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The First Ten Years


January 3 – Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and Carilion Clinic President and CEO Edward Murphy, along with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, announce the creation of a public-private partnership to create a new medical school and research institute, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute.


January 13 – Cynda Ann Johnson comes to Roanoke to begin in her role as president and founding dean.

April – Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic execute of memorandum of understanding for their joint commitment to the school and research institute. Virginia’s General Assembly formally authorizes $59 million of funding to build the medical school and research institute.

October 15 – Groundbreaking held for the building that will house the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute.


June 3 – Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) grants the school preliminary accreditation, which gives the school authorization to recruit students.

October through March 2010 – Interviews take place for the first class of students.


July – Building construction for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute completed.

August 2 – Charter class begins their studies.


May 7 – The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute hosts a Grand Opening Celebration open house and ribbon cutting with hundreds from the Roanoke community.


June – LCME grants the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine provisional accreditation and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges grants the school candidacy status.

July – Members of the charter class all successfully complete their USMLE Step 1 Exams and embark on clinical clerkships for the first time.


The Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation awards the school $1 million for an endowment for a comprehensive oral health curriculum, the first for a U.S. medical school.

August – Fourth class enters the medical school, meaning the school is at full capacity – a full house – for the first time.

2014 - a year of firsts

March 21 – School hosts its first Match Day; 100 percent of the charter class is matched to a residency program.

March 24 – School hosts its first research symposium where fourth-year students present their in-depth research projects they worked on over the last four years.

May 10 – First graduation for the medical school.

June 19 – School receives full accreditation from the LCME and SACS.


May – Dedication of founding donors wall at the school.

November – School wins an Excellence in Virginia Government award for its successful public-private partnership.


October – INSIGHT into Diversity magazine honored the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine with a 2016 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award.


November – Richard C. Vari, senior dean for academic affairs, won the Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award at the AAMC Annual Meeting.

Dean’s Council on Advancement forms.


July 1 – The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine becomes an official college of Virginia Tech.

October – INSIGHT into Diversity magazine recognizes VTCSOM for a second time with the 2018 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award

December – Cynda Ann Johnson retires as founding dean; Daniel Harrington named interim dean


January – Lee A. Learman selected as dean with start date of July 1, 2019

Video Transcript

Good evening and welcome to our virtual celebration reflecting back on 10 years since the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine opened its doors and the charter class began its studies. We picked this evening because it is 10 years to the day that our first 42 students donned white coats with the VTC School of Medicine logo in our school's first-ever white coat ceremony. Less than two weeks ago, we held our 11th white coat ceremony for the class of 2024. Of course it looked much different than normal this year due to the pandemic. No guests and no reception. Still, a lot is the same, while also different. There's no doubt that you, like the other alumni joining us this evening, are different from the evening of your white coat ceremony.

That evening, you may have felt a bit nervous, excited, proud, as you should. Getting into medical school is a challenge and much was accomplished to get you to that moment but then a whole lot more happened, to change you, as you traveled down the road and further developed your skills as a physician and as a leader. Four years of medical school, residency, maybe a fellowship or two, and for some of you, entering your first practice, and perhaps becoming a faculty member in your own right.

And that is what we celebrate tonight - your achievements. You, our alumni. have surpassed our expectations over the last decade. Tonight we take a fond look back and envision what is to come in the next decade for each of you and our medical school.

Next we will hear from Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Agee, and your former charter class President Matt Joy. And I'll sit down with our Founding Dean and Dean Emerita Cynda Johnson. Stay tuned until the end for surprise well wishes from beloved faculty, staff, and community members. Thanks for joining us! 

Welcome and congratulations on your ten year anniversary as the inaugural class of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

You made a bold choice when you put on your white coats a decade ago. You chose to attend a brand new medical school. In fact, the building was completed just days before classes began.

You chose to be part of a unique partnership between Carilion Clinic, Virginia Tech, and the commonwealth.  A partnership designed to lay the foundation of a health science and technology campus that would enrich the community and energize the economy. 

You chose a unique curriculum – one focused on research, problem-based learning, and strengthening the relationships between providers, their patients, and their professional colleagues.  You chose VTC, and VTC also chose you.  

As members of the inaugural class, your role in shaping the success of this institution was critical. VTC needed students with an innovative spirit, problem solvers who embraced new technology and new ideas, and people who were interested in being part of a community.

