As scholar-in-residence, Dr. Joseph Longacher will advise the professors of EMU's MA in biomedicine program and consult with students on their research projects, among other responsibilities. (Photo by Lindsey Kolb)

Biomedicine graduate program names first ‘scholar-in-residence’ – Joseph Longacher, MD

The graduate program in biomedicine at Eastern Mennonite University has appointed its first “scholar-in-residence.” He is Joseph Longacher, a physician who spent most of his career in Richmond, Virginia.

Since the majority of the students in the two-year-old program are headed to careers in healthcare, it makes sense that the first scholar-in-residence would be a healthcare provider, said program director Roman Miller, PhD.

Longacher retired in February 2013 and moved with his wife Constance to Harrisonburg, where they live near the EMU campus. In his part-time volunteer role with the biomedicine program, he will advise the professors and consult with students on their research projects. Longacher will serve a two-year term, with the possibility of renewal.

Longacher will also lead a consulting biomedicine team that will be set up this fall. It will be comprised of experts in the healthcare field.

“This is a big deal to have clinical expertise on our leadership team,” said Miller. “We were looking for a physician or other healthcare provider with connections to Virginia’s hospitals, medical schools and healthcare leaders as well as the ability to wisely guide us in further development of our program.”

Miller, who is EMU’s longtime director of the pre-med program, is himself the graduate of a biomedicine program. He earned his PhD in biomedical science at Kent State University in Ohio. A member of EMU’s faculty for 29 years, Miller is the Daniel B. Suter Endowed Professor of Biology.

“Our master’s in biomedicine is a good way to get into the healthcare field, whether as an administrator, teacher or healthcare provider,” said Miller. In some cases, like his own, it will mean further study after EMU at the doctoral level.

Many of the current biomedicine students at EMU did not pursue majors in college that would lead to health-care careers but decided later that’s what they wanted. Fewer than half of the current students came directly from undergraduate studies in college.

Following his undergraduate work at EMU, Longacher, from Newport News, Virginia, went to the Medical College of Virginia (now part of Virginia Commonwealth University) in Richmond. After an internship at a hospital in Pennsylvania, he served as a general practitioner in Appalachia under Mennonite Central Committee. He returned to Richmond for a residency in internal medicine and gastroenterology.

Next came three years at a clinic in Indiana, before Longacher settled in Richmond to focus on gastroenterology – dealing with the digestive system – at the McGuire Clinic, later renamed Virginia Physicians.

For most of his career in Richmond, Longacher was also a clinical professor of internal medicine at VCU. He mentored students at his clinic as well as teaching at the McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center. A member of First Mennonite Church of Richmond, Longacher related to some 50 Mennonite medical students at VCU over the years.

Longacher has been involved in a variety of leadership roles in his denomination, including two terms as moderator of Virginia Mennonite Conference. He served as president of Mennonite Medical Association and is completing a term this summer as president of its successor organization, Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship.

“I’m looking forward to working with the other members of the advisory group to share our insights and help provide input from our experience,” Longacher said.