Virginia Union University and Meharry Medical School partner to train future doctors
by Vanessa M. Coombs
When VUU 2015 valedictorian Renee McGilvary was a young girl, her mother, VUU music professor Charmaine McGilvary, had high hopes for her. “She placed pictures of my face over the faces of 50 influential doctors listed in Ebony magazine,” Renee McGilvary said. Renee was interested in medicine as a child, but never thought about becoming a doctor until Virginia Union entered into a partnership with Meharry Medical College, allowing her to attend a six-week summer internship. “I went to Meharry and saw all those brilliant black male and female doctors,” Renee said. “Seeing someone who looked like me planted a seed.”
Meharry’s program accepts rising sophomores and juniors with a grade point average above 3.25. Students study organic chemistry, cell and molecular biology, and medical terminology during their first summer in the program. They return for a second summer to prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Virginia Union had 16 students participating in the program last summer and 12 participants in 2014
Another unique opportunity opening doors for Virginia Union science students is a program called “Coaching for Academic and Professional Success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” or CAPS in STEM. Intrusive academic coaching is the trademark of this $1.75 million National Science Foundation grant. “Coaches move students from where they are to where they need to be academically,” according to Project Director Dr. Phillip Archer. “In part, this requires rapid identification of specific learning styles tailored to the individual student, coupled with special observations and awareness of student self-concept and identity.” In addition, the coaches organize departmental seminars, help students with internships and research opportunities, and prepare individualized success plans for students.
VUU biology major Raeleen Brown attended the CAPS in STEM Math and Science Summer Institute (MSSI) in 2014. “VUU helped me know I could succeed,” Brown said. “I stay on track here because of my faculty. The MSSI was a great start. I kept a 4.0 grade point average during the summer and still have a 4.0 at the end of my freshman year.”
For senior Nhat Le, a Chemistry and Mathematics major with a 4.0 grade point average, the CAPS in STEM program has provided an opportunity to present his research to thousands of people at national conferences. “This school inspires people to do great things,” said Le. He is especially impressed with the availability of the faculty at Virginia Union and recounts two instances where a faculty member at a much larger majority institution closed his office door when he saw Le coming to speak with him.
Jamie Tyler attended yet another summer opportunity currently offered to science majors at Virginia Union. The STEM EnRichmond Teacher Education Program has an overarching goal of increasing the number of kindergarten through 12th grade teachers who specialize in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. MeadWestvaco Corporation funds a summer initiative where students can earn up to 10 credit hours. During their freshman year, students continue to receive academic advising and tutoring, and Altria Group provides up to $25,000 in scholarships. “African American teachers are so badly needed,” Tyler emphasized. “African American males are the lowest represented.” Tyler added that the work in the summer institute was rigorous and prepared him to succeed during his freshman year of college.
Virginia Union senior Gaelle Ebelle took advantage of yet another Virginia Union Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that allows VUU students early acceptance to Boston University’s Medical School. During the summer of 2014, the biology major took classes and shadowed doctors at the medical school. Ebelle also spent last summer at Boston University Medical School and continues to study there. She will return to Virginia Union to receive her degree in May, before returning to Boston to start medical school.
“I’m excited,” Ebelle exclaimed. “I want to know just how far I can go and I want to thank my faculty at VUU for pushing me and encouraging me.”
And that is the one common thread among all of the outstanding students interviewed for this story. Yes, they have been provided with exceptional opportunities, and yes, they all have great futures ahead of them. But, they are all extremely grateful for the guidance provided by Virginia Union University faculty.
“They mean the world to me,” Renee McGilvary said with tears in her eyes. “When I first came here, I was quiet, I sat in the back. The faculty at VUU forced me to be a leader. I’m very grateful. I didn’t know I had that in me.”
About Virginia Union University
In the 150 years since its founding, Virginia Union University has been teaching, strengthening its academic programs, and growing into a highly respected private, liberal arts institution. The University, founded to provide quality education for African Americans, is the result of the “union” of four institutions: Wayland Seminary and Richmond Theological Institute, established by the American Baptist Home Mission Society; and Hartshorn Memorial College of Richmond and Storer College of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Virginia Union University, nourished by the African American heritage and energized by a commitment to excellence, provides a nurturing, intellectually challenging, and spiritually enriching environment. Virginia Union University develops scholars, leaders, and lifelong learners who attain their maximum potential to become contributing members of a global society. Seeking to empower students, the University provides dynamic academic and support programs that help students develop strong moral values that assist in building a foundation for success. The University offers a broad range of educational opportunities while advancing its focus on teaching, research, science, and technology, as well as adult continuing education, civic engagement, and international experiences.
Virginia Union University President: Claude Grandford Perkins, Ph.D
Location: 1500 N. Lombardy Street, Richmond, VA 23220
Students: 1,750 enrolled
About Meharry Medical College
Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Meharry Medical College is one of the nation’s oldest and largest historically black academic health science centers dedicated to educating physicians, dentists, researchers, and health policy experts.
Founded in 1876 as the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College, Meharry was the first medical school in the South for African Americans. It was chartered separately in 1915 with the mission of educating African Americans to serve the underserved. Since its founding, Meharry has trained thousands of health care professionals. Three out of every four Meharrians return to urban or rural communities to serve others by providing medical or dental services. Today, Meharry includes a medical school, dental school, and a graduate school; and is home to the Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health Policy at Meharry.
Meharry Medical College President: James E. K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D
Location: 1005 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd., Nashville, TN
Students: 802 students enrolled in all three schools combined