Distinguished Mentor Award

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

A grateful student chose this quote to describe Louis J. De Felice, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and assistant dean of graduate education for the VCU School of Medicine. As Ph.D. student YooRi Kim says, “Dr. De Felice’s story is not about titles and recognitions: rather, it is about how he has personally influenced the lives of so many students, colleagues and professionals across the world. Dr. De Felice has shown me how to live more effectively, successfully, and happily.”

De Felice came to VCU in 2008, encouraged by Diomedes Logothetis, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. “I could not think of a better mentor, educator, outstanding scientist and colleague than Dr. Lou De Felice to begin my recruitments with,” Logothetis says.

Since he joined the VCU faculty, De Felice has trained one M.S. student and one postdoctoral scholar, and currently trains three Ph.D. students and two postdoctoral scholars. A well-respected researcher, De Felice has an active molecular neuroscience lab and has published more than 85 peer-reviewed original research articles, 31 reviews and book chapters and two monographs. His published work has been cited over 3,900 times.

“Lou De Felice was the key mentor that led me into science — he is very adept at inspiring students to be confident that they can be scientists,” David Clapham, M.D., Ph.D., Aldo R. Castaneda Professor of Cardiovascular Research, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor of neurobiology and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, recalls. “For myself, coming from a non-scientific, small-town family and environment, this was crucial.”

Throughout his career, De Felice has been dedicated to advocating for students who come from disadvantaged or non-traditional backgrounds, and encouraging students who are uncertain they can achieve their dreams. As colleague John Bigbee, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics and director of the neuroscience graduate program, describes, “Lou’s mentoring also extends beyond his own laboratory. He guides the Premedical Graduate Health Sciences Certificate Program and distinguishes himself by his tireless efforts to the program and personal attention to each student.”

Former certificate program student and current VCU student Nick Fuerst agrees. “It’s a difficult task to mentor so many high-stressed students determined to attend medical and dental school; however, De Felice handled this with skill, professionalism and kindness,” he says. “Personally, I can say he has been instrumental in achieving my goal of attending medical school at VCU.”

As co-investigator on the VCU Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity, a research training program for undergraduate students interested in biomedical research, De Felice works with graduate programs in the School of Medicine to support recruitment, admissions and retention of promising young scientists.

Krasnodara Cameron was a mother of two and several years out of the classroom when she first met De Felice in 2009. She was interested in pursuing a research career but unsure of her ability to re-enter school and balance her home life. She enrolled as a Ph.D. student and joined De Felice’s lab in 2011, and can now report that “because of his encouragement and amazing mentorship, I am already a co-author to a manuscript published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, a first author to a manuscript submitted for publication and I have presented our work in six regional and national meetings.”

Doctoral student Tyler Steele, speaks for many when he says, “Dr. De Felice shaped my career at a time when I felt lost and wasn’t sure where to go. Moreover, he did it without hesitation or obligation.”

How fortunate VCU School of Medicine is to have De Felice to mentor our next generation of biomedical scientists.