Principles of Governance



This document contains the guidelines for operations in the VCU CoHD. These principles constitute the code of rules adopted by the VCU CoHD for the management of its activities.


Article I — Name of the Organization

The name of the unit to which these bylaws apply is the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Health Disparities (VCU CoHD), Richmond, Va.


Article II — Purpose

The purpose includes: securing funding to promote health disparities research capacity at VCU, establishing community partnerships for effective health communication and education to promote health literacy, and the training of researchers who will foster health disparity research.

Activities are integrated across the life and social sciences, humanities and health sciences for effective health communication, health literacy and community education. Activities engage a multidisciplinary team of basic, clinical and behavioral scientists from across the university.


Article III — Organization

The organizational structure consists of a director, scientific director, associate scientific director, director of program administration, director of research training, director of research support services, members, associate members, adjunct members, a steering committee, standing committees, ad hoc committees and staff. The functions of each are set forth below.


Article IV — Administration and Duties

The dean of the School of Medicine shall appoint the director with the concurrence of the Vice President for Health Sciences.

Among the qualifications required of the director shall be a tenured position on the VCU faculty and potential effectiveness in administering the VCU CoHD's objectives.

The dean shall determine the term of the directorship.

The dean shall annually solicit from selected members an evaluation of the director to be carried out in accordance with university procedures.

The director:

  • Assumes the responsibility for program administration and personnel oversight. (The daily management of activities is the responsibility of the director, co-directors and administrative personnel.)
  • Represents the VCU CoHD on boards, panels and committees as required
  • Represents the VCU CoHD at international and national symposia and conferences that may include promotional speaking engagements
  • Ensures effective planning and delivery of various workshops, focus groups and other meetings related to partnership initiatives, including appropriate follow-up
  • Promotes VCU CoHD strategies and programs in the public community and where opportunities arise
  • Follows up on initiatives regarding dissemination, transfer and translation of knowledge into potential applications and health disparity benefits to see that these opportunities are acted upon where appropriate
  • Solicits members for suggestions for improvement

Scientific Director
The dean appoints the scientific director with input from the director. The scientific director is responsible for developing and sustaining a strategic research vision and facilitating research activities by developing and maintaining effective and creative partnerships to increase support for health disparities research, and facilitating extramural grant funding, scientific publications and translation of evidence-based research into clinical practice to improve health and patient outcomes.

The scientific director:

  • Develops relationships between clinical practice and researchers through dialogue and symposia and provides continuity in the management of strategic research initiatives including the evaluation of programs
  • Represents the VCU CoHD on boards, panels and committees as required
  • Represents the VCU CoHD at international and national symposia and conferences that may include promotional speaking engagements

Associate Scientific Director
The scientific director appoints the associate scientific director with input from the director. Working with the scientific director, the associate scientific director plays a significant role in identifying health research needs and supporting such research through activities including the development of targeted programming.

The associate scientific director:

  • Facilitates dissemination and exchange of research knowledge and application of knowledge to the community
  • Facilitates university and community engagement initiatives to address health disparities through the following objectives: a.) help identify community partners and build relationships that link partners to potential research collaborators; b.) link VCU researchers with community partners for research collaborations; c.) help provide tools and resources to increase research capacity of community partners and researchers; and d.) build, maintain and strengthen partnerships among communities, VCU and other stakeholders to support research and community engagement focused on the elimination of health disparities
  • Provides input to scientific director and steering committee as requested
  • Recommends modifications regarding strategies and programs based on the outcome of analysis and evaluation
  • Acts as a public spokesperson when required

Director of Research Training
The director of research training is appointed by the director and has oversight of the research training mission of the VCU CoHD. This position facilitates research training at all levels: undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and faculty, with the ultimate goal of increasing diversity of the workforce in biomedical research.

The director of research training:

  • Identifies and facilitates new research training programs, including identification of funding opportunities for principal investigators, faculty mentors and students
  • Coordinates research training outreach activities to community and academic partners
  • Coordinates research training evaluation, including identification of program evaluators, procurement of assessment tools and data, and dissemination of evaluation results
  • Serves as liaison to institutional research training initiatives and units
  • Represents the VCU CoHD at local, regional and national research training meetings

Director of Research Support Services
The director of research support services provides leadership and support for a wide range of research process related services including planning and administrative matters related to research support, policies and procedures, workforce training and education activities.

