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Every day College of Health Professions students, alumni, faculty and staff do extraordinary things. Read more about our latest achievements below.

National Grief Awareness Day

Compassionate care for others begins with ourselves.

VCU Health team members found that developing strategies for coping with their own grief from the pandemic helped them be more effective providers for the patients and families they serve.

National Grief Awareness Day takes place every year on Aug. 30. It’s a day dedicated to the different ways individuals cope with loss while offering resources and support to those who are grieving. Whether someone is struggling with the loss of a loved one or undergoing significant life changes, Grief Awareness Day has shown that grief affects every person in its own distinct manner.

But what happens when grief affects those who dedicate their lives to providing support and care for others? A group of VCU Health team members has learned to face their own experiences with grief in hopes of becoming stronger, more effective providers for the patients and families they serve.

Read more about the VCU Health team members and their experience with grief on vcuhealth.org.

Two faculty at CHP selected as American Academy of Nursing fellows

Four faculty members from Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions and School of Nursing will receive one of the most prestigious honors in nursing this fall when they are inducted as fellows of the American Academy of Nursing.

The faculty members were among 250 nurse leaders selected to join the academy’s 2022 class of fellows. The inductees will be recognized for their significant contributions to health and health care at the academy’s annual Health Policy Conference, set for Oct. 27-29.

The VCU CHP faculty to be inducted this year are: 

  • Stephan Davis, DNP, the executive director of inclusive leadership education and assistant professor in the Department of Health Administration and assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the College of Health Professions. Davis is a registered nurse, a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, fellow of the National Academies of Practice and a fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
  • Jiale (Gary) Hu, Ph.D., an assistant professor and director of research and global outreach in the Department of Nurse Anesthesia at the College of Health Professions. Hu is a registered nurse.

Read more about the four VCU faculty selected as fellows on VCU News.

VCU Health Administration Boosts Research Bench with Health Economist and Professor

Adam Atherly HeadshotThe addition of a new VCU Health Administration faculty member has bolstered the research capabilities of one of the nation’s leading academic health leadership programs.

To boil Adam Atherly, Ph.D.’s research into a single phrase: “Choice modeling,” he explains — specifically, how consumers make buying decisions around Medicare and private health insurance plans.

“That's the core of what I'm interested in,” says Atherly, who comes to Richmond after four years teaching and researching at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. “People think money drives everything. But it doesn’t. People make decisions for all kinds of reasons, and all of those reasons are completely valid. We make decisions based on culture, age, income, and millions of other factors.”

Atherly joined the VCU faculty on August 1 as a full professor. He will teach the U.S. Healthcare Systems course this fall in the MHA program. 

Over two decades, his work has spanned health insurance theory: how benefits packages are put together, how market forces impact offerings on consumers, scale development and psychometric analysis, and the effectiveness of community health teams on improving the quality and efficiency of care delivery. He’s part of an ongoing study identifying individual, community, and structural factors associated with lower COVID-19 testing rates in northern New England, with a focus on underserved and vulnerable populations.

Yet Atherly is perhaps best known for his work around Medicare Advantage plans. Known also as "Part C" or "MA Plans," Medicare Advantage is offered by Medicare-approved private companies that must follow rules set by the federal government. The plans may offer extra benefits and have lower out-of-pocket costs compared to Original Medicare.

The popularity of Medicare Advantage has grown over the years – nearly half of all Medicare recipients are on them. “Everybody knows the growth in Medicare Advantage is happening, but nobody knows why,” he says. He is working on projects to model and understand why the program dynamics are changing and how that will affect the future of the Medicare program.

To that end, Atherly’s work is often described as “the economics of aging,” he explains. “My work is really thinking about older populations, and what’s necessary economically to help them be successful in managing their healthcare.”

Paula H. Song, Ph.D., the Richard M. Bracken Chair and Professor at VCU Health Administration, said the department was interested in finding a faculty member who could contribute to its research portfolio.

