Two School of Medicine faculty and one alumna were among six award recipients at this year’s Faculty Convocation. The 39th annual ceremony, which took place on Thursday, Sept. 2 at the Grace Street Theater, recognized VCU faculty across four schools for outstanding teaching, scholarship and service. Masked colleagues, friends and family members gathered for the celebration to reflect on the past year, honor the achievements of the award winners and set their sights on the academic year ahead.
"I have to say that we have learned so very, very much over the last year or so about our mission and our ability to really adapt and to innovate quickly in the context of our mission so that we could provide the best possible student experience, but also the best patient experience at VCU,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU, addressing audience members in the theater and via livestream. “We have absolutely been inspired by the work of so many professors and members of our staff to meet students and patients where they are. And I'm really proud of just the depth of care and concern that I see in all of my colleagues who are delivering on making these really critical missions happen at VCU.”
Pin-Lan Li, M.D., Ph.D., a tenured professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology who has been at VCU since 2005, received the Distinguished Scholarship Award for her extensive research achievements. Li’s work, which focuses on cardiovascular and renal pharmacology, has been continuously funded through four National Institutes of Health grants, resulting in more than $33 million for her programs during her time at VCU. With 220 scientific papers and 10 book chapters published, her work has been cited 20,000 times.
“I was a medical doctor about 40 years ago … and in that time as a medical doctor, sometimes I felt helpless, and sometimes frustrated with the lack of effective treatments for many patients,” said Li. “I found that there are many diseases that you cannot cure, you can only relieve the symptoms, and you cannot get rid of the disease. So that’s why I wanted to go back to be a scientist.”
Alan Dow, M.D., the Ruth and Seymour Perlin Tenured Professor of Medicine and Health Administration in the Department of Internal Medicine, is this year's recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award. As head of the Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care and VCU Health’s continuing education enterprise, Dow aims to advance health services and improve care by translating needs defined by practice and the community into educational and clinical programs. Dow has created programming to help disseminate critical COVID-19 information, presented all over the world and authored more than 50 articles in peer-reviewed publications and seven book chapters.
“I realized in college that I was interested in the sciences, but I also was really interested in people, and how we think about translating sciences to making the world a better place,” Dow said. “I’ve done a lot of work with teamwork and something called interprofessional education, which is the idea of how we help health care team members come together to take better care of patients through collaborating better. That nurturing culture is the way I think about the work we do these days.”
Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D., received her doctorate from the Department of Health Behavior and Policy in 2017. Now an assistant professor at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture and director of the school’s Media+Health Lab, Guidry received the Early Career Faculty Award for her work on health communication message design, testing and evaluation in the realm of social and mobile technologies. In addition to publishing 45 peer-reviewed publications on the impact of visual social media on the field of health communication, Guidry has used her research to inform her approach in the classroom. She has taught several undergraduate and graduate courses, including a class she designed in 2020: Digital Media Strategies for the COVID-19 Crisis.
“The area I focus on most is vaccines and infectious diseases. Vaccines are only as helpful as the shots that actually get into arms. When we have in this new information environment information that is spread that actually hinders acceptance of vaccines, that becomes problematic,” Guidry said. “My work focuses on better understanding how online misinformation can contribute to health disparities.”
Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, reflected on the achievements of these distinguished faculty with pride and gratitude.
“I am immensely proud of these remarkable faculty members, whose dedication sets them apart as exemplary physicians, educators, researchers and leaders,” Buckley said. “Through their innovation and resilience, they serve as tremendous role models and ambassadors for our medical school. My thanks go out to them and to all our dedicated faculty for all they do to advance our missions of education, patient care and discovery.”