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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 President visits Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield

Key topics included importance of social interaction, engagement in older adults

By Malorie Burkett and Kim Ivey
VCU College of Health Professions

Feb. 18, 2022

From left: Tracey Gendron, Alexa van Aartrijk, Joe Casey, Hon. Leslie Haley, President Rao, Rachel Ramirez and Susan Parrish at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield.
From left: Tracey Gendron, Alexa van Aartrijk, Joe Casey, Hon. Leslie Haley, President Rao, Rachel Ramirez and Susan Parish at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield.

VCU President, Michael Rao, Ph.D., recently visited the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield (LLI) where he emphasized the importance of social and mental engagement to the wellness of older adults.

Located in Chesterfield County, the LLI is a member-supported organization designed to meet the educational and social enrichment needs of adults age 50 and "better.” The LLI was established in partnership with the Virginia Center on Aging at VCU, Chesterfield County Public Schools and Chesterfield County. 

Pictured from left: Susan Parrish, Tracey Gendron and Rachel Ramirez

Pictured from left: Susan Parish, Tracey Gendron and Rachel Ramirez

“The Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield strives to be a welcoming community of diverse members dedicated to lifelong learning and personal enrichment,” said Rachel Ramirez, executive director of the LLI. “We are proud to offer midlife and older adults a myriad of opportunities to enrich their lives by engaging in thought-provoking lectures and lively discussions in a social learning environment.”

Accompanying Rao during the visit were Ramirez, Susan Parish, Ph.D., dean of the VCU College of Health Professions; Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., chair of the College’s Department of Gerontology and executive director of the Virginia Center on Aging; and Matthew Conrad, vice president for government and external relations for VCU and VCU Health. Also present were members of the LLI Board of Directors along with Chesterfield County officials, including members of the Board of Supervisors and the Office of Aging & Disabilities Services.

Rao expressed his interest in lifelong learning and his appreciation for the members supporting each other as they stay active and engaged to combat loneliness and social isolation. He also discussed the increasing number of older adult patients coming to VCU for healthcare, and how VCU's mission to put patient needs first includes expanding geriatrics programming at VCU Health and hiring additional geriatricians to treat those patients.

LLI is a learning community of peers who are committed to ongoing education and their own intellectual development. Members want to stay current, curious about the world of ideas, and involved with their own learning. The Institute develops and offers daytime courses, lectures and special events on a wide range of topics taught by volunteer instructors. Additionally, there are no exams or credits, and no college degrees are required.

LLI Chesterfield is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is equal opportunity and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national or ethnic origin.

For more information, visit the Lifelong Learning Institute.

Being the change

New Health Administration faculty leader aims to produce graduates who cultivate an environment of belonging for all people

By Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions

January 24, 2022

Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions is known for attracting the highest level of faculty who are influential thought leaders and experts in their respective disciplines. And this month, the College welcomes Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, an award-winning healthcare leader and educator, as the new assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and executive director of inclusive leadership education in the Department of Health Administration.

Stephan Davis standing at the bottom of the College of Health Professions stairway.

Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, is the new assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and executive director of inclusive leadership education in the Department of Health Administration.

Davis’ passion for and work related to diversity, equity, and inclusion has been informed by many of his lived experiences. The son of Black parents who were raised in the civil rights era, he grew up learning about racial injustice. As a teenager in St. Louis, Missouri, he also learned through painful experiences that he would face challenges in navigating the world both due to race and as a member of the gender and sexual minority community. At 17, Davis left the Midwest to study jazz performance in New York City. After a year in New York that was filled with profound and affirming experiences, as well as moments that made clear the work toward social justice that still needed to be done, Davis was convinced that while he would always continue to play saxophone and write music, his academic focus would shift to areas where he could make a greater impact to improve health and alleviate human suffering.

