Throughout the worlds of art, business, education, service and health care, VCU alumni reflect the brilliance of the university. Their knowledge and experience shine in all areas of human endeavor, illuminating problems, creating solutions and strengthening the quality of our lives.
VCU Alumni invites you to join us Nov. 3 at the Science Museum of Virginia for an inspirational program, cocktails and a seated three-course dinner as we honor the 2017 Alumni Stars.
VCU Alumni members can purchase individual tickets for $75 or a 10-seat table sponsorship for $750. Nonmember tickets are $100 or $1,000 per table. Sponsors are recognized in the printed program. RSVP by Oct. 25.
View the full list of 2017 Alumni Stars.
Elizabeth Prom-Wormley, Ph.D.
1999 Master of Public Health
School of Medicine
2007 Doctor of Philosophy
VCU Life Sciences
Elizabeth Prom-Wormley, Ph.D., walked across the stage at VCU’s Commencement in May 2017 and placed a hood around the neck of her first Ph.D. student. She found herself flashing back to her own hooding 10 years before as the first graduate of the doctoral program in integrative life sciences.
“As my newly minted doctor smiled broadly and walked across the stage, shaking hands with the president of the university, I remembered my excitement [as a new Ph.D.] and how hopeful I was for the future,” she says. “I also remembered how grateful I was at that time. I was grateful to my nuclear family, my parents, brother and husband, for supporting me. I was also deeply grateful to my academic family, the one that comes directly from being at VCU, because this institution was, and continues to be, the source of so many opportunities and possibilities for my career.”
With an undergraduate degree in kinesiology from the College of William & Mary, Prom-Wormley came to VCU in 1997 to pursue a master’s in public health. After graduation, she worked as a research assistant at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, housed in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. Inspired by a lecture on the genetic epidemiology of drug abuse and with the encouragement of her supervisor, she decided to apply to the newly formed Ph.D. in Integrative Life Sciences program in VCU Life Sciences, which gave her the space and training necessary to think about mental health outcomes as complex biological and social problems. She continued to research these principles as a Ph.D. candidate in life sciences and as an assistant professor in the VCU Department of Family Medicine and Population Health.
Her Ph.D. adviser, Lindon Eaves, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the VCU School of Medicine, evolved into “the most instrumental individual in my personal and professional life,” Prom-Wormley says. “In particular, our weekly meetings over tea on his patio promoted a great deal of fascinating work and inspired me to think carefully as a scientist.”
In fall 2011, she received the outstanding teacher award in the VCU Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. She also was honored for excellence in postdoctoral research by the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics in 2010.
Prom-Wormley hopes to continue researching avenues for applying genetic epidemiology results within the public health framework, particularly in prevention and treatment of smoking and nicotine dependence. She has been working on community-engaged research involving residents, elected officials and organizational leaders in Richmond’s East End.
She also hopes to continue developing as a mentor to students who someday will take that walk across the stage at Commencement, just like she did.
Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., D.D.S.
1999 Doctor of Medicine
School of Medicine
It was front-page news out of NYU Langone Health in August 2015. In a 26-hour operation, the face of a 26-year-old bike mechanic who was declared brain-dead after a cycling crash was transplanted onto a 41-year-old former firefighter who was severely burned in the line of duty.
Leading the team that performed the most extensive facial transplant ever was VCU School of Medicine alumnus Eduardo D. Rodriguez, M.D., D.D.S., the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone. The painstakingly delicate surgery was a resounding success.
Becoming a leader in facial transplantation, Rodriguez says, wasn’t an anticipated career goal. “However, I’ve always had an interest in finding solutions to difficult problems, and this pursuit has led me to the position in which I currently reside,” he says.
Rodriguez and his team at NYU Langone are planning for future reconstructive procedures while expanding the face transplant program’s clinical, research and education/training efforts.
“Clinical efforts will focus on patient selection and achieving the most optimal aesthetic and functional results,” he says. “Research efforts are focused on improving immune surveillance and designing patient-specific targeted immune therapies to lessen drug toxicity without increasing risk of transplant rejection.”
Rodriguez, the son of Cuban immigrants, was born and raised in Miami. His road to VCU began with undergraduate education at the University of Florida followed by a dental degree from NYU College of Dentistry. He completed a residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine before enrolling at VCU, where he earned his medical degree in 1999.
“I was fortunate to have been part of a newly designed education curriculum there and certainly received the best medical education at VCU,” he says.
In addition to pioneering clinical achievements, Rodriguez has written more than 130 articles and 21 book chapters. He is a member of numerous national and international professional societies, and he was the Dawson Theogaraj visiting professor in plastic surgery on VCU’s MCV Campus in 2016.
Rodriguez is quick to share credit for his accomplishments and accolades.
“I am lucky to have been mentored by remarkable individuals, and along the way, I have worked hard but have enjoyed every moment,” he says. “I have learned from the most challenging moments, and that is why one must always look forward and never give up.”