Thursday, June 28, 2012

Virginia Tech Names First 6 to Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

The Virginia Tech Faculty Entrepreneur Hall of Fame has inducted its first class of honorees. From a pool of more than 50 nominees solicited from across the campus, six university faculty members were selected: Vinod Chachra, Richard Claus, Fred C. Lee, Arvid Myklebust, James Rancourt, and Tracy Wilkins.

“As faculty members, they have been accountable for making substantial contributions to three elements of the mission of Virginia Tech: teaching, research, and service,” said Robert Walters, vice president for research. “As entrepreneurs, they have taken their passions, dreams, time, and effort to create products and services to improve the quality of life for our citizens and for the interests of the nation. They have enhanced our local and regional economies and created high-quality jobs, particularly here in Southwest Virginia.”

Vinod Chachra
Vinod Chachra, president and CEO of VTLS Inc., is an internationally recognized lecturer, consultant, and innovator in the field of information system planning. Chachra has served Virginia Tech in many capacities, from director of software development to director of computing and information systems to vice president for computing and information systems.

He was responsible for the creation of VTLS Inc., the first tenant of the Corporate Research Center. The company is an international leader in integrated library automation, digital imaging services and radio frequency identification technology, and provides state-of-the-art library automation systems to more than 1,800 libraries worldwide.

Richard Claus
Richard O. Claus, founder and president of NanoSonic Inc., is a recognized expert in advanced materials and structures. NanoSonic was established in 1998 as a result of a spinoff of federally-funded research at Virginia Tech. The company got its start in a kitchen with two part-time employees.

Today, it has more than 70 employees and has as its customers NASA, defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, as well as major chemical suppliers, rubber industries, and electronic companies. Claus has won international awards for research from professional organizations and government agencies, including the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Instrument Society of America, SPIE – The International Society for Optical Engineering, and NASA.

Fred Lee
Fred C. Lee is a University Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Power Electronics Systems, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (NSF ERC). The center has been cited as a model ERC for its industrial collaboration and technology transfer, as well as education and outreach programs.
Lee has served as president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society, was a member of the board of directors for Zytec and Artesyn, and was chairman of the board for VPT Inc. He currently serves on the board of directors for Delta Electronics Inc.; Cyntec; and the Delta Environment and Education Foundation. Lee was named to the National Academy of Engineering in 2011.

James Rancourt
James Rancourt is a professor of chemistry in the College of Science, and founder and CEO of Polymer Solutions Inc. (PSI), the industry’s premier independent testing lab. For the past 25 years, Rancourt has grown PSI through complementing his passion for helping others with his love of analytical chemistry, while building a team of brilliant scientists and support staff. PSI has given more than 55 presentations, has offered testimony in 60 trials, has 7 U.S. patents, and has 60 publications to its credit.

Arvid Myklebust (photo not available) is professor emeritus of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. His research expertise is in the fields of computer aided design, computer aided aircraft design, geometric curve and surface modeling, computer graphics standards, kinematic synthesis and dynamic response analysis of non-linear mechanical systems. Myklebust co-founded three companies at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center: Phoenix Integration, AVID Aerospace, and Theta Tech Solutions.

Tracy D. Wilkins (photo not available), an internationally recognized expert in anaerobic microbiology, served as faculty member and director of the Anaerobe Lab, was director of the Fralin Biotechnology Center (now Fralin Life Sciences Institute), and was the initial Stroobants Professor of Agricultural Biotechnology at Virginia Tech.
In 1989 he founded TECHLAB Inc., a company focused on enteric disease and microbiology of the intestinal tract. Wilkins was also the founder of TransPharm, a company focused on the production of human proteins in the milk of transgenic animals. TransPharm eventually merged with PPL Therapeutics.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ferrum College Impact Set at $93 Million

