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MCV Retired Faculty 175th Anniversary Celebration

Nov. 14, 2013

Good evening.

The wonderful legacy we celebrate tonight is profoundly important, because it is the foundation upon which we are building a premier urban, public research university. Thank you for setting the standard and building the foundation.

A hundred and seventy-five years ago, this institution was founded to focus on addressing the needs of human beings in Richmond and beyond. Today, it is still our mission, but we are now advancing that mission in new ways. We now have some of the nation’s highest-ranked academic programs, with innovative curricula and innovative faculty. We have a hospital with a rare distinction: it’s both a No. 1-rated hospital in Virginia, and it is our region’s safety net. We have students and professors all across VCU, including in our health science schools, who think critically and care deeply about their fellow human beings.

We see this commitment to human health not in one or two places, but all across VCU, and with teams that work across many disciplines to focus on caring for people who need our help. We are coming together in new ways across disciplines — medicine, engineering, social work, natural sciences and the arts. For example, theater students serve as our standardized patients. Our two largest research grants in our history, which we just received, are based on our collaborative research capabilities, including in psychology and medicine. We received Virginia’s first CTSA because we have collaborative resources all focused on the broad spectrum of human health. When we separated the Tapia twins, it required a multidiscipline team, including fashion design, engineering and all specialties in medicine.

We have achieved all of this, in part, because the faculty has dedicated so much to VCU and before that, to MCV. You have not only represented VCU well, you have also represented the best hope for your fellow human beings who needed you most. You helped people live better, healthier lives, and that commitment continues. You helped find treatments and cures to diseases, and that commitment continues. You moved life-saving discoveries from the bench to bedside, and that commitment continues.

We owe you a great thanks, tonight and for next 175 years. And we owe you the assurance that your profound legacy of compassion, care and courageous innovation will be our building blocks in years to come.

As a research university with a renowned academic medical center, it’s important that we celebrate our legacy. But we also must recognize that these first 175 years are only the beginning. So let’s commit ourselves to one question: what’s next? What’s next for VCU and our remarkable, national-caliber health science schools?

Permit me to tell you about one faculty colleague who is asking “what’s next” in human health. His name is Steve Woolf, and he’s a member of the Institute of Medicine. He directs the Center for Health and Society. Steve is focused on the intersection of society and health; in other words, how does the environment in which we live affect our health? Why do people in different zip codes have different life expectancies? It happens. Why? Why do people who live in urban areas versus rural areas face different distresses?

He has a unique focus nationally, and he is helping shape public policy and awareness by reaching people in power to make decisions. He is not just focused on clinical care, because he believes that is only 10 percent of the actual care a patient needs, but on education, prevention, public policy — which can ultimately be more important.

Steve is one example of many. The “what’s next” of medicine is being written by our extraordinary faculty colleagues at VCU, and by the students we are inspiring in our classrooms, laboratories and clinics. A hundred and seventy-five years from now, VCU will continue to be committed to helping people live better and understand better, to achieve what was once unimaginable, to think in terms not only of today — but how their legacy will continue to impact their fellow human beings for the next 175 years.

Thank you all for beginning this journey and helping to advance it during your acclaimed careers at MCV and VCU. The legacy we are celebrating is yours.

Thank you.