Category: archive

SOP’s Desai and Venitz receive university’s highest faculty honors

School of Pharmacy professors Umesh Desai (left) and  Jürgen Venitz, friends as well as colleagues, jokingly said, “Consider this honor our going-away gift to the dean!”
School of Pharmacy professors Umesh Desai (left) and Jürgen Venitz, friends as well as colleagues, jokingly said, “Consider this honor our going-away gift to the dean!”


Two VCU School of Pharmacy faculty – Umesh Desai of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Jürgen Venitz of the Department of Pharmaceutics – will be honored during VCU’s 31st Opening Faculty Address and Convocation for having distinguished themselves and the university through their commitment to excellence, innovation and service.

Desai will receive the Distinguished Scholarship Award and Venitz will receive the Distinguished Teaching Award. The event begins at 10 a.m. Aug. 21 at the Siegel Center, 1200 W. Broad St.

Also receiving faculty awards will be John Clore, School of Medicine, Distinguished Service Award; and Albert Farrell, College of Humanities and Sciences, University Award of Excellence. A new award, the President’s Award of Excellence, will go to Joseph Marolla, Office of the Vice Provost for Instruction and Student Success; and Presidential Medallions will go to Nancy Langston, School of Nursing (retired); H.M. Lee, School of Medicine (posthumous); and James Neifeld, School of Medicine.

Ceremony participants will include VCU President Michael Rao; Beverly Warren, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; and Sheldon Retchin, senior vice president for health sciences and CEO of the VCU Health System.

Umesh Desai: Distinguished Scholarship Award

In addition to his teaching, mentoring and research in the School of Pharmacy’s Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Desai is interim director of the university’s Institute for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery. He is nationally and internationally known for his work in developing a new line of anticoagulant agents expected to alleviate adverse affects seen in current thrombotic therapy used with heart attacks and strokes.

His lab is working to design a synthetic mimetic of heparin, a commonly used, animal-derived anticoagulant agent that can cause adverse effects. That research has been key in launching a new field of medicinal chemistry — nonsaccharide glycosaminoglycan mimetics — and the molecules being developed might also prove to be of use in treating cancer, HSV, HIV and chronic wounds.

Desai recently led a team of professors in applying for an NIH program project that established VCU as a Program of Excellence in Glycosciences along with five other institutions, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins. The seven-year grant will go toward making xenotransplantation, the use of nonhuman organs in humans, a clinical reality.

Desai joined the School of Pharmacy faculty in 1998. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in organic chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India, followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Iowa and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Dr. Desai has published or has presented over one hundred scientific papers and holds several patents,” noted Richard A. Glennon, chairman of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. “He has been continually funded since joining the department and currently accounts for about 50 percent of the department’s external funding.

“Dr. Desai is a ‘triple threat’,” Glennon continued. “Excellent in teaching, research and service. … However, research is his strong suit.”

Jürgen Venitz: Distinguished Teaching Award

Venitz, who arrived at the School of Pharmacy in 1988, earned his M.D. degree and Ph.D. in physiology at Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken, Germany. In between degrees, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow in clinical pharmacology at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy.

He, too, is known nationally and internationally, especially for having coordinated and taught a dozen workshops at the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration in this country and also in Germany and Brazil.

Venitz is professor and vice chairman of the School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutics, and the bulk of his teaching duties lie there. He has the distinction of being the only faculty member in the school who has teaching assignments in all three departments: Pharmaceutics, Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science. He also has taught classes for VCU Life Sciences and the Department of Nurse Anesthesia.

Despite teaching what he describes as “notoriously disliked” courses – pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics – Venitz is known as a well-liked and respected professor on both the professional and graduate levels. That might be partly due to the fact that he began tutoring at age 15 and has not stopped teaching and mentoring since. It might also explain why he received the School of Pharmacy’s first Teaching Excellence Award in 1990 – and again in 2011.

“Dr. Venitz’s use of technology and mathematical stimulation to demonstrate core principles in the temporal basis of drug action on the human body has enabled him to raise the quality of his teaching and the comprehension of his students to levels that are far superior to most who teach in this area,” wrote Peter Byron, chairman of the School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutics.

“He displays an uncanny ability to simplify complicated topics – resulting in the removal of much of the mystery and rote learning from the applied science known as clinical pharmacology.”

If you wish to attend the 31st Opening Faculty address and Convocation, free charter buses will be available (if you have a valid VCU ID) between the MCV Campus and the Siegel Center. Buses will depart from the corner of 11th and Clay streets between 7:45 and 10 a.m., and will bring passengers back from the Siegel Center between 11:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.


Student pharmacy organizations to host regional/national meetings

The Tau chapter of Kappa Epsilon sponsors an annual
Skate for the Cure fundraising event for Susan G. Komen
for the Cure. Currently, the chapter is helping raise
funds for the School of Pharmacy’s newly established
Amy Rudenko Memorial Fund.

Three VCU School of Pharmacy student organizations will play host to regional or national meetings within the coming year. Congratulations to Kappa Epsilon, Kappa Psi and SNPhA on the opportunity to showcase the school’s student pharmacist organizations to fellow pharmacy students, faculty and alumni from across the country!

• The Tau chapter  welcomes the 49th National Convention of Kappa Epsilon July 17-20 at the Richmond Marriott. KE fraternity was founded in 1921 to unite women in the profession of pharmacy, stimulate a desire for higher scholarship and foster professional consciousness. Nationwide, there are 43 collegiate chapters and 10 alumnae chapters. Tau chapter president: Kristen LaCoe. Advisor: Emily Peron, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science.

