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The VCU School of Medicine’s largest clinical department, the Department of Internal Medicine, was first organized in 1926 with the appointment of William Branch Porter, M.D., as chair. He assumed his role the following year and served for 29 years before retiring in 1956.

Porter was succeeded by W. Taliaferro Thompson Jr., M.D. Under Thompson’s leadership, 12 divisions were cultivated in 1966. Ten divisions still form the core part of the academic programs and services offered in the department. Also in 1966, the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center was affiliated as a teaching hospital — primarily through shared internal medicine programs and faculty. Thompson retired in 1973 after serving 14 years.

In 1974, Harold J. Fallon, M.D., was appointed the third department chair and significant divisional program changes were undertaken involving eight of the twelve original divisions. In addition, four new divisions were implemented and a tremendous effort was initiated in the area of sponsored research, with significant gains made in NIH-funded areas.

The VCU Board of Visitors approved a name change for the department in 1982, and the Department of Medicine became the Department of Internal Medicine. Following Fallon’s retirement in 1993, department vice chair Hermes A. Kontos, M.D., Ph.D., was named interim chair for one year. Kontos went on to become the dean of the medical school while Shaun Ruddy, M.D., assumed the post of interim chair in 1994.

In September 1995, the department appointed the fourth chair, Richard P. Wenzel, M.D. Immediately upon his arrival Wenzel established new programs and leadership by developing the first Division of Quality Health Care in academic medicine and formed a broader leadership structure for the department. Under the new structure, department leadership comprises a vice chair, an associate chair for research, an associate chair for clinical affairs, an associate chair for education and an associate chair for information systems. Wenzel was also instrumental in developing the university Institute for Outcomes Research and Institute for Clinical Trials in 1997. In 2003, he was elected president of MCV Physicians and in 2005 he was named senior associate dean for clinical affairs. Wenzel stepped down as chair in 2009.

John E. Nestler, M.D. assumed the leadership role in November 2009. Under Nestler’s leadership the Division of Geriatric Medicine was created and the Division of Quality Health Care was folded into the Division of General Internal Medicine. The position of associate chair for faculty development was created, which introduced faculty mentorship and intra-departmental grants programs, and a department-wide quality improvement program was initiated with physician leaders in each division and the appointment of a departmental director of performance improvement.