Davis went on to study nursing at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. During his time in nursing school, he worked as a student nurse extern in the pediatric intensive care unit at University of Maryland Medical Center – the same institution where Bill Flanigan and Robert Daniel, a gay couple, had been discriminated against when Daniel was at the end of life. Despite their domestic partnership in the state of California, and Flanigan holding durable power of attorney - enabling him to make end of life decisions for Daniel, the hospital staff denied Flanigan the right to see Daniel or make decisions in accordance with his partner’s wishes.

"Cases such as these, moved me to pursue healthcare leadership, so that I could be a part of the change that is so desperately needed for our field,” said Davis.

Upon graduation from nursing school, Davis began working clinically in the post anesthesia care unit at Washington Hospital Center while also pursuing a master’s degree in health systems administration at Georgetown University. In less than a year, he entered his first leadership role as director of the health workforce innovation project, a $500,000 grant as a result of a unique partnership between the D.C. department of employment services, MedStar Georgetown Hospital, and Georgetown University to prepare unemployed D.C. residents for entry-level roles that typically had high turnover. Davis says this project, at the intersection of government programs, healthcare delivery, and academia, was impactful for his leadership trajectory.

Davis spent more than a decade in progressively responsible leadership positions, overseeing quality functions such as utilization management, case management, disease management, accreditation readiness, clinical and process improvement, as well as workforce-development areas such as organizational learning and academic-practice partnerships.

Stephan Davis wearing a College of Health Professions shirtThroughout his career, he has been a champion for advancing DEI and improving healthcare quality and access for the underserved. From volunteering as a registered nurse for an LGBTQ+ clinic at the beginning of his career, to serving on the board of directors for a Federally Qualified Health Center that primarily served people living with HIV/AIDS, to leading organizations to achieve designation for LGBTQ healthcare equality with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), much of Davis’ work has been dedicated to making healthcare more inclusive for some of the people and populations who need care the most, but who can rightly be fearful to seek services due to stigma and discrimination.

Despite numerous past examples of discrimination in care delivery settings, Davis believes that all institutions regardless of their history can make meaningful progress toward inclusion. For instance, University of Maryland Medical Center, an institution highlighted for same-sex partner discrimination at the turn of the century, subsequently became recognized as a leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality with HRC – a testament to the powerful change that can occur when inclusive leaders are guiding health systems to advance DEI. “This is exactly what inclusive leadership education is all about”, said Davis.

Being able to focus on contributing to department and College related efforts to produce graduates who embody principles of inclusive leadership and who are empowered advocates for meaningful change is part of what led him to VCU.

“When I first met Dean Susan Parish, and she shared her vision for the College, it was really refreshing to hear that DEI is among her top priorities,” said Davis. “Also, having known Dr. Paula Song, chair of the Department of Health Administration, through the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA), I was convinced long before my interview at VCU that she shared a deep, meaningful and action-oriented commitment to advancing DEI in healthcare leadership.”

“Stephan brings a truly exceptional mix of clinical, executive, and academic experiences to this role,” said Paula Song, Ph.D., Richard M. Bracken chair and professor in the Department of Health Administration. “I’m confident that his firm commitment to DEI and inclusive leadership education will help the department develop leaders that reflect the diversity and voices of the communities they serve.”

With regard to his role as the department’s very first executive director of inclusive leadership education, Davis believes in producing leaders who cultivate environments where all people can experience belonging and thrive.

When asked what this new area of focus for the department would entail, Davis explained “as we look at inclusive leadership education, all stakeholders within our health administration learning community will be engaged to establish a co-created vision and philosophy that describes our *’active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity’ as we continue to pursue inclusive excellence. In addition to designing meaningful educational experiences related to DEI for all health administration students, there will be particular focus on supporting students from historically underrepresented and excluded backgrounds in navigating systems and institutions that have not always been created with us in mind.”

Davis has hit the ground running with regard to this type of educational programming. On Feb. 25 at noon (EST), he will be hosting and moderating a Black History Month webinar featuring prominent Black healthcare leaders entitled “Black and Golden: Leveraging Black Identity as an Asset in Healthcare Leadership.”

