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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.

VCU College of Health Professions to host fall food drive

Fall Food Drive Flyer for 2021 Nov 15 - Dec 3

Donations will benefit the VCU Ram Pantry.

The VCU College of Health Professions will hold a food drive from Nov. 15 to Dec. 3 to benefit the
VCU Ram Pantry. The mission of Ram Pantry is to ensure food security, human dignity and well-being on campus by providing in-need VCU students with food.

Beth Williamson-Ayers and Cameron Parkins of the Department of Health Administration will lead the College in a fun and competitive event designed to encourage competition among the various departments.

Each department will receive a bin for the collection of non-perishable food items to benefit the Ram Pantry. The department that collects the most donations (measured in weight), will be awarded a prize.

For more information, contact Beth Williamson-Ayers at bwayers@vcu.edu or Cameron Parkins at parkinsc@vcu.edu.

Spiritual Care Week 2021

National Spiritual Care Week recognizes spiritual caregivers

This year’s theme to focus on advancing spiritual care through research

Advancing spiritual care through spiritual care research. Spiritual care week Oct 24-30, 2021

By Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions

The Department of Patient Counseling in VCU’s College of Health Professions observes National Spiritual Care Week this year from Oct. 24-30, which gives opportunities for organizations and institutions of all kinds to recognize the spiritual caregivers in their midst and their ministry which the caregivers provide.

Spiritual Care Week/Pastoral Care Week is hosted by The COMISS Network, the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings. The theme this year is “advancing spiritual care through research.”

“As a chaplain researcher, research being conducted by chaplains about our vocation is very important to me,” said Rev. Marilyn J.D. Barnes, chair of the Department of Patient Counseling, VCU College of Health Professions. “I honestly believe that my chaplain clinical practice informs my research, and my research informs my practice.”

Barnes will be presenting and serving on a webinar panel focusing on “How research informs my practice” during Spiritual Care Week. She says the Patient Counseling Department has conducted numerous research studies on the impact of the work chaplains do and within the department’s strategic plan, and they will continue that legacy.

According to the Spiritual Care Week website:
Today chaplains and spiritual care providers exist in a data-driven and evidence-based world, particularly for those who work in health settings. Thus, the need to provide empirical evidence related to the care provided by chaplains and spiritual care providers. The needed evidence may be gained through qualitative and quantitative research methods.

The VCU College of Health Professions Department of Patient Counseling will kick off Spiritual Care Week with the Good Grief Conference, designed to educate and equip interprofessional health care teams, chaplains, volunteer caregivers and others working with those experiencing grief, whether related to health crises, chronic or life-changing situations, end of life or bereavement issues. This year’s conference theme is “journeying through loss towards hope.”

During Spiritual Care Week, the VCU Health Department of Pastoral Care also will introduce a name change to the Department of Spiritual Care.

“As the vocation of Chaplaincy continues to evolve, we are changing from the department of Pastoral Care to Spiritual Care to be more inclusive,” said Barnes. “We are connecting with the spirit of those we serve regardless of their faith. As chaplains we offer spiritual and emotional care focusing on person-centered care and the name Spiritual Care better reflects what chaplains do at VCU Health. My hope is the name change will be embraced by the VCU Health System and facilitate a better understanding of what chaplains do as we care for staff, patients, and families.”

Additional events throughout the week also will include a department retreat, the Partners in Healing recognition ceremony and a service project in partnership with Caritas.

Since 1995, the Departments of Spiritual Care and Patient Counseling have recognized a total of 193 team members in other disciplines as Partners in Healing to honor individuals who go above and beyond their job descriptions, and who embody the principles of compassionate care for patients, their families, and are partners in healing with chaplains.

“The honorees advocate for spiritual care while incorporating it into their practice, directing their care not just toward the body, but also toward the head, heart and soul,” said Joshua Andrzejewski, assistant professor in the Department of Patient Counseling, and chaplain for the pediatric and women's health units at the VCU Medical Center. “As part of Spiritual Care Week, we honor our partners with a gathering to celebrate their dedication and devotion. Over the years, we have presented the award to nurses, physicians, members of environmental services, social workers, interpreters, volunteers from the community and many others throughout the health system and beyond.”

The week will culminate with a group service project, in which members of Patient Counseling and other partners from VCU Health, will assemble individual toiletry bags, which will be donated to those in need.

New Associate Dean of Finance and Administration

Oct. 4, 2021
Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions has named Aaron Lyvers as the new associate dean of finance and administration. He began his new role Oct. 1.

