Vera Ford, Director of Development, lauded for her values and efforts to improve patient care

Lauren Hooker
February 15, 2024
Vera Dr Baliga and Peter
Vera Ford, with Chair Prabhakar Baliga, M.D. and her husband, Peter, at the retirement reception.

Vera Ford, MBA, development director, has driven philanthropic efforts to Change What’s Possible for patient care in the Department of Surgery for the past fourteen years. Known for her heart, compassion, and strong values to always put patients first, Vera has steadfastly worked to connect and engage with donors, grateful patients, retired and current faculty members, and trainees in the Department of Surgery. For the past three years, she has assumed additional responsibilities in two other departments, Emergency Medicine and Orthopedics, as their major gift officer. This January, Vera announced her retirement, effective March 2024.

During a recent retirement reception honoring her significant contributions to the Department and MUSC, Chair Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., said that during her tenure she has built strong donor relationships that align with our values and mission to support the Department philanthropically. According to Baliga, the impact of the philanthropic dollars raised is even more impressive when considering at the forefront of any major gift opportunity, Vera’s conversations with donors, grateful patients, and faculty always start with “how can we improve patient care.”

Dr Baliga and Vera
Chair Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., with Vera Ford at the podium.

“For Vera, it’s always about improving our patients’ lives,” said Baliga. “Whether it is creating Endowed Chairs that help recruit some of the most talented, gifted surgeon scientists and educators, engaging with a group of grateful patients who came together to work with the desire to create funding opportunities to improve transplant patient outcomes, or envisioning funding opportunities that  support the next generation of student learners, trainees, and post-doctoral students, her values model our core of what we do every day to improve patient care.” 

Also known for her ability to build strong relationships, she has worked with leadership to reinvigorate our Curtis P. Artz MUSC Surgical Society, creating many opportunities to re-engage with retired faculty and alumni – even during COVID when she led her team to host virtual fireside chat sessions to keep connected with our alumni and retired faculty, often hosting a leading expert in one of the many innovative programs in the Department.

Jon van Heerden, M.D., said one of the privileges of his career has been working with Ford over the past fourteen years. He added that what resonates with him is her deep level of empathy, having personally witnessed it on numerous of occasions.

H. Biemann Othersen, Jr., M.D., chair of the Curtis P. Artz MUSC Surgical Society, said Vera has been a significant force in the development of an attitude of gratitude in the Department of Surgery. “When our residents graduate and are welcomed in the Surgical Society, a major initiative she started was providing them with a gratitude journal filled with meaningful messages from the chair of the department and faculty who have trained and educated them,” said Othersen. “I think she’s had such an incredible impact on this Department and this University.”


Dr. Othersen with Vera 
Riviere Propst Moody and Vera Ford with Dr. H. Biemann Othersen, Jr., chair of the Curtis P. Artz MUSC Surgical Society.

Ford thanked everyone for their kind words and well wishes, especially Baliga for his friendship and support over these years, the many colleagues and leaders she has worked with across the Department and her three development and alumni colleagues who served with her over the past fourteen years: Riviere Propst Moody, who started with her in 2010 and is now a development officer at the Citadel, Pam Loudon, who served with Vera for seven years and put her heart and soul into strengthening our alumni and grateful patients communications and is now a grants administrator, and Ivy Keller, who navigated through institutional changes to support three departments and was recently promoted to a data manager in the development office. 

Vera and her team
Vera with her team she has worked with over the past fourteen years (from left to right: Pam Loudon, Riviere Propst Moody, and Ivy Keller.

Ford said she has learned much over the past fourteen years. She said the most meaningful thing she discovered during her tenure is how gratitude flows into every aspect of our lives.  She says she can’t think of a better example than Dr. Othersen, whom she calls “the secret sauce” of our alumni society. “At each national surgical meeting, he would host a gathering for alumni, faculty, residents, and donors,” Ford said.  “In preparation for the gatherings, we would focus on a topic, and gratitude was always first on the list and set the tone for our meetings.” 

She adds gratitude is pretty much in the job description of what development teams do in Institutional Advancement. Kate Azizi, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, concurs, adding that Vera’s been a great colleague, bringing terrific ideas and energy to the team. “From the first time I met her, she’s made me think, and I’ve definitely learned from her; she’s just so good at what she does,” Azizi said. “I will miss her, but I am happy she is entering the next phase of her life. I appreciate the strong foundation she has built for her successor to take the reins and build an even better future for patient care.”

View all photos from Vera's Retirement Reception in our Flickr photo album.