Personality: Darius A. Johnson
Spotlight on Medical College of Virginia Foundation board chair
9/28/2023, 6 p.m.
Darius A. Johnson says the heart of who he is as a person can be traced to his parents, Jerome J. Johnson and Roslyn A. Johnson, and his sister, Leslie N. Johnson.
“They created a model for me to follow and a standard for me to aspire to,” he wrote in an email. “They also inspired the love I have for my extended family and the responsibility I feel to uplift our community.”
A decade ago Mr. Johnson, vice president and treasurer for Dominion Energy, found a way to uplift and give back to the community through the Medical College of Virginia Foundation.
“One of my former clients, Gail Johnson, invited me to be considered for the board,” he explained. “Given my respect for her and passion for supporting health equity in and around the city of Richmond, I decided to get involved.”
This spring, Mr. Johnson accepted a two-year term as board chair. The MCV Foundation was founded in 1949 to support the MCV Campus, which is now known as Virginia Commonwealth University Health. The foundation manages more than $900 million in assets and operating funds which provide scholarships, professorships, research funding and program resources for the work performed at VCU Health through its seven academic and health care entities.
One of the ways it has done this is by working to raise funds for the Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professorship, which supports research to find a cure for sickle cell disease. Statistics show that one in 500 African-Americans are living with the disease, while about one in 12 have inherited the sickle cell trait. On Sept. 16, the MCV Foundation was the beneficiary of the inaugural Florence Neal Cooper Smith 5K to support the Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professorship at VCU. The inaugural event was sponsored and hosted by the Richmond FACTS Committee (Finding a Cure Together 4 Sickle Cell).
“[The event] raised nearly $14,000 for the professorship we hold named in honor of Ms. Smith, who has dedicated her life to building awareness about sickle cell disease.” Mr. Johnson said, noting that the MCV Foundation has worked to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding since 2014.
It also is accepting, stewarding and dispersing more than $70 million that will help to implement the Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials Award Program, a national program created to transform the clinical research landscape with the goal of increasing diversity in clinical trials.
The MCV Foundation continually works to raise awareness of the direct impact that donations from the community can have by sharing the work VCU Health does in research, education and patient care. Its semiannual publication, NEXT, is distributed to local nonprofits, business leaders, lawmakers and friends of campus, as well as being available through its website and social media platforms.
“I have found inspiration in the stories of people who have been personally impacted in a profoundly positive way through the services and service providers at VCU Health,” Mr. Johnson said of his work with the MCV Foundation over the past decade. “I find meaning in connecting my efforts and dedication to those stories.”
Meet a servant leader who advocates and supports healthy outcomes for all patients and this week’s Personality, Darius A. Johnson:
Volunteer position: Board chair, MCV Foundation.
Occupation: Vice president and treasurer, Dominion Energy.
Month and place of birth: October in Richmond.
Where I live now: Richmond.
Education: Bachelor’s in psychology, University of Virginia, MBA, University of Richmond.
Family: Wife Monique and daughter Phoebe.
Medical College of Virginia Foundation is: An independent 501(c)(3) organization that manages more than $900 million in assets to ensure that VCU Health remains at the forefront of excellence and innovation in patient care, education and research.
Through our 2,000 funds, we provide scholarships, professorships, research funding and program resources to support the lifesaving work occurring at VCU Health every day.
Through fundraising, stewardship and communications, the MCV Foundation serves as a resource and partner for seven academic and health care entities at VCU Health including VCU College of Health Professions, VCU School of Dentistry, VCU School of Medicine, VCU School of Nursing, VCU School of Pharmacy, VCU Massey Cancer Center, VCU Medical Center and its affiliated hospitals and clinics.
No. 1 goal as board chair: To ensure the foundation is a good steward of the resources raised for the MCV Campus and to have the right people in place to be able to do that in a responsible manner. VCU Health touches many people right here in Richmond, but also globally, and we have a tremendous duty, on behalf of those who contribute, to instill and maintain confidence in the organization to ultimately support healthy outcomes for all patients.
No. 1 challenge facing MCV Foundation: Increasing awareness of the incredible, world-renowned research, education and patient care that is happening and available right here in Richmond for all who need it, and how through giving to the MCV Foundation in support of VCU Health, community members can make an impact on exactly what they are passionate about in health care, research or education.
Racial equity and MCV Foundation: As the top safety net hospital in Virginia, VCU Health works to ensure that everyone, regardless of circumstances, has access to the best care. The MCV Foundation exists to support that mission, which benefits people across the region and nation, regardless of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and other factors.
MCV and its historical relationship with Black Richmond: The MCV Foundation has worked since 2014 to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for the Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professorship, which supports aggressive, cutting-edge research to find a cure for sickle cell disease. One in 500 African-Americans is living with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell trait, the healthy carrier state for the disease, occurs in about one in 12 African-Americans.
How MCV Foundation helps eradicate the history of health disparities that remain in Richmond: Virginia Commonwealth University announced in November 2022 that it is partnering with the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation and working alongside the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Amgen and Gilead Sciences to lead the implementation of the Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials Award Program, a national program created to transform the clinical research landscape with the goal of increasing diversity in clinical trials.
Ways to be involved with MCV Foundation: Learn more about the Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professorship, and hear from Dr. Wally Smith at www.mcvfoundation.org/sicklecell, or give directly online to support the professorship at www.mcvfoundation.org/supportsicklecell.
You can also find the MCV Foundation’s recently published special issue of NEXT magazine, which features many ways in which VCU Health is addressing health equity in Richmond and improving access to care: www.mcvfoundation.org/NEXT.
How I start the day: Yoga and prayer.
The three words that best describe me: Family-oriented, loyal, thankful.
If I had 10 extra minutes in the day, I would: Work out.
If I hosted a dream dinner party I would invite: My grandfather, Willie L. Alexander, (in his younger days) so I could get to know him as a young man.
Best late-night snack: Popcorn.
The music I listen to most is: Hip-hop.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: DJ.
A quote that inspires me: “Calm seas never made a good sailor.”
At the top of my “to-do” list: Achieve all of my goals.
The best thing my parents ever taught me: Humility, respect and kindness.
The person who influenced me the most: Mom, dad and sister. It’s a tie!
Book that influenced me the most: “Manchild in the Promised Land” by Claude Brown because it’s a “coming of age” story that I read while coming of age.
What I’m reading now: “Operation Firefly” by Lianne Young.
Next goal: Become a college basketball referee.