Ferrum College contributes in excess of $93 million annually to the local economy according to the results of a recent study.  The findings show a strong impact in Franklin County, Roanoke and the surrounding region generated from student and employee spending as well as philanthropy and the College’s day-to-day business activities.
“We have long known that the College is the ‘economic engine’ for western Franklin County,” said Jennifer Braaten, Ferrum’s president. “Now, we can quantify this, and show that our impact reaches even farther - north into Roanoke and south into Henry County and Martinsville.”
The study revealed that Ferrum contributed over $28 million to the local economy during the 2011-2012 timeframe in capital projects alone, including the construction of new residence halls, the renovation of the Blue Ridge Institute, and construction of the recently dedicated Hank Norton Athletic Center.  Nearly all of the investment was returned to the community through the use of local contractors and other vendors and suppliers.
With just over 300 faculty and staff members, the College ranks among the largest employers in Franklin County.  The total $17 million annual payroll and benefits package translates to a $23.5 million impact on the region.   The study showed that employees spent nearly $12 million annually in the immediate Franklin County area.  Ferrum College employees and students contributed close to $750,000 in charitable donations as well.  Grants, gifts, tuition, summer camps, athletics and other activities comprised a large percentage of the total with $16 million attributed to those areas.
The economic benefits from Ferrum students were felt most strongly in the nearby town of Rocky Mount with Roanoke a close second.  The report showed student spending in Roanoke was most likely to be focused on restaurants, entertainment and shopping. 
The College’s cultural and artistic attractions, such as the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre, and the College’s prominent position on Virginia’s Crooked Road Music Trail generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue which was then returned to the community.
“Because the arts are an important economic driver, colleges, with their array of artistic and cultural offerings, are extremely important to the economy of the communities where they are located,” said Kim Blair, Vice President for Institutional Advancement.

Roanoke Native Fights To Preserve Civil War Battlefields

Roanoke native Denman Zirkle at a Civil War battlefield site.
Civil War history has long captivated Virginia Tech/Pamplin College of Business alumnus Denman Zirkle, who graduated in 1960. After more than 25 years in the financial services industry, Zirkle found a second career in helping to protect, manage, and interpret long-ago fighting grounds. He is the executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. The challenges of historic preservation, he discovered, mean a constant battle for funds and against development.

The Roanoke, Va.-born Zirkle said he has always been fascinated by the Civil War—its causes, the military brilliance of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and “how the defeat of the Confederacy has continued to define our nation, both politically and socially, through almost 150 years.” His interest in historic preservation, however, “came later in life, as I became increasingly aware of our dwindling natural and historic resources and the relentless commercial pressure to compromise them.”

Some 14,000 acres of core Civil War battlefields have no protection against development, says Denman Zirkle, executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.

Zirkle, who also earned an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, began his career in finance in 1983, when he joined Morgan Stanley from Consolidated Rail Corp. He later moved to Lynch & Mayer, a New York investment advisory firm, where he was senior vice president in charge of marketing, and Franklin Templeton Investments, where he was executive vice president for the institutional business division. More recently, he was chief executive officer of another New York advisory firm, Carret and Co.

Appointed in April 2009 to lead the battlefields foundation, Zirkle said the organization’s work must be “ramped up, both in terms of management and interpretation of the acreage that has been protected, as well as the acquisition of remaining battlefield land.”

The foundation was incorporated in 2000 to “protect, interpret, and promote” battlefields in the newly designated Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, created by Congress in 1996. At that time, some 2,100 acres had been protected—core battlefield land on the 10 battlefields of the eight-county historic district. “Today, that number stands at almost 6,000 acres, thanks to initiatives by our foundation and our partners—the commonwealth of Virginia, Civil War Trust, Lee-Jackson Educational Foundation, and others,” Zirkle said.

The ruins of the tenant house remain on the Huntsberry Farm property, which is part of the Third Winchester battlefield.

It is an accomplishment, he said, but added that, in Virginia, approximately 14,000 acres of core battlefield remain unprotected, some of it already being encroached upon by development. “Some of our most threatened battlefields are those in Frederick County, but the same development pressure is creeping up the valley into Shenandoah and Rockingham counties. Both interstate highways and development have already significantly encroached on battlefield land in Frederick and Warren counties. We do not have long to protect the remaining acreage.”

