President’s Posts

Michael Rao, Ph.D.

At this morning’s State of the University address, I was honored to unveil news that is historic and truly transformative.

VCU is the grateful recipient of a record $104 million gift to advance the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health at VCU. Liver disease is one of the top 10 factors reducing life expectancy in the U.S., disproportionately affecting particular underrepresented ethnic populations. 

This gift is the culmination of a lifelong pursuit of curing liver disease and the many afflictions resulting from poor liver health. It provides a tectonic shift in VCU’s journey and sets a vision for our new liver institute. This donation is:

  1. The largest individual gift in VCU’s history.
  2. The largest publicly shared gift for liver research in U.S. history. More than four times beyond the previous largest gift. 
  3. The second-largest publicly shared gift to a university in Virginia history.

The gift comes from Dr. Todd Stravitz, a retired VCU researcher in liver disease, and his family’s charitable foundation, the Barbara Brunckhorst Foundation. Dr. Arun Sanyal, Todd’s longtime research partner, will lead the institute. 

This gift, specifically designated for our new institute, will exclusively support making VCU the global leader in liver research and care! 

Words cannot capture my feelings of gratitude for the transformative gift from Todd and the Barbara Brunckhorst Foundation. Todd has made history with his incredible leadership and generosity to VCU, establishing an institute that will forever change VCU and catalyze its commitment to our work with the human liver and metabolism. 

A VCU story

This gift is the result of a story only we can tell.

Thirty years ago, Todd and Arun became colleagues at VCU. They bonded over their passion for human liver research and how they could help improve and save lives around the world. 

For three decades, Todd and Arun worked together, inspiring each other and their colleagues to be at the forefront of liver research and technologies. They were driven by a passion to provide solutions for everybody with liver disease, not just the wealthy.

Thanks to the gift from Todd and the Barbara Brunckhorst Foundation, our institute will foster scientific inquiry, scholarship, clinical innovation and education to meet current and future health challenges connected to the liver. This gift will reinforce that student and patient needs come first at VCU. 

The institute represents our ONE VCU vision that unites our deep clinical strength with complex disease and research excellence to create another transformative innovation for the university and for health care here and, soon, around the world. The gift will also fund two endowed chairs: the Arun Sanyal Endowed Professor of Medicine and the Phillip Hylemon Endowed Professor of Medicine and Microbiology. 

I know you join me in thanking Todd and the Barbara Brunckhorst Foundation for the opportunity this gift creates. 

Building on transformative innovations

This remarkable gift comes at a time when VCU’s sponsored research is also breaking records, reaching an all-time high of $363 million in 2021, a 25% increase over the previous three years. The National Science Foundation ranks VCU No. 58 of public universities nationwide for federally funded research expenditures, putting the university within reach of its goal to break into the top 50 of its peers.  

Many thanks to my colleagues who have helped to bring these resources to support important research that matters to people.  

Thanks to you, VCU is one of the few institutions with the vision, ability and ambition to focus on patient needs and care with this critically needed liver research. This landmark gift allows us to provide more liver research and clinical activities for faculty and students, as well as increase our ability to serve patients. 

This is one of our most transformative innovations yet … and the best is yet to come.

Categories 21st-Century University, Community, Diversity, Health, News, To VCU, Uncategorized, VCU Health
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