Excellence Funds edge Massey near goal

Seven years ago, VCU set its sights on placing its Massey Cancer Center among the ranks of Duke, the Mayo Clinic and Yale, as a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center. In June 2011, the university took one giant step toward that goal by recruiting Steven R. Grossman, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally renowned expert in gastrointestinal cancers, including liver and pancreatic. Grossman’s research and leadership as a Massey Cancer Center researcher not only fortifies Massey’s current status as an NCI-designated cancer center, but it makes comprehensive status a real possibility for VCU.

Presidential Excellence Funds resulting from tuition increases in 2010-11 allowed for 94 additional full-time faculty members universitywide, Grossman, a professor in the School of Medicine, included. The funds also provided additional financial aid for merit-based scholarships.

“We were already leading edge, but these funds allowed us to make a quantum leap that we would otherwise never have been able to make,” said Jay Bonfili, M.P.A., associate vice president for VCU Health Sciences Finance and Administration. “It allowed us to dream.”

VCU Health Sciences received $4 million in Excellence Funds, then contributed an additional $400,000 of its own, dedicating the use of these funds to oncological care.

“Excellence Funds not only allowed us to maintain that leading edge in cancer care that we have, but really to take our programs to the next level,” Bonfili said. “We would not have been able to bring someone like Dr. Grossman here without the help of the Excellence Funds.”

In addition to his post in the medical school, Grossman serves as chair of the VCU Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care. He is a highly awarded scientist who holds a grant from the National Institutes of Health and a Research Scholar Award from the American Cancer Society. His research focuses on the role of tumor suppressor proteins in cancer. For Grossman, it’s all about resources.

“I wasn’t going to make the move just to become a division chair,” he said. “It had to allow me to bring my research program here and then take it to the next level. This was my path, but what this did was allow it to accelerate.”

In order for Massey to be eligible for comprehensive status, Grossman will need to add 10 new faculty members to his team of researchers.

“We bring in our 10 investigators, we extend the reach of our translational research, we get our interdisciplinary collaborations going, which are very important for our comprehensive research, and we go for it,” Grossman said, like a coach leading his team to an NCAA tournament victory. “Then you’re where you want to be as a cancer research center. From there, the sky is the limit.”