• The Theta chapter of Kappa Psi hosts the Atlantic Province regional meeting Aug. 16-18 at the Omni Richmond Hotel. The oldest professional pharmacy fraternity, Kappa Psi was formed in 1879 to foster community involvement through professional activities. The Theta Chapter was installed in 1921. Nearly 20 chapters at colleges and schools of pharmacy in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia make up the Atlantic Province. Theta chapter regent: Travis Henschel. Advisors: Tom Karnes, Department of Pharmaceutics, and alumnus Lawrence Lopez (Pharm.D. ’08).

• The VCU chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association welcomes the Region I and II Meeting to the Omni Richmond Hotel Feb. 28-March 2, 2014. Founded in 1972 as a student affiliate of the National Pharmaceutical Association, SNPhA is open to students concerned about pharmacy issues, professional development and the lack of minority representation in pharmacy and other health-related professions. Regions I and II comprise chapters at more than 40 colleges and schools of pharmacy. VCU chapter president: Nellie Jafari. Advisor: Leticia Moczygemba, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science.

Good food and findings: Summer Research Pizza Lunches

The School of Pharmacy’s 2013 Summer Research Pizza Lunch series kicks off at noon July 9 in Smith, Room 446, with … what else but a pizza social? (If it’s pizza, this must be the SOP!)

Students selected for Summer Research Fellowships this year – along with their presentation dates and locations and the names of their advisors – are as follows. Kudos and good luck to this summer’s research group.

Each presentation takes place between noon and 1 p.m.

• July 23: Kathryn Schwienteck, P3 (Matthew Banks, Pharmacology and Toxicology) and Ankit Zalavadia, P2 (Matt Halquist, Pharmaceutics), Smith Building, Room 446
• July 30: Zaneera Hassan, P2 (Phil Gerk, Pharmaceutics) and Kimberly Hayashi, P2 (Masahiro Sakagami, Pharmaceutics), McGuire Hall, Room 209
• Aug. 6: Jessica Snead, P3 (Mike Hindle, Pharmaceutics) and Jenny Phung, P2 (MaryPeace McRae, Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science), Smith Building, Room 446

Summer Research Fellowship recipients receive a two-month stipend for their work, which is funded by the dean’s office.

Class of 2013 postgraduate destinations run the gamut

Cathy Arnatt (right), with quality improvement pharmacy
manager and preceptor Lt. Cdr. Sara Doran Atchison
says her advanced pharmacy practice rotation in Anchorage
opened her eyes to new opportunities. She is returning to the
Alaska Native Medical Center/Southcentral Foundation
for a PGY1 residency in ambulatory care.

The School of Pharmacy’s Pharm.D. class of 2013 is off and running! About 30 percent are pursuing postgraduate education via residencies or fellowships. About 70 percent have accepted positions in pharmacy practice ranging from community to hospital settings.

Tom Reinders, associate dean for admissions and student services, says nearly 900 pharmacy residency programs across the country train pharmacists in professional practice and management activities. Residencies provide experience in integrating pharmacy services with the needs of individual practice settings and can lead to advanced practice skills and knowledge. A residency usually lasts one year, although many residents continue into a second year of more specialized training.

According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, a total of 2,866 PGY1 and PGY2 applicants were matched out of 4,480 applications this year. For more on the ASHP Resident Matching Program, click here.

Congratulations to the following VCU School of Pharmacy graduates who have been accepted into postgraduate programs:

David Aguero, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles
Joseph Akridge, VCU Health System, Richmond
David Allen, Moses Cone Hospital, Greensboro, N.C.
Catherine Arnatt, Alaska Native Medical Center, Anchorage
Alissa Basehoar, Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
Jeffrey Beall, McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Richmond
James Behler, Cleveland Clinic at Marymount Hospital, Garfield Heights, Ohio
Merid Belayneh, Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System, Baltimore
April Brady, Inova Fairfax Hospital, Falls Church
Nathaniel Bruce, Martha Jefferson Hospital, Charlottesville
Samantha Byrum, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Dallas, Texas
William Cang, UC San Diego Medical Center, San Diego, Calif.
Andrew Carmichael, VCU Health System, Richmond
Lauren Cherry, VCU Health System, Richmond
Stephanie Culbertson, Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond
Michael Dail, VCU School of Pharmacy – CrossOver Clinic, Richmond
Christine Darby, Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System, Baltimore
Anna Donnis, Riverside Regional Medical Center, Newport News
Catherine Floroff, Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center, Charleston, S.C.
Bradley Heidenthal, Riverside Regional Medical Center, Newport News
Bethany Helton, Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond
Ashley Higbea, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh
Amanda Kroll, VCU Health System, Richmond
Lauren Lakdawala, Johns Hopkins Home Care Group, Baltimore
Henry Landsheft, Sentara Healthcare System, Norfolk
Aisha Masood, Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Martinsburg, W.Va.
Bradford McDaniel, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Roanoke
Derek Mires,
St. Johns University and Daiichi Sankyho, New York
Rozine Mosler, Henrico Doctors Hospital, Richmond
Justin Park, Amerigroup Corp., Norfolk
Rose Salzberg, Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond
Rachel Seidman, University of North Carolina Hospitals and Clinics, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Justin Siegfried, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York
Seth Strawbridge, Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Conn.
Tiffany VanDervort,
Boston Medical Center, Boston
Lauren Wyatt, Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital, Columbia, S.C.

End-of-school-year kudos: 2013 Pharm.D. and graduate student honorees

Cat Floroff

The School of Pharmacy honored 2013 graduating Pharm.D. students during its annual Senior Banquet May 10 at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa at Short Pump. Following a reception and dinner, awards were presented by Dean Victor Yanchick and Tom Reinders, associate dean for admissions and student services, with the assistance of Ron Ballentine, assistant director of admissions and student services.

