VCU Legacies

Annual Services Awards celebrated at VCU for employees with five to 50 years of service

Each year, Virginia Commonwealth University celebrates the dedication, innovation and achievements of its faculty and staff that have been with the university for five or more years, with the Annual Service Awards ceremonies.

Alvin Zfass, M.D., namesake of the Alvin M Zfass Endoscopy Unit at the VCU Medical Center, will be one of those honored this week. It’s been 50 years and 26 days since he began work as an instructor of medicine with the university.

“I came here for $2,500 a year. That was my salary. Sounded like a lot of money at the time,” Zfass said.

Following his graduation from MCV (now the VCU School of Medicine) in 1957, Zfass spent five years practicing medicine in New York City before returning home to Virginia in 1963 to join his two brothers at a private practice in Richmond. Shortly thereafter he was offered the teaching position at MCV and contacted his mentor, John T. Farrar, M.D., in New York, to debate his options.

“Yeah, but you know you can teach there and not just take care of patients,” Farrar advised Zfass. “You may be a good practitioner, but who are you going to teach?”

This emphasis on the combination of practicing medicine while also passing along his real-world experience to new doctors is what has carried Zfass through his 50 years at VCU.

“I always say that being here, was for me an educational experience,” Zfass said. “Every year I learned something. Where was I so blessed to see all of these patients with weird diseases, to be able to make rounds with the brightest young minds? I would pay to have this experience – real, hands-on, live experience. Pretty good!

“When people would offer me jobs twice the money, I’d say to myself, I don’t want to give up this experience,” he continued. “Where do I get the chance to see new stuff? Young minds asking me young questions and see the worst of diseases. Where else am I going to get that?”

“I am extraordinarily proud to be here.”

The reception for faculty and staff with more than 25 years of service will be held today at 6 p.m. in the University Student Commons, Commonwealth Ballrooms. Faculty and staff reaching service milestones between five and 20 years were honored on Sept. 23 and Sept. 26. For more information, visit:

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Alvin Zfass, M.D.
Alvin Zfass, M.D.