Related to his role as assistant dean, he looks forward to working with Dr. Angela Duncan, associate dean, to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for the College. “When I met Dr. Duncan, I immediately felt connected to her energy, passion, and drive to make meaningful change for the College and university,” said Davis.

“When I saw Dr. Davis’ interview presentation on simulating patient bias in care delivery settings, which featured a case of racial discrimination against a clinician and the moral, ethical, and legal implications, I knew that he was someone we needed on our team” said Angela Duncan, Ph.D., associate dean for diversity equity, and inclusion for the College. “The College has been working to provide an infrastructure to do the work of DEI, and I am excited that Dr. Davis is here to help push this work even further. I look forward to working alongside him as we continue to champion transformational change and create new opportunities for everyone.”

Prior to coming to VCU, Davis served as director of the Master of Health Administration program, assistant professor of health administration, and chair of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health in Ft. Worth, Tex. A fellow and national faculty member for the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), he is the immediate past chair of the ACHE LGBTQ Healthcare Leaders Community and has served as an ACHE Regent-at-Large, a role created to foster diversity in the governance of ACHE. In addition, he serves as chair of the Quality and Safety Faculty Forum for the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). His DEI-related work in academia includes serving as an invited conferee for the Macy Foundation conference on Addressing Harmful Bias and Eliminating Discrimination in Health Professions Learning Environments, which culminated in a report of recommendations released in September of 2020.

Davis holds numerous board certifications, including credentials in healthcare quality, finance, strengths-based coaching, nursing leadership, and academic nursing education. He received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Maryland; a Master of Science in Health Systems Administration from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; and his Doctor of Nursing Practice in Healthcare Leadership, Systems and Policy from Yale University in New Haven, CT.

*Reference – Clayton-Pederson, A., Clayton-Pederson, S. (2012). “Making excellence inclusive” in education and beyond. Pepperdine Law Review. 35 (3), 611-648.

New director named for Virginia Center on Aging

By Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions

Dr. Gendron headshot

Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., has been appointed executive director of the Virginia Center on Aging (VCoA).

She will maintain her role as chair of the Department of Gerontology in the VCU College of Health Professions, and replaces Ed Ansello, Ph.D., who retired last November.

“Dr. Gendron is a talented leader and gerontologist, and she has dedicated her career to changing the landscape to facilitate healthy, engaged elderhood,” said Susan Parish, Ph.D., dean of the VCU College of Health Professions. “Her passion and commitment combined with her expertise in this field will help advance the Center’s overall mission.”

Created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1978, the VCoA is a critical part of the College of Health Professions, and serves the entire Commonwealth in its interdisciplinary training, research, information and resource sharing.

“Through continued collaborative efforts with partners across our communities, I am excited to lead the VCoA into the future,” said Gendron. I remain committed to advocating for older Virginians and ensuring that they receive the care and resources they deserve.”

Gendron recently authored a new book titled “Ageism Unmasked,” which is slated to release in March. The book reveals the biases behind society’s false understanding of aging, while sharing powerful opportunities for personal growth and strategies to help create an anti-ageist society.

Gendron received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Central Florida, and both her Master of Science and doctoral degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University. With over 25 years of experience as a gerontologist, she has authored and co-authored over 30 manuscripts and seven book chapters on ageism and aging-related topics. She is frequently quoted in popular media outlets, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and U.S. News and World Report. Gendron has spoken about ageism in forums across America and can also be seen and heard as a guest speaker on numerous podcasts and video productions.

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.

Antimicrobial wipes in health care: how effective are they?

Melissa Jamerson, Ph.D., Jenica L. Harrison, Ph.D., and Lisa Perkins, all of the Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences, are part of a team that is testing the effectiveness of antimicrobial wipes in the health care setting as well as in the educational laboratory environment. Read more about their research on the effectiveness of antimicrobial wipes in the following VCU News article, Antimicrobial wipes in health care: how effective are they?

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.


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