For her outstanding contributions to the School of Medicine and its students, Therèse Duane, M.D., received a pair of Faculty Excellence Awards at this year’s ceremony:

  • Distinguished Mentor Award
  • Women in Science, Dentistry and Medicine Professional Achievement Award

Distinguished Mentor Award

She has helped define me in a way that no other academic leader has. 
The support that she has offered throughout the years has left me speechless.
She taught me the value of service to the School of Medicine, as well as to my specialty.

These are the grateful words of just a few of those mentored by our 2012 Distinguished Mentor Awardee, Therèse Duane. Duane is the vice chair for quality and safety, as well as a professor in the Department of Surgery, the associate director of the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship and the assistant medical director of the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit (STICU). Duane came to VCU in 2003 and quickly established her reputation as an outstanding clinician, productive researcher, dedicated teacher to students, housestaff and colleagues, and an effective advocate for patient safety. Her accomplishments in these areas are detailed in her bio as the WISDM Professional Achievement Award recipient, which can be seen below.

However, among all of her exceptional achievements, Duane is perhaps best known for her mentoring. Colleagues and students relate stories of Duane contacting them after the briefest of introductions, asking if they would like to talk. During these discussions, Duane asked questions about career planning, research interests, balancing work and personal time, and offered assistance and advice in all of these areas that have been, in many cases, life changing.

“I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Dr. Duane eight years ago during my enrollment as a student at the Governor’s School for Medicine and Life Sciences — little did I know what a significant impact meeting her would have on my future,” Holly M. Brown, M.S., recalls. “She motivated me to pursue, first an undergraduate degree in Spanish so that I could better serve my patients, then to continue with my education and obtain a master’s in biomedical sciences. I hope to be able to pursue my own career in surgery, and I too will take high school, college and medical students under my wing to guide and educate them as she did for me.”

“[Duane is willing] to not only give the fellows key pieces of advice, but to sit down with a high school student and go over career choices, or to sit down with a struggling intern in the first year of residency and talk to them as though they had known each other for a long time,” observes Andrew J. Young, M.D., “This is truly incredible. I know of no other like her.”

“With the precious free time she has, she speaks to first- and second-year medical students during lunch, has an endless stream of high school and medical students shadowing her, and counsels residents about career choices and work-life balance,” colleagues Stephanie R. Goldberg, M.D., and Julie Mayglothling, M.D. recall.

Duane places a particular emphasis on helping her students develop productive research careers. She has formally mentored 11 graduate students and five postdoctoral scholars in addition to her clinical trainees. Former VCU resident Tracey Dechert, M.D., now assistant professor of surgery at Boston University School of Medicine, describes her experience working with Duane.

“Because of her mentorship, I have many presentations and publications to show for our work, and I have no doubt that this enabled me to obtain a fellowship spot in one of the best trauma/critical care fellowships in the country,” Dechert says. “The sign of a good mentor, I believe, is someone who is your mentor for life: Dr. Duane continues to be a wonderful mentor and a good friend.”

Duane’s dedication has developed countless individuals for careers in medicine that have advanced the profession in research, clinical care and service. But perhaps the most important thing that Duane contributes to our environment is captured in a comment from an M3 clerkship student: “I always felt like I mattered in her presence.”

What can be more important?

Women in Science, Dentistry and Medicine Professional Achievement Award

Skilled surgeon, gifted teacher, engaged mentor, dedicated wife and mother, inspiring leader, and a true force. All of these are phrases used to describe our 2012 WISDM Professional Achievement Awardee, Therèse Duane. Duane is the vice chair for quality and safety, as well as a professor in the Department of Surgery, the associate director of the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship and the assistant medical director of the STICU.

Duane came to VCU in 2003 and was promoted to associate professor after only five years, and to professor four years later. “She has excelled in every category in academic surgery,” says L.D. Britt, M.D., M.P.H., Brickhouse Professor and chairman, at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Rao Ivatury, M.D., professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Trauma, Critical Care and Emergency Surgery at VCU, agrees. “She emphasizes constantly the roles of self-discipline, self-determination and self-application to be a better physician and a better academic surgeon and to achieve professional excellence,” Ivatury says.

Duane is recognized for her exceptional clinical skills, compassionate patient care and commitment to teaching and mentoring. In her role as vice chair, she has created multiple practice guidelines for infection control with multidisciplinary involvement of STICU staff.

“With her leadership the STICU not only dramatically reduced infection rates, but has become the leader in our institution in terms of ongoing low rates of hospital acquired infection,” declares Ron Clark, M.D., chief medical officer, VCU Health System.

Duane is chair of the VCU Medical Center Infection Control Committee and received the 2010 Shining Knight Award for Excellence in Trauma Care.

Surgery resident Hadley Katharine Herbert describes Duane’s clinical presence: “She commands the trauma bay, and through her leadership, exemplifies an understanding and commitment for medicine that my fellow residents and I hope to embrace as future surgeons. She has inspired me to strive for excellence in all areas of my life.”

Recognized as a gifted teacher and mentor, Duane has received numerous teaching awards. Dynamic, articulate and entertaining, she has the ability to connect to her audiences. To improve teaching in the STICU, she created a weekly conference called “Breakfast and Bullets,” where each member of the STICU team is asked to research and present a clinical question that arose during rounds.

Colleagues marvel at Duane’s organizational skills, her ability to respond to emails almost immediately and work ahead of deadlines for publications and grants. She sets the bar high for surgical residents and attendings with her own punctuality and attendance at conferences.

A prolific researcher and writer, Duane has over 50 peer-reviewed publications, including numerous publications in the highly regarded Journal of Trauma. Her ability to collaborate with others is represented by dozens of oral paper and poster presentations developed with colleagues in a wide range of disciplines.

Duane has served as president of the Virginia chapter of Association of Women Surgeons and the L.D. Britt Surgical Society, and as a member of the WISDM Executive Council and currently serves on eleven VCU committees. She completed the VCU Medical Center Physician Leadership Executive Fellowship program in 2008. Duane played a pivotal role in establishing a national Mentorship Program for Early Career Women in Surgery through the Association of Women Surgeons.

As a surgeon, wife and mother, Duane brings valuable insights to her discussions with her students and trainees that help them to keep sight on the parts of life beyond the hospital and to learn the planning and organizational skills that make work-life balance successful. She is a role model for young physicians, especially women, endeavoring to balance career, academics, teaching, research and family. We are fortunate — and honored — to have Therèse Duane in our midst.