The following class of ’13 members of academic honor societies were recognized:
• Phi Kappa Phi: David Allen and Jeannie Kim.
• Rho Chi: Ryan Albert, David Allen, Batoul Almomani, Alissa Basehoar, Jeffrey Beall, Merid Belayneh, James Carmichael, William Cang, Lauren Cherry, Deanna Flora, Cat Floroff, Ashley Goodrich, Timothy Inocencio, Julie Kaplan, Jeannie Kim, Andrew Maggard, Aisha Masood, Ruta Patel, Rose Salzberg, Justin Sigfried, Seth Strawbridge, Tiffany VanDervort, Yu-Sheen Wu, Lauren Wyatt and Tosha Wyatt.
• Phi Lambda Sigma: David Allen, Cathy Arnatt, Alissa Basehoar, Merid Belayneh, William Coleman, Christine Darby, Cat Floroff, Ashley Higbea, Deborah Jackson, Julie Kaplan, Lauren Lakdawala, Aisha Masood, Brad McDaniel, Derek Mires, Rose Salzberg, Lesley Smith, Tiffany VanDervort and Amanda Walls.

Faculty/staff awards went to:
• Preceptor of the Year: Tyler Martinson, clinical specialist in internal medicine, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
• Outstanding Employee Recognition Award: Cosmin Boanca, web developer with Phartech.
• Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching: Diana Mack, assistant professor, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science.

Student awards were as follows:
• Patient Care Award: James Carmichael
• Award of Excellence in Clinical Communication: Aisha Masood
• Pharmacy Communications Award: Kimberly Ann Pham
• Clinical Research Award: William Cang
• Academic Excellence Award: Yu-Sheen Wu
• Excellence in Pharmacy Award: David Allen
• Emswiller Award for Leadership Achievement: William Coleman
• Community Practice Achievement Award: Lauren Lakdawala
• Outstanding Leadership Award: Rose Salzberg
• Technology Excellence Award and Phi Lambda Sigma Student Leadership Award: Merid Belayneh
• Distinguished Service Award: Deborah Jackson
• Outstanding Student Award: Derek Mires
• Award of Excellence in Nonprescription Medication Studies and VASP Senior Recognition Award: Ashley Higbea
• MCV Alumni Association Award: Cathy Arnatt
• Excellence in Advocacy and Health Policy Award and Dean’s Award: Cat Floroff
• Social Justice Award: Christine Darby
• Professionalism Award: Rachel Seidman

To see photos from the 2013 Senior Banquet, click here.

Morse Faria, Tom Karnes and Poonam Delvadia

On May 31, the school’s 12th Annual Graduate Awards Luncheon took place at Omni Richmond Hotel. This year’s guest speaker was Carolyn “Cindy” Watts, professor and chairwoman of the VCU School of Allied Health Professions’ Department of Health Administration. Her topic was “Toward a Turbulent Future: The Opportunities and Challenges of Health Care Reform.”

Graduate awards were presented by Dean Victor Yanchick:
• J. Doyle Smith Award: Christopher Arnatt. Advisor: Yan Zhang.
• John Wood Award and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare R&D Leading for Innovation Award: Poonam Delvadia. Advisor: Tom Karnes.
• V.A. Yanchick Award: Osama Shoair. Advisor: Patty Slattum.
• Charles T. Rector and Thomas W. Rorrer Jr. Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Study: May Abdel Aziz. Advisor: Umesh Desai.
• Lowenthal Award: Kavita Iyer. Advisor: Malgorzata Dukat.
• Altria Tobacco Products Regulatory Sciences Fellowships: Morse Faria (advisor: Tom Karnes) and Christine Farthing (advisor: Doug Sweet).

The following graduate student members of academic honor societies were recognized:
• Alpha Phi Chapter of Alpha Epsilon Lambda: Mostafa Ahmed, Antoinette Coe, Morse Faria, Yaena Min and Akul Mehta.
• Phi Kappa Phi: Poonam Delvadia, Tanvi Deshpandi, Batul Electricwala, Timothy Inocencio, Sudha Korwar, Bassem Mohammed, Xiaolei Pan and Li Wang.
• Phi Kappa Phi Scholarships: Poonam Delvadia, Bassem Mohammed and Farhana Sakloth.

To see photos from the 2013 Graduate Awards Luncheon, click here

Brophy named recipient of first Nancy and Ronald McFarlane Professorship

From left: Don and Gretchen Brophy, Nancy and Ron McFarlane.

Donald F. Brophy has been named the first Nancy and Ronald McFarlane Professor of Pharmacy at VCU School of Pharmacy. Brophy currently serves as chairman of the school’s Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science and is a professor of pharmacy and medicine. He holds a master’s degree in biostatistics and clinical research from VCU and a doctor of pharmacy degree from North Dakota State University.

Nancy and Ron McFarlane established the professorship in 2008 in recognition of the foundational education they received at the School of Pharmacy. The McFarlanes, both of whom graduated in 1980, established their business, MedProRx Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., in 2002. In addition, Nancy McFarlane currently serves as mayor of Raleigh.

The professorship was approved by the university’s board of visitors in February, and Brophy was officially selected as the first recipient. In May, Brophy met with the McFarlanes to express his gratitude and honor in holding the professorship in their names. The connection between Brophy’s research and the McFarlanes’ business demonstrates great synergy.

The McFarlanes’ specialty infusion pharmacy, MedProRx, focuses on treatment for bleeding, autoimmune neuromuscular and rheumatologic disorders and other chronic conditions. Brophy’s primary research, which he has presented nationally and internationally, is in the areas of thrombosis, hemostasis and blood coagulation disorders in special populations. He directs the School of Pharmacy-based VCU Coagulation Advancement Laboratory, which conducts hemostasis and thrombosis studies with collaborators ranging from the pharmaceutical industry to the U.S. Army.

