Announcing the VCU Office of Health Equity
I am pleased to announce the establishment of the VCU Office of Health Equity. This new office is housed in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and will support and build upon the accomplishments, relationships and knowledge gained from the VCU Health Equity Initiative to support the university and health system’s health equity strategic goals.
Our mission to preserve and restore health for all people of Virginia and beyond means engaging with patients to address their overall health — not just their condition, illness or injury. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition is also a mindset, and adopting it means addressing barriers, such as economic and social hardships, and removing obstacles that prevent our patients and community members from living the healthiest lives possible.
In 2016, VCU and VCU Health joined with community members to develop the Health Equity Initiative to help improve health for populations and communities by integrating the principles of health equity into our mission through patient care, education and training, and research. In June 2021, the Health Equity Steering Committee determined that the core mission had been achieved, however, the projects and initiatives launched needed ongoing management and support.
The Office of Health Equity was created to provide this management and build on prior accomplishments by continuing to develop educational programs and activities that support learning for our team members, learners, health care professionals and the public regarding health disparities and the challenges they present. The new office is also tasked with expanding on the university and health system’s initiatives to address social determinants of health that impact the communities we serve. Increasing the quantity and quality of health equity research will also be a focus.
The critical work of responding to the inequities and disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on minority and senior populations will also fall under this office. This includes tackling equitable vaccine distribution, education to reduce hesitancy and addressing overall access to care, such as limited access to transportation and technology.
This work will be led by Sheryl Garland, Chief of Health Impact at VCU Health, who will serve as executive director. Sheryl will be joined by Logan Vetrovec, director of education and research, and Anne Massey, director of patient and community services. Resources within departments that report to the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences have been reallocated to support the Office of Health Equity.
The Office of Health Equity will work closely with the Director of the VCU Health System’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office, Dr. Marcelle Davis to align efforts to support the DEI goals of the organization. This partnership will assist in supporting the health system’s strategy of implementing ongoing education and training for health system team members.
I encourage you to connect with the Office of Health Equity and I look forward to its launch and all of its success continuing our vital work of addressing health equities. Our mission is why VCU Health exists and it is our responsibility to ensure everyone has access to the care they need to lead healthy and successful lives.
Art Kellermann, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor and Senior Vice President for VCU Health Sciences
CEO of VCU Health System