Visitors explore the William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences during an opening celebration held in late October. A $50,000 gift from a longtime colleague and friend provides continued support for the facility. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan)
A West Virginia University faculty member’s $50,000 gift to support the new William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences celebrates the life and legacy of its namesake.
Dr. Larry Rhodes and his wife, Terry, made their gift in memory of Neal, a pioneering pediatric cardiologist who passed away Jan. 1, 2021, at the age of 80. Over more than 40 years at WVU, Neal cared for thousands of patients, trained countless medical students and residents, helped lead the development of WVU Medicine Children’s and founded the nation’s largest youth-based heart disease research initiative.
Neal also led efforts to establish the museum, which opened in late October near the historic Pylons sculptures on WVU’s Health Sciences Campus.
“In addition to being a great physician, educator, leader, and historian, Bill was a true friend to all he met,” said Rhodes, assistant dean for health sciences programs at WVU’s Beckley Campus, executive director of rural programs for the Health Sciences Center and James H. Walker, MD Chair of Pediatric Cardiology at the School of Medicine. “He cared deeply about the children of our state and their families. He was my role model for over three decades and my personal goal is to someday be half the West Virginian that he was. We know that the William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences was a work of love for him and are certain that if it was not for his dedication to the School of Medicine, the University and the state, it would not be here. We are honored to be able to help maintain his legacy.”
The William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences showcases the history of health care in West Virginia and Appalachia, and documents the impact of WVU’s Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Nursing and Public Health over the course of 150 years on the region, across the U.S. and around the world.
The museum includes health-related artifacts, rare manuscripts and other holdings from the West Virginia and Regional History Center at WVU Libraries, and other items provided by faculty, alumni and friends of the University. The space also includes a multimedia theater.
The William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences faces the Pylons lobby on WVU’s Health Sciences Campus. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan)
“We are so grateful to Larry and Terry Rhodes for their very generous support of the William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences,” Dr. Clay Marsh, WVU Health Sciences chancellor and executive dean, said. “Not only does this gift help preserve and share the rich history of health and medical care in our state and region, but it also honors Bill Neal's memory and his tireless contributions and legacy in establishing the museum. Bill would be honored and humbled by this gift, and we are so appreciative of Larry and Terry's thoughtfulness.”
A Huntington native, Neal earned his medical degree at WVU in 1966. He returned to WVU after completing military service, residency and fellowship training to focus on improving newborn intensive care and establish a statewide system of outreach clinics in pediatric cardiology. He later led the Department of Pediatrics as its chair before serving as the founding medical director for WVU Medicine Children’s.
Neal also founded the Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities (CARDIAC) Project, a comprehensive school-based risk factor surveillance, intervention and research initiative designed to address the mortality and morbidity associated with obesity, diabetes and heart disease in West Virginia. Data from CARDIAC supported the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children between the ages of 9-11 have blood cholesterol screened.
A portrait of Dr. William A. Neal hangs at the museum he launched to honor the history of health care in West Virginia and Appalachia. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan)
Neal retired from clinical practice in 2014. He then wrote a book, “Quiet Advocate: Edward J. Van Liere’s Influence on Medical Education in West Virginia,” and worked with Marsh and others to launch the museum with support from the Neal family.
Rhodes earned his medical degree from the WVU School of Medicine and completed residency training in pediatrics at WVU. He has spent most of career at WVU, serving the state through clinical care, education and outreach. His family has generously supported the WVU School of Medicine, WVU Medicine Children’s and other health sciences programs for many years.
The Rhodes gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.