VCU School of Nursing names new chair of Department of Adult Health and Nursing

Beth Rodgers, Ph.D.

Beth Rodgers, Ph.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University today appointed Beth Rodgers, Ph.D., as professor and chair of the Department of Adult Health and Nursing Systems in the School of Nursing. Rodgers previously served as professor and research chair at the University of New Mexico School of Nursing. She has been a prominent scholar, consultant and nursing educator for more than three decades, having served most of her career in various leadership positions at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing.

“We are thrilled that a highly talented nurse leader of Beth’s caliber is joining our leadership team,” said Jean Giddens, Ph.D., professor and dean of the School of Nursing. “Her innovative scholarly work and research, as well as her leadership experience will complement the great work underway at our school.”

Rodgers is widely known for her work in qualitative and mixed methods research with adults experiencing chronic illness, major life change and obstructive sleep apnea. She has consulted extensively on Ph.D. nursing education and for faculty development related to philosophy, theory and scholarly thinking throughout the curriculum. She serves on numerous editorial and grant review boards and was a member of the Sleep Apnea Patient Advisory committee of the federally funded Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

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Lost in translation: Social Work student researches how overlooked refugees find ways to cope

Jessica Gaddy

Jessica Gaddy

Jessica Gaddy spent three weeks last summer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, researching the psychosocial challenges and coping mechanisms of refugees, and she found the experience to be eye-opening. Her interest in the field has not dimmed since her return to the U.S. and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Gaddy — a second-year student in the Master of Social Work Program — became involved in refugee research through Hyojin Im, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Social Work, who trains health care and service providers about mental health care needs for victims of trauma in Kuala Lumpur.

“I soon found so much purpose and interest in this particular research field because refugees are such an underrecognized population that faces insurmountable daily challenges,” Gaddy said.

Among the refugees Gaddy interviewed and studied in Kuala Lumpur were Syrian, Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani, Kachin, Chin and Somali. Gaddy knew very little about the refugee population prior to the research, and her interest continued to grow with her involvement.

“Despite their conditions, I couldn’t fathom … how they were the most hopeful and positive people I ever met,” Gaddy said.

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Program trains the next generation of leaders in addiction studies from around the world

Kyle Dyer, Ph.D., programme director at King's College London; Mary Loos, Ph.D., program director and leader of the International Programme in Addiction Studies; and Femke T.A. Buisman-Pijlman, Ph.D., senior lecturer in addiction studies in the School of Medicine and programme director at the University of Adelaide.

Kyle Dyer, Ph.D., programme director at King’s College London; Mary Loos, Ph.D., program director and leader of the International Programme in Addiction Studies; and Femke T.A. Buisman-Pijlman, Ph.D., senior lecturer in addiction studies in the School of Medicine and programme director at the University of Adelaide.

After graduating from the School of Social Work in 2008, Amira Turner worked as a wellness coordinator at an assisted living facility, and also helped her dad – a licensed clinical social worker himself – with co-facilitating substance abuse group therapy sessions.

Now, Turner is back at Virginia Commonwealth University, pursuing not only a Master of Social Work, but also a Master of Science in Addiction Studies degree from the International Programme in Addiction Studies — a partnership between three of the world’s top research universities in the field of addiction science: King’s College London, the University of Adelaide in Australia and VCU.

“Nearly every aspect of social work involves addiction. You’ve got people dealing with psychological problems they’ve experienced, dealing with trauma and maybe abusing substances as a result,” Turner said. “There are a lot of people who are affected by addiction. So I feel like having a specialized understanding of everything involved in addiction — not just that it causes neurobiological changes or that it’s genetic or that it’s very stigmatized — but it’s such a large issue, that the more I learn, it feels like the bigger it gets.”

As students in the International Programme in Addiction Studies, Turner and her classmates from around the world are taking online courses on such topics as the biological basis of addiction, pharmacotherapies, psychosocial interventions and public health and policy related to addiction, as well as courses focusing on research.

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Psychology professor aims to develop tool to assess how therapists treat youth anxiety

Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.

Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.

Bryce McLeod, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, recently received a $431,244 federal grant to develop an instrument to assess the effectiveness of therapists’ treatment of young people with anxiety.

The grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, “Development of a Pragmatic Treatment Integrity Instrument for Child Therapy,” aims to develop a practical, short and easy-to-use observational treatment integrity instrument capable of assessing the extent to which a therapist delivers cognitive behavioral therapy for youth anxiety with integrity and skill. The development of this practical instrument will help support the evaluation, implementation and sustainability of evidence-based treatments in community settings.

