Allied Health: CEO connects community through blog

By Gregory Wise


Chris Accashian, CEO of Parkland Medical Center in Derry, N.H., has utilized a blog to connect to employees and patients.
Photo Credit: Thea Lacorte

When Chris Accashian (M.H.A.’01/AHP) first began working as CEO of Parkland Medical Center in Derry, N.H., he had no easy way of communicating with the hundreds of employees and patients who came through the facility. This led Accashian, a self-described “late adopter of technology,” to take an idea from a former associate and start his own blog.

Named “Connected with Christed with Chris,” Accashian’s blog first launched in October 2013 with the primary intention of connecting with the employees of the medical center.

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VCU Libraries: Happy birthday, Mr. Cabell


A man of many myths
A pioneer of the fantasy genre
A writer of his times and beyond his times

James Branch Cabell, the namesake of Cabell Library, was all that and more. More than half a century after his death, he remains an inspiration to writers and artists.

On the occasion of his 135th birthday, VCU Libraries unveils a new research guide and information packages about Mr. Cabell. Please enjoy and explore.

Want to know more? or (804) 828-1108

Nursing: Q&A with Dean Jean Giddens


VCU School of Nursing Dean Jean Giddens

In her first months on the job as dean of the VCU School of Nursing, Jean Giddens met one on one with all of the school’s faculty and staff — about 74 people.

Giddens, who started June 30, has gotten to know the nursing school staff. Next up is taking what she learned and meshing it with School of Nursing and university-wide strategic plans.

Giddens came to VCU from the College of Nursing at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where she was a professor and executive dean. At VCU, she replaced Nancy F. Langston, who retired after 22 years as dean.

Giddens has a doctorate in education and human resource studies from Colorado State University, a master’s in medical-surgical nursing from the University of Texas, El Paso, and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

She is married to Jay Corazza, and they have four adult children. Corazza works for Ferguson Enterprises.

Read more from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Working for alma mater

almamater-newsApril is Alumni Month at VCU, and scores of alumni will be returning to campus for events and festivities. Some of them, however, won’t have far to go, as they’re already on campus 12 months of the year. More than 2,400 VCU faculty and staff are also alumni of the university, whether they earned their undergraduate, master’s, first-professional or doctoral degrees here.

You’ll find them in nearly every school, division, office and unit — at the front of classrooms, behind desks and even walking the police beat. Below, a handful of these faculty and staff share what it’s like to work for their alma mater and how VCU has impacted their lives during their time as students as well as employees.

Ellen Byrne’s (B.S.’77/P; D.D.S.’83/D; H.S.’91/D; Ph.D.’91/M) ties to VCU are extensive. The senior associate dean and professor of endodontics in the VCU School of Dentistry counts three degrees and a certificate from the university. VCU, she said, “has been my life.”

“I know it has made me,” Byrne said.

 Read more.

Business: RVA’s startup ecosystem

Larkin Garbee, chief imagination officer and owner of 804RVA. Photo by Daniel Sangjib Min

Larkin Garbee, chief imagination officer and owner of 804RVA.
Photo by Daniel Sangjib Min

Increasing interest in startup businesses and entrepreneurship has led to dramatic changes in the support system for these young businesses.

Local universities have seen increased enrollment in entrepreneurship classes. Co-working spaces, where business owners can gather together for support and inspiration, have seen membership increase. Business incubators that provide office space, mentorship and funding to new companies have opened their doors. And local angel investors are backing a growing number of companies.

Participants in the local business community talk often about developing the “startup ecosystem.” Just as plants need to be in the right ecosystem, with the right temperatures, rainfall, lighting and soil, startups need a variety of ingredients to grow and flourish. That includes mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs, spaces to congregate and collaborate, and money to hire staff and turn good ideas into profitable, fast-growing businesses.

Larkin Garbee (B.S.’05/B) started 804RVA in the fall of 2011. She likes to say that makes the co-working space as old as Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which opened in September 2011 and kicked off a regional mania for craft beer (rare is the startup or accelerator that doesn’t have a keg – or at least few six packs – of locally brewed beer in the kitchen).

In the co-working space’s early days, fewer than 10 people would come by. Now, 25 to 30 come on a given day, and 804RVA has 75 paying members. Garbee also started a technology and entrepreneurship meetup group that has more than 1,000 members and has held more than 250 events – mostly at 804RVA’s location on West Broad Street near Virginia Commonwealth University – during the past two years. At first 804RVA simply provided a home to existing technology meetup groups. In time it started hosting its own events.

