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Leadership transition in Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

After a distinguished tenure, John Povlishock, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology has announced his intention to retire from his role as chair on April 1, 2021. He joined the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology in 1973 as an instructor, rose through the ranks to full professor in 1982 and has served as chair since 1995.

With an expertise in the blood-brain barrier and diffuse axonal injury, Dr. Povlishock joined a pioneering neuroscience research team on which clinical and basic scientists investigated neurotrauma caused by car crashes. When he arrived at VCU, the field was uncharted. Mortality rates from car accidents were about 73 percent, and there were no protocols for managing traumatic brain injuries at the time. One of the most important activities of the VCU team was understanding and treating intracranial pressure in brain-injured patients.

The team undertook both a scholarly and translational approach, and Dr. Povlishock and colleagues published a definitive two-volume series that became standard reading for neurotrauma researchers practicing at both the bedside and the laboratory bench. His work helped define the field, even as that field has evolved. Treatment options were refined and auto accidents began to decline, thanks to increased use of passive restraints, air bags and increased awareness of drunk driving. Not only did their research save lives, this team put VCU on the forefront of this research and inspired generations of other researchers nationally and internationally.

Dr. Povlishock’s work has been reported in more than 250 papers, reviews, books and chapters and, to date, his work has been cited almost 24,000 times. He has been honored locally, nationally and internationally for both his scientific and education contributions, including with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist Award in 2006. He is a chartered member and chair of numerous NIH review panels, a member of the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council of the NINDS, a past president of the National Neurotrauma Society and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neurotrauma since 1991.

As an educator, he has taught thousands of current scientists and physicians and has received numerous teaching awards, including the University Award of Excellence. Ask any former student, and they will recall his ability to draw brain structures ambidextrously as part of his deft teaching skills.

As department chair, Dr. Povlishock leads a department that contributes substantially to the formal M.D. curriculum, participates in VCU’s Interdepartmental Neuroscience program for Ph.D. students and provides research training opportunities for postdoctoral scientists.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Povlishock on a remarkable 47-year tenure, including 25 years as chair. He will leave a legacy as a top-notch neurosciences researcher who has led an excellent department.

With all good wishes,

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Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Interim CEO, VCU Health System & Senior Vice President, VCU Health Sciences
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

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