Headshot for Dr LauridsenDanish hepatologist Mette Munk Lauridsen traveled to VCU’s Stravitz-Sanyal Liver Institute last August, ready for research, adventure and some serious downtime for writing.

During her tenure at the institute, which ends in late June, Lauridsen, a physician who also holds a doctorate, continued her long-standing collaboration with institute gastroenterologist Jasmohan Bajaj, M.D., and initiated new research collaborations at VCU. Outside the lab, she plunged into the prestigious Grace E Harris Leadership Institute’s HIGHER Ground Women’s Leadership Development Program at VCU, while also exploring the region with her children.

The Fulbright Scholar is head of gastroenterology and hepatology research and a clinical hepatologist at the University Hospital of Southern Denmark Esbjerg. In 2017, Lauridsen established the Liver Research Group Esbjerg, which is dedicated to patient-centric clinical and translational research in metabolic and alcohol-associated liver disease. The research group consists of nine scientists from multiple disciplines to conduct clinical and translational studies. Her primary scientific interests are the impact of liver disease on cognition and quality of life, as well as disease trajectories in metabolically associated steatotic liver disease.

Lauridsen is also a certified research and project manager from the Copenhagen Business School and the University of Southern Denmark. Her interest in leadership led her to apply to and win a spot in the 2024 class of the five-month VCU leadership development experience for current and emerging women leaders.

“I felt it was time for me to reset, take time to internationalize, and expand my leadership skills after I spent the last five years establishing a liver research group at Denmark’s fifth-largest hospital,” she said. “Establishing my group and initiating high-quality studies required serious team-building and trailblazing efforts but for the past year, our three large clinical research studies have been running smoothly thanks to teamwork and immense support from my organization.

“I felt the time was right to make a leap out to gain new skills and network. Also, I wanted more time to write and publish because my years of entrepreneurship naturally entailed reduced time for this.”

Since her arrival at VCU, she has co-authored eight published papers and helped to initiate a prospective study on the impact of dental care in cirrhosis, sparked by a case review she wrote with periodontists from the VCU School of Dentistry and published in Gastroenterology. She collaborates with Bajaj to collect data for a study on brain dysfunction in various stages of fibrosis and has expanded her network to include Institute Director Arun Sanyal, M.D., and the Institute’s chief clinical officer, Richard Sterling, M.D.

Lauridsen had wanted to return to Richmond since she first visited Bajaj in 2015. On this extended visit, her two teens accompanied her to spend the academic year in high school in suburban Richmond and find adventure. (Her husband is a general practitioner in Denmark.) They’ve hiked Old Rag Mountain, skied at Wintergreen, visited Washington, D.C., and got an American muscle car now that her son earned his learner’s permit.

“So here we are, enjoying every moment of our multi-purpose adventure,” she said.