Come January, an EVMS graduate and faculty physician will assume the duties of the top elected official in Virginia.

Ralph Northam, MD, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics who earned his EVMS degree in 1984, was elected governor of Virginia Nov. 7. Dr. Northam, a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, won with 54 percent of the vote. Dr. Northam currently serves as lieutenant governor under Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“In Virginia, it’s going to take a doctor to heal our differences,” Dr. Northam told supporters at his victory celebration in Fairfax. “I’m here to let you know that the doctor is in.”

During his time in state government, Dr. Northam has a track record of targeting health concerns. He championed legislation to establish firm guidelines for dealing with concussions incurred playing sports in Virginia schools. He also authored the smoking ban in Virginia restaurants.

Dr. Northam visited campus last fall to talk with residents, students and faculty about issues surrounding the care of the mentally ill. As a child neurologist, he chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response. He spoke with residents and faculty in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, as well as students interested in psychiatry.

During that visit, Dr. Northam discussed legislative initiatives and challenges, such as providing an adequate number of hospital beds for the mentally ill, tracking where those open beds are and using the beds to benefit the neediest patients. He told his young audience that the difficulties illustrate the importance of physician involvement in the legislative process. “If you’re not at the table,” he said, reciting an old adage, “you’re on the menu.”

His son, Weston, is a 2014 EVMS graduate and is a neurosurgeon in Chapel Hill, NC.