Starting on March 12, 2021 the leadership at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine has done a phenomenal job of communicating timely and important messages and updates to staff, faculty, and students. 

From March 23, as we moved to a 100% remote environment, through August 31, when all of our students are back in an in-person learning environment, Dean Learman led the charge to provide weekly video updates to keep the VTCSOM community informed. 

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, August 31st, 2020. We are entering week 25 of the pandemic response, and this will be our final weekly video update.

Today marks the first day since mid-March that all four of our classes are back to in-person learning.  Clinical rotations and electives resumed in July, we welcomed our new first year students a month ago, and today our second year class made the transition from virtual to in-person learning. 

As our first- and second-year students began to return, so did the faculty and staff whose presence on campus is essential to support their educational programs.

For our final weekly video, Dr. Aubrey Knight, senior dean for student affairs, will give a snapshot of each class’s journey over the past 6 months.  And Patricia Wooten, human resources manager, will update us on how complete or partial telework arrangements have helped limit the number of team members working on site. 

I have the great honor of providing an installment for Dean Learman’s final weekly update. This is a privilege indeed, and what a journey we've all taken together these past nearly six months.

We've found a way to celebrate Match Day and graduation virtually. We have been able to provide clinical educational opportunities for our students, even as the hospital was closed to learners, and we pivoted to a virtual format for phase one of the curriculum.

We now have all four classes back in Roanoke and while none are doing things exactly as would have been without COVID, all are taking advantage of the incredibly rich learning opportunities afforded to them as a result of our committed faculty and diverse patient population.

I'm going to provide you some details of how the students in each class are progressing, but do so in the context of the resilience displayed in the midst of these circumstances. I am in awe of our students and so proud of their commitment, not only to their education, but to our community.

Before providing some highlights of the activities of each individual class, I want to acknowledge the contributions our students have been making in our community during these unprecedented times. From the very beginning of the pandemic, our students stepped up and asked how they could help. They have become members of the Virginia Department of Health Medical Reserve Corps, and, as such, have been assisting with contact tracing and the distribution of PPE.

Our students have taken a leading role in the midst of the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. They have helped us identify ways in which our community can address issues surrounding diversity and health equity, and are taking leadership roles in the task force and subcommittees created to address these issues.

I couldn't be more proud of the courage and commitment they have exhibited during these times when they could have been solely focused on the disruption of their own education and fears for their own future. Their selflessness is inspiring to me and gives me great hope for the future of healthcare.

Each class has endured changes in their plans, their schedules, and their curriculum.

The class of 2021 were two-thirds of the way through the all important third year when they were pulled from the hospital. Thanks to the hard work of Dr. Criss and the clerkship directors, as well as some innovative individuals, including the students impacted, we were able to provide virtual education. And then, once the hospital opened back up for our students to resume clinical education, make up for that lost clinical time. In the midst of making up these rotations, they are also finalizing their residency applications and preparing for a very different season that will include greatly reduced opportunities for away electives, a shortened interview season, and all interviews being virtual. Match Day will still be the third Friday in March and I'm fully expecting that this class will maintain our spotless record of successful matches.

Many members of the class of 2022 were in the final days of studying for STEP 1, when the pandemic resulted in the closure of the Prometric test centers, this was followed by on again, off again, messages about reopening and random cancellations of test dates. Despite the stress, I am pleased to announce that all members of the class of 2022 passed the STEP 1 exam on their first attempt and that the class mean has exceeded that of all previous VTCSOM classes. Congratulations, class of 2022! This is a remarkable accomplishment from a remarkable class. They are now in their third year with the curriculum modified to provide flexibility for the class of 2021 to complete lost clerkship time and allowing for the potential for future disruptions.

The class of 2023 is the last class to have returned to Roanoke as they completed most of block four and all of block five virtually. They have partnered with the faculty in making this work. I've spoken with many in recent weeks, and there seems to be relative unanimity in the opinion that they are glad to be back to in-person learning, which officially begins August 31st.

Finally, our newest and largest class, the class of 2024 arrived in mid-July. The 49 members of the class were asked to arrive two weeks prior to orientation in order to self-quarantine. They arrived on July 15th, had COVID testing on July 22nd, and began orientation that was both live and virtual on July 29th. They are now in week four of block one, and, according to my sources, are an incredibly talented and engaged class.

It's almost September, and we are approaching the six-month mark from the beginning of the disruptions that occurred in our lives and the learning environment. I am proud of the faculty and staff for the ways in which we have rallied to take care of ourselves and our students.

I like to look on each challenge as a learning experience and believe me, these past six months have provided me with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. However, as I reflect on the past six months, the one most vivid impression is of our students and their collective courage in the midst of challenges, commitment to their education and compassion for each other, and for our communities.

I am a better person for having had the privilege of observing this, and I want to close this message with a big thank you to our students for allowing me to be a part of their journey. Thank you.

Greetings VTCSOM! This is Patricia Wooten, your HR manager for the school. We are a few weeks into what we are calling modified operations on our campus and main campus at Virginia Tech. And we thought that as we acclimate back into the workforce and to the work environment, it was timely to provide an update on our employees and what we are doing to continue to keep our employees and our faculty, full-time faculty safe and healthy. 