“We’re excited and happy to help,” said Ron McFarlane. “I appreciate that the school gave me a chance at a career in pharmacy. The dean of admissions at that time, Eugene White, probably took a calculated risk by admitting me in the first place. Nancy and I both appreciate the opportunities the School of Pharmacy afforded us.”

Brophy, he said, is well-respected in the school. “We’re so proud and were so pleased to meet him and his wife, Gretchen [Brophy, who also is on faculty at the school]. Don wrote us a nice note even before we met.”

Professors at the School of Pharmacy are accomplishing much, said McFarlane, in the realm of research as well as the education of future pharmacists. The two are not mutually exclusive, he noted. “It’s all about what research does in the community, how it helps shape the way health care is delivered in the community.”

Using the bench-to-bedside analogy, McFarlane said the bottom line is community practice. “If people ask why I care [about research], I would say that ultimately it is going to help my grandma better manage her blood pressure.”

In addition to the professorship held by Brophy, the McFarlanes previously endowed two scholarships for pharmacy students.

McFarlane said he and his wife look forward to funding more professorships. They also hope to encourage former classmates to consider the school in their planned giving. “Everyone can make an impact by giving back,” he said.

Outright gifts to the annual fund support current needs such as student scholarships, while planned gifts such as bequests or insurance policies can secure the future of the school.

“As state funding for higher education continues to decline, we as alumni can ensure that today’s pharmacy students are receiving the same high quality experience that we did as students,” said McFarlane.

Professorships and chairmanships can honor or memorialize faculty, family or friends, noted Dean Victor Yanchick. Among the areas that might be of interest to potential supporters, he said, are community pharmacy practice, geriatrics, infectious disease, cancer, pediatrics and pharmacogenetics.

Given the widening scope of pharmacy practice, the school now has teaching and research faculty involved in each of these areas, many of whom have been hired during Brophy’s four-year tenure as department chairman.

Brophy, who originally joined the faculty in 1996, speaks highly of the McFarlanes, both professionally and personally. “They have done extraordinarily well,” he said, “and they are very nice and awfully warm.

“I am very much honored by the professorship.”

If you would like to include the School of Pharmacy in your planned giving, please contact Brian Thomas at the MCV Foundation: (804) 828-0067 or If you would like to make a donation now, contact Ellen Leverich Carfagno at the School of Pharmacy: (804) 828-3017 or

Amy Whitaker Rudenko Memorial Fund established

A memorial fund has been established in honor and memory of VCU School of Pharmacy associate professor Amy Whitaker Rudenko. The school will use the fund to make awards to selected Pharm.D. students who have demonstrated leadership qualities. “It was created to help keep Dr. Rudenko’s name and spirit alive into perpetuity,” said Dean Victor Yanchick.

Hundreds of family members, friends, students, former classmates, faculty and staff from the school as well as from other organizations with which Rudenko had worked or volunteered – Kmart, CVS, the Center for High Blood Pressure and CrossOver Health Care Ministry, to name a few – gathered June 1 to pay tribute at Bliley’s Funeral Home Central in Richmond. In addition, former VCU community pharmacy practice residents from across the country came to pay their respects. The service was conducted by the Very Rev. Nicholas Bacalis of Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral. He was assisted by Deacon Nicholas Zachary, cousin of Amy Rudenko’s husband, Mike. Several longtime friends and colleagues shared their fond remembrances.

If you wish to make a contribution online, please click here. Or send gifts to:

Amy Whitaker Rudenko Memorial Fund
VCU School of Pharmacy
P.O. Box 980581
Richmond, VA 23298-0581

Questions may be addressed to

In memoriam: Amy Whitaker Rudenko

To see an album of recent photos, please click here.

Positive. Passionate. Happy. Enthusiastic. Ask anyone who knew her to describe Amy Whitaker Rudenko, and these will be among the first words you hear.

The VCU School of Pharmacy community – faculty, staff, students, residents, preceptors and alumni alike — were shocked and saddened to lose one of the school’s brightest lights when associate professor Amy Rudenko, 38, died May 25. She had been diagnosed with cancer just the week before.

In a May 22 note to faculty, Rudenko’s department head, Don Brophy, wrote, “Amy began chemotherapy today and will be undergoing a weekly regimen for some time. While this news would leave most people paralyzed with fear, Amy has decided to bring the fight to the disease and is in high spirits and is staying positive.”

Four days later, he wrote, “It is with a heavy heart that I notify you that Dr. Amy Rudenko passed away yesterday. Like the rest of you, I was shocked to hear of her passing. Words cannot describe the sadness in my heart. … Please keep Amy, [her husband] Mike and their family in your thoughts and prayers.”

The former Amy Whitaker had a heart for pharmacy early on. Following graduation from Godwin High School in Richmond, she went on to become a founding member and the first president of the pre-pharmacy club at James Madison University. In 1994, she returned to the Richmond area to begin her studies as a first-year student in the School of Pharmacy’s Pharm.D. program.

“She was a conscientious student, and the faculty respected and liked her due to her genuine interest in every facet of the pharmacy curriculum and her positive personality traits,” recalled Tom Reinders, associate dean for admissions and student services. “She was a great student, a great professor and, above all, a great pharmacist. Most remarkable was her unwavering commitment to community pharmacy practice.”

After earning her doctor of pharmacy degree in 1998, she was accepted into the community pharmacy practice residency program. Professor Jean-Venable “Kelly” Goode, one of the residency program’s preceptors, believes the residency is what piqued her interest in academic pharmacy practice.