VTC also needed students who would help build a foundation for the school’s future by participating in the final accreditation process, providing constructive feedback to help refine the curriculum, and representing the school’s mission and values to the broader medical community as you began your careers.  

A decade ago, VTC’s founders predicted the world would need physician-leaders, researchers, and health scientists to take on the problems of the future. Today we understand just how right they were. Your knowledge and skills are more important than ever. 

For those of you who are currently on the front lines of the pandemic, our thoughts are with you and your colleagues and we appreciate your courage and dedication. 

On behalf of the university, congratulations on reaching this ten-year milestone.  We appreciate your role in building and strengthening this important institution. Be safe, be well, and remember that Virginia Tech will always be proud of its Healthcare Hokies!

I’m so pleased to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the charter class of Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine with you.

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since we first welcomed you to our brand-new medical school. And ten years since you received your white coat and formally accepted the sobering responsibilities of a physician.

The vision for our medical school was lofty: We were determined to create physician thought leaders for tomorrow’s world of medicine. This new world has taken many of you to the frontlines of a global health pandemic, which we couldn't have predicted, and your skills are needed now more than ever. Others of you are tackling longer-term challenges facing health care today: an aging population, chronic illnesses, genetics, dizzying new technologies.

No matter where you’re practicing, the pioneering spirit that brought you to VTC ten years ago is alive and well in you today forming the foundation for a successful career in medicine. VTC has earned a national reputation for innovation and bold new approaches that’s helped Carilion attract and retain pioneering, cutting-edge, world-class medical talent. And, we’re transforming our region into a growing hub for innovation and the biosciences.

I can’t tell you how exciting the past ten years have been for me and for Carilion. So, on behalf of all of our faculty, physicians, nurses, clinicians, therapists, and staff… thank you and congratulations.

Hello charter class and everyone else joining in for this event today! It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since we first donned our VTC white coats.  I still remember it well, standing together in a packed auditorium, literally standing room only, surrounded by family, friends, faculty and administration, reciting the Hippocratic oath together as a class for the first time. The excitement and energy of that day was palpable and was one of several firsts that set the tone for our 4-year journey at VTC.  

Since our first day on campus we were often asked what it’s like to be members of the charter class at a brand-new medical school. For me the charter class experience was unique and special in many of the same ways that our white coat ceremony was. The great sense of community on display, amongst the class, within the medical system, and throughout the greater Roanoke area, made me feel welcomed and part of something much greater than just my own medical education. It was clear to me that this new community would support, encourage, and guide us as individuals and as a class to future success.  

And now, 10 years later, the continued successes of VTC, our charter class, and all our alumni speak to what we started here, together. Thank you, to my classmates and everyone that supported us along the way and for being a part of this very special community. 

[Dean Learman]: Cynda, it's so nice to see you.

[Cynda Johnson]: It's really nice to see you too, Lee.

[Dean Learman]: Glad we have a chance to do this in this socially distanced setting.

[Cynda Johnson]: I'm so happy to be here with you. This is this is really special.

[Dean Learman]: So I get to go first with some questions. Thinking about 12 years ago when you were recruited as dean with no building, no faculty, no staff, no students. What was that like?

[Cynda Johnson]: Daunting. There hadn't been any new MD schools for 25 years so this was new and exciting and certainly nothing that I thought that, in my career, I would ever have a part of.

[Dean Learman]: What was it like to recruit the charter class?

[Cynda Johnson]: It was scary. Everything along the way was scary. The biggest reason being the what ifs. What if no one applied? What if no one interviewed? And what if no one came? And so when we looked into how would we recruit the students we had to determine what kind of students do we want, well actually, what kind of students would come to a brand new school. It's a different group of people that will show up at a place with no building, at least. We had them look across the parking lot and say imagine a medical school. This is where you're going to be and they had to take an awful lot on faith. So they were, they were special. They helped us invent the school in every way and I think that's what got them to come. These were people who said we want to be a part of making this happen. And they were tough! They were tough on us and they needed to be, because if a school isn't great for the students, it's not a great school and they made it great. 

[Dean Learman]: What a remarkable group of people. Well tell me about the planning process for the first white coat ceremony.

[Cynda Johnson]: The first white coat ceremony was interesting because we weren't sure we were going to have it. There was a real question about what does this mean and we believed that if we would wait and have a curriculum associated with it - we called it "what's in your white coat" - that it would be more meaningful and a serious reflection for the students. And so we had both the curriculum, which included hearing from senior physicians and it included an essay that the students would write on their reflections after the end of the curriculum on what's in their white coat. It's really has been a special special time.

