VCU Update #9


Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Health System

Office of the President

April 7, 2010

TO: The VCU and VCU Health System Communities
Michael Rao
VCU Update #9

The university continues to assess the impact of the state’s economic condition and the budget recently adopted by the General Assembly on VCU and the VCU Health System’s revenues. Here is some information regarding how VCU will address the state employee furlough and tuition and fees.

State budget/employee furlough

The state budget adopted at the most recent legislative session included a one-day furlough for all state employees for the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2010. In the budget, state colleges and universities were given the option of using alternate strategies to generate the required savings, which for VCU totals $1.1 million. VCU has elected to use alternate savings strategies. As a result, there will be no employee furlough for this fiscal year.

Student financial assistance and tuition

VCU’s financial situation remains serious. Despite the lobbying efforts in the last two sessions of the General Assembly, the sustained loss of state support threatens VCU’s core mission as a research university focused on student learning and necessitates fundamental changes in its approach to student financial aid and tuition.

VCU historically has attempted to provide access by offering lower tuition than most of the state’s public colleges and universities. Even with high-cost programs, VCU’s tuition is the lowest among any doctoral research institution in Virginia. To keep tuition low, severe cuts over the past few years have hurt student financial aid for those who need the most assistance and have affected class sizes, course offerings, and faculty retention and recruitment. Further cuts jeopardize access, the quality of education, the value of a VCU degree and the ability to maintain our mission. In listening to students and my colleagues, it has become clear that VCU has reached a crossroads and must make a decision about whether to continue to cut further into educational quality or increase its revenues.

Even worse, VCU faces a funding cliff in the second year of the budget just passed by the General Assembly when it will lose $42.3 million in federal stimulus funding and state support. It may be helpful to know that at current rates every 1 percent of tuition at VCU generates about $1 million.

It has become clear that VCU cannot sustain quality with a low state appropriation and low tuition. When the VCU Board of Visitors convenes at the end of the month to consider tuition and fees, I will recommend an increase in tuition to be more in line with other public research universities in Virginia. While the difference between VCU’s current tuition rate and that of the other public universities is substantial, I will also recommend that financial aid be restructured so that need-based aid is increased along with tuition. More details on these recommendations will be available at the board meeting, scheduled for April 29.

No president of a public university wants to raise tuition, particularly those of us who are new. Facing its largest budget reduction in history, its inability to provide financial aid to students in need and a serious erosion of its faculty, there is no choice for VCU. My service as a university president for 16 years reminds me that I must act to preserve VCU’s mission as a research university to serve its students, the community and the commonwealth. It is my hope that the university community will stand with the Board of Visitors and me through this bold but necessary choice to protect academic quality and student access.

Task Force to Analyze Effects of Health Care Reform

The missions of VCU and its heath system are inextricably linked in terms of service — to the community and the commonwealth — and the economic impact of a combined $2.5 billion budget. Landmark federal health care reform legislation recently passed that will have an impact on the VCU Health System, in particular. As we continue to understand more about the impact of health care reform, we will share this information.

A task force will analyze the impact of the new federal health care reform laws on the VCU Health System. A majority of the health care reform provisions will be enacted between fiscal years 2014 and 2020, including the individual insurance mandate, subsidies for low-income citizens, Medicaid expansion, and state-based health insurance exchanges. For more information on federal health care reform, please visit

VCU 2020: Vision for Excellence

VCU’s strategic plan, VCU 2020: Vision for Excellence, was approved by the Board of Visitors in February 2006 with an aggressive vision for achieving excellence in learning, teaching, scholarship, research, clinical practice, creative expression and public service. While much has been accomplished (, there are a number of factors that have and will continue to have a dramatic impact on our vision for the future of VCU, including the decline in state funding over the last three years and the imminent FY12 expiration of federal stimulus funding coupled with an additional $19.2 million reduction in state support.

Interim Provost Bev Warren will lead a recalibration effort of our vision for excellence by appointing a new task force to address current progress made in meeting the original goals and initiatives outlined in the 2006 plan; to determine the impact of the decline in state funding on achieving yet unmet goals and initiatives; and to pose new strategies for achieving excellence in the current fiscal climate. The committee will convene this month and will present a draft of findings and preliminary recommendations by May 1. This working draft will be presented to faculty, staff and students in the first two weeks in May for input. The task force will continue its efforts over the summer and will present a more refined draft for review in August 2010.

VCU Research

At the core of our mission is research, particularly that which benefits a learning focus and the people of Virginia. The sections that follow present just a few highlights of work undertaken by my faculty colleagues that is worth sharing. In conveying this information, I hope to help communicate a few examples of good work, encourage others to communicate their work and inspire colleagues to consider interdisciplinary possibilities that will benefit them, VCU and the state.

School of Business

An article by Assistant Professor Asen Ivanov (Economics) has been accepted in Econometrica, widely recognized as one of the most prestigious journals in the field. The study, "Can Relaxation of Beliefs Rationalize the Winner’s Curse?: An Experimental Study," was co-authored with Dan Levin and Muriel Niederle.

Ken Kahn, director of the da Vinci Center, co-authored a manuscript with Chris Storey (City University, London) which has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Service Research, the leading journal in the area of services marketing. The paper, entitled "The Role of Knowledge Management Strategies and Task Knowledge in Stimulating Service Innovation," is scheduled for publication this fall.

School of Allied Health Professions, Department of Physical Therapy

Assistant Professor Stacey Dusing is completing a K12 mentored research fellowship, and will return to VCU to continue her work in June 2010. Her research on the development of postural control and reaching in infancy is advancing the science of early detection and intervention in infants at risk for motor disabilities.

