It is my pleasure to announce that following a competitive national search, Alice A. Tolbert Coombs, M.D., MPA, has been appointed chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, beginning Aug. 16, 2021. Dr. Coombs joined the department four years ago, serving as medical director of VCU–Vibra Critical Care Medicine Group before becoming interim chair of the department in July 2020.

Prior to joining our School of Medicine, Dr. Coombs, a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians, was chair of the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care Medicine at South Shore Hospital (an affiliate of Brigham and Women's Hospital). She also served as medical director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Tufts University New England Medical Center.

Dr. Coombs received her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Los Angeles School of Medicine and completed her residency training at the Massachusetts General Hospital in internal medicine and anesthesiology. Following fellowships in critical care medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and cardiothoracic anesthesia at Tufts Medical Center, she practiced in Massachusetts for more than 30 years. In 2010, Dr. Coombs was elected president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, owner and publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Coombs also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government with a focus on health care policy, leadership and negotiations. Throughout her career, she has gained extensive experience in public policy, receiving the Massachusetts Medical Society's Henry Ingersoll Bowditch Award for Excellence in Public Health in 2005. This award is given to a physician who demonstrates creativity, commendable citizenship, initiative, innovation and leadership in the public health and advocacy fields.

With a passion for serving minority and vulnerable populations, Dr. Coombs participated in the American Medical Association’s Commission to End Racial and Ethnic Healthcare Disparities for more than 10 years, serving as chair and vice chair of the Workforce Diversity Committee and spearheading the development of the Health Care Diversity Educational Toolkit. Dr. Coombs also was a driving force behind the AMA’s Doctors Back to School Program, which brings physicians into elementary, middle and high schools across the country to introduce young men and women, particularly in minority communities, to health care careers. She was elected to the AMA’s Council on Medical Services in June 2019.

Locally, Dr. Coombs serves on the Board of Directors for VCU Health System, Board of Trustees for the Richmond Academy of Medicine and Board of Directors for the Medical Society of Virginia. Additionally, Dr. Coombs is a member of the Medical Society of Virginia's health equity workgroup and the society’s delegation to the American Medical Association.

Our thanks go to the search committee, chaired by Dr. Patrick Nana-Sinkam and Dr. Larry DiNardo, and to all in the department who provided feedback in selecting the new permanent chair. As permanent chair, Dr. Coombs is committed to creating a new collaborative leadership model that will ensure collective input to meet all aspects of the department’s academic mission.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Coombs on her new permanent role.

With all good wishes,

Pter F. Buckley, M.D.; Dean, VCU School of Medicine; Executive vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System