Innovative research is one of the School of Medicine’s core tenets, and an annual internal funding program demonstrates the enterprise-wide commitment to supporting faculty in their scientific and educational endeavors.

Last month, the School of Medicine awarded Value and Efficiency Teaching and Research (VETAR) grants to 13 faculty members embarking on new scientific research or education initiatives.

Supported by VCU Health as part of its Vision by Design master plan, VETAR provides up to 18 months of pilot funding for faculty members to collect the preliminary data needed to submit competitive proposals to external funding agencies. Faculty panels representing a broad range of scientific fields reviewed more than 50 proposals for this round of funding, the third since the program’s inception.

“This is an opportunity for the health system to promote scientific research and education in the School of Medicine,” says Michael Donnenberg, M.D., senior associate dean for research and research training. “These awards support both experienced researchers doing something in a new area and people who are in the early stages of their careers.”

This year, VETAR recipients include investigators and educators from nine clinical departments, two basic health science departments and the School of Medicine’s Office of Assessment, Evaluation and Scholarship.

“VETAR is just one example of the ways the VCU Health System and our School of Medicine collaborate to create and apply new knowledge,” says Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine. “Programs such as this not only support our researchers as they launch new scholarly endeavors but also provide a foundation for innovations that address the needs of the diverse populations we serve.

Dr. Donnenberg notes that the most competitive proposed projects and initiatives are those most likely to lead to external research funding or educational innovation. Some 2019 VETAR investigators have received external funding, and he anticipates more comprehensive data on the program’s impact within the next year.

“People consider it a lifeline. It’s a terrific opportunity to get new funding,” says Dr. Donnenberg. “This kind of thing isn’t available at every medical school, so it sets VCU apart, and I’m very grateful to the health system for supporting it.”

  • Albert Arias, M.D. 
    Department of Psychiatry 
    Predicting Relapse and Providing Timely Interventions in Patients with Alcohol-Related Liver Disease
    Co-investigators: Edwin van den Oord, Ph.D.; Karolina Aberg, Ph.D.; and Steve Negus, Ph.D.
  • Matthew Banks, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
    Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology 
    An Innovative Strategy to Study the Epigenetics of Opioid Withdrawal on a Cell-Type-Specific Level
    Co-investigators: F. Gerard Moeller, M.D.; Vimal Mishra, M.D.; Arun Sanyal, M.D.; and Brian Davis, M.D.
  • Mark Baron, M.D.
    Department of Neurology
    Safety and Efficacy of State-of-the-Art Exoskeleton Technology to Improve Mobility in Parkinson’s Disease
    Co-investigators: Robert Hand, D.P.T.; R.K. Elswick Jr., Ph.D.; and Gina Blackwell, M.P.H.
  • Cherie Edwards, Ph.D.
    Office of Assessment, Evaluation and Scholarship
    A Ground Theory Study of Anti-Racism Culture in Medical Education
  • Genta Kakiyama, Ph.D.
    Department of Internal Medicine
    Role of Cholestenoic Acids in Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis: An Approach for Understanding a Common Mechanism of Insulin Resistance-Related Inflammatory Pathways
  • Srinivasa Karnam, Ph.D.
    Department of Physiology and Biophysics
    Understanding the Mechanisms of GI Motility Disorders in DMD
  • Dana Lapato, Ph.D.
    Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
    Longitudinal MicroRNA Study of Recurrent Early-Onset Major Depression
    Co-investigators: Roxann Roberson-Nay, Ph.D. and Theresa Swift-Scanlan, Ph.D., RN
  • Jessica LaRose, Ph.D.
    Department of Health Behavior and Policy
    Understanding Drivers of Variability in Treatment Response Among Emerging Adults in Behavioral Obesity Treatment
    Co-investigators: Autumn Lanoye, Ph.D.; Ronald Evans, Ph.D.; Anika Hines, Ph.D.; and Robert Perera, Ph.D.
  • Qinglian Liu, Ph.D.
    Department of Physiology and Biophysics
    Targeting a Novel Auto-Inhibition Mechanism on the Hsp110s’ ATPase Activity for Potential Treatment of Yeast Infection
  • Daniel Miller, Ph.D.
    Department of Microbiology and Immunology
    Characterizing Gingival Epithelial Cell Responses to Treponema Denticola
  • Roxann Roberson-Nay, Ph.D. 
    Department of Psychiatry
    Hormonal Contraceptive Effects on the Developing Female Brain
    Co-investigator: James Bjork, Ph.D.
  • Daniel Rodriguez-Agudo, Ph.D.
    Department of Internal Medicine
    Protective Role of Cholesterol Transport Protein StarD5 in Fatty Liver Disease
    Co-investigator: William M. Pandak, M.D.
  • Zina Trost, Ph.D.
    Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    Using Haptic Virtual Reality and Noninvasive Brain Stimulation to Restore Touch Perception among Individuals with Complete Paraplegia
    Co-investigators: Carrie Peterson, Ph.D.; Lance Goetz, M.D.; Peter Pidcoe, DPT, Ph.D.; and Sylvia Gustin, Ph.D.