Associate Professor Lori Michener is managing a multi-center clinical trial – Randomized Clinical Trial of Rehabilitation for Subacromial Impingement Syndrome: A Comparison of Manual Therapy plus Exercise to Exercise Only – an extension of the ”Effectiveness of Rehabilitation for Subacromial Impingement Syndrome” study.

Department of Rehabilitation Counseling

College students with disabilities and substance use issues are being investigated through an NIDRR Field Initiated, three-year study. This national examination of this issue will be the first of its kind. Associate Professor Steve West is collecting data from more than 10,000 students nationwide. He also is conducting research related to traumatic brain injury (TBI), connected with Dr. Dave Cifu’s PM&R group. This team is working with active duty military populations who have experienced a concussive blast mild TBI, working to test the feasibility of using hyperbaric oxygen therapy for treatment of mild TBI; they are also looking at the impact on physical and psychosocial aspects of mild TBI.

School of Nursing

Associate Professor Debra Lyon has an NCI-funded project to evaluate the effects of electrical stimulation on symptoms associated with chemotherapy – depression, anxiety, fatigue, pain and sleep disturbances.

Professor Cindy Munro has a National Institute of Nursing Research-funded project to reduce the risk of one of the most serious complications of critical illness – ventilator associated pneumonia. Professor Munro’s trial seeks to reduce the bacteria in the mouth with a spray of chlorhexidine, a common bacteristatic agent, in an effort to reduce the incidence or severity of pneumonia.

Five assistant professors in the School of Nursing – Victoria Menzies, Jeanne Walter, Nancy Jallo, Jo Lynne Robin and Suzanne Ameringer – have pilot projects funded by the P30 Center of Excellence for Biobehavioral Approaches to Symptom Management, to study fatigue in a variety of patient groups.

School of Medicine

This year, the School of Medicine had 97 percent of students match with one of their top choice residency programs, exceeding the national average. Many of these students matched in highly competitive fields. Six students matched in otolaryngology, seven in orthopaedic surgery, nine in anesthesiology, 13 in radiology and 82 in primary care.

School of Social Work

The overarching goal of the VCU-United Way Financial Stability Alliance is to facilitate the development in the Richmond metropolitan area of a systematic and comprehensive approach to combat intergenerational poverty. Assistant Professor Tony Mallon and the school have led this collaborative effort, in conjunction with the School of Business (Associate Professor Roxanne Spindle) and the School of Mass Communications (Assistant Professors Yan Jin and Anna West) and in partnership with United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg.

In collaboration with United Way and MetroCash, professors Mallon and Spindle organized and hosted a one-day Financial Stability Fair, at which MetroCash volunteers, supported by students from the schools of Business and Social Work, provided free tax preparation to 40 low- and moderate-income individuals, returning an estimated $42,800 to participants.

School of Pharmacy

Department of Pharmaceutics Chair Peter Byron and Associate Professor Joanne Peart co-organized Respiratory Drug Delivery Europe 2009 in Lisbon, Portugal, attracting more than 430 participants from 30 countries worldwide. They are putting the finishing touches now on RDD 2010, which will take place April 25-29 in Orlando, Fla.

Professor Umesh Desai from the Department of Medicinal Chemistry received a $1.5 million NIH-National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute grant for ”Direct Dual Inhibitors of Thrombin and Factor Xa.”

Department of Pharmaceutics Ph.D. student Eric Edwards’ research interests include injectable delivery systems and factors affecting the dispersion and absorption of parenteral products. Because of their own experiences with allergies as children, he and his twin brother Evan founded Intelliject Inc. (housed in the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park) to help develop a better injection device. For more on the story, visit:

Eric also contributed to research suggesting the incidence of epinephrine auto-injectors is on the rise.

Edwin van den Oord, professor in the Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science and director of the Center for Biomarker Research and Personalized Medicine, received a $4.5 million “Grand Opportunities” grant to detect schizophrenia methylation markers that could lead to better drug therapies to fight the devastating mental health illness. The grant, called an RC2, was awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health through the 2009 American Recovery Reinvestment Act. Read more at:

Department of Medicinal Chemistry Assistant Professor Yan Zhang received a $1.1 million NIH-National Institute on Drug Abuse grant to discover mu opoid receptor selective antagonists as pharmacological tools and potential therapeutics to treat drug abuse and addiction and alcoholism.

School of Education

Professor Maike Philipsen has been engaged in a timely line of research on faculty work-life balancing that has attracted national attention.

Clinical Advances

Recently, there have been several important clinical advances at the VCU Medical Center; for more details, see the links below.

Recognition for Research

The pioneering contributions of Internal Medicine Professor Dick Wenzel have advanced understanding of infectious diseases. His guidance has shaped the field’s approach to challenges like the prevention and control of hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic resistance. For these and other contributions, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases honored him with its 2010 Maxwell Finland Award [PDF].

Professor Bill Dewey, interim chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, received the 2009 Distinguished Service Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. He has served CPDD in many roles including two terms as president; this award recognizes his Washington-based public policy work on behalf of CPDD.

The VCU Philips Institute of Oral and Craniofacial Molecular Biology has been the major focus for oral and dental research in the VCU School of Dentistry. The institute traces its origins back to the school’s strategic plan, put forward in the early 1990s, which called for the development of a research institute within the dental school complex. To date, VCU Philips Institute faculty members have received $20.7 million in research funding to support their efforts.