Eugene Marsh, a member of the 2017 Minority Fellowship Program (MFP), was recently named to the Department of Veterans Affairs Central Institutional Review Board (IRB). The VA Central IRB helps improve the lives of veterans by bettering the VA’s multi-site research projects in order to protect participants in human research projects and enhance the efficiency of research, facilitating a faster transition from results to practical health care for veterans.
As a veteran and mental health professional, Marsh brings unique perspectives to the IRB and will no doubt continue to be a great asset, bridging the gap for those in need. Marsh’s journey to this point included being the first African American student to integrate his all-white high school in Lancaster, South Carolina, in 1965. He would later go on to serve in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and was awarded three distinguished medals—the Vietnam Veteran Medal, the U.S. Army Medal, and the Bronze Star for Valor in combat.
Upon returning home, however, Marsh was a changed man who now dealt with PTSD and difficulty finding a job. And as an African American man still living in the Jim Crow South, he faced racism and discrimination in almost every area of life. During this time, Marsh even endured an almost three-year period of homelessness.
After finding his ground with help from others, he went on to work for many years in the construction industry and owned an award-winning construction management firm. Still inspired by those who encouraged him throughout his life, like his former middle school principal and fellow veteran, Mr. Thomas Barnes, and his foster mother, who though illiterate, encouraged Marsh to pursue his education, he decided to continue his lifelong learning by enrolling in a four-year college.
He began attending classes as an undergraduate at Rider University in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, and in 2014, he graduated and was voted to give the commencement speech for the College of Continuing Studies’ graduation ceremony.
While obtaining his master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, also from Rider, Marsh was named a 2017 MFP Fellow. During his graduate program and into present day, he continues to serve minority communities in and around New Jersey through volunteerism and a commitment to mental health services, especially those services affecting veterans.
Marsh is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership at Rider, with a focus on mental health disparities among the veteran population. In 2018, Johnson & Johnson awarded Marsh with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award for his outstanding volunteerism and engagement in serving vulnerable populations.
He continues to serve as a volunteer on several boards, including the United Way of Greater Mercer County, the Philadelphia Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion Veterans Community Advisory Board, and the New Jersey Supreme Court Ethics Committee. Along with his recent appointment to the VA Central IRB, Marsh also attended the Veterans Administration Health Services Research & Development Service National Meeting, where he spoke as a suicide prevention panelist during the Veteran Engagement Forum.
Marsh is no stranger to lending his voice to help bridge the gap for others and continually makes his voice heard to advocate for the priority of the health and wellness of this special and often underserved population. As a lifelong learner, Marsh also continues to be an educator to those around him and presented at the 2019 Bridging the Gap Symposium on the topic of “Moral Injury Through the Eyes of Older Adult Male Minority War Veterans.”
When reflecting on his time as an MFP Fellow, Marsh is immensely grateful to the NBCC Foundation for the opportunity to connect with other fellows and counseling professionals and for those who have mentored him along the way and provided him with opportunities for further training in his profession.