“It's important for our students to understand how research drives practice and policy,” she says. “Adam's focus around Medicare and health insurance market choice is highly relevant given the way the industry functions and the how vast majority of health services is financed by Medicare and health plans.”

Song also said Atherly had demonstrated an ability to collaborate across a number of disciplines, “which is important for a department like ours” in the VCU College of Health Professions. Health Administration is one of nine key health career fields housed under a single roof, and students and faculty often work with one another.

“My skills are very complementary to what the department wants to do,” Atherly says. “I have the opportunity, being there, to really focus on the areas of my research that I'm most interested in.”

An Oregon native, Atherly has lived in various parts of the country and is looking forward to finding new outdoor activities to pursue in Richmond and Virginia. He moves here with his wife, Tricia. Their two children, a son and daughter, are in college at the University of Vermont.

VCU Takes Top Honors at the VCU-Marquette Challenge

The ‘VCU-Marquette Challenge’ is a national competition in which physical therapy students compete to raise the most money to support APTA’s Foundation for Physical Therapy Research (FPTR). VCU Physical Therapy students came out on top again this year, and were awarded the coveted first place among 79 participating programs in the country. This marks three years in a row that VCU students have won the competition signaling their clear and unwavering passion and dedication to support physical therapy research. Congratulations to Shawne Soper, who supported the PT student leaders in developing and implementing a year-long fundraising campaign that raised just $23,053.72.

Congratulations to VCU’s physical therapy students, staff, faculty and alumni who made this all possible, and on a job well done!

Click here to view the 2022 FPTR Awards Ceremony.

Click here to read the VCU News article about the VCU-Marquette Challenge.

VCU Health Administration Faculty Member Earns Fellowship Designation from Healthcare Financial Management Association

Stephan Davis standing at the bottom of the College of Health Professions stairway.Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, FNAP, FHFMA, executive director of inclusive leadership education and assistant professor in VCU’s Department of Health Administration and assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the College of Health Professions, has been named a fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).

“Finance is one of the pillars of excellence for the department of health administration at VCU” said Paula Song, PhD., Richard M. Bracken chair and professor of Health Administration. “With three healthcare finance researchers in our department, Drs. Nathan Carroll, Saleema Karim and myself, combined with Dr. Davis’ leadership experience overseeing utilization and his achievement of this important professional distinction, we are uniquely positioned to expose our students to both the theory and application of healthcare finance and how business decisions impact care coordination and patient outcomes. We are thrilled to congratulate Dr. Davis on his third national fellowship and look forward to his continued work to guide our students and alums in pursuit of board certifications and national fellowships.” 

To be awarded the FHFMA distinction, applicants must be credentialed as a Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP); be an HFMA member for at least five years; meet academic and continuing education requirements; be recommended by an HFMA fellow or healthcare association leader; and demonstrate substantive contributions to HFMA and the field of healthcare management. More than 1,700 HFMA members nationwide have achieved this accomplishment in the organization’s 75-year history.

While many know Davis for his current work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, the beginning of his healthcare leadership journey included more than a half-decade overseeing utilization management and case management for health insurance companies and a safety-net hospital in New York City. These areas are key to revenue cycle and value-based purchasing.  

“Leading nurses, physician advisors, physical therapists, social workers, and other clinical professionals and support staff in the coordination of healthcare services – ensuring access to high quality medically necessary care while also promoting efficiency and reducing costs, was such an important part of my development as a healthcare executive” Davis said. “I tell our MHA students that no matter what area of healthcare leadership they choose to pursue, a solid foundation in quality and revenue cycle is so important for all aspiring executives.” 

In addition to being a fellow of HFMA, Davis was named a distinguished scholar and fellow of the National Academies of Practice earlier this year. He is also a fellow and national faculty member with the American College of Healthcare Executives. Beyond fellowships, he holds several board certifications including Nurse Executive, Advanced-Board Certified (NEA-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) through the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) through the National Association for Healthcare Quality, and Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) through the National League for Nursing. He is a passionate champion for increasing the numbers of healthcare leaders from historically underrepresented and excluded backgrounds holding national fellowships, prestigious awards, and advanced academic and professional credentials. 

