Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine Professional Achievement “WISDM” Award

Suzanne Barbour, Ph.D., certainly qualifies as a “triple threat” faculty member for her talent and accomplishments in teaching, service, and research. Moreover, Dr. Barbour has dedicated her career to supporting underrepresented students in achieving biomedical sciences careers.

Dr. Barbour joined the VCU faculty in 1993 after completing her Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins and training as a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Diego. By 1997 she had achieved the rank of Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with affiliate appointments in both Microbiology and Immunology and Biology. In recognition of her potential as a leader, Dr. Barbour was accepted into the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Class of 2006-2007.

Ann Nichols-Casebolt, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Research Development, VCU, recalls, “My first meeting with Suzanne was to discuss her success in securing grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It is rare for a biomedical scientist to obtain NSF funding, and she was one of the very few faculty in the School of Medicine (SOM) who had both NSF and NIH funding for their research.” Dr. Barbour has disseminated her work through over 50 publications, including peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and reviews and has served on numerous NIH and NSF review panels.

“Both Dr. Barbour’s research and teaching serve as an example of interdisciplinary bridging between departments in the SOM, colleagues and academic programs in the School of Dentistry and the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences,” shares Dr. Jan F. Chlebowski, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Associate Dean for Graduate Education, VCU SOM. Dr. Barbour’s teaching has been recognized through over a dozen SOM Outstanding Teacher awards, the 2004 SOM Teaching Excellence Award, and the 2005 VCU Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s highest honor for teaching.

Remarkably, given her exceptional record of achievement in each of these areas, what colleagues most often comment on is Dr. Barbour’s dedication to creating a new generation of scholars that reflects the diversity of the “real world.” “It was her vision that organized the various units in place on the SOM and Monroe Park campuses into a powerful driving force for diversity.” recalls Louis J. De Felice, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology and Biophysics and Assistant Dean for Graduate Education, SOM. “This effort, led by Suzanne, culminated in four funded grants and her appointment as Director of Research Training in the VCU Center on Health Disparities.” Many institutions would be happy to have the grant funding that Dr. Barbour herself has secured as a PI or Co-PI.

As Dr. Nichols-Casebolt describes, “her mentoring goes well beyond undergraduate students to include high school students through postdoctoral scholars … she has worked with them in her lab, taken them to research conferences, and provided them opportunities to learn the roles and responsibilities of a scientist.”

Francis L Macrina, Ph.D., Edward Myers Professor of Dentistry and Vice President for Research, VCU, explains, “She has been a leader in building a federal training grant portfolio that addresses minority access to careers in research and research training.” In recognition of her significant contributions to multicultural relations and diversity, Dr. Barbour received the 2010 VCU Faculty Presidential Award for Community Multicultural Enrichment (PACME).

“Suzanne Barbour is one of the most collegial, selfless, and energetic faculty I have ever known,” states Dr. Macrina. We celebrate Dr. Suzanne Barbour’s accomplishments and her dedication to increasing diversity in biomedical sciences leadership and research.