[Dean Learman]: So now retired for almost two years. What are some of your proudest moments from VTC?

[Cynda Johnson]: It's really hard to choose, but I think that some of the really proud moments are some milestones that have made a difference. So in no particular order, the first graduations, in the regalia that we had designed, just for us, and with every piece of it meaningful to us. To stand on that stage and see this packed audience and try to hold it together to even open my mouth to speak was remarkable. And then my last graduation, because I gave my own graduation speech and it was even harder to open my mouth that day. But I was able to reflect on so many things that had come before and that I had thought about. And the other piece has to do with our students and that is this fabulous entrepreneurial class who we thought was doing very well but until their first test, called step one as a national test, you should, they were doing well on our tests but where were they nationwide? We had no benchmark about how they were really doing compared to others in other schools and they knocked the socks off it and that was pretty amazing. And then they finished with all matching into residencies in a year when thousands of students didn't match, so those those were all times that I will never forget.

[Dean Learman]: There's a lot to be proud of.

[Cynda Johnson]: Well thank you. Now I want to know, I want you to tell others as well, why did you want to even be a medical school dean in the first place, and, even more important for tonight, why here at VTCSOM?

[Dean Learman]: So without going through the first part of my career, I'll fast forward to the point where I was wondering where should I be investing my time and energies in the last 10 years of my career where I can really make a difference? And so I started looking very seriously at deanships and decided to look particularly at the deanships at schools that were new and there was a cadre of new schools, many of them looking for their second deans, their founding deans ready to retire, and I noticed something. I noticed that there was a big difference between how far they had come and I'll tell you by the time I took a look at what was happening here in Roanoke, it was very clear that something special was happening here, something different from the other new schools. So a lot of wonderful things in in the house that Cynda built, amongst many others, allowed me to look at this school as a very exciting place to work.

[Cynda Johnson]: Well, thank you for that. By all accounts, you have settled well into your dean's job this past year plus. So well in fact, that I might mention that I read one of your messages recently that said perhaps you're no longer the "new dean." So tell me, at this point, what things might change?

[Dean Learman]: Well I mentioned one in talking about health systems science and it really is just an over an update than a change. When the school was formed, interprofessionalism was a very hot topic and everyone was trying to do it and do it right and really make it a solid aspect of the learning experience and we did. Virginia Tech Carilion did that very very well. Looking at how it's contextualized now, it's put into an understanding of health systems science and of team-based care which is a part of a larger whole. And as I think about that, future thought leaders should be able to have the bandwidth even early in their medical education to start to understand that health care and health outcomes rely not only on outstanding physicians making good decisions but on systems, and on systems of systems, and so many other things that they need to know about so they can advocate effectively for patients in their individual practices or the leadership roles that they may have moving forward. So I see that more as an update than a change, is to just build out interprofessionalism into this more robust health systems science and interprofessional practice domain. So I think that we're going to be able to graduate students that have really learned as much about health systems as you can without going out and getting a master's degree and we hope to perhaps form master's programs as well in some of those areas so that's one thing that'll be new.

The other thing that some of you may have heard about is the growth in class size and so we've talked about the special nature of the small class size, how it's precious, and it is always going to be a value of the school. Having said that, some growth is possible without negatively affecting that and so I'm confident that growing slowly from 42 to 49 as we just have done, with one extra PBL group, and even to one more PBL group of 56 in the coming years, will be something we can do without any compromise to the things that we hold dear. So that's another thing that we'll be seeing in the future.

[Cynda Johnson]: Excellent directions, but I'm going to make it even harder for you now because the final question is well what about this next decade? And what do you think VTCSOM is going to look like in 2030?

[Dean Learman]: When you come back in 2030 to what could be my retirement party, potentially.

[Cynda Johnson]: I'll be there, but don't hurry!

[Dean Learman]: We're going to be looking back together at decade one, and decade two, and the basic strengths and principles... All of that is still going to be what it is today, with some building out, right? So we'll be a little bit bigger, we'll have the students that are graduating with certificates in health system science the way they have certificates now in research to to show that they've reached a level of knowledge that distinguishes them among medical students applying for residency. We'll have more of them going off to get master's degrees in related fields as well, and we will just be riding high as we have the same mission that we've had from the very beginning, but we have more opportunities for our students to achieve the vision that we have for them.

