Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Jerry Strauss, Dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Osmosis Team
Published on Jul 25, 2016. Updated on Jan 17, 2020.

Jerome F. Strauss, III, M.D., Ph.D. is the Dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs of the VCU Health System.  His research interests are in the field of reproductive medicine focusing on the genetics of disorders affecting fertility and pregnancy outcome. He has authored over 300 original scientific articles, and holds 12 issued U.S. patents for discoveries in diagnostics and therapeutics. Dr. Strauss's honors include election to AOA (1971); the University of Pennsylvania’s Berwick Award for Teaching (1983); the Medical Student Government Award for Distinguished Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania (1983); the President's Achievement Award (1990), the Distinguished Scientist Award  (2006) and Frederick Naftolin Award for Mentorship (2016) from the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, of which he is past President (2004); the Society for the Study of Reproduction Research Award (1992); election to the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences (1994); the Transatlantic Medal of the British Endocrine Society (1994); the Beacon (2001), Pioneer (2004) and National Research Distinguished Service Awards (2007) for contributions to the reproductive sciences;   the 2005 Distinguished Graduate Award from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the highest honor that the School of Medicine bestows upon an alumnus;   Chuenkong Scholar from the China Ministry of Education (2006); the Rector’s Medal from the University of Chile (2009) for contributions to research and research training; and honorary professor at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei, China (2013).   Dr. Strauss served on the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Advisory Council as Chair of its Executive Committee. He is currently Chair of the Institute’s Board of Scientific Counselors.

How did you decide on a career in medicine?
A fascination with human biology, a love of science, and growing up as a child in the Sputnik era, the realization that science and technology had the power to shape American leadership in the global health.  I also grew up in a medical family and had plenty of exposure to all aspects of medical practice.

What were a few key steps in your journey from an aspiring medical student to your current position as Dean of the School of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University?
Outstanding mentors, including individuals who I worked with prior to entering medical school, all leaders in their fields, who gave me the freedom to explore my research interests, particularly as a medial student and house officer.  They subsequently rewarded me with leadership opportunities that allowed me to develop critical thinking skills related to multidisciplinary programs.

What is the greatest difference between the clinical side of medicine and the administrative side?
In clinical practice you must be patient-centered.  In administration, you worry about how to keep your faculty patient-centered while they also carry out their other important responsibilities in medical education and scholarship.

What does an "average" day look like for you?
Grabbing every free minute to reflect on decisions I am making about our undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education programs, the faculty practice plan, faculty I am recruiting, the state of our research enterprise, and my personal research program.

What was/were the most memorable experience(s) during your medical education?
Having several outstanding physician mentors who cultivated my interests in reproductive medicine and my career path in academic medicine.  They taught me about the power of perseverance, the joy of discovery, and the satisfaction of public service.

There is an enormous debate these days as to whether resources should be primarily allocated to fighting diseases or the distal causes of diseases. What are your thoughts on this issue of proximal causes versus distal causes?
We need to invest in both. The hard science of elucidating disease pathophysiology leads to the preventive measures. That said, balance in resource allocation is needed.  The development of effective wellness promotion tools and the understanding and mitigation of the social determinants of health represent huge opportunities for American biomedical research.   Effective community engaged research can inform this agenda.  In the the future, the elucidation of key gene x environment interactions could bring important insight which will make precision medicine applicable to population health, and guide population-based interventions.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing physicians today?
Finding the right niche which affords professional fulfillment and work-life balance.

There are many opportunities in medicine today, including more leadership roles for physicians in different healthcare settings-much more than several decades ago.  These are good things.   However, this must be tempered by uncertainty brought on by seismic changes in American healthcare, including the consolidation of health systems, insurance carriers, and the increasing regulatory burden of government sponsors.  This adds a new level of complexity to the process of choosing a career path.

What are most the important facets of an undergraduate’s application to medical school from an admissions perspective?
A steadfast commitment to the improvement of the health of all people, dedication to lifelong learning, leadership and communication skills.

How do you foresee medical education changing in the next few years?
Continued expansion of the use of simulation and inter-professional education.  The establishment of Entrustable Professional Activities for UME that are linked seamlessly to those in GME.