The foundation’s biggest challenge, he said, is to continue pursuing the $2 million in land acquisition funding that Congress authorized when it passed legislation creating the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District. The funding has not been consistent, Zirkle said, noting that it was not available for 2011 and is uncertain for 2012, because of efforts to rein in federal spending. “But without it, we cannot use matching grants from the state and other sources to purchase land or even easements on land.”

Dirkle at Fisher's Hill
The 1996 legislation also authorized up to another $2 million in matching funding for the management, interpretation, and promotion of battlefields. “We have never received any of this funding,” he said, “thus, some of our protected battlefield land lies fallow.”

The process of protecting battlefields, he said, involves identifying the individual parcels, working with interested sellers, and providing the necessary funding for purchasing the land or placing conservation easements on the land. “Without funding, it is pointless to engage in the detailed preparation work.” And after battlefields become protected, they need to be “respected,” Zirkle said, through proper maintenance and interpretation that will provide both recreational and educational experiences for the public -- all of which requires financial support.

Denman Zirkle stands at the marker for Fisher's Hill, south of Strasburg. It is part of the Third Winchester battle site.

The sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War this year presents a timely opportunity for the foundation, he noted. “We have to tell our story to the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley and the state as well as to a larger audience across the nation. When more people are aware of our work and future challenges, I am confident of significantly more private support.”

(Written by Sookhan Ho, Pamplin College of Business Public Information. Virginia Tech photos.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Rural Outreach for Carilion Clinic

Carilion's Nancy Agee
Carilion Clinic will launch a three year program to improve the health of patients in rural Virginia through better management of their medications. The program will be funded by a $4.1 million award from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. The award is part of CMS’s Health Care Innovation Challenge, a $1 billion fund to support initiatives that have the potential to improve care and lower the overall cost of healthcare.

The Carilion Clinic project will focus on improving the management of medications for patients in 23 rural counties served by Carilion New River Valley Medical Center (CNRV), five community hospitals and 17 primary care practices.
“This is great news for our patients,” said Carilion President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee. “We’ve already seen promising results with chronically ill patients in our Patient Centered Medical Home practices. This award will make it possible to expand our reach further into our rural communities.”

The program will be based at CNRV, in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, Aetna Healthcare and CVS/Caremark. CNRV will train more than 30 pharmacists in advanced care and chronic disease management protocols. Through care coordination and shared access to electronic medical records, the pharmacists will work directly with patients to help them manage their medications, resulting in better health, reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits, and fewer adverse drug events.

“We truly believe this project can make a difference, both in quality and cost of care,” said John Piatkowski, M.D., Carilion Clinic Vice President and CEO of CNRV.  “As physicians, we can manage patients’ medications when they are hospitalized but after they leave, mistakes or failure to take medicines as required can result in serious consequences, unnecessary hospitalizations and worsening chronic conditions.” According to Piatkowski, extending close medication management into outpatient settings can significantly improve the safety and efficacy of the medication administration.

The program also advances the role of pharmacists in improving the health of patients, according to William Lee, Director of Pharmaceutical Services for CNRV and the Carilion Western region hospitals.  “The ongoing monitoring process will not only increase patient safety and compliance but also decrease any potential adverse events from the medication therapy,” Lee says. “The impact of the adoption of electronic health records and other new technologies has now made it possible for the pharmacists to make an even greater difference in our community.”

Carilion Receives A Grade in Report

The Leapfrog Group, a national hospital rating organization, released its first ever “Hospital Safety Score” report that grades hospitals with an A, B, C, D, or F letter grade to reflect how safe hospitals are for patients. Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (CRMH) received an “A” grade, making CRMH among the 729 hospitals that received the highest rating out of more than 2,600 hospitals graded nationwide.

“We are committed to providing the best experience possible at our hospitals and that includes good clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and safety for our patients, visitors and staff,” said Nancy Agee, president and chief executive officer at Carilion Clinic. “The recently released ratings by Leapfrog highlight our dedication to safety and affirm our processes are effective.”