The VCU Department of Health Administration is a premiere research department geared toward creating the most innovative, compassionate, and business-savvy leaders to reimagine healthcare. For more, visit here.

About HFMA

The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) equips its more than 83,000 members nationwide to navigate a complex healthcare landscape. Finance professionals in the full range of work settings, including hospitals, health systems, physician practices and health plans, trust HFMA to provide the guidance and tools to help them lead their organizations, and the industry, forward. HFMA is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization that advances healthcare by collaborating with other key stakeholders to address industry challenges and providing guidance, education, practical tools and solutions, and thought leadership.

Rehabilitation Counseling Names Associate Chair for Academic Affairs

A headshot of Courntey HolmesThe VCU College of Health Professions Department of Rehabilitation Counseling recently appointed Courtney Holmes, Ph.D., as the new associate chair for academic affairs. She also serves as associate professor in the Department.

In this role, Holmes will support the academic journey of students from the time they enter the program all the way to graduation. Some of her priority areas will include enrollment, student engagement and accreditation.

Holmes says she has been informally serving as the department’s accreditation liaison for nearly eight years, where much of her responsibilities have included student, supervisor and program evaluations, as well as preparing the annual report.

“In this role, my goal is to help strengthen student engagement and communication within our department,” said Holmes. “I want our students to feel more connected and to have access to resources at the university that might help them throughout their educational experience.”

Holmes, who is licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist, recognizes the importance of effective clinical training, now more than ever.

“I think the pandemic really highlighted the need for programs like ours, and our profession, as we train our students to support people through mental health and other types of challenges they have in their life,” she said. “We have the opportunity to leverage our training, and show people why it’s important to pay attention to our mental health.”

Holmes received her MA from Gonzaga University in Community Counseling and her PhD from The College of William & Mary in Counselor Education and Supervision. Her clinical experience includes work with individuals, families and couples on a variety of mental health related issues. She also has also served as a clinical supervisor for counselors-in-training across various specialties, such as clinical mental health, family counseling, and rehabilitation counseling.

She currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision and the Virginia Counselors Journal. She is the recipient of the Outstanding Supervisor Award from the North Central Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (NCACES) as well as the Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching from the VCU College of Health Professions.

Dean Susan Parish Named to Sentara Professorship

By Jeff Kelley
VCU College of Health Professions

Susan Parish in the College of Health ProfessionsVCU College of Health Professions Dean Susan L. Parish, Ph.D., has been appointed the Sentara Professorship in Health Administration. In addition to serving as Dean, Parish is a professor in the Department of Health Administration.

The Sentara Professorship was created in 2007 with a generous gift from Sentara Healthcare to support a distinguished faculty member in VCU Health Administration. In a letter to Dr. Parish, VCU and VCU Health System President Michael Rao called her “an integral part of our vision to make a difference as a major research university.”

Parish’s research examines the health and financial well-being of women and children with disabilities, and their caregiving families. She has garnered more than $12 million in external research funding from a range of federal, state, and foundation sources. She has published over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles, and is a fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Society for Social Work and Research.

“We are also confident of your ability to remain highly productive throughout your academic career and of your continued commitment to excellence and ensuring student success,” Dr. Rao wrote. “I am grateful for your commitment to improving the quality of the lives of people throughout the world.”

A Look at the Assistive Technologies Laboratory

The Herbert and Charlotte Meyer Assistive Technologies Laboratory & Quiet Room in the VCU College of Health Professions, was made possible by Dr. John H. and Carlyn Meyer Dalness, in memory of her parents. The lab space features advanced technology which provides occupational therapy students with further training before as they prepare to serve patients in clinical settings after completion of their studies.

