Office of Government Relations for VCU and VCU Health System
The Office of Government Relations provides comprehensive governmental relations services for Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health System. The office serves as a liaison between the governor’s office, General Assembly, agencies of the commonwealth, Richmond City Council and local boards of supervisors, as well as with Virginia’s congressional delegation.
Matthew A. Conrad
Executive director of government and board relations
Matthew Conrad began his career in public service at the Virginia Office of the Attorney General where he served as Assistant Attorney General and was later promoted to lead attorney for legislation and agency advice. He was appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia where he prosecuted crime as part of interagency taskforces focused on white collar crime, firearms, and drug distribution, primarily in the Richmond metropolitan area.
In 2008, Conrad became founding director of the Virginia Wine Council, a business membership organization representing Virginia's wineries and vineyards on the state and local levels. His work on legislative and economic development issues relating to Virginia’s growing wine industry and its role within the state’s largest industry, agriculture, led to his appointment as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry under Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010. In that capacity he oversaw the daily operation of state agencies reporting to that Secretariat, as well as legislative development and advocacy.
Prior to joining VCU, he most recently served as Governor McDonnell’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Counselor, assisting the Governor and Chief of Staff through the planning, administration, and management of state government, consisting of over 200 state agencies, boards, and commissions; the development of the Commonwealth’s $85 billion biennial budget; as well provision of legal counsel. Additionally, as part of the administration’s government reform efforts, Conrad worked to successfully streamline and enhance the operations of the executive branch.
A native of Appomattox, Conrad graduated with a B.A. in Political Science and French from James Madison University and received his J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He is active in the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, Historic Richmond Foundation, the Storefront for Community Design, and the Union Hill Civic Association. Conrad resides in Richmond with his wife, Alicia, and son, J. Harrison.
Director of government and community relations
Karah L. Gunther
Executive director of government relations and health policy
Karah joined the Office of Government Relations in March 2012. As Director of Government Relations, Karah plans, coordinates and executes an overall government relations program for the Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System. Karah assists with legislative and budget advocacy at both the state and federal levels. She works with the Governor’s Administration, the Virginia General Assembly and the Virginia Congressional Delegation on issues of health care policy, including Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, physician issues, and health care regulatory matters.
Karah previously served as Senior Health Policy Analyst for the VCU Office of Health Innovation. While working in this capacity, Karah coordinated the development of health reform education and implementation strategies for the VCU Health System. In March 2012, the Senior Health Policy Analyst position was merged with the Director position in the Office of VCU Government Relations.
Prior to joining VCU, Karah served as the Director of the Coordination of Care Department at Bon Secours Richmond Health System where she worked collaboratively with hospital operational leaders and local physician practices to coordinate the delivery of outpatient diagnostic services. As Director, Karah was responsible for overall business development of the program, as well as management of central scheduling staff. Karah also served as the system-wide operational lead for all legal compliance issues pertaining to the program.
In addition, Karah worked as a health care attorney for Hancock, Daniel, Johnson & Nagle, P.C. where she represented individual health care professionals before the Virginia health care regulatory boards in disciplinary and licensing matters, as well as institutional providers in reimbursement disputes before the Virginia Department of Medicare Assistance Services (DMAS). Karah also worked with the firm’s Government Relations team in advocating for health care clients before the Virginia legislature.
Karah earned her Juris Doctorate from Washington and Lee University School of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude. She also holds a Masters in Health Administration from the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University. Karah received her B.A. from the University of Virginia.
Ashley M. Hood
Senior Director of State Government Relations
Director of Federal Relations
Executive assistant for government relations