HSR&D’s Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) is honoring the life of Dr. Eugene Marsh, a longstanding member of the Philadelphia Veterans’ Community Advisory Board, and the VA Central Institutional Review Board. Dr. Marsh died from complications of COVID-19 in January 2021. At the time of this death, he was a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at Rider University, who posthumously awarded Marsh his doctorate. To honor Dr. Marsh’s life and legacy, CHERP has renamed their pilot research funding program. The intent of this program is to support preliminary projects that will inform future, larger HSR&D applications and other Veteran-centric research or quality improvement initiatives in Veterans’ health equity. Support for this program is provided by VISN 4 and HSR&D, and the funding is available to VA researchers in the VISN 4 region.
During his life, Dr. Marsh overcame significant, multiple negative social determinants of health. He was born in 1949 in South Carolina and was one of 13 foster children raised by an illiterate foster mother. Faced with ongoing racism and segregation, he went on to become the first Black student to integrate an all-white high school in Lancaster, SC. Dr. Marsh later joined the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, and, in 1967, he enlisted in the US Army and served a tour in Vietnam as a combat soldier for which he received three distinguished medals, including the Bronze Star for valor. After returning home from Vietnam, Marsh faced serious difficulties, experiencing homelessness and multiple mental health challenges. Obtaining care at VA for PTSD would later influence future educational and professional decisions. With the help of a mentor, Marsh turned the corner on his downward spiral, taking a job in construction. He went on to establish Construction Project Management Services, Inc., which became the largest Black-owned construction management company in the country.
Throughout his life, Dr. Marsh worked tirelessly on civil rights issues, speaking to federal agencies about disparities in federal contracting for women and minority-owned business. Dr. Marsh went on to fulfill his lifelong dream of higher education, obtaining an AS in Architectural Design, a BA in History, and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health, specializing in Veterans’ mental health. In 2018, Dr. Marsh was awarded the prestigious H.O.N.O.R Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award from Johnson & Johnson for his work as a leader and motivational speaker. Despite enduring personal hardships after his service and confronting racism throughout his life, Marsh discovered a passion in finding solutions for issues affecting Veteran communities of color.