“She went to work at University of North Carolina,” Goode said, “but then we had an opening [in 2001] that allowed her the opportunity to come home again. She was able to share her passion by mentoring other residents. She was a huge team player and an excellent mentor.”

Rudenko’s positive attitude made her a joy to be around and to work with, added Goode.

As news of her death became known, hundreds of students, alumni, former classmates and residents mourned their loss via Facebook: “I remember her as a student, and she went on to do great things for our profession.” “She was an amazing person with such excitement for life.” “She was such a good professor. Always happy and cheerful.” “Such a wonderful person who touched the lives of so many.” “She was awesome.”

Ryan Templeton, a third-year pharmacy student, is president of the Virginia Academy of Student Pharmacists, which Rudenko had served for several years as faculty advisor. “Dr. Rudenko was passionate about helping students in VASP develop into professionals,” he said. “She was consistently reminding us that professionalism required a lot of a person, and she led by example every day. No matter what her schedule, she would take time to work with students and talk with them, offering advice when it was greatly needed.

“She reminded students that being a leader meant that we needed to reciprocate with the same qualities that she demonstrated for us: dedication, maturity and responsibility.”

Fourth-year student and former VASP president Keshia Ward viewed Rudenko not only as a mentor but as someone who provided motherly guidance. “I have never met a more independent, passionate and caring woman,” said Ward. “ A wonder woman in her own way, she could answer a phone call from her husband regarding dinner, type an email, talk to a student and work on grading papers at the same time. She truly had a love of teaching, was a major advocate for our profession and loved her family more than words can express.”

Just over a month ago, Rudenko was honored during Reunion Weekend with the school’s 2013 Distinguished Pharmacy Alumnus Award. A long list of accomplishments included her work as a clinical assistant professor at UNC-Chapel Hill; serving as a relief pharmacist at CVS; becoming a Board Certified Ambulatory Care Pharmacist; assisting several Kmart pharmacies in developing patient care activities in the areas of diabetes care, health screenings and immunization services; and receiving the Virginia Pharmacists Association’s Pharmacists Mutual Distinguished Young Pharmacist Award in 2004.

In nominating her for the Distinguished Pharmacy Alumnus Award, Dean Victor Yanchick called Rudenko a force of positive energy for the profession of pharmacy. He congratulated her for having made an impact on a generation of pharmacists as a teacher, practitioner and leader.

During her tenure at the school, he said, Rudenko had gained a reputation as an expert on medication therapy management in big-box settings. “Her research has impacted the effective use of OTCs in community pharmacy settings and has made significant strides in the documentation of medication therapy management outcomes.”

Rudenko, who had received the School of Pharmacy’s Alumnus Service Award in 2008, began working with the MCV Alumni Association soon after graduating. She was a trustee-at-large and past vice president of the alumni association’s Pharmacy Division. Barbara Payton, former MCVAA executive director, said, “I feel so honored to have worked so closely with Amy. … She was the type of volunteer who was always present at all of our activities.

“Whether it was serving up eggs to family members during our commencement breakfasts or ordering lapel pins for graduating classes, Amy was not only the quintessential volunteer, she was also an amazingly positive role model for our pharmacy students.”

Writing to inform the board of trustees of Rudenko’s passing, MCVAA President Paula Saxby and Gordon McDougall, associate vice president for university alumni relations, said, “Amy was truly one of the most positive and committed volunteer leaders to ever serve the MCV Alumni Association board of trustees. Her kind and enthusiastic voice will be missed but never forgotten.”

Despite a jam-packed calendar and a willingness to volunteer whenever asked, Rudenko enjoyed a full life at home. She and Mykola “Mike” Rudenko Jr., who were married in 2009, would have celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary on June 12. Their first daughter, 2-year-old Olivia, was a regular and welcome addition at pharmacy functions, and 3-month-old Abigail was well on her way to catching up with big sister. Abigail was at the MCV Alumni House in April — in her dad’s arms — as her mom stood up, to much applause, to accept the Distinguished Pharmacy Alumnus Award.

Brophy, Rudenko’s department chairman, noted that losing a life force like Amy Rudenko should inspire everyone to reflect on what’s important and how we all need to live our lives to the fullest. “Amy was inspirational to me in that she never appeared to have a bad day,” he said. “She had such grace.

“She will be sorely missed by her family, friends, students and faculty colleagues.”

Amy Whitaker Rudenko is survived by her husband, Mike Rudenko Jr., her children, Olivia Lynn and Abigail Iryna; her parents, Barry and Linda Whitaker of Manakin-Sabot, Va.; her brother Barry K. Whitaker, and his wife Lisa of Chesterfield, Va.; her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Wilson of Roanoke, Va.; her mother-in-law, Irene P. Rudenko; her sister-in-law, Lisa Holly; nieces Jane and Jordan; and nephew Cole. Visitation for family and friends will take place 4-6 p.m. May 31 at Bliley’s Funeral Home Central, 3801 Augusta Ave. in Richmond. A memorial service will begin at 2 p.m. June 1 at Bliley’s.

Paying tribute: Hooding and Diploma Ceremony ’13

To see snapshots from the School of Pharmacy’s 2013 Hooding and Diploma Ceremony, click here.

The watercolor Dean Victor Yanchick painted, as a gift to the
school, featured pharmacy-related items such as a mortar and
pestle, medicine bottles and the Smith Building.

As VCU School of Pharmacy’s May 10 Hooding and Diploma Ceremony drew to a close, hundreds of students and their families and friends – along with faculty, staff and alumni — gave Dean Victor Yanchick a standing ovation. Noting his 45 years in academic pharmacy, the last 17 of which he has spent at VCU, the dean said, “You are the last class I will have the honor of graduating.”

