EVMS and ODU celebrate long-awaited merger to create Virginia’s largest health sciences center

The first recipients of dozens of new full health sciences scholarships will take classes at Old Dominion University this fall, but they have not yet been notified. They weren’t even selected.

Indeed, the major support for these scholarships, two gifts totaling $40 million, was just announced Friday afternoon during a celebration of the long-awaited merger of Eastern Virginia Medical School and Old Dominion University , which will officially take place on July 1.

Leaders revealed the name of the program: Macon and Joan Brock Virginia Health Sciences at Old Dominion University. It will be the largest health sciences center in Virginia, with more than 50 degrees offered, many of which are not available anywhere else in the commonwealth, said Cathy Lewis, community engagement liaison for ODU .

Sentara Health, a longtime supporter of EVMS and a key partner in the merger process, is committing $350 million to the combined health sciences program over 10 years, Lewis said.

After the event, EVMS President Alfred Abuhamad and ODU President Brian Hemphill spoke about the long road to integration, the support of their boards and their own work together.

“From day one, we shared the vision of doing this collaboratively,” Abuhamad said.

Hemphill called it a “perfect storm.”

“We are obviously two very complex organizations,” he said. “We had to leave the ego out of the room and just come together.”

Speaking at the ceremony, Sentara Health President and CEO Dennis Matheis said he recently received a memo describing the integration discussion as “intense at times.”

“That’s a gentle way of putting it,” Matheis said with a laugh from the crowded conference room on the third floor of The Main in Norfolk. “But we got where we needed to go.”

In addition to funding, Sentara has committed to doubling its medical residency slots in Virginia, recognizing that many doctors end up practicing medicine where they complete their training. A state-funded model provides the combined ODU-EVMS institution with a strong foundation for future generations, Matheis said.

“This integration is critical to improving health care services in a region that has long struggled to reduce disparities in health outcomes and regain its economic footing,” Matheis said.

The $40 million announced Friday consists of a $20 million endowment from Dennis and Jan Ellmer and a $20 million gift from philanthropist Joan Brock, wife of the late Macon Brock, co-founder of Dollar Tree. Lewis said some funds from the latter are earmarked for the expansion of the Barry Art Museum. Dennis Ellmer is the founder of Priority Automotive.

There will be some differences between the scholarship programs – the Dennis and Jan Ellmer Health Scholars Program, the Dennis and Jan Ellmer Nursing Scholars Program, and the Brock Opportunity Scholarship – but they all aim to provide opportunities for promising students with ties to the region and intention to stay…

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