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Sheppard receives Professional Achievement Award from VCU School of Medicine

Jun 09, 2021

Vanessa Sheppard is pictured in front of MCV campus. Vanessa B. Sheppard, Ph.D., with the MCV Campus skyline over her shoulder. Photography by Tom Kojcsich, VCU University Relations.

Vanessa B. Sheppard, Ph.D., was recently conferred the 2021 Women in Science, Dentistry and Medicine Professional Achievement Award from the VCU School of Medicine.

Sheppard is the Theresa A. Thomas Memorial Chair in Cancer Prevention and Control and associate director for community outreach, engagement and health disparities at VCU Massey Cancer Center. She is also chair and professor of the Department of Health Behavior and Policy at the School of Medicine.

“I am honored to be acknowledged by my colleagues with this award,” Sheppard said. “I am privileged to do work that is my passion and to do it alongside so many individuals who are bright and committed to making a difference in health outcomes.”

Presented annually by the School’s Women in Science, Dentistry and Medicine (WISDM) Faculty Organization, the Professional Achievement Award recognizes the special contributions and accomplishments of a woman who is a role model and mentor, promoting the professional development of other women faculty through professional excellence, leadership, scholarship and teaching expertise.

Doctoral candidate Megan Edmonds, Ph.D., M.P.H., explained that working with Sheppard has resulted in numerous learning opportunities that have fueled her professional development.

“Under her advising leadership, I have been able to build my publication record, with a total of seven published articles to date, and strengthen my methodology in health disparities research, which has resulted in submission of a funded National Institutes of Health grant pilot award and presentations at several national conferences,” Edmonds said. “I also received numerous postdoctoral fellowship offers from top-tier research institutions to continue my independent research career, and Dr. Sheppard’s mentorship was very instrumental.”

Sheppard leads the Office of Health Equity and Disparities Research at Massey, and her research is focused on cancer disparities, with an emphasis on breast cancer, cancer care delivery, behavioral trials and longitudinal cohorts and primarily conducted within people diagnosed with cancer and/or at increased risk due to lifestyle behaviors or potential genetic alterations.

Sheppard’s research addressing ways to reduce health disparities in underserved populations, including communities of color and rural cancer patients, has earned a record of steady and robust funding and is currently funded through six grants from the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. She has overseen a 43% increase in health disparities funding at Massey. Her work has been disseminated through over 110 peer-reviewed publications, which have been cited over 1,800 times, and through presentations for local, national and international audiences. 

Sheppard joined VCU in September 2016 from the Department of Oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University where she was a tenured associate professor and assistant director of health disparities research. She has been recognized by the NIH as a Disparities Scholar, and her long-term career goal is to reduce inequities in cancer outcomes through scholarship, teaching and service.

The (WISDM) Faculty Organization was established in 1992 with a mission to advance opportunities for women physicians, dentists and scientists at VCU by promoting effective networking; fostering mentorship between students, residents and faculty; stimulating research collaborations; and working collaboratively to change organizational culture and break down stereotypes.



Written by: Blake Belden

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