A bequest from Lavinia Blick will give a boost to the research of junior faculty members. The inaugural 2010 recipients include four medical school faculty members.

In the competitive world of grants and public funding, research scientists are all too familiar with dwindling financial resources and growing laboratory needs. For six scientists on the MCV Campus, however, the future just got a little brighter. All because of the quality of care provided at the VCU Medical Center.

For those living in rural communities, it’s not unusual to visit urban areas for medical care. So it was for Lavinia and George Blick who lived in Rawlings, Virginia, where she was a homemaker and he worked as a mail carrier, country store owner and farmer during the course of their long life together. Mrs. Blick developed a fondness for MCV, later VCU Medical Center, where the couple received medical attention from time to time. However, it was her father’s experience there that eventually led her to name the institution as a beneficiary in her estate plan.

As a widow with no children or close relatives, Mrs. Blick thought long and hard about her estate, according to the couple’s long-time friend and attorney William Dudley Allen III. “She decided to include the MCV Foundation in her will because her father had received such excellent care there,” said Allen.

Lavinia Blick

Janet Scott Vincent, a Rawlings native and childhood neighbor of the Blicks, remembers the couple as part of her own family. “They were really sweet people who spent every holiday at our house,” she recalls. “Lavinia held MCV near and dear to her heart. She adored her father and always praised the hospital for the care he received.”

Mrs. Blick died in late 2007 at the age of 93, but her name and that of her husband live on through the generous $2 million endowment she established as the George and Lavinia Blick Research Fund to be managed by the MCV Foundation. It was her wish to give back as a gesture of gratitude. Her only stipulation was that the gift be used to fund medical research on MCV’s Campus. From this fund, academic leadership created the Blick Scholars Program to recognize the outstanding achievements of faculty at the assistant professor level.

“The Blick Scholars Program is the only research award program of its kind on campus,” said Sheldon M. Retchin, M.D., Vice President for VCU Health Sciences and CEO, VCU Health System. “It is unique because it furthers the promising medical research of our junior faculty members. The long-term impact of the program has the potential to extend beyond our campus boundaries into communities, research facilities, medical institutions and patient care plans around the world.”

“Mrs. Blick’s trust in our mission and in our financial stewardship is an honor,” said MCV Foundation President Bill Kotti. “She would be proud to know that the Blick Scholars Program, created as a result of her generous bequest, recently awarded six rising research stars with four years of project funding.” This is the first award from the Blick Research Fund.

The investment interest generated by Mrs. Blick’s endowment results in an annual payout award for the purpose of medical research. The endowment’s principal is reinvested for long-term growth. The 2010 inaugural Blick Scholars Award funds the work of young scientists from the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing and the School of Pharmacy. “Blick Scholars are chosen through a highly competitive nomination process, which includes documented growth toward achievement of national or international recognition, a developing record of obtaining external research funding, collaborative scholarship and a primary faculty appointment in one of the health sciences schools,” explains David C. Sarrett, D.M.D., M.S., associate vice president for VCU Health Sciences. “This program recognizes those who are setting a high standard and, as such, will encourage others to try and attain similar levels of recognition.”


“Being named a Blick Scholar is a great honor,” said Jason A. Carlyon, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology. “It means that the VCU School of Medicine greatly values the scientific contributions that my lab has made thus far and has confidence that we will continue to produce science that is of high quality and stands to benefit others.”

Dr. Carlyon’s work involves microbes that bind, invade and survive within host cells to cause disease. It is his ultimate hope to develop novel ways to treat or prevent infectious disease.


“Cancer research is a major focus and my work involves understanding the molecular development of cancer and how we can use that knowledge to develop new technologies,” said Devanand Sarkar, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Human and Molecular Genetics; Harrison Endowed Scholar in Cancer Research, Massey Cancer Center, VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine. “The ultimate aim is to take this knowledge to patients in my lifetime.”

Dr. Sarkar is appreciative of Mrs. Blick’s generosity as well as her forethought. “I wish I could have talked with her and gotten to know the person and her thought process.”


“Being named a Blick Scholar is nice affirmations that my colleagues feel my scientific contributions are important to the school and the research community,” said William Barton, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery. “The financial contribution to my work is deeply appreciated.”


“My appointment as a Blick Scholar is, to me, a symbol that my dedication to research, to human health and to teaching, is recognized by my peers and by my university,” said Kimberly K. Jefferson, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Jefferson’s funds will be used to further her studies of bacterial vaginosis, a highly prevalent vaginal disorder that significantly increases a woman’s risk of preterm labor and of acquiring HIV.

Her ultimate aspiration is to produce knowledge that will lead to improvements in therapy and reduce the rates of bacterial vaginosis and its associated detrimental effects on women’s health.

Two other faculty members on the MCV Campus have been named Blick Scholars. Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor in the School of Nursing who studies pain and symptom management in young adults with chronic disease. Mary Jayne Kennedy, Pharm.D., an assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy, focuses on determining why some newborn infants develop kidney injury when treated with certain antibiotic medications.

Mrs. Blick may not have realized just how much of an impact her generosity would make on so many people both here at home and, potentially, around the world. Or, perhaps, she did. For the Blick Scholars, it’s a dream come true.

Lavinia Blick: Photo courtesy of Mr. William Dudley Allen III
Faculty photos: Photo credit to Kevin Schindler