CEO and author Dr. Venessa Marie Perry, M.P.H. ’99, is the GW Alumni Association’s first African American president.
By Ruth Steinhardt
Venessa Marie Perry, the first African American president of the George Washington Alumni Association, began her tenure at the annual GWAA meeting Thursday evening, taking over from Jeremy Gosbee, B.A. ’98, M.B.A. ‘02.
Dr. Perry, M.P.H. ’99, is the CEO of Health Resource Solutions (HRS), a healthcare consulting firm specializing in developing solutions to public health issues in underserved communities. She founded the first MPH alumni association at the Milken Institute School of Public Health and was actively engaged as a founding member of GW’s Black Alumni Philanthropic Society.
She also is a military veteran, an author and a private relationship coach with a doctorate in psychology.
“I’m a serial entrepreneur,” Dr. Perry said..
She said she hopes to bring a “visionary” spirit to the GWAA.
“We want to heighten the profile of the alumni association,” Dr. Perry said. “And we want to work alongside the Board of Trustees and new president to implement the university’s strategic plan. That means looking at how we do our work—are we reaching the alumni we should be? Are we reflecting the entire community?”
“I want to put structures and systems in place that will strengthen that.”
Growing up in Amherst, Mass., Dr. Perry originally intended to be a medical doctor. But by the time she finished her undergraduate career at the University of Michigan and Trinity College and did a 10-year stint as an Army nurse, she had changed her vision. She wanted to think and work systemically—on broad healthcare strategy and public policy, rather than with individual patients.
“I wanted to be able to educate governments and organizations about prevention and care,” Dr. Perry said.
At the time Dr. Perry was a student, the School of Public Health fell under the umbrella of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Most of her classmates, she said, already had careers. They worked all day, attended class at night and saw little of each other outside the classroom.
“We didn’t really have a community,” Dr. Perry said. That lack led her to found the school’s first alumni association: “I wanted us to have a home.”
Almost immediately after receiving her master’s degree, Dr. Perry founded HRS. There, she has worked with clients like the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the D.C. Department of Health on programs to prevent HIV/AIDS and chronic diseases like diabetes.
Dr. Perry also founded Love(w)rite, a relationship coaching practice for professionals that she described as “for people who have everything in their life together, except their relationships.”
“I firmly believe that in touching one person, you can touch a community,” she said. “That’s part of what I learned in my public policy work.”
Outside of her professional and philanthropic pursuits, Dr. Perry is a self-described “hip-hop junkie” who lists Jay-Z, Eric B. and Rakim and Biggie Smalls among her top five artists. She’s an avid reader who reads five books a week, as well as an enthusiastic traveler, with recent trips including Dubai, Spain, South Africa and Morocco. If she ever moved out of New York City, she said, she would live in Barcelona: “It’s so vibrant, and I love the energy and the culture. And the weather.”
“I hope even more people will want to be engaged with the alumni association as a result of my presidency,” Dr. Perry said.