Transformational summer in research, health care and student access


Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Health System

Office of the President

July 21, 2010

TO:The VCU and VCU Health System Communities
Michael Rao
Transformational summer in research, health care and student access

Summer 2010 may well be remembered as a transformational time in VCU’s ascension as a national research university.

John Clore
John Clore, M.D., associate vice president for clinical research at VCU and principal investigator for the grant

On July 14, the university received word of the largest federal grant in its history — a $20 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. VCU now joins an elite partnership of national research institutions charged with accelerating medical research from the lab to treatments and cures for patients. VCU is the first institution in Virginia to earn a CTSA.

This award comes at an ideal time for VCU, catalyzing our commitment to learning through research. In fact, VCU researchers have won 73 ARRA federal stimulus program awards worth $38.5 million, reflecting an impressive 20 percent success rate. Research projects range from innovative training for teachers to clinical trials testing anti-cancer agents.

Additionally, 22 awards are being made in the inaugural round of competition for research grants under the VCU Presidential Research Incentive Fund (PRIP). This support will help colleagues across the university better position for major external research support. A second round of PRIP competition will be initiated relatively soon.

Advancing health care

On the same day that the largest federal grant award in VCU’s history was announced, the university learned that the VCU Medical Center again was named as one of America’s Best Hospitals in the latest U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings and, of special note, this influential publication ranks our cancer specialty for the first time.

Children’s  Hospital of Richmond
Michael Rao, Ph.D. (center), president of VCU and VCU Health System, with Dawn (left) andKelsie Tyler, mother and patient

The joining of the VCU Health System and Children’s Hospital — creating the Children’s Hospital of Richmond — sets another milestone in our busy summer. This is an important step forward in the continuing progress of children’s health care in Richmond and Virginia and will strengthen student learning experiences in a range of disciplines, including the health sciences.

These achievements represent unprecedented institutional focus by VCU and VCU Health System leadership, faculty and staff to discover, innovate and provide quality health care in the Richmond area and across the country. I offer heartfelt congratulations and thanks to our entire team for these successful efforts towards VCU’s preeminence as an academic medical center.

Student access

On July 8, VCU demonstrated its longstanding commitment to access with signing of a new agreement with Virginia’s Community Colleges that expands transfer student access and makes the transition to VCU even easier.

It is especially important to ensure that we offer students options that expand access for students to graduate from VCU. Fundraising to support student success is critical, and the deans and I are devoting a significant portion of our time and effort to do everything possible to increase VCU’s resources.

Another action taken to bolster our fundraising effectiveness is the establishment of the Advancement Advisory Council. The group, representing university academic and administrative leadership, development staff and the Board, is charged with making sure that development efforts produce the greatest possible impact. The AAC’s work will coincide with the appointment of a vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. A search is underway right now for the chief development officer who will replace Peter Wyeth, who announced that he is retiring as vice president for Advancement in 2011.

Looking forward

The task force assigned to the Recalibration of VCU 2020 has met regularly this summer and will submit the plan to me very soon. In the meantime, co-chairs Beverly Warren and Sheldon Retchin will hold additional community forums in the fall to garner input from the university community on the recalibrated strategic plan.

The work of another important group, the Cost Containment Task Force, has begun. It is imperative that the investment — tuition and fees — made by students and their families goes hand-in-hand with a demonstrable institutional commitment to productivity and efficiency. With a broad charge to examine the entire VCU organization, across all organizational lines, the task force will explore all possibilities. The work of the task force is an opportunity to educate the university community and the public on innovativeness and resourcefulness of VCU.