VCU professors honored in annual RVA Top-40 power ranking

Chris Suarez
Staff Writer

The two VCU professors honored in Richmond’s annual power ranking climb mountains and save lives. While Mark Ryan and Sterling Hundley actually hike and practice medicine in their respective careers, the distinction of their unique accomplishments as literal or metaphorical is blurred.

Both on the cusp of their 40s, Ryan and Hundley were listed last week in Style Weekly’s annual “Top 40 Under 40” special issue. Featured alongside Richmond’s professionals and activists who are shaping the city, the two professors were recognized for advancements they’ve made to the local community by serving the medical needs of underserved patients and helping artists find influence in their surrounding natural world.

“We tried to find some of the people making the most of their time,” said Style Weekly Editor-in-Chief Jason Roop in an editorial about the rankings. “They’re creative, hard-working, forward-thinking and inspiring, like others have inspired them. Because they know it’s true. There’s no time like now.”

Ryan, a VCU Health Services physician and instructor, and Hundley, an illustration professor, both lived in Virginia before accepting jobs at VCU. Hundley earned his bachelor’s degree from VCU in 1998. Ryan completed his residency in Blackstone prior to practicing as a health professional in Richmond.

Since starting their careers, both men have earned accolades nationally and have been involved with organizations domestically and abroad. Ryan serves on the National Alliance of Physicians Board of Directors and does advocacy for the Affordable Care Act. Hundley has had works published in the New Yorker and Rolling Stone and is regularly featured in Communications Arts magazine. Hundley also recently returned from a trip to Oslo, Norway, for an art show and workshop he developed and conducted.

While national and global recognition improves the profile of the two professors, the distinction was  awarded because of the charitable and progressive actions undertaken locally by the two nominees.

“The entire (education) system is based on problem solving, which is great, but we’re not taught to challenge the system in a way that we’re ‘problem-stating’ or ‘problem-framing’,” Hundley said. “Entrepreneurs, artists and creatives are the ones who are challenging things, observing systems and ultimately making their own parameters and solving those problems.”

Last year, Hundley unveiled Legendeer, a continued education program sponsored by VCU. The goal of Legendeer, Hundley said, is to have students participate in outdoor activities and service projects as a means to experience life in a way which will inspire their creativity and art work.

As for Ryan, the instructor, physician and health advocate has been involved with rural and urban outreach in central Virginia. Between advocacy and practice, Ryan works at VCU’s Hayes E. Willis Health Center and the CrossOver Healthcare Ministry, both in south Richmond.

After completing his residency, Ryan said he came to VCU knowing his experience in outreach and fluency in Spanish — which he learned growing up in the Dominican Republic where his parents worked for the U.S. government — would come to serve the needs of a rapidly growing population in the Richmond community.

During his first year practicing as a clinician in 2007, Ryan said 50 percent of his patient panel only spoke Spanish. Following the start of his career in pediatrics shortly after, his patients would be nearly 85 percent comprised of Spanish speakers.

“I have an interest in both providing direct medical care to underserved patients and helping students learn how to work with those populations and communities,” Ryan said.

Since coming to VCU, Ryan has become director of the I2CRP honors program which attempts to instill those values of international, inner city and rural outreach by offering opportunities to directly serve patients and be mentored by doctors such as Ryan.

On Tuesday night, a reception was held at the Virginia Historical Society for all of the “Top 40 Under 40” nominees.

Among those recognized during the reception were VCU men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart and his wife Maya Payne Smart, Richmond City Council President Charles Samuels, Richmond Conexiones founder Dustin King and No BS! Brass Band co-founder Reginald Pace.

Ryan and Hundley said the opportunity to meet others included in the ranking of Richmond’s most active young professionals was “humbling” and provided an opportunity for connections to be made. Those connections, Ryan said, could be pivotal in shaping the future of the city.

“You see connections between people you don’t really expect,” Ryan said. “For example, there are people working with the Hispanic community or homeless community of Richmond. Not all of them know each other. Being acknowledged by this award makes other people aware of what you’re doing and allows you to make connections and help develop new ideas.”

“Top 40 Under 40” nominees and nonprofits they support will again be spotlighted at an event next month on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at the Hippodrome Theater from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for $20.

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