The director of research support services:

  • Interacts with faculty, university offices and external funding agencies to facilitate the exchange of information and provide services associated with pre- and post-award administration of contracts and grants, funding guidelines, parameters and procedures to departments
  • Works with departmental grants and research administrators to provide directions and input for grant and contract management to comply with all grant reporting as required by the university and sponsors
  • Advises on specific agency requirements and guidelines to assist faculty and staff in the preparation and submission of proposals
  • Resolves pre- and post-award administrative problems related to sponsored projects
  • Provides a range of post-award administrative support including expenditure approvals and allowability, and reporting requirement information. Coordinates the submission of notices and requests to sponsors. Coordinates the submission of interim reports and reviews, and approves closeout documents.
  • Composes complex research contracts and other related agreements. Negotiates awards, establishes account numbers and coordinates award documents. Prepares, negotiates and administers subawards.

Steering Committee
The dean shall appoint a steering committee whose function shall be to assist with planning and advisement to the director on programs and activities and to review progress. It approves and reviews membership and shall award certificates and/or honors to trainees. The committee also oversees the planning of symposia and seminar series.

Membership on the steering committee shall consist of 26 members who are expected to participate actively in the affairs of the VCU CoHD and to serve as chairs of sub-committees as may be established by the steering committee.

Members shall be appointed for a term of three years.

The director shall chair the steering committee.

The committee may appoint ad hoc external advisory boards and ad hoc committees for advisement regarding programs and policy as deemed necessary.

There shall be standing committees on research, research training, and community engagement and outreach each consisting of up to 10 members selected as follows:

  • The director appoints the chair and four members
  • The steering committee appoints five members
  • The function of each committee shall be to assist with planning, advising and reviewing progress specific to the committee’s function
  • Members shall be appointed for a staggered term of three years

Article V — Members

Full membership is extended to faculty and academic professionals holding permanent appointment in degree-granting departments or in clinical departments within the university with interests in fundamental and applied topics and/or engaging in research and/or training in the areas of purpose under the VCU CoHD's direct concern. Prospective members are nominated by the existing membership to the steering committee. Nominees submit a curriculum vitae and/or resume and a letter of interest. Membership approval is based upon: 1.) active research program; or 2.) collaborative activities with existing members and/or interest in developing cross-disciplinary collaborations; or 3.) dedication to research training; and/or 4.) sincere interest in contributing to strategies to reduce health disparities. Members are approved by the steering committee for terms of three years with the option of continuing membership.

Each member shall be entitled to attend meetings and shall be entitled to services and core resources. Commitments to the VCU CoHD are defined in the "Procedures of Operation" document. The steering committee has the discretion to decide which, if any, matters shall be submitted to the members for a vote.

Associate membership is extended to graduate students, residents and fellows officially enrolled at VCU with interest in the work of the VCU CoHD.

Adjunct membership is extended to scholars at other institutions who show interest and expertise in health disparities training and/or research, members of the commonwealth who are interested in the programs and others who directly or indirectly support activities.

Article VI — Meetings

The membership meets at least four times per year. The attendance of one-third of the members shall constitute a quorum for the conduct of a vote.

There will be at least one meeting of the steering committee each academic semester. The attendance of half plus one, or 14, shall constitute a quorum for the conduct of a vote. Special meetings may be called at any time by a quorum of committee membership.

The management team meets monthly and consists of the director, scientific director, associate director, director of research training, administrative and fiscal staff.

A health disparity symposium will be held annually and a seminar series will be held during the academic year.

Written notice of meetings shall be given not less than 10 calendar days before the date that such a meeting is to be held.

Article VII — Budget

A discussion of budget shall occur monthly between the director and fiscal staff. A budget report shall be made to the dean during the spring budget hearings to include priorities for the following academic year.

Article VIII — Records

The original or a copy of the bylaws including amendments and a membership roster giving the names and addresses of members will be kept at the VCU CoHD's principal place of residence.

Article IX — Procedures of Operations

A document entitled “Procedures of Operations” that includes the general principles and operating guidelines for execution of activities will be maintained.

Article X — Amendments

These bylaws may be amended at any time by a two-thirds vote of the steering committee. The director or members of the steering committee may make recommendations. Members may propose amendments to the director or the steering committee for consideration. Proposed amendments must be distributed at least one week prior to a vote. These bylaws and the governance of the VCU CoHD must be compliant with guidelines, procedures and policies of VCU.