Read more from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Pharmacy: Faculty, students meet Va. governor

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (second from left) toured the Center for High Blood Pressure with School of Pharmacy students Jay Patel (left) and Whitney Webb and alumna Lauren Caldas. Dave Baldwin (right), the center's excecutive director, earned his M.S.H.A. at VCU in 2009.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (second from left) toured the Center for High Blood Pressure with School of Pharmacy students Jay Patel (left) and Whitney Webb and alumna Lauren Caldas. Dave Baldwin (right), the center’s excecutive director, earned his M.S.H.A. at VCU in 2009.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe paid a visit in March to the Center for High Blood Pressure, a Richmond clinic with which the VCU School of Pharmacy has formed a working partnership.

The governor and several associates were interested in learning about the challenges facing patients without health insurance and the practitioners who care for them.

Among the VCU representatives involved in the visit were alumni Lauren Caldas (Pharm.D.’11/P) and Evan Sisson (B.S.’92/P, Pharm.D.’94/P, M.S.H.A.’96/AHP), who also is an associate professor with the school.

Read more about the governor’s visit.

Allied Health: AGE Virginia Awards honors alumni

AHP IMG_8001-2On Friday, April 11, the VCU Department of Gerontology hosted its annual AGE Virginia Awards, honoring excellence in optimal aging, student scholarship and community engagement. Nearly 70 faculty, students, alumni and community partners convened at VCU’s Siegel Center.

AHP IMG_8023VCU alumni awards recipient included Alumna of the Year Charlotte Arbogast (M.S.’12/AHP; Cert.’12/W) for her work as dementia services coordinator for the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and as co-chair of the VCU Department of Gerontology’s Alumni Engagement Committee. Madeline L. Dunstan (M.S.’04/AHP), education coordinator at Eastern Virginia Medical School, received the ACE Award for her Advocacy and Community Engagement in the field of Gerontology. AHP IMG_8024Residents of Covenant Woods Retirement Community were awarded the Commonwealth Award for their personification of optimal aging and generativity. All funds raised from the event will support student scholarships.

H&S: Alumni start publishing house for books that explore the fantastic

EvolutionReptHandbag-featureA Richmond-based publishing house with deep ties to Virginia Commonwealth University has recently launched with a focus on publishing literary novels with a metaphysical slant.

Metaphysical Circus Press was co-founded by authors Mary Boyes (M.F.A.’98/H&S), assistant professor in VCU’s Honors Writing Program, and Melanie Lamaga (M.F.A.’98/H&S). Boyes and Lamaga each earned a master’s degree from the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English, part of the College of Humanities and Sciences.

“We envision this as a press for authors by authors,” said Lamaga, author of the press’ first book, a collection of short fiction, “The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags and Other Stories,” which was published in January.

Metaphysical Circus Press will focus primarily on publishing e-books and trade paperbacks, and will specialize in works that straddle the line between literary and genre fiction, including sci-fi, apocalyptic, magical realism, alternate reality, slipstream, psychological horror and supernatural horror.

Read more.

Engineering: Complete survey for entry into daily gift card drawing

Last year, 214 School of Engineering alumni responded to a survey that was focused on preferred ways to stay connected with them and has been very helpful in improving our alumni communications and programming efforts.

This year’s survey is focused on learning more about your interests in staying engaged with the School of Engineering and supporting our current students. It consists of 20 questions and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

In an effort to encourage the greatest amount of participation, we are once again offering a daily drawing for a $25 Starbucks gift card for those who complete the survey by the close of business Thursday, April 17. The sooner you complete the survey, the more chances you have to win. We hope you will take time to help us work efficiently and effectively on behalf of your school!

Complete the survey now.

Nursing: Nurses move beyond patient bedside in research efforts

Joe MahoneyTIMES-dispatch

Joe MahoneyTIMES-dispatch

Why, wondered neuroscience nurse Angela Starkweather, did some patients still have pain?

She was referring to patients she has cared for in hospital trauma and neurosurgery units over the years. Despite undergoing extensive surgeries, some patients still complained of pain.

“It drove me crazy because we are doing everything we can; why are they still having (pain)?” Starkweather said. “I saw so much variation in patient outcomes, particularly regarding post-surgical pain and response to pain treatments.”

Starkweather, an associate professor of nursing at the VCU School of Nursing, is trying to find answers, shifting into the role of scientist-researcher as the lead investigator on a three-year $1.2 million National Institutes of Health grant to study low-back pain.

The multiple roles of nurses as bedside caregivers, as classroom educators and as hospital unit managers and administrators are well-known, but outside academic circles there is less recognition of the role of nurses as researchers — scientists adding knowledge about health, wellness and disease.

In a small room in the VCU School of Nursing building, Starkweather and registered nurse Amy Heineman (B.S.’01/H&S; B.S.’13/N), project director for the research, have a lab set up for the study. There they measure the responses of patients who have had recent episodes of low-back pain — at the T-10 vertebrae or lower — to various stimuli.

Read more from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.