Yanchick’s previously announced retirement, effective Jan. 1, 2014, became a sort of graduation theme for the class of ’13. As part of its gift to the school, the class asked him to paint a watercolor that will hang in a first-floor conference room in the Robert J. Blackwell Smith Jr. Building. The class will make a donation to pharmacy student scholarships and, in addition, it gave the school a Virginia flag and a United States flag for use in the Smith Building lobby.

The class of ’13 also requested that Yanchick administer the Pharmacist’s Oath at ceremony’s end.

In his speech to the more than 150 Pharm.D., M.S. and Ph.D. graduates at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, Virginia’s 98th District Del. Keith Hodges (B.S. ’89) thanked Yanchick for his visionary leadership and years of service. “Of course, we know you will never really retire,” he added with a smile.

Hodges discussed the importance of initiative, passion and the willingness to take risks in life for graduates just beginning their careers or planning to further their educations. “Relish this time in your life,” he said. “Take advantage of every day. Don’t settle.”

Yanchick told students that earning their degree might be the greatest sense of accomplishment they will feel … until they see their children or grandchildren do the same thing. At a time when the field of pharmacy is quickly evolving and offers a multitude of opportunities, he said, this generation has the power to change the profession.

But, he cautioned, remember the importance of time spent with family, friends and loved ones.

The annual VCU Commencement took place May 11 at Richmond Coliseum. Following is a copy of Yanchick’s final Hooding and Diploma Ceremony address as dean of the school:

Dean Victor Yanchick: 2013 Hooding and Diploma Ceremony

It is with a great deal of pleasure that I extend to each of you my sincere congratulations on this most important occasion. I join with the entire faculty and staff of the School of Pharmacy and with the wider university community in celebrating your graduation.

To our graduate students: We wish you every success in your career as researchers, scientists and educators. We congratulate you on successfully completing the rigors of a very intense program of graduate study.

And to our doctor of pharmacy class of 2013 graduates: This is the day you had in your sights for a long time, and now it is finally here! Today you sit here, ready and proud that you got the job done. Your sense of pride and accomplishment is as high as it may ever get – with one exception. And that’s the commencement that involves your own child or grandchild. When you sit and watch your child or grandchild graduate, you will know what pride and happiness is really all about. Parents and grandparents, am I right?

Your parents and all of your loved ones know – they worked and prayed – they worried – and they made many sacrifices for you so that you may enjoy this moment.

Today you celebrate the achievement of a significant milestone in the career odyssey you began when you first decided to pursue pharmacy as your chosen profession. I remember telling you at your White Coat Ceremony that these four years will go by quickly, and I am sure today you wonder where all the time has gone. With your pharmacy degree, you have made a wise choice to secure a sound future in a rapidly changing health care environment.

And I know that many of you are saying to yourselves right now that the hardest part is over, and the easy part is about to begin. But I am here to say if that’s the way you feel, you are in for a big surprise. The truth is now you’ve finished the easy part; the hard part is about to begin. And I say this for reasons that you may not fully understand today and for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with your professional career.

I am sure that most of you are thinking to yourselves that your real happiness is about to begin. But you will soon get caught up in the real world where there will be many obstacles in your way, and where things may not always go the way you wanted them to go, and you are not as happy as you thought you would be – and you can’t understand why – and you may blame it on the wrong reason.

So permit me to use the following story – a story that some of you may have heard before – but it is worth repeating and puts our lives in perspective. It’s a story that will give you guidance to allow you achieve long-term happiness. The story goes like this:

A professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large and empty glass jar and proceeded to fill it full of golf balls. He then asked the class if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar slightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They again agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous yes.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty spaces between the sand. The students shook their heads and smiled.

“Now,” the professor said, “I want you to recognize that this glass jar represents YOUR LIFE. The golf balls are the really important things in your life – they are your family, your children, your health, your friends, your faith and, yes, even your hobbies – and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

“The pebbles are the other things that do matter, like your house, your car, your bank account, your IRA and all of your worldly possessions. But the sand is everything else – the small, insignificant stuff in your life.”

He continued. “Now what would I have if I had poured the sand into the jar first? Obviously there would be no room for the pebbles, much less the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all of your time and energy in filling your life with the small insignificant stuff, you will never have room for the things that are really important to you – the things that are critical for long-term happiness in your life.”

So pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play regularly with your children, spend quality time with your spouse or your soul mate, your best friends and your parents and family. Visit your parents and grandparents regularly because they really want to see you, and you will really miss them when they are gone.

Always keep close to you your dear ones – tell them how much they mean to you, and take care of them. Hug your dad, kiss your mom and tell your brothers and sisters how much they mean to you.

Take time to say I am sorry, forgive me, please, thank you¬ – and all the nice words you know. Take a friend out to dinner. Take time to get regular medical check-ups. Listen to your body. Exercise regularly. Take up a new sport – like racquetball! Eat sensibly, don’t smoke or take any prescription drug that is not prescribed for you. Find a hobby. Learn a new language. Take painting lessons!

If you haven’t already done so, find someone in your life who loves you unconditionally and who you love unconditionally in return. And remember, it is a partnership. I know for a fact that I would not be standing here today as your dean if I did not have the loving support, through the years, from my wife.

Take care of your golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities because the rest is just sand. Value things not for what they are worth but for what they represent to you.

You see, there will always be time to watch “Dancing With the Stars” or to wash your car.

One of the students raised her hand and asked the professor what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked,” he said. “It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there is always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a good friend.”

This is what I call establishing a work-life balance. Within this work-life balance, you must also learn to have a sense of humor, to laugh at yourself and to have fun.

These are such important skills. So never lose them.