McLeod, who is also the clinical child/adolescent track director in the Department of Psychology and is associate editor of the journal Behavior Therapy, explained the grant’s objectives and why such an instrument is needed.

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MacGyver medicine: Medical school team wins wilderness medicine event

Phil Griffith, Chris Woleben, M.D., and Jenika Ferretti-Gallon prevailed in the Mid-Atlantic MedWAR that combines wilderness medicine and adventure racing.

Phil Griffith, Chris Woleben, M.D., and Jenika Ferretti-Gallon prevailed in the Mid-Atlantic MedWAR that combines wilderness medicine and adventure racing.

Stabilizing a patient with spinal cord injury. Emergency tracheotomy. Intubation. It’s all in a day’s work.

Except now imagine doing these procedures while mountain biking, canoeing, running through the woods with map and compass, and carrying all your supplies on your back.

Sounds almost impossible, but the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine’s Lactated Ringers team prevailed at the Mid-Atlantic Medical Wilderness Adventure Race competition on March 19.

MedWAR events pit three-person teams of wilderness medicine enthusiasts against each other for a daylong event that challenges their medical knowledge, orienteering skills and stamina. The competition, held in several locations throughout the U.S., was created in 2000 by two emergency medicine physicians with a passion for adventure racing. MedWAR events have no route markers, water stations or cheering spectators; instead, they simulate backcountry rescue situations so participants can test and improve their skills.

Medical student Phil Griffith heard about the event last year and decided it was the perfect venue for his love of the outdoors and career plans as an emergency physician. “Emergency medicine fits with wilderness medicine,” he said. Except in the outdoors, “You’re practicing with fewer resources, higher evacuation times and the same principles of stabilize and improvise.”

He participated in the event for the first time last year with Chris Woleben, M.D. (M.D.’97/M;H.S.’01/M), on a team dubbed the Lactated Ringers. This year, medical student Jenika Ferretti-Gallon joined them.

An associate professor in the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Woleben is also associate dean for student affairs in the medical school. Though he’s far more experienced in medicine, Woleben calls the students “the masterminds to our team’s success.”

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As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, VCU Department of Gerontology eyes ending ageism

Linda Brown-Burton pauses to reflect on the poster presentations at the VCU Department of Gerontology’s 40th anniversary event. “The VCU Department of Gerontology illustrates their values through their mission statement,” Brown-Burton said. “They empower the knowledge of gerontology studies through the educational process.”

Linda Brown-Burton (M.S.’05/AHP) pauses to reflect on the poster presentations at the VCU Department of Gerontology’s 40th anniversary event. “The VCU Department of Gerontology illustrates their values through their mission statement,” Brown-Burton said. “They empower the knowledge of gerontology studies through the educational process.”

When Cathy Saunders (B.S.W.’76/SW;M.S.’82/AHP) graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a master’s degree in gerontology in 1982, most people she met had never heard of the discipline. “Some people would think it was geology,” the 62-year-old says.

Saunders is now the chair of the advisory board for the VCU Department of Gerontology, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in Carytown last Friday. More than 100 current students, alumni, faculty and staff attended the event, dubbed a “Day of Disruption.”

“The discipline emerged out of a medical model and we are now moving toward a more wellness-based model that is focused on the benefits of longevity, positive elderhood and recognizing that aging is a natural experience and not about disease and suffering like many people think it is,” said department chair E. Ayn Welleford, Ph.D.

The theme of the event alluded to one of the department’s primary goals: ending ageism.

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Students present research projects that merge academic and personal interests during annual symposiums

The 19th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium and Exhibit and the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity were held on back-to-back days in the University Student Commons. Photos by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs.

The 19th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium and Exhibit and the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity were held on back-to-back days in the University Student Commons. Photos by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs.

Virginia Patterson believes exercise saved her life. With that in mind, she often finds herself considering how it can help save the lives of others. Patterson, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, part of the College of Humanities and Sciences, searches for ways to help people find the kind of reward in physical fitness that has enriched her own life.

Before she embraced serious exercise, Patterson said, she was unmotivated and directionless. As she became more devoted to a regular exercise regimen, she found her mood improved substantially, particularly when she was pushing herself.

“Exercise really helped me sink my teeth into that move forward,” she said. “I could see that I could keep getting better.”