Headshot picture of Aaron Lyvers

Lyvers, who has 20 years of experience in global higher education administration and finance, previously served as an enrollment research and budget strategist for Prescott College in Arizona while pursuing his Ph.D. in business-marketing at Virginia Tech. Other roles have included chief financial officer and controller at George Mason University-Korea and senior director of finance at Carnegie Mellon University – Qatar, among others. Lyvers skill-set includes budgeting, forecasting, policy creation/revision, administration, accounting, audit and human resources management.

“Aaron’s innovation and leadership combined with his extensive expertise in finance and budget analytics will be a tremendous benefit to the College, said Susan Parish, Ph.D., dean of the VCU College of Health Professions. “I am thrilled that his path led him to us during such an exciting time.”

In his new role, Lyvers will oversee the fiscal functions of the College’s operating budget, including financial planning and management. His research interests include managerial and consumer judgement and decision making in marketing contexts.

He received his Bachelor of Business Administration in international business from James Madison University; and a Master of Business Administration in international management with distinguished honors from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, AZ. He is currently preparing his dissertation proposal for defense before formally defending his dissertation and earning his Ph.D. in business-marketing at Virginia Tech. Lyvers replaces Debra Ropelewski, who is retiring after nearly 39 years of service to VCU.

VCU College of Health Professions announces new faculty appointments

Sept. 20, 2021

Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions is pleased to announce its newest faculty members and department chairs. 

“I am thrilled to welcome these outstanding individuals who bring to the College significant leadership, expertise in critical research areas, and extensive experience in their respective disciplines,” said Susan Parish, Ph.D., dean of the VCU College of Health Professions. “I am confident that their work, in collaboration with the remarkable colleagues they join, will help bring the College to the next level.”

picture of Marilyn Barnes

Marilyn J.D. Barnes, is the new Chairperson of the Department of Patient Counseling. Rev. Barnes most recently was vice president, Mission and Spiritual Care at Advocate Aurora Health in Illinois, and prior to that, she served as senior staff chaplain at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. Rev. Barnes began her career as a software and wireless applications engineer with AT&T/Lucent Technologies/Alcatel-Lucent before transitioning to the field of pastoral care.

Rebekah Carmel, PhD, CRNA 
has joined as assistant professor in the Department of Nurse Anesthesia. She previously served as nurse anesthesia faculty and clinical staff at WellSpan York Hospital and Apple Hill Surgery Center in York, PA. Prior to her time in Pennsylvania, Dr. Carmel was a practicing CRNA and chief nurse anesthetist at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, a 550+ bed Level I trauma center. Dr. Carmel is a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) by the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, and also is a licensed nurse practitioner and registered nurse.

Picture of Nate Carroll

Nathan Carroll, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Health Administration. He previously was assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His research focuses include value-based payment, organizational responses to changing reimbursement systems, the financial management of health care organizations and return on investment for quality improvement activities.

Nicole Damico

Nickie Damico, PhD, is the new chairperson of the Department of Nurse Anesthesia. Damico has held a faculty position at VCU since 2010, and served in numerous leadership and administrative roles within the Department. Most recently, she served as the College’s associate dean for academic affairs. She will be awarded Fellow status in August by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

A headshot of Alena Hampton

Alena Hampton, PhD, has been named Associate Dean for Student Success and Academic Affairs. Hampton joined us in January 2020 as the College’s inaugural associate dean for student success. She previously served as the founding director of the Office of Student Experience at VCU from 2015 to 2020 and was a staff psychologist and assistant director for clinical services at University Counseling Services from 2008 to 2014. Her research interests include implicit bias, well-being, resilience and leadership.

Picture of Saleema Karim

Saleema Karim, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Health Administration. Karim comes to VCU after serving in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, in Little Rock, Ark. Throughout her career, she has taught classes in healthcare financial management, operations management, and quality. Karim’s research interests include hospital financial performance, quality and access, disparities and reimbursement/payment systems.

A headshot of Jessica Koroma

Jessica Koroma is an instructor in the Department of Radiation Sciences. She has over 11 years of clinical experience as a radiologic technologist, both within the VCU Medical Center and other imaging facilities. Koroma also served as an affiliate program preceptor for VCU students for three years and was one of the contributing authors of "Interventional Radiology, a Guide for Nurses and Radiology Technologists." Her teaching interests include radiography, interventional radiology and patient care.

picture of Michel Landry

Michel Landry, PhD, joined the College as chairperson of the Department of Physical Therapy and Associate Dean of Global Affairs. Most recently, Landry serves as professor in the School of Medicine at the Duke Global Health Institute, and the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University. In his prior role as chief, Dr. Landry led the Division of Physical Therapy and garnered a top-10 ranking in US News & World Report.