And remember, time waits for no one. So don’t wait until you have paid off your student loans, finished a residency, received a promotion, lost 10 pounds, get married, have kids, get divorced, until your home or new car is paid off. Until next year, until you’ve had a drink, until you’ve sobered up, until after you retire or until you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. You must decide that there is no better time to be happy and enjoy life than RIGHT NOW. And remember. Happiness is a JOURNEY … NOT a destination.

You see, it took me a while to learn this. But I finally learned that if you try to pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on the golf balls in your life – your family, your friends, your health and your faith – happiness will find YOU.

Think about the people who gave so you could be here. The people in your life – your parents and loved ones – who provided you with time, the love, the support and, yes, the money.

Never forget the faculty and staff who supported you in the School of Pharmacy – and your fellow students and friends. The spirit of caring for each of you fills this building. Please know that we all care very deeply for you, and we are very proud of you.

In closing, graduation is a time to reflect. As a parent who has been on both sides of a few graduations, I can tell you, regardless of what you ultimately achieve, the most important times are the ones like today, the ones that you will share with your family and friends and loved ones.

Graduation is not an ending – it is your commencement – it is your beginning. You came to the School of Pharmacy four years ago and have undergone a wonderful transformation from very naive student pharmacists into competent health care providers who have the power to change the profession. Yes, I said change the profession!!

Don’t listen to those who tell you that you cannot change the profession.

Always keep this in mind. There are only two types of people who will tell you that you cannot change the profession: those who are unwilling to change and, more importantly, those who are afraid you will succeed!

Your future will be nothing like you imagine. What will seem natural in hindsight may seem unlikely or even impossible to you now. So think off the map and go into unknown and unchartered territories in your practice. That is what leaders do, and it is how you can change the profession.

I wish all of you the very best as you begin to build your future for yourselves, for your family and for the profession of pharmacy. I hope you will carry with you a feeling of pride and accomplishment as you leave us. We are honored that you chose to build your professional foundation with us, and we hope that you will allow us to continue to play a significant role in your professional growth. We all take pride in you, and we are indeed very fortunate that we had the good privilege to have touched your life in a very special way.

As you leave this school, I know that only a few of you will be called upon in life to answer great and epic calls to duty. But all of you will be called upon in life …
To live it decently
To live it selflessly
To care for others
To take up for good causes, whether great or small
To take up against bad causes, whether great or small
To treat others as you would be treated and
To take advantage of our blessings – our families, friends and colleagues – to do the most good you can – for the most people – and for the rest of your lives.

I bid you farewell and wish you all the best in the years ahead. You are the last class that I have the honor of graduating, so I will always remember you in a special way. And thank you for making my life more fulfilling and rewarding.

I will be retiring on January 1 after 17 years of having the privilege of serving as your dean and after 45 years of being lucky enough to have chosen academic pharmacy as my career – I believe it is 235 days from now – but who’s counting? You have given me so much, and so much I have learned from all of you. Now, as I end my words with you, permit me to leave my final challenge to you, which I give to each graduating class:

Work like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ve never been hurt and
Dance like no one is watching you.

Thank you, good luck and welcome to the profession of pharmacy.

[At this point, the class of 2013 and friends, family and faculty gave the dean a standing ovation.]

I know none of you were able to reach this goal by yourself. Many people have contributed to your success and share in your accomplishments, and many of them are here with you this afternoon. Be sure to thank them personally. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize those here today who helped make this day a reality:

Parents – please stand.
Grandparents? Great-grandparents?
Brothers and sisters?
Aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews?
Friends and neighbors?

Thanks to our convocation speaker, Delegate Keith Hodges, the Graduation Committee and to Associate Dean Reinders and his staff, and to my administrative assistant, Suzanne Fairman, and to Scott Crenshaw, who have made this convocation a success.

I will see all of you this evening at our Senior Awards Banquet and then tomorrow morning at the VCU Commencement, where I will call upon your class to stand as the president of the university confers on you the degree of doctor of pharmacy.

[The audience stood again as the class of 2013 and School of Pharmacy faculty recessed to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.”]

Martinson heads top 10 list of pharmacy preceptors

Preceptor of the Year Tyler Martinson and   his wife Stacy attended the VCU School of  Pharmacy's annual Senior Banquet.
Preceptor of the Year Tyler Martinson and his wife Stacy attended the VCU School of Pharmacy’s annual Senior Banquet.


Tyler Martinson of Norfolk has been named VCU School of Pharmacy’s 2013 Preceptor of the Year. Martinson, a clinical specialist in internal medicine at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, was recognized during the school’s Senior Banquet on May 10 at the Hilton Richmond Hotel and Spa at Short Pump.

Preceptor of the Year is the school’s highest honor for preceptors, a word defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “teacher, tutor.”

Teaching is the basis of precepting, but the best preceptors go above and beyond. So the School of Pharmacy gives students, fellow preceptors, faculty, administrators and residents the annual opportunity to nominate exemplary preceptors who demonstrate initiative, commitment and excellence as teachers, role models and mentors. The winner is selected by a committee of students, faculty and past award recipients.

“With 30 percent of the curriculum requiring experiential learning activities in authentic pharmacy settings, the success of each student depends on pharmacists who can serve as role models and faculty in the field,” said School of Pharmacy Dean Victor Yanchick. “They guide students in the application of knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to patient care in pharmacy.

“Clearly, VCU’s preceptors are essential to the mission of the school. We are sincerely grateful for their generous contributions of time, expertise, effort and inspiration in developing our future pharmacists.”

Accepting the Preceptor of the Year award, Martinson encouraged graduating students to consider being preceptors themselves. There’s nothing more rewarding, he said, than to help educate one’s future peers, knowing you’ve done a good job and that one day those whom you assisted will be standing next to you.