[Cynda Johnson]: It sounds exciting! I think there's going to be a lot of people who want to be a part of that.

[Dean Learman]: I hope so.

We will end our evening with well wishes from some faces you are sure to recognize and while we have had to host this event virtually, I hope to see all of you in person one day soon. I'd love to showcase our brand new history wall at the school. You'll likely catch a glimpse of your classmates on it.

But first, a toast from me and Cynda. Cheers to 10 years and all that has been accomplished by our alumni and students.

[Cynda Johnson]: I'm proud to say that the results of our vision which was laid out over a decade ago has surpassed all expectations.

[Dean Learman]: Now we look ahead to the decade to come.

[Cynda Johnson]: We know that you, and the graduates to come, are ready to be our nation's physician thought leaders.

[Cynda Johnson and Dean Learman]: Cheers! Cheers. 

Jellie Witcher, director of student affairs

Hello class of 2014. Wow. 10 years. I can't believe that much time has passed us by. You and I began our journey at VTC together in August 2010 and, for that, your class will always have a special place in my heart. I often find myself looking at your class yearbook and reminiscing on the wonderful moments and good times that we shared. As I follow most of you on social media I can't help but be proud of the numerous accomplishments that you've made and the physicians that you've become. It's an added bonus that I also get to see the places you're moving, the families that you're building, and it's such a wonderful, joyous feeling to get to see all of those things. I'm extremely proud of you, but I know our lives get hectic, and sometimes we can't find time, but please reach out keep us posted and keep us updated. You know where to find me. 

Aubrey Knight, senior dean for student affairs

Hello class of 2014. Welcome back on this virtual means of celebrating 10 years since your white coat ceremony. 10 years, it's hard to believe. While I wasn't in the dean's office at the time of your of your white coat, I was there and still remember that event. I mostly remember though those last two years of your education when I was privileged to be a part of the dean's office and to walk with you through your clinical years and our first foray into the into the match. I can't wait to hear where you are and what you're doing to make your world better. Take care, bye-bye.

Paul Dallas, faculty member, internal medicine

Hello class of 2014. It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since you came to Virginia Tech Carilion and 10 years since you first put on your white coats. An amazing source of joy and pride that you have been for us, joy to watch you grow as a student, pride to watch you advance in your training, in your careers. Know that you have set the bar quite high and everyone else is following in your footsteps. Please keep up the good work. All the best to you, and when you have a chance, stop by and say hello. Take care, bye.

Joe Moskal, chair, orthopaedic surgery

My name is Joe Moskal and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the alumni from our charter class on this momentous anniversary. There was never any question or doubt in my mind that each and every one of you had such tremendous potential and you have certainly proven that. So I'd like to toast you all and wish you all great success and happiness as you continue to embark on this most rewarding career. Remember, the harder you work, the luckier you will be in both medicine and life. And the more you care and listen, the luckier patients get. Stay in touch and all the best wishes.

Mark Greenawald, vice chair, community and family medicine

Hello, class of 2014. Hard to believe it's been 10 years since you showed up in all of your dress-ups on that first day of VTC, and we all gathered on the steps and got the picture taken of the class of 2014. I know I don't look a decade older and I'm sure you don't feel a decade old or older either, but I did want to take time to say congratulations! I'm sure and confident that you're doing great things now, and I look forward to hearing all about them as we gather together virtually again for the 10th anniversary of the beginning of VTCSOM.

NL Bishop, senior dean for diversity, inclusion, and student vitality

Hi I'm Nathaniel Bishop, senior vice president with Carilion Clinic and senior associate dean here at the school of medicine. Congratulations to the class of 2010 on this wonderful milestone! In the spring of 2010, I became president of Jefferson College, Dean Cynda Johnson and I became fast friends as we worked well together in programmatic and facility partnerships. That relationship continues in my close work with Dean Learman and the great leadership he's providing now. I have many fond memories of your special inaugural class and, to each of you today, I extend my hearty congratulations and best wishes.

Caroline Osborne's family

Hello, this is the Osborne's. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years. Congratulations to you all and don't be strangers. 

Rick Vari, senior dean for academic affairs

Class of 2014, congratulations on this milestone. 10 years since you were here. Thank you very much for taking a risk on us and helping us build VTC School of Medicine into what we have. Much appreciated. Good luck to you in your careers. Everybody stay safe. Take care.