‘Transformative innovation’: VCU President Michael Rao delivers 2022 State of the University Address – VCU News

In an address to the University of Virginia Commonwealth by 2022, VCU President and VCU Ph.D. Michael Rao said Tuesday that nearly two years after the pandemic, the university is becoming a stronger institution transforming education and healthcare. care.

As a vivid illustration of his opinion, Rao announced a donation of $ 104 million from Dr. R. Todd Stravitz and the Barbara Brunkhorst Foundation to his family in support of the new Stravitz-Sanyala Institute of Liver and Metabolic Health at VCU to radically expand treatment options. for liver disease and invest in research to stop, prevent and reverse liver disease, the leading factor in reducing life expectancy in the United States. Arun J. Sanyal, MD, professor of internal medicine at VCU School of Medicine and researcher and specialist in liver disease at VCU Health, will serve as director of the institute.

The gift is the largest in the history of the VCU, the second largest public gift from the University of Virginia and the largest public gift for liver research in U.S. history. The gift is also funded by two departments: Professor of Medicine Aruna J. Sanyala and Philip B. Hailemon, Professor of Medicine and Microbiology.

“The gift is a catapult and a catalyst for having a 50-year legacy of excellence in liver care and research at VCU,” Rao said. “We are one of the few institutions with a vision, ability and ambition to focus on patient needs and care through this much-needed study. [It is among the] the most transformational innovations we will see in our lives at VCU ”.


A $ 104 million transformational gift from Dr. R. Todd Stravitz and his family’s Barbara Brunhorst Foundation will contribute to the development of the new Stravitz-Sanyala Institute of Liver Disease and Metabolic Health at VCU.

While the gift was the most striking example of VCU’s recent innovation initiatives, Rao noted in his address many others, including VCU’s Shift Retail Lab, a new space for entrepreneurial students to test their ideas through sales and feedback. customer relations; The Health Initiative, which has integrated health equity principles into the VCU and VCU Health missions through patient care, education and training, and research; and the VCU Student Financial Services Center, where financial advisors work with students on an individual basis and provide them with timely and accurate information about their finances.

“Our students, faculty and the public are not looking for previous“ normal ”experiences in university and healthcare. They want better experiences and more timely results driven by their needs. We will continue to amaze everyone, “Rao said.” Our learning, discovery, community service and treatment are at the heart of our transformative innovation in education and health at VCU. “

The advantage of driving diversity

The overall success of the VCU, Rao said, is the institution’s commitment to creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable VCU and the world. He noted that for the past three consecutive years, INSIGHT into Diversity magazine has awarded the VCU the “Higher Education in Diversity” award with special honors as a champion of diversity. The VCU is one of only 14 institutions in the country designated in this way.

“At VCU, we know that inclusion is a spark that ignites flames on our path to perfection,” he said.

VCU continues to strive to serve and reflect the community, Rao said. “It means being focused on how our actions, inactions, words and perspectives contribute to a fair, inclusive and diverse institution,” he said.

As an example, Rao singled out last fall the dedication of the Murry N. DePillars Building, honoring the original dean of the School of the Arts from 1976 to 1995. Today, the School of the Arts is the fourth-ranked art graduate program in the United States, according to US News & World Report.

“Dean DePilars brought together different communities to learn, create and engage in the necessary conversations,” Rao said. “He was an exemplary artist and educator who raised the profile of the school nationally and globally.”

Rao also recounted how Robert Vin, MD, director of the VCU Massey Cancer Center, acknowledged that faith leaders play an important role as trusted sources of accurate information amid the pandemic. He convened a discussion with them in an open dialogue entitled “Facts and Friday of Faith,” which welcomed First Lady Jill Biden, ed .; Francis Collins, MD, PhD, Director of the National Institutes of Health; Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. senators; Governor Glen Yangkin; and former Governor Ralph Northam.

Rao recognized the work of VCU Health for the launch in December of Epic, a fully integrated healthcare data system that will enable better and more coordinated healthcare decisions, and that positions VCU as a leader in real-time data-driven healthcare .

He also noted the recent opening of an outpatient pavilion for adults on the MCV campus, a 17-story complex that expands access to care and puts patients first.

“This space promotes learning, collaboration and recuperation to provide the best and safest patient experience,” he said.

National fame

Last week, VCU joined the University Innovation Alliance, a consortium of national public universities that is committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in the United States. As the consortium’s 12th and newest member institution, Rao said the VCU will work to lead and inspire higher education to improve graduate students across the socioeconomic spectrum, especially low-income students, first-generation students and colored students.

“We do this because it improves the human condition and is necessary for individual social mobility and global competitiveness in the United States,” he said. “Membership in the alliance is a recognition of VCU’s commitment to enrolling and graduating all students. I am very proud that our work, which puts student needs first, will now appear on the national stage. “

VCU is also becoming a national leader in research, Rao said, and the National Science Foundation ranks VCU 58th among state universities in federal-funded research spending, allowing the university to achieve its goal of breaking into the top 50.

Over the past year, he said, the VCU has set an institutional record for funding sponsorship research with a total of $ 363 million in grants, contracts and more. Over the past three years, VCU funding has grown by more than 25%.

“Funding for research and studies is important because it allows VCU to lead in areas that improve the quality of human life – things that are important to our existence and quality of life,” Rao said.

Designing a better future

Rao said he was especially proud of the improved results of VCU students, particularly the level of compliance and graduation. VCU’s first-year and six-year graduation rates are above the national average and reflect more than a decade of growth for the university.

VCU also continues to close the gap in alumni rates for underrepresented students and students eligible for the Pell grant, he said.

Looking ahead, Rao said the university is working on calibrating its Quest 2025 strategic plan to update VCU’s strategic priorities. The University has been gathering feedback from faculty, staff, students, alumni and communities throughout the process, and findings and recommendations will be summarized over the next few weeks. The revised plan is expected to be presented to the Visitors Council in May.

“When I look to our future, it is clear that the needs of our students come first in everything we do at VCU. Focusing on the experience is how we will help them and VCU reach their full potential, ”Rao said. “This will continue to be our guiding goal.”