His own award-winning work as a preceptor inspired one nominator to write: “Above all, Dr. Martinson’s enthusiasm for his work is infectious; while he is obviously capable of helping students expand their clinical knowledge to become better pharmacists, he also motivates student to want to become even better pharmacists through his leadership by example.”

Preceptor of the Year nomination packets must include an essay by the nominee. In his essay, Martinson wrote that his greatest professional satisfaction is in seeing a student grow.

“I know I would not be where I am today if I did not have other pharmacists that were willing to teach me. There is so much information to learn during the first three years of pharmacy school, and I feel it is my job to help the student dig back in their mind and learn how to apply the essential information clinically.

“I usually start my orientation off with the promise that the rotation will be very demanding, but that in the end, they will be shocked with how much they have actually learned. I take pride in training the students and consider each one of them a potential peer within my hospital system. So I consider precepting to be one of the most important roles I play in the hospital and I think of it like an investment in the future of pharmacy.”

In addition to Preceptor of the Year, Outstanding Preceptor Awards are presented to recognize one preceptor in each of the nine Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotation blocks. At the end of each rotation, fourth-year students are asked to nominate individuals who have demonstrated excellence in precepting.

A committee of students appointed by the dean selects the candidates. The 2012-13 Outstanding Preceptors are as follows, each including a quote from one of his or her nominators:

Jen Blake, Pharm.D. (University of Utah ’07), BCPS
Clinical pharmacy specialist, Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, Fairfax
Acute Care II – Medical/Surgical ICU rotations
“Dr. Blake allowed me to round with her daily and question interventions made. She went out of her way to schedule appointments for me to meet with nurses, respiratory therapists and dietitians to explain their role within in the team. I have learned so much and have grown professionally due to her guidance.”

Michelle Bundy, Pharm.D. (Hampton University ’03), BCPS
Clinical pharmacy specialist, Hampton VA Medical Center, Hampton
Ambulatory Care and Acute Care I/General Medicine rotations
“Dr. Bundy is a wonderful person and a good pharmacist who cares about the care her patients receive. A truly modern pharmacist who desires to teach young professionals, to innovate practice and document the cost savings she adds to the system, advocate for the profession and as a mentor, I will miss my experience with Dr. Bundy as my preceptor but I am honored that I will soon be her peer.”

Dave L. Dixon, Pharm.D. (Campbell University ’06), BCPS, CDE
Assistant professor, VCU School of Pharmacy, Richmond
Ambulatory Care APPEs
“Dr. Dixon stimulated active independent learning very effectively. I was encouraged to read and research questions pertaining to medications and disease states on my own, but he always made sure we addressed the subject to ensure that I had a thorough understanding of the concept. … Feedback was always constructive and geared towards bettering me not only as a student, but also as a future pharmacist.”

Krista Donohoe, Pharm.D. (VCU ’10), BCPS, CGP
Assistant professor, VCU School of Pharmacy, Richmond ( 2010 SOP alumna)
Teaching Elective rotations
“Dr. Donohoe provided a foundation of organization and support which allowed me to grow and learn and be creative. The constructive feedback that Dr. Donohoe provided allowed me to stay motivated in the face of the unforeseen challenges of the project and continue to a successful end product.”

Amanda Dubil
, Pharm.D. (University of North Carolina ’10)
Clinical pharmacist/PGY2; VCU Health System, Richmond
Acute Care I/General Medicine APPEs
“Amanda was extremely knowledgeable, hardworking and motivating. She required a lot of work, but the payoff was great. After taking this rotation, I feel I have truly learned a substantial amount of information, as well as skill sets to further me in my career as a pharmacist.”

Rusty Maney, B.S. (VCU ’87)
Pharmacy supervisor, Walgreens District Office, Richmond (1987 SOP alumnus)
Community Pharmacy Management APPEs
“I was inspired, I couldn’t be more passionate and I was empowered to believe that I could make a difference in my community through my profession … working at the highest level, becoming physician extenders through collaborative practice and our strength as accessible healthcare entities.”

Amanda Matassa, Pharm.D. (VCU ’09)
Outpatient clinical pharmacist, Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy, Richmond (2009 SOP alumna)
Advanced Community Pharmacy rotations
“Dr. Matassa was always accessible to me and very organized. She provided a very detailed orientation packet complete with maps and logistic information, as well as a questionnaire asking what I would like to get out of the rotation. … When I expressed an interest in anticoagulation, she had me sitting in on meetings for an anticoagulation clinic and included me in conference calls.”

Amber Ormsby Powell, Pharm.D. (VCU ’07)
Critical care clinical specialist, HCA CJW Medical Center-Chippenham,Richmond (2007 SOP alumna)
Acute Care II/Critical Care rotations
“Dr. Powell always made time for me even though she was having a busy day and would have to stay later at work. Throughout the rotation, she would emphasize being a lifelong learner in pharmacy and always learn something new each day. The nurses and doctors strongly rely on her for all medication-related questions and problems, which was inspiring to observe.”

Christina Whitehill, Pharm.D. (VCU ’08)
NICU/pediatric clinical pharmacist, HCA Henrico Doctors’ Hospital-Forest, Richmond
Acute Care II/Neonatal ICU rotations
“Christina is a true professional and handles stressful, demanding situations with grace. Even when sick, tired or frustrated, she treated her co-workers with respect and her patients with compassion. … She is so knowledgeable and has a great way of conveying information to students.”

Congratulating all the winners and nominees, Phylliss Moret, assistant dean for experiential education, said more than 100 nominations were submitted for this year’s preceptor awards. The School of Pharmacy, she noted, works with about 1,000 preceptors in Virginia and out of state.

Powered by VCU blogs