Patterson is studying the cognitive effects of intense periods of exercise, particularly on those who are generally sedentary and inactive. She wants to know if people benefit mentally and emotionally in the immediate aftermath of serious exercise, even if they feel preoccupied with their physical pain.

Patterson said her research so far has indicated that intense exercise amounts to “good stress,” whether the subjects are feeling physically ill from it or not. “It doesn’t care how you feel,” she said. “You’re getting benefits from it whether you like it or not.”

Patterson was one of hundreds of students who showcased their ongoing and completed research projects during the 19th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium and Exhibit and the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, held on back-to-back days in the University Student Commons last week. Students from both campuses and a diverse range of disciplines presented their research, mingling with each other among poster boards to explain their work to visitors and to learn about the efforts of their peers. Some of the students conducted solo research projects, while others were parts of teams that included other students and faculty members.

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Lavender Graduation ceremony celebrates VCU’s LGBTQIA+ community

Photos by Steven Casanova, University Marketing

Photos by Steven Casanova, University Marketing

Celebrating the achievements of Virginia Commonwealth University’s graduating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex seniors, the Lavender Graduation ceremony was held last week at the Cabell Library.

The theme for the 2016 Lavender Graduation was “Color the World.” George Kelly, assistant director of business and personnel services for Residential Life and Housing, and chair of Lavender Graduation, said the theme emphasized the importance of “sharing what you have to impart to others about LGBTQIA+ rights and getting them to see the beauty of us.”

The soon-to-be graduates in attendance were each presented with a rainbow cord to wear with their academic regalia at the university’s official commencement activities on May 14, and were entertained by a dance performance from Khalima and Laterna Dance Company, which sought to challenge restrictions projected onto people with regards to gender, orientation, body image and self expression.

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Course teaches engineering students the finer points of business

In the School of Engineering's Intellectual Property course, students consider engineering advances in the context of the business world. Photo by Allen Jones, University Marketing.

In the School of Engineering’s Intellectual Property course, students consider engineering advances in the context of the business world. Photo by Allen Jones, University Marketing.

To teach an engineer about business, sometimes it’s best to be an engineer. That’s why the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering offers a course mostly found in business schools: an entrepreneurial special topics course titled Intellectual Property.

And it’s found the perfect instructor to teach VCU’s engineering students: Christopher Dosier, Ph.D. (B.S.’06/H&S;B.S.’06/En), adjunct professor.

Dosier is a graduate of both the VCU School of Engineering and the College of Humanities and Sciences. In 2006, he received two Bachelor of Science degrees — biomedical engineering with a minor in mathematical sciences and physics, and physics with a minor in chemistry — both summa cum laude. He completed a Ph.D. in bioengineering at Georgia Tech in 2013, focusing on stem cell delivery strategies to treat bone defects.

“My interest in teaching this course arises as I did not have an opportunity for a class like this when I was an undergraduate engineering student at VCU, nor did I have exposure to the concepts when I did my Ph.D. at Georgia Tech in bioengineering,” Dosier said. “I was all engineering and science.”

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VCU School of Education’s Special Education, Counselor Education departments to merge

The Department of Special Education and Disability Policy and the Department of Counselor Education at Virginia Commonwealth University will merge July 1, blending two of the School of Education’s top-tier programs to create an interdisciplinary academic environment focused on real-world learning and impact.

Students in the newly merged Department of Counseling and Special Education at the VCU School of Education.

Students in the newly merged Department of Counseling and Special Education at the VCU School of Education.

The two departments will merge into the new Department of Counseling and Special Education, bringing together a team of educators who are recognized as leaders in their fields, and a set of fully accredited graduate programs that are based on research, classroom and real-world experience.

“This merger provides an opportunity to enhance the interdisciplinary nature of our projects and research in counseling and special education,” said Colleen Thoma, Ph.D., chair of the new Department of Counseling and Special Education. “These programs complement each other, using a holistic approach to understanding and working with children, youth and adults, their educational needs, and their support systems. These two fields recognize the need to understand the context for a student’s education, including family life, health, emotional well-being and community resources.”

The two disciplines, Thoma said, complement one another, and together will foster a rich diversity in intellectual interests and provide new opportunities for collaboration. For example, faculty members from both departments serve on a statewide taskforce on trauma-informed care, an issue that both counselors and special educators face on a regular basis, but in different capacities. Collaboration in research will provide greater understanding of the impact of trauma on students with and without disabilities, and will help develop strategies designed to minimize that impact.

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