A headshot of Kerry Mader

Kerry Mader, is an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Her professional interests include neurological conditions in adults, the application of neuroscience to address underlying barriers to occupational engagement within the adult population, health literacy, advocacy and experiential learning and debriefing research.

A headshot of Jared Schultz

Jared Schultz, PhD is the new Chairperson of the Department of Rehabilitation Counseling Dr. Schultz previously served on faculty in the Rehabilitation Mental Health Counseling Program in the Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies, in the College of Education, and director of Research for the Sonoran University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University of Arizona in Tucson. His research areas include theories and practice of counseling and supervision, ethics in professional practice, student-athlete support services, counselor professional identity development, and youth transition services. 

The VCU College of Health Professions is a nationally recognized leader in the education of health providers. The college offers curricula at the baccalaureate, master's, post-graduate and doctoral levels designed to prepare health care professionals for roles in a variety of clinical, teaching, and community health and wellness settings.


‘I could really see myself here at VCU’

A health sciences summer pipeline program offers undergrads from across the country a six-week slice of life as a graduate health professional student — and connections to last a lifetime.

Cheryl Ford-Smith, D.P.T., demonstrates a reflexology exam over Zoom on Kaylah Beharrie, a second-year VCU physical therapy student and 2019 Summer Academic Enrichment Program graduate, in a classroom at VCU College of Health Professions. (Tom Kojcsich, University Relations)
Image by Tom Kojcsich, University Relations

As director of special programs for student recruitment and retention and an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the VCU College of Health Professions, Cheryl Ford-Smith created a physical therapy-focused high school program in the 2000s and was used to managing every aspect of a pipeline program, from recruitment to education of participants. When VCU established the Division for Health Sciences Diversity and its pipeline programs, Ford-Smith could put her focus back on what she does best: establishing relationships with pre-health students and educating them about the profession and VCU’s program.

Read more about student experiences at the Summer Academic Enrichment Program.

Northam, on tour of College of Health Professions

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday, along with leaders at Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health, stressed the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and of training frontline health care workers in remarks made to reporters during a visit to VCU’s College of Health Professions.

picture of Governor Northam in CHP Lobby

Northam, M.D., received an in-depth tour of the college’s eight-story facility that included stops in the departments of Health Administration, Occupational TherapyNurse AnesthesiaRadiation Sciences and Medical Laboratory Sciences. He also observed some of the research taking place in Physical Therapy while meeting students, faculty and staff. Susan Parish, Ph.D., dean of the college, Arthur Kellermann, M.D., senior vice president for VCU Health Sciences and CEO of VCU Health System, and members of the dean’s office accompanied Northam during his visit.

See Full Article

New health services degree gives students a chance to make change

Health care jobs are in high demand during the pandemic. And with student interest in health care careers on the rise (according to educators’ responses to a January 2021 Education Week survey) Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions is offering more options for students.

picture of bachelor science_featured_news

Starting this fall, a new Bachelor of Science in Health Services program will give students who are passionate about improving health care but might not be as interested in clinical aspects the opportunity to advance their careers.

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Class of 2021: Cara Harman wants to help patients regain their lives

Cara Harman realized at a young age how happy she felt when she was helping someone else. At 6 years old, she wanted to help her parents’ close friends, whose baby was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.

Picture of Cara Harman for featured news

“I drew them cards, helped my mom make dinners and baked goods for them and helped raise money towards the Muscular Dystrophy Association,” said Harman, who will graduate next month from the VCU Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program in the College of Health Professions.  “I remember even donating my tooth fairy money to the MDA.”


Introducing “The Write Track,” an online community writing space for faculty

VCU Faculty now have a space as a community to support one another in advancing writing projects, grants, book proposals, performances or exhibits, and much more with “The Write Track.” Essentially, this group is here to support anything that helps advance the scholarship and creative work of faculty colleagues.

According to organizers, this is intended as a peer to peer group with support from the Director of Faculty Success and CTLE. Think of it as one avenue to get your questions answered, create writing accountability, share progress, and find resources. The group will thrive best with more and more faculty participating. 


Please invite any VCU faculty -  all ranks, adjuncts are welcome! VCU doctoral students working on scholarship and writing are also welcome.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/304102474791118

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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.