The Leapfrog Group used 26 weighted measures of publicly available hospital safety data to create its grading system. The Hospital Safety Score places each measure into one of two domains: process/structural measures and outcomes measures. Process/structural measures represent how often the hospital gives patients recommended treatment for a given medical condition/procedure and the environment in which patients receive care. Outcome measures represent what happens to a patient while receiving care.

Information from secondary sources, such as hospitals’ voluntary reports and data available from Medicare, were also included in the overall score.

Carilion New River Valley Medical Center and Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital also received an “A” rating. Hospitals excluded from receiving a score include critical access hospitals, specialty hospitals, pediatric hospitals, hospitals in Maryland and territories exempt from public reporting to CMS, and others.

Delta Dental Launches New Foundation

Delta Dental of Virginia has launched the Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation to help improve the oral health and, subsequently, overall body health of all Virginians. “The Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation will provide grants to organizations that work to improve the essential access to dental care and oral health education that people require as part of their overall health care,” says Delta Dental President/CEO George Levicki.

With growing evidence linking oral health to overall health, the need for greater access to care is significant, as more than 3.8 million Virginians are without dental insurance, according to the Virginia Health Care Foundation. “Dental care and good oral health mean much more than healthy teeth and a nice smile. They are essential to good overall health and well-being,” says Levicki. “Poor oral health, a lack of dental care and untreated oral diseases can adversely affect an individual’s ability to speak, smile, kiss, chew, maintain proper nutrition, attend school or go to work.”

A dental exam may also be important to early detection of serious health issues. More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases, including diabetes, leukemia, cancer, heart disease and kidney disease, have oral characteristics that can be detected during an oral exam. Levicki says that a dentist may be the first to spot warning signs of potential systemic disease during a regular checkup, making access to a dentist more essential than ever.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

TowneBank Moves into Roanoke Market

TowneBank Mortgage, a division of TowneBank with assets of $4.4 billion, has expanded into Roanoke. Denny Early Jr. will serve as senior VP and regional manager of this new region and will be based in Roanoke.

Debbie Montgomery, Brad Vaughan, and Donna Vaught have also joined TowneBank Mortgage as loan officers and will all be located in the Roanoke office. These individuals are top producers, and have many years of experience in the Roanoke region.

"We are pleased to be expanding into this new market,” says Jacqueline B. Amato, President of TowneBank Mortgage, “as we will be able to assist many new homeowners with their mortgages."

TowneBank operates 26 banking offices serving Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina. Towne also offers a full range of financial services through its controlled divisions and subsidiaries that include Towne Investment Group, Towne Insurance Agency, TFA Benefits,TowneBank Mortgage, TowneBank Commercial Mortgage, Prudential Towne Realty, Towne1031 Exchange, LLC, and Corolla Classic Vacations.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tech's New Budget a Third Less Than a Decade Ago

Capital projects get support at Virginia Tech.
At its quarterly meeting held yesterday in Blacksburg, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved resolutions to set the 2012-13 university budget and to establish a new Bachelor of Arts degree program in religion and culture.

In the coming fiscal year, Virginia Tech will adopt an approximately $1.21 billion budget to carry out all of its programs.  This is 3.9 percent greater than the current year budget. Even with state reinvestment in higher education, total state support per Virginia student for 2012-13 is projected to be an estimated 33 percent below the funding of a decade ago.

For the 2012-13 budget, the state has increased the university’s direct General Fund appropriation $7.48 million, although much of this funding is restricted and unavailable for the educational enterprise. The $7.48 million includes $6.53 million for the university’s Educational and General program and $950,000 for Agency 229.

Virginia Tech also expects to receive Central Appropriation fund transfers during the fiscal year to support the state share of state assigned costs such as fringe benefit rate changes.  These amounts include both reinvestment of state support in higher education as well as adjustments and allocations to specific university programs which come with associated costs.

Included in next year’s budget are funds to support the preliminary design of several university capital projects, including the construction of a new classroom building to be located at Perry Street and West Campus Drive in the Derring Hall parking lot, the construction of a new propulsion laboratory for the College of Engineering to be sited in near the Corporate Research Park, and rehabilitation of several academic buildings within the Agriculture Quad.