree in social science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C., and a master of public administration degree from Ohio State.  Mr. Turnage will replace Sue Ann Messmer (SAM), chief of staff and vice president for University Relations, who announced last May that she is retiring in February 2010.  As I welcome Wayne, I offer heartfelt gratitude to SAM for her creativity, dedication, and hard work through the transition in our office. 


Governor Kaine will submit his final two-year budget plan to the General Assembly on December 18 and will announce the actions he proposes to address a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion, which could hold implications for the budgets of the universities.  As we gain more specific information about reductions, we will shape our advocacy for VCU during the upcoming General Assembly session and in planning for VCU’s near-term and longer term future. 

Since fiscal year 2008, state funding to VCU has been reduced by $66.5 million on a base appropriation that is now $140 million.  This academic year, VCU will receive $25.3 million less state support than it did in fiscal year 2000, despite the fact that VCU is educating 9,000 more students now than it did then.  

At my request, Vice President Bennett has met with a variety of university groups, including the Monroe Park SGA, Faculty Senate, leaders of student organizations and clubs, University Council, and the Council of Deans to explain the serious budget challenges facing VCU, as well as to answer questions from the university community.  We will continue our communications outreach to all of you as well as lawmakers and others, as we all work together to make more difficult decisions in the coming months.

2010 General Assembly Session

In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever that the VCU community be engaged with the state legislative session.  On December 18th, Governor Kaine will be presenting his budget recommendations for the 2010-2012 biennium to the General Assembly.  The 2010 General Assembly session will begin on Wednesday, January 13 and is scheduled to adjourn on Saturday, March 13.  To view the 2010 State Legislative Priorities for VCU and the VCU Health System, track lists for education and health related legislation, and read weekly legislative updates, please go to the Office of the Vice President for Government Relations and Health Policy website.  The website also includes a reminder of guidelines for faculty and staff taking public policy positions or offering public comment during the General Assembly.

Everyone is encouraged to contact their respective House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia members to inform them how the Governor’s budget recommendations will impact the academic and health care missions of VCU and the VCU Health System.  For your convenience, click here for a link to “Who’s My Legislator” which includes a link for their office contact information.  

Operation Simple

The student team who developed the $500 surgical table won first prize in a Boston competition earlier this month.  Of the 600 attendees and 60 entrants in the competition, including 13 entries from Harvard and 8 from MIT, the judges noted that this project had the highest potential to impact patient care.  Congratulations to our students from the Schools of Engineering, Business, and the Arts who were involved. Please view the press release to learn more about Operation Simple and to see pictures of the table.

Medical Center Recognition and Awards

The VCU Medical Center has been named a national Blue Distinction Center of Excellence for spine surgery and knee and hip replacement programs by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  The VCU Health System is the only hospital in Virginia that has been named to all six Blue Distinction networks, which also include cardiac care, bariatric, transplant and complex and rare cancers programs.  Additionally, the Medical Respiratory Intensive Care Unit (MRICU) has received the Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses for critical care excellence, and the medical center’s forensic nurse team has received the Dream Team Award from the Virginia Chapter of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, in recognition of outstanding interagency collaboration to provide the best possible care to victims of violence.