Over the last month or so, we've worked really hard with leadership to look at a telework sustainability process. And so each leader went through the process and procedure of reviewing roles and responsibilities for their department, determining which employees could or should continue teleworking, as well as taking those employees' requests and individual concerns into consideration. 

Right now we've got about 57% of our employees still working in some telework capacity. So, that either means they are 100% teleworking from home and/or they are mostly teleworking with some onsite presence. And so that onsite presence may be for critical meetings that must be done face-to-face or instruction if they are teaching. So things of that nature would require them to physically be in the work environment in the workspace. 

So, then that leaves us with 43% of our employees and faculty who will be onsite fully or be onsite for the majority of their time with some telework capability. And so you may see those folks around the building. Please make sure that you're, you know, saying hi, checking on them. I know we haven't seen each other in quite some time. So just make sure you're checking in and staying safe and social distancing with each other. 

If you've got a question about where an employee is, what is their schedule in the office? If they are fully teleworking, 100%, please reach out to them directly. All of us are available and capable to answer any questions that you may have about our schedules. Our calendars should be up-to-date so that if you need to schedule a meeting, get in touch with one of us, that would be a great way to do so. 

I know now, you know, we've got reasons why we have to have meetings in person, but we are still encouraging virtual meetings if you can. But if you must have a meeting in person, please please make sure that you're checking room capacities, masking and sanitizing yourself as well as the room once you finish your meetings in those spaces. 

So, ultimately, we want everyone to continue to stay safe and healthy through this pandemic. And these numbers may change over time as things change in our environment, in our world around us. There was a possibility of, you know, more folks going back to teleworking or more folks coming back into the office. So, we'll try to provide updates as we have them or as things change. But if you have questions, you can always reach out to me. My email is pawooten@vt.edu. It’s the best way to reach me right now since I am mainly teleworking with some onsite. And so, hopefully that helps you and understand where our employees are and a quick update on employees and faculty. Thank you and have a great day.

Thank you, Aubrey and Patricia.

It is truly remarkable how well our community of students, faculty and staff has adapted over the last six months.  Our medical students – the most affected group – have impressed me with their grit, flexibility and commitment to learning.   

This track record makes me very confident that moving forward, we will be vigilant.  We will keep ourselves, our loved ones, and community safe. We will be nimble and resilient when making future adaptations to assure we achieve our important mission.

As I mentioned, this will be our last weekly video briefing; however, that doesn’t mean regular communication will stop! Progress Notes – our monthly newsletter – is a great way to stay informed with everything happening at VTC School of Medicine. You’ll find it in your inbox the first Monday of the month, unless there is a holiday like Labor Day when it will come on the first Tuesday.

Thank you for keeping in touch with us each week.  If any urgent or timely news pops up worth sharing, I will send an email or video message out to make sure we all stay informed.

Take care and stay safe.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, August 24th, 2020, and we are entering Week 24 of the pandemic response.

Starting in July we have been seeing more and more faculty, staff, and students back in the building, all wearing masks and becoming accustomed to our new procedures for keeping our people and spaces as safe as possible.  

And now we are just one week away from the final milestone in our students returning to in-person learning, as the second-year class makes their transition from a completely virtual format next Monday.  

Today, Virginia Tech begins its fall semester – with a blend of in-person and virtual classes and experiences, much like us. In anticipation of the return of students, the New River Valley Public Health Task Force, of which the university is a member, unveiled a Community Wellness Commitment to encourage community members to care for the health and well-being of others.

The wellness commitment extends to our community here in Roanoke as well – and currently the medical school and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC are working together to bring on partners from the Roanoke Valley. Expect to see wellness commitment posters with our logos and other local organizations hanging around the medical school and broader Roanoke Valley soon.

Here’s a look at the 10 tenets of the wellness commitment.

Last week, I reminded our students, faculty, and staff that while it is wonderful to be back and learning together, it will take vigilance in both our professional and personal lives to sustain this new normal. Our wellness commitment is another reminder that we need to stay steadfast in establishing new habits to keep us safe until the pandemic is over.

Next week will be our last official weekly video.  These updates have helped us communicate regularly about how we have adapted to the pandemic since March.  We will continue to provide updates in our other channels – like my monthly newsletter, Progress Notes, emails, social media and more.

I will see you again next week. Take care and stay safe.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Tuesday, August 18th, 2020, and we are now in Week 23 of the pandemic response.

Our third- and fourth-year students have been back in clinical rotations for six weeks now, after a pause lasting from mid-March through the end of June.  Our third-year students thankfully were able to begin their rotations at their regularly scheduled times.  Our fourth-year students are working to complete their required rotations, bumped from the last months of their third year, while entering the residency application cycle that culminates on Match Day next March. 

Dr. Tracey Criss will begin with an overview of what’s happened for the rotations over the last few weeks, and a student from the Class of 2022 will provide her perspective on clinical rotations during the pandemic. 

Hi, I would like to give an update on our M3 and M4 students and how things are going for them so far in the clinical world. We've welcomed everyone back to campus who has arrived so far, and it's been great to have everyone back.

Our M3's have been engaged in the four plus two model of clinical rotations. What that means is: they'll do four weeks of clinical rotations and then two weeks of online learning for those core clerkships. And those six weeks may or may not be six consecutive weeks.

