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New School of Medicine dean says school is ‘well poised’ for the future

Peter F. Buckley, M.D., brings internationally recognized schizophrenia research to VCU

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Peter Buckley, M.D.

Peter F. Buckley, M.D., believes life is a journey of service to others. His journey brought him to Virginia Commonwealth University in January to become dean of the School of Medicine and executive vice president for medical affairs at VCU Health, where he oversees the 600 physician-faculty group practice of the academic health sciences center.

Irish by birth, Buckley received his medical degree from the University College Dublin School of Medicine, where he completed psychiatric residence training followed by a fellowship in schizophrenia research. He also earned a master’s degree by thesis from University College Dublin.

Buckley’s life journey brought him to the United States for a position at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, where he rose through the ranks to become professor and vice chair of the psychiatry department. Additionally, he served as medical director for Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare system and its three state inpatient psychiatric facilities in Cleveland and Toledo. Under Buckley’s leadership, the hospital became the best-rated psychiatric hospital in Ohio and Joint Commission-accredited with commendation and 11 best practices for its quality. Additionally, he established a nationally renowned state-university academic collaboration with Case Western Reserve University that continues to flourish to this day.

From there, Buckley joined the faculty of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University in 2000, serving as chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior. Buckley also led a multiyear evaluation of all of Georgia’s public health facilities that resulted in statewide improvements in the quality of care as well as a new collaboration between the public facilities in Augusta and MCG. From 2007 to 2010, he served as associate dean and then as senior associate dean for leadership development.

Buckley became the 26th dean of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University in 2011. During his tenure as dean, the medical school expanded to become the ninth largest by class size, grew to also encompass five regional campuses statewide, built a 176,000-square-foot new medical education home for MCG, attained eight-year reaccreditation, and acquired new endowed chairs and scholarships, including a $66 million gift to the medical school. In 2014, Buckley also served — in addition to being dean — for two years as interim CEO of the hospital and practice plan. 

Peter F. Buckley, M.D., believes life is a journey of service to others. His journey brought him to Virginia Commonwealth University in January to become dean of the School of Medicine and executive vice president for medical affairs at VCU Health.

Buckley and his wife have two sons, now young adults. The family is delighted to be American citizens and to have the opportunity to give back to the country. For Buckley, that means — at a professional level — seeking out every opportunity to improve the health and wellness of the American people.

“In this instance, I feel privileged to have this opportunity now to work as dean of this venerable medical school and to help our leaders improve the health and well-being of the citizens of this commonwealth,” Buckley said.

Though they enjoyed their almost 17 years in Georgia, Buckley and his wife were ready for new experiences and opportunities. They were attracted to the both the beauty and vibrancy of Richmond and the commitment and impact of VCU and its academic medical center on the region.

“The School of Medicine is extremely well poised, in terms of both its research profile and the clinical care delivered by its innovative faculty. I will be working with our superb colleagues to expand our research portfolio and to broaden the focus of our research to include community-based research that’s meaningful and impactful, within the local region and beyond.”

Quality is a team event.

The past month has been a whirlwind for Buckley as he settles into the job and gets to know his colleagues, the programs at VCU and the Richmond community.

“It’s really a labor of love at this stage – and I appreciate the support and help of others as I learn about all the great things people are doing here,” Buckley said. “In addition to providing cutting-edge clinical care and research, our medical school excels in training doctors. Our innovative curriculum emphasizes that quality depends not just on a singular doctor, or a nurse, or an allied health professional. Quality is a team event. In medicine, we are moving ever increasingly towards more team-based learning and team-based practice of care. VCU leads this change.”

Buckley is a national leader in academic medicine and is internationally recognized for his research into the causes and treatments of schizophrenia. Buckley serves on the Administrative Board of the Council of Deans of the Association of American Medical Colleges and he also chairs the COD Fellowship program. Buckley is also a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and former chair of its Pan-American Division.  

In addition to being editor of a psychiatry journal and serving on the editorial board of nine other journals, Buckley has edited or authored 16 books and has published more than 500 original articles, book chapters and abstracts on the topic. Some of his research aims to predict which medicines work better as well as better understanding the side effect of medicines.

More recently, his focus has turned to the genetics of schizophrenia, a poorly understood and disabling condition that is often defined by the symptoms of the illness, rather than being defined by its biology.

“Presently, we make an artificial distinction based upon on symptoms as to whether someone might have a mood problem or schizophrenia. Some of our more recent collaborative work has suggested that there may be an underlying substrate that delineates these conditions in a different manner,” Buckley said. “This is exciting work that builds on prior important research by others, including decades of groundbreaking research by our VCU leader Ken Kendler.”

Buckley is also researching the role that inflammation could play in schizophrenia.

“It turns out that there are a number of markers that suggest that inflammation may contribute to schizophrenia,” Buckley said. “We’re now even conducting some trials of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis as potential add-ons for the treatment of schizophrenia.”

“I'm very excited by the quality and degree of neuroscience research here. I've also worked in the area of substance abuse and this is another area of scientific strength of VCU. I look forward to building collaboratively on our research strengths broadly in neuroscience, cancer, cardiovascular, rehabilitation and other key areas,” Buckley said.

Buckley said the School of Medicine offers a good fit for his research interests.

“There’s also tremendous opportunity here to directly address the mental health and addiction needs in the commonwealth. I look forward to working with others and promoting their good work in those vital areas,” Buckley said. “There is much to do and we will do it together as we advance our medical school's 179-year legacy of being innovative at the forefront of research, education and excellence in clinical care.”

 

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