On March 4, I visited our Charleston Division and our campus Dean, John Linton. John is a wonderful man, principled, smart, and committed to helping others – qualities shared by the hundreds of WVU faculty and staff in Charleston. Each of these folks is working to make West Virginia a better and healthier state.

Just down the sidewalk from John’s office is Charleston Area Medical Center, the hospital where I was born in 1958.

Like the Bill Murray movie, I was in Groundhog Day.

Next, I went to the West Virginia State Capitol and spent time with dedicated legislators and volunteers working with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. The State Capitol is where I had my first job – working for A. James Manchin, West Virginia’s Secretary of State, filing titles and driving him to destinations around the state.

Two emotions were clear – I was back to my roots, and, like Bill Murray’s character, I have the rare chance to pay back and pay forward to something bigger than me – the health and well-being of our state and its citizens.

At a DHHR meeting on improving the health of West Virginia, I found inspiration in the spirit of people like Jeff Coben, a wonderfully bright, dedicated, and altruistic WVU faculty member, along with countless others at the table. These folks get it – service to purpose greater than themselves to help others.

I shared a few thoughts with them on my thoughts for WVU Health Sciences. I also remembered what Leroy Hood, a friend and pioneer in biomedical research told me: The only fun stuff to do is work that others think impossible; and the problem with most people is that they think too small. If we can see it, we can do it.

I have my eyes set on building a great team and family, connecting us to a greater purpose of service to the state. My bedrock principles that I use to prioritize programs and recruits:

  • Focus on One WVU and One West Virginia
  • Tangibly improve the health of our citizens
  • Build the right culture – service- and purpose-driven, honest, compassionate, risk-taking, trusting, creative, and supportive of families
  • Elevate the state – and from our success, plant a beacon to light the way for the world to follow
  • Realize a profit to sustain our programs

I finish with this story:

A little boy found innumerable starfish that had washed up on the beach and started throwing them back in. Given the sheer numbers of starfish on the beach a passerby said to the boy that he would never be able to get all the starfish back in the ocean and should not try. The little boy answered, I may not get them all back in the ocean, but it will make a big difference to the ones I do.

Like the little boy, solving the health problems of the citizens of West Virginia may not immediately allow us to impact everyone, but it will make a world of difference to the ones we do.