We've made it through one rotation so far, entering the middle of our second rotation and things have gone quite well. The students have been expressing how excited they are to be seeing patients and taking care of patients and involved in all that they're doing, and also they've had some experiences that were anticipated could happen, but we just had to wait and see when it did happen.

We've had some students who have had some inadvertent exposure to COVID and they have handled this very, very well. Because they were wearing the appropriate PPE as was requested of them, and, because they were following Carilion Clinic policy, they were able to return to clinical care as they were not symptomatic. We appreciate that our students are following all of those policies and doing the things they're supposed to be doing.

Our M4's have had a staggered return to campus, and it's been great to see them as well. Some are still studying and are getting ready to take Step 2. Others have already taken Step 2 and then some have been actively engaged in patient care on rotation, such as acting internships or on rotations where they're making up time from that M3 year where they were pulled from the hospital and not able to complete the clinical portion of rotations.

As I said, it's been great to have everyone back to campus, and everyone has been doing a fantastic job of following policies. One of the things we've also requested of students is that they be a model to the community here in Roanoke, and they wear a mask when they're out in public, and socially distance, and practice good hand washing. So that as professionals, all of us together can model all of that to the community and try to keep COVID under as best control as we possibly can.

So, thanks to everyone. As I said, it's been wonderful to have everyone back. We look forward to a great year and we look forward to seeing how each one progresses as the year passes by from rotation to rotation. And we look forward to seeing the progress of each student. Thanks a lot.

Hi, I'm Michaela Pesce. I am a third-year medical student at Virginia Tech currently on clinical rotations in the hospital. I'm on my pediatric surgery rotation right now and my overall surgery rotation in general this month, and it's been wonderful to actually be in the hospital and be doing rotations.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, rotations are shortened and COVID has changed a lot of things about healthcare and about medical education. Medical students can't see COVID patients or suspected COVID patients. Some surgeries are not happening as scheduled due to COVID and less elective surgeries are being performed. So, it's sort of decreasing patient contact that medical students get to have.

I would say the biggest problem with coronavirus in regards to being in the hospital is every time you walk into a patient room, your goggles fog up within 60 seconds, and that's been, you know, you're straining your neck to see a patient out of the one corner of your goggles that's still clear. So, that's probably been the biggest issue that we've encountered, but it's all in the name of patient safety, so it's okay.

But overall, us third- and fourth-year students are just feeling really blessed to be back in the hospital and to be able to have any rotations at all. Coronavirus has changed a lot of things, but fortunately it's not really changed that too much. So, we feel very lucky and very blessed to be able to provide care and to be able to learn in the hospital during this pandemic.

We are hopeful that students will be able to continue clinical rotations this year without interruption as we all continue to navigate the pandemic.  The 4+2 model of clinical rotations described by Dr. Criss provides our students the maximum flexibility possible to complete the year on schedule, in the unlikely case that clinical rotations are paused again in the coming months.

If you haven’t seen it already, I encourage to you check out guidance from the AAMC that I shared last week on consensus guidance on face coverings. It gives an overview of why we should make face coverings a part of our “new normal” to help us manage the spread of COVID-19. A link is included on our weekly update website below this embedded video. Thank you to each of you for following our guidance on face coverings in our building – I hope you each follow the guidance in other areas of your life outside the classroom and workplace.

Until next week, please stay vigilant and safe. 

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, August 10th, 2020, and we are entering Week 22 of the pandemic response.

The pandemic has caused each of us to make great adjustments, both in our personal and professional lives, to keep ourselves and each other safe. Already this spring, we transitioned some beloved events, like Match Day and Graduation, to virtual celebrations. While we are thankful we’ve been able to resume some things, like the return to in-person learning, other things we typically do each year will have to be adapted, including interviews for our prospective students.

Typically, we have more than 300 prospective students travel from around the country to Roanoke to interview for a position at our school. That is just not possible this year due to safety concerns, as we work to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Our admissions team has been working hard through the logistics of keeping our interview process largely the same, but now virtual. In addition to the interviews themselves, in a typical year we used interview weekends to showcase our school, students, faculty, and broader community. For many students the interview weekend solidified their desire to come here and to be part of our community. Here’s a look at what is being done to replicate the weekend to the best of our ability, virtually.

Hi. My name is Kelsey and I’m the assistant director of admissions for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Admissions this year looks a lot different as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and we had to make adjustments to our process for the 2021 application cycle. Our top priority is the safety of our staff, applicants, and community volunteers and as such, we have transitioned to virtual interviews for this year. Historically, we conducted 6 Multiple Mini-Interview days, better known as MMIs to those at VTCSOM. Those weekends consisted of tours of the Roanoke community, tours of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, the interviews themselves, which include both scenario stations and a traditional interview, presentations on our curriculum, and multiple opportunities to interact with our current students. Every part of our interview day played a role in giving an applicant a full picture of what they would experience if they chose to attend our medical school.

As part of the transition to virtual interviews, our Admissions team spent countless hours brainstorming creative ways in which we could still achieve all of those experiences in a virtual setting. Our Advancement team has also been working diligently to create tours of the medical school and the Roanoke community in a virtual way. 