Dreaming Big: Amber Coleman ’18 Building a Brand Beyond the OR

Amber Coleman standing in front of anesthesia equipmentGraduate, pass the National Certification Exam, get certified, practice as a CRNA.

It’s a path to success and personal and professional advancement for many VCU Nurse Anesthesia graduates. Yet Amber Coleman, a 2018 alumna, simply had a different path in mind.

Since gaining certification (“That test is expensive, so I was only doing it once”), she’s practiced as a CRNA at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News. And while passionate about anesthesia and building her specialty, she also views it as a stepping stone: to mentoring others in the field, to writing books, to building businesses, and to showing her two currently young children how to build a solid foundation in their own lives.

Coleman recently self-published a children’s book, Amber Dreams of Anesthesia. The story mirrors her own journey: a young girl receives a birthday gift, the game “Operation,” and becomes fascinated with the human body. The cartoon Amber begins to explore healthcare, looking up “people who help you feel comfy during surgery” on a tablet and coming across the anesthesia specialty (in real life, kid Amber was looking through a set of old encyclopedias when she stumbled across the word “anesthesiologist,” and she never turned back).

Amber Dreams of Anesthesia book cover featuring a young black girl imagining an anesthesia careerIn the book, the young Amber falls asleep and into a deep dream about becoming a nurse anesthetist. Readers pick up a simple education on the path to becoming a CRNA and many of the ways in which they provide care – such as for obstetrics, or in general surgery.

“This book is about planting a seed in kids early,” Coleman says. “They don’t have to do to anesthesia or even go into healthcare. It’s just about having a dream, coming up with a plan, and doing it.”

Coleman is clear that while the book is not specifically aimed at young Black and Brown readers, but rather all children, she hopes it resonates with those in communities of color, which are underrepresented in healthcare jobs. “Representation matters, and I do have a responsibility as a woman of color to help those who look like me blaze a trail in the field,” she said.

Coleman paused her career as an ICU nurse in 2016 to pursue her nurse anesthesia education at VCU. She and her husband and then two very young children relocated from Hampton to Richmond. He commuted to work in Newport News. They had no family in the area to support them at the time, “but we made it work.” The VCU experience, Coleman says, changed her life, and gave her the foundation for a stable and rewarding career path.

Coleman is also one of 10 alumni heading up the Addie Pontiflet Scholarship at VCU Nurse Anesthesia. Pontiflet, who died in 2007, was an assistant professor of nurse anesthesia at VCU. The annual award will be given to students with preference in those who have demonstrated interest in equality, diversity or social justice for the African American community through community activities, social groups, student clubs or organizations. The scholarship also asks that students show active membership and involvement in professional nurse anesthesia-oriented organizations and activities that focus on racial and ethnic diversity, equity, and inclusion, and serve on the VCU Nurse Anesthesia’s DEI committee.

“The candidate has to be passionate,” Coleman says. “I don't care if you mentor or if you go into education, you have to be willing to give back.”

Beyond the book, she’s partnered with her brother to start a trucking company. She’s writing a second children’s book on financial literacy. And she and her husband dabble in real estate investing, too.

And most importantly — balancing the work of a CRNA, part-time author, entrepreneur, and investor — Coleman is sure to make time for their two children, aged 9 (girl) and 7 (boy).

How does she handle it all? “You have to balance and be passionate about it. Find your passion, be positive, make a plan, and remain persistent,” she says. “With these steps you are guaranteed to succeed and along the way elevate others.”

“Like I tell our kids: ‘Dream big.’ ”

For more on Amber or to purchase her book, visit her website.

Give to the Addie Pontiflet Scholarship.

Visit VCU Nurse Anesthesia’s Giving page and be sure to select “Addie Pontiflet Scholarship” in the drop-down menu.

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Have a story about the College of Health Professions in action that you'd like to share? Contact us at mgburkett@vcu.edu or (804) 828-7247.