Applicants who get selected to interview will join a Zoom link on one of 6 Saturdays throughout the Fall and Spring. They will participate in a set of scenario interviews conducted by members of the Roanoke community and a traditional interview with a member of the Medical Student Admissions Committee (MSAC). We will then have separate sessions where applicants can interact with current students and also a number of videos highlighting the unique aspects of our curriculum. 

One of the greatest things about this experience has been our interviewers. They have come out in full force to support us in this new endeavor and begin their new training in just a couple weeks, which includes annual diversity training as well as training on how to conduct interviews virtually. 

As one of the people who reviews applications, I can say with confidence that we have a great set of applicants this year and I look forward “meeting” them via Zoom!

While we wish we could have our prospective students experience our school and community in person, our virtual interview season in 2020 will include extra features to help make up for what is missing, while we to protect the health of our prospective students, faculty, staff, interviewers, and community at large.

I want to thank everyone in advance for their support of the process this year to make it the best possible so we can keep bringing new, talented students to our community.

Take care and stay safe.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is August 3rd, 2020, marking the 21st week of the pandemic response. Last week we welcomed our Class of 2024, 49 strong! Knock on wood [knocking sounds], they will be the only class who will one day tell their colleagues that they started medical school in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the highlights of my career in academic medicine occurred last week when 158 VTCSOM students, faculty, staff, and friends of the school joined in a community forum on our InclusiveVTCSOM initiative. Even though the event was held virtually, the energy and excitement about the possibilities of what we can be as a fully inclusive, equitable organization, were palpable.

The forum, and an earlier one we held in June, were in response to recent events that put a glaring spotlight on systemic racism across our country. At last week’s forum, we introduced the task force that will focus on a wide range of diversity issues, including many of those raised by our students in June and July.

The task force includes more than 100 members participating in the steering committee or seven work groups, and while that may seem large, we need a variety of skills, experience, perspectives, and ideas to guide this multidimensional work. In order to make meaningful and sustainable change, we need many voices at the table co-creating our future vision.

We invite you to visit our newly designed diversity page at: medicine.vtc.vt.edu/diversity. Here you will find a link for more information about the InclusiveVTCSOM task force, including a link to last week’s forum.

Today we will hear from the three co-chairs of the task force: Patricia Wooten, human resources manager; Michael Jeremiah, department chair of family and community medicine; and Fidel Valea, department chair of obstetrics and gynecology. These 3 leaders will share their vision about this initiative what excites them about this effort we are undertaking.

Greetings VTCSOM. This is Patricia Wooten, the HR manager for the school and as one of the co-chairs of the InclusiveVTCSOM task force, I wanted to just send a short message with a few key points following Tuesday evening’s community conversations.

I was left energized, ready to tackle the work ahead of us and I hope you were as well following that session. I was also very impressed by the work that's already been done up until this point by the dean, by our leadership team, and by our diversity and inclusion team to get us to here. The foundation that's been set, I think, is phenomenal, and we're just going to continue that work and be part of something really big and really great here.

As I mentioned, Tuesday evening, my more than 15-year career in human resources spans various industries, but most recently, the last seven years prior to joining the school of medicine, I was an HR leader for various hospital systems up and down the East coast for the competitor. But I'm super, super happy to be in the role that I am today, and hopefully that experience that I have, not only personally, but professionally dealing with hospital operations at a very high level will help us as we tackle some of the items that were shared Tuesday evening.

Most people... one of the things that really excites me about this task force is the vast number of folks that we have appointed to the task force. Most people, when they think of over a hundred individuals being on a task force and trying to come together towards one common goal would say that's too many. I actually think the opposite. I think instead what really happens is you bring a vast number of individuals with experiences, skills, ideas to the table versus having just one voice. And so I think, I actually think that over 100 number is going to benefit us greatly and sort of set us apart in the work that we're getting ready to do and make this hugely successful.

So that's a huge excitement for me, and I look forward to working with every single one of you in this capacity. I'm thrilled by the journey that we're embarking on. I truly think that this is a historic moment in time for all of us, for our communities. And it's historic for the school for us to really lay the groundwork, to be the best that we can be now and in the future. And so I hope that you're ready to take this journey with us, that you're actively engaged with us, and we look forward to serving you, but you also serving, serving the school. So, thank you, and have a great day.

Greetings everyone. My name is Michael Jeremiah. I serve as the chair of the department of family and community medicine, both for Carilion Clinic and for our school of medicine. I want to thank Dean Learman for giving me the opportunity to work with the incredible colleagues I have in Patricia Wooten and Dr. Fidel Valea. This is such important work that we're going to be doing as a task force and I am excited to be a part of it. I am honored to be able to work with such incredible group of individuals who are now making up the different work groups and the larger task force. Our students have spoken up and already started to recognize some of the opportunities we have as a school to be able to address aspects of the curriculum, as well as the learning environment and our hiring practices, to be the best that we can be.

I've been working population health for Carilion Clinic, and I've recognized in that work, that you cannot improve the health of a community or of a population without addressing some of these aspects of equity and aspects of inclusiveness because they become critical barriers for many of our patients in terms of reaching their optimal health outcomes. The same is true in the learning environment. We have to recognize these barriers where they exist and either eliminate them or find ways around them to be able to optimize the learning for our students, to become the best physicians that they can be.

This is personal for me, too. My wife and I have two wonderful children and they are internationally adopted, and they have experienced discrimination and aspects of these challenges, that many parts of our society experience every day. We've done our best to be able to help them to navigate through many of those challenges and we've learned so much from them, and I hope to be able to carry over some of that learning as I work with all of the members of the task force. Thank you again for this opportunity. We're very excited about what we can accomplish together and looking forward to getting started here right away. Thanks so much.

Hello. My name is Fidel Valea, and I serve as the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and I was recently appointed co-chair of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine task force on diversity, equity, and inclusion. When Dean Learman first asked me to serve as co-chair of this committee, my initial response was "YES! absolutely."

You might wonder why such a strong feeling? As an immigrant from Cuba, I came to United States at age one, and my family and I lived in a single family apartment in the Bronx with two other families. I can tell you that we all experienced discrimination firsthand. I heard about it from my parents at work. I experienced it at school. We even experienced it in the community. I was fortunate to have very resilient parents that taught me the importance and values of equity and justice for all, regardless of the color of their skin, the country of origin, the languages they speak, or their personal preferences.

I can tell you that in my household, racism of any form was just not tolerated. My dad used to say, "that's why we came to America" in his broken English. So no surprise then that diversity, equity, and inclusion is actually a calling of mine. It's personal for me.

A close friend of mine is the chief diversity officer for the whole University of South Florida system. And I asked him, point blank, “Heywood, What can I do?” His answer to me was: "don't be silent, speak up, be heard. Now more than ever, don't be silent." These words resonated with me, but I still had the question of how can I do this? So, when the Dean asked me to serve on this committee, I realized this was my how, this was my opportunity to serve, speak up, and affect change.

My next question of the dean was all about resources. After the July 28th kickoff, where he described in detail the plans, resources, and various committee and subcommittee members that he has assembled, it was obvious to me that this is a great opportunity to make a change. The time is right. By involving the community at large in this endeavor. Our change can permeate throughout Virginia Tech Carilion, Carilion Health System, and into the community.

My fellow co-chairs Patricia Wooten and Michael Jeremiah bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, and energy to this group. I think I can speak for all three of us when I say that we're excited to lead this change. Throughout my professional life, I've been involved with recruitment at all levels and I tell folks that I'm recruiting that diversity doesn't just happen, that you actually have to make it happen.

But let me be clear. Diversity alone is not enough. We have to achieve equity and inclusion. Both of these require a culture change, a new state of mind, a new way of life. That is our goal. Together, as a community, we could overcome these obstacles, accomplish our goals and be a role model for other communities. This is our opportunity to speak up and be heard. Thank you for the opportunity to express my thoughts and serve on the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion task force.

Thank you Patricia and Drs. Jeremiah and Valea. We are in very capable hands with your leadership in this effort.

InclusiveVTCSOM is the leading edge of our strategic planning process occurring this academic year.  The task force has been asked to submit a report to me by December 2020, or in early 2021 if there are delays related to the pandemic.

You’ll be hearing and reading more about InclusiveVTCSOM in the months ahead as each working group is charged with developing deliberate, measurable action steps that advance our equity and inclusion goals.

Until next week, stay safe and well.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, July 27, 2020, and we are entering Week 20 of the pandemic response.

We are thrilled to welcome our newest class – the class of 2024 – today. They have the distinction of not only being our largest class to date – with 49 extremely talented members as you’ll hear about shortly – but also our first class that will begin with much of orientation, including today’s first day, in a virtual format.

In years past, there would be a flurry of excitement around the building as we welcomed the new students and took a group photo out on the front steps. While that is not happening this year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are no less excited to officially bring this class into the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine community.  And we will see them, in masks of course, for some limited events later this week.

In today’s update, Dr. Melanie Prusakowski, associate dean for admissions, will tell us a little bit more about the class overall… and then we will hear from three matriculating students about what led them to choose VTC as their medical school and home for the next four years.

Hello Virginia Tech Carilion Community. I am Melanie Prusakowski, pediatric emergency physician and associate dean for admissions.

Today I would like to share a little bit about our matriculating medical school class of 2024. We are excited to welcome our largest class, with 49 matriculants selected from 4299 applications. The class is wonderfully diverse in its life experiences, paths to medicine, and ethnic backgrounds. The class is also incredibly competitive, with a substantial number of matriculants selecting our research-intensive, problem-based learning curriculum from among multiple acceptances.

Our Class of 2024 hales from 15 different states and 35 undergraduate institutions.  12 students are from Virginia and 14 are from California. 5 are UVA alumi, and 3 are Virginia Tech graduates. 9 of our students are successfully matriculating as reapplicants to VTC.

Our new class has 30 women and 7 people who are the first-generation college graduates in their family.  12% of the class identifies as a race or ethnicity that is underrepresented in medicine and 35% of the class meets national criteria for socioeconomic disadvantage.

We feel our students are well prepared for the challenges of VTC. They have an average of 2400 hours of research experience and an average of 4200 hours of exposure to medicine and patient care.  10 have at least one master’s degrees and one has her PhD.

The Department of Admissions is extremely proud of the Class of 2024, and we are looking forward to the mark they make on our school and health communities.  Thank you to my amazing admissions staff, the medical school admissions committee, the volunteers who interviewed our candidates, the deans who helped welcome our interviewees, and the people who helped provide or donated to our recruitment scholarships.  I can confidently say that this will be a class to remember.

Hello, my name is Brandon and I'm a first year medical student at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. I'm making this video to kind of talk about my experiences interviewing at Virginia tech and ultimately why I decided to attend Virginia Tech for medical school.

The first thing that drew me to applying to Virginia Tech was their curriculum. They have incorporated research into students' education each year with the expectation that by the time you graduate, you've published and presented your own research paper. I found this really helpful because as a medical student, you are kind of expected to do research anyway in order to make yourself a competitive applicant when you apply to residency. So, it's really nice for me that Virginia Tech has already thought about this and has set aside the time to build it into your curriculum so that you're not really worried about when you're going to find a time to do it, or maybe when you're, how you're going to find a research mentor, because the school helps you do that.

I did receive a scholarship to Virginia Tech, which was a sizable amount of the tuition. And so weighing that with my other acceptances, I had already liked Virginia Tech the most from my interview experience. For me, it was really a no brainer. They made it also financially a good decision for me to attend. I'm really, really happy that I was fortunate enough to not only get multiple acceptances, but to get a scholarship, which when I applied, I didn't know what was going to happen if I was going to have to reapply. I think that Virginia Tech really sees the good in its applicants and has a holistic process for the people that they choose to interview and the students they choose to accept. And I'm really, really excited to be attending here. I hope that you found this helpful and that this helps you in your decision when, if and when that time comes. But Virginia Tech is an incredible school. Go Hokies!

Why did I choose Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine? This will be my second four-year medical degree, so I had a good idea of what I wanted – a small class size, systems-based curriculum, early exposure to cases and actual patients, and a supportive environment for research. As a veterinarian, I'm especially excited about the comparative oncology research center where we can use a One Health approach to improve the lives of both humans and animals.

My name is Doug Murray and I’m an incoming M1 at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. The biggest factor that led me to choose Virginia Tech Carilion was the close-knit atmosphere. I wanted a warm environment where everyone knew each other, and that’s exactly what VTC has. I’m really struck by the pairing of a small class size with the resources and perks of a large research institution.

I also felt that VTC is located in the perfect city to study medicine. Roanoke is affordable, safe, and there is truly something here for everybody. The diversity of a vibrant downtown as well as outdoor activities such as mountain biking, kayaking, and even America’s Toughest Road Marathon was a huge pull. As a Roanoke native, I am extremely excited to participate in the healthcare of this awesome community.

Thank you, Melanie. And to Brandon, Melissa, Doug, and the rest of the class of 2024 – welcome! We are glad to have you officially join the VTCSOM community. We hope you enjoy your first day and the many more to come.

Don’t forget – tomorrow evening we will have a community forum for students, faculty, and staff on our new initiative – InclusiveVTCSOM. We will talk about the formation of a task force to help lead our diversity and inclusion efforts, and progress we have already made. Zoom information has been sent via email invitations to all invited groups. I look forward to sharing our efforts so far and where we go from here.  I hope you can join us tomorrow evening, and we will be sure to include highlights of the forum in next Monday’s weekly update.

Until then, take care and stay safe.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, July 20th, 2020, and we are entering Week 19 of the pandemic response.

Our third- and fourth-year students have been back in clinical rotations for two weeks now, and so far, things are going smoothly. We continue to take precautions to make sure our students are able to learn safely. 

Next week we will welcome our newest class – the class of 2024 – which will also be our largest class to date. Orientation begins next Monday. While much of it will be virtual, we do have a few opportunities for the class to come together in person, following proper social distancing and other protocols.

For this week’s update, I am excited to highlight our Narrative Medicine elective.  The effective practice of medicine requires the ability to acknowledge, absorb, interpret, and act on the stories and plights of others. Medicine practiced with narrative competence leads to a more humanistic understanding of the patient experience. It also promotes a greater ability of physicians to express the emotional quality of our experiences with patients.

The Narrative Medicine elective is co-taught by Drs. Brian and Cyndy Unwin.  The 3 cohorts of students who have completed the elective created stories, poems, paintings, songs, and more – to reflect on their experience as student doctors. Their work was so outstanding, it is being featured in an online publication for all to enjoy.  The faculty members and two students who participated in the elective will share some reflections about the elective and publication and how it has shaped their experiences.

Good morning. We are here at the lovely Carvins Cove to talk about narrative medicine.

Hi, I'm Dr. Brian Unwin, section chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine and one of the narrative medicine instructors, along with my wife, Dr. Cynthia Unwin. We are happy to talk about narrative medicine. Narrative medicine to me is learning about the person who has the disease. The second part of narrative medicine is learning about yourselves, the student doctors, and the doctors that you'll become, about your biases, who you are, and the way you feel, and why you feel it. Third thing about narrative medicine is that narrative medicine is about living. And that's what we're called to do: is to help patients live despite their medical problems. And the final thing that narrative medicine to me is a creative expression about what it means to live, have a disease, or what does it mean to be a doctor and to enjoy the art of medicine.

Hi, I'm Cyndy Unwin. I'm the other co-instructor for the narrative medicine course. We've had so many incredible creative projects that have been generated from three groups now of students. And one of the ideas that we wanted to capitalize on was the opportunity for students to share those projects in a forum that eventually any VTC student would be able to contribute to. So we have a new publication called Articulation and 10 students have contributed creative projects to that publication. And I hope that you spend some time there. I hope that you take a look at what they've done and that you will consider in the future submitting projects for this wonderful new publication.

Hi, my name is Lauren. I am a fourth year [student] and I really love taking narrative medicine because the class is fun to be in and to connect with your classmates and hear their work and get to be creative. But it's also really made a difference in the third year for me, because you sort of realize that you're there to learn, so there's not always a ton you can do. You're not always making all the shots and you're still developing your kind of medical intuition. You're getting better at that and you definitely have a role to play in that, but as a med student, you have the time to sit down and listen to the patient.

Even this week, I was helping with a really complicated patient on my IM [Internal Medicine] rotation. And she told us this week, I don't understand what's going on. Not because of any deficit of any provider, she just has a complicated course and there's different people in and out of her room. Because narrative medicine kind of helped me develop this confidence in talking to patients about their emotions, I was able to come back later after rounds and pull up a chair with her and ask her what she knows and what she would like to know and her feelings about it.

I think that now is the time to develop our skills, just like developing our physical exam skills and all that other important stuff, but also developing this reflex to listen to the patient and to prioritize their experience of their care. And I think that narrative medicine really helped that become a part of how I care for patients.

Hey everyone. My name is Jake. I'm a third-year medical student at VTC and a recent alumnus of the narrative medicine elective.

I just want to say a few words about it. I really loved my experience with the elective. It has provided an incredible opportunity for me and my classmates to have a space to express ourselves creatively, whether it’s writing, or painting, or music. It’s just an awesome opportunity to have it in medical school, you know, where we are in class a lot, we are in clinic a lot and to have that creative outlet is and has been really great.

I think it is going to a big part of our development as future physicians. As we think about the doctor-patient relationship and deepening that understanding as we go forward in our practice. I also know we have a publication coming out which I am really excited about. It will be a really cool look into what the students are thinking about – whether it is medicine, things that have happened in their lives, or their thoughts on what is going on in the world right now. I think people are really going to enjoy it and I know that everybody is really looking forward to it.

A big shout out to Brian and Cyndy Unwin for making this all happen. I know that this elective wouldn’t be what it is without them. I know all of the students really appreciate them. Thanks guys! Bye.

Thank you, Brian, Cyndy, Lauren, and Jake. The creative pieces from the students are incredible. I encourage you to read the story about this elective and check out their new online publication, called Articulation, on our website. The Unwins hope to add more students’ reflective contributions to the publication in the future.  The links will be available below this video on the weekly update page. You can also find the story in today’s daily email from Virginia Tech.

I hope in the coming week we will each have an opportunity to tap into our personal wells of creativity and emotional connection. Take care and stay safe.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, July 13, 2020, and we are entering Week 18 of the pandemic response. 

Last Monday, our senior students returned to Carilion for clinical rotations and electives.  Our M3s started their clerkships with an orientation day followed by our Student Clinician Ceremony Monday evening.  While it looked different than in years past with social distancing and masks – this special ceremony was an uplifting way to provide guidance, affirmation, and support to our students as they make the transition into their clerkship years, while at the same time underscoring the challenges and imperatives to providing humanistic care to patients.  

In just a couple of weeks, we will welcome our newest class of students – our first class of 49. While much of their orientation will be online, some sessions will be in-person and we plan to transition most of their learning to in-person so they can better get to know each other, the faculty, and practice some skills that are hard to do virtually.  Our M2s are now in a virtual PBL block, which will transition to in-person when the next block begins in late August.

More students being on site means that more of our faculty and staff will also be returning.  We are busy prepping our facility to make it as safe as possible and reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.   

This week’s update will give you a fun glimpse of our building preparations, including what you need to do if you plan to come into the facility.  Brian Brindle, director of IT and our emergency manager, teamed up with our videographer Ryan Anderson to create this fun public service announcement. Enjoy!

Here at VTCSOM, we have spent weeks preparing for our students, faculty, and staff to safely return to campus. 

Signage is everywhere to help remind us all about the importance of masks and social distancing. 

Plexiglass has been installed in high traffic areas to protect our employees and visitors. 

Hand sanitizer is readily available to help keep our hands germ free. 

All rooms have been modified or marked to ensure proper social distancing measures are followed.

And, we have increased the cleaning and sanitation of all spaces. 

This is Brian. He reports to the building daily to aid in this process. But what do you need to know if you are returning to campus?

“The first thing you should ask yourself is, “Do I really need to be on campus?” Teleworking is still encouraged whenever possible. STAY home if you can work effectively from there.” 

Please take your temperature. If you have a fever above 100.4, stay home!

If you have to come in, you must first complete the online re-entry screening. The link can be found in the email sent by Brock Mutcheson every morning at 5am “Thanks, Brock!”

Bring a face covering. These will be required in all indoor areas. 

And please, only 2 people allowed in elevators at a time. Remember, its easy to social distance while taking the stairs, and it promotes a healthy lifestyle!

All rooms will be marked with the maximum number of people allowed under current guidelines. 

Furniture will be placed to encourage social distancing. Please leave furniture in place!

Some rooms will be marked with doors for entrances and other doors for exits to minimize close contact. 

Conference rooms and classrooms should be reserved with names of attendees provided and logged. 

However, please continue virtual meetings when possible to limit contact. 

If you need to schedule meetings, please make sure you sanitize the space after using it. Please allow at least 30 minutes between use of the space. 

And, of course, don’t forget the simple things like coughing into your elbow, regularly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and avoid shaking hands!

While we are all excited to return to campus, we must remember to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, and ensure a safe working and learning environment for all our our VTC family. 

Thank you, Brian and Ryan. As noted, we look forward to welcoming our returning faculty, staff and students back into our medical school buildings.   Each faculty and staff member should check in with their supervisor to determine if they are needed on site or can continue to telework.  

Until next week, stay safe and take care everyone!

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, July 6, 2020, and we are entering Week 17 of the pandemic response. I hope everyone was able to enjoy the holiday weekend.  Celebrating our independence was more poignant this year in light of the pandemic impact on freedoms we usually take for granted, and the growing recognition of unequal access to the fruits of liberty we all hold dear.

This is also the beginning of a new academic year and the first day back on clinical rotations for our third- and fourth-year students.  Our student clinician ceremony tonight is designed to provide guidance, affirmation, and support to our third-year students as they make the transition into their clerkship years and the honor of putting on their own white coats.  It is a time to reflect on our commitments to our patients, our profession and our community.

For me, July also provides a natural time to reflect on first year as dean.  I am filled with a deep sense of appreciation for the strengths and opportunities that attracted me here, and are now more vivid and exciting.  Our amazing faculty, students, staff and administrative leaders have worked hard to take our next bold step forward in curricular innovation with the launch of our Health Systems Science and Interprofessional Practice domain.   We will also implement the first step of our increase in class size to 49 students. 

And, as we welcome our 11th class, it is timely to refresh the VTC School of Medicine Strategic Plan.  Our strategic planning process in the coming year will be rigorous, inclusive and aligned with the strategic objectives of Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic. Today, I will brief you on our plans for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. 

On June 3rd, we held a Community Forum on Finding Safety after the Killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.  Over 150 individuals joined us by zoom for the forum. Nine days later, Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by Atlanta police.  Throughout the month of June, protests of historic size with millions of demographically diverse participants throughout US cities and towns have brought greater attention to different aspects of racial inequality.  More actions are being taken to remove symbols of racism, an historic step that could lead to other enduring changes.

Medical schools across the US are seizing the moment to reflect upon and renew their efforts in diversity inclusion and diversity equity, for students, faculty, and staff and to partner with civic organizations to make tangible changes that improve the health and well-being of our communities.  Much has been done since we admitted our first class in 2010 years ago, and we should be proud of those accomplishments even as we look deeply at how we take our efforts to the next level. 

I am announcing today the establishment of a VTC School of Medicine Task Force to develop a robust strategic plan for diversity inclusion and diversity equity.  The scope of the Task Force will include diversity as defined by racial, ethnic, and gender identities, sexual orientation, disability and socioeconomic circumstances for students who were the first in their families to attend college or who surmounted enormous financial challenges to attend medical school. The outcomes of this effort will be specific, measurable actions that we will approach with intentionality and accountability.

The Task Force will include working groups for specific focus areas:  Curriculum Phase I, covering the first two years; Curriculum Phase II for years three and four; Student Support; Admissions; Community Engagement; Faculty and Staff Recruitment, Development and Retention, and the Learning and Working Environment. 

Each of these working groups will be co-led by a medical student and a member of our faculty or staff.  Our strategic planning process, including the task force and working groups, will include a wide range of stakeholders from our student body, faculty and staff, community members, and other learners and organizational leaders at VTC. 

We will complete the design stage of this important work over the next 3 weeks, and announce the task force and working group charges, leadership and membership at a follow-up Community Forum the last week in July.  At the Forum we will also identify the actions we have taken to address the thoughtful recommendations we received from the Class of 2023 last month. 

The engagement of our students in these efforts will be critically important for their success. Today we will hear from student body president Giovanni Malaty from the class of 2021.  He will be followed by Sarah Yosief from the class of 2023 who, with two colleagues, who put together a document of recommendations for the school and shared it at our Community Forum in June. 

On behalf of the student body at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, I’d like to take a moment to highlight the very palpable senses of unity, solidarity, and urgency that have been derived, quite painfully, from continued and senseless slayings of unarmed black Americans across our country. While the collective feelings of horror and confusion brought about by these recurring injustices will likely never fade, parallel senses of responsibility and accountability are abundantly evident amongst our student body. Students across all classes have been vocal in demonstrating their deep desire to participate in discussions, events, and decision-making that highlights diversity, equity, and inclusion in our school and community.

The formation and mobilization of this task force will be instrumental in allowing students to use both their voices, as well as their individual skillsets, to affect real, tangible change within our campus and beyond. As students, we are grateful to have the opportunity to be involved in these important initiatives, as we look to reverse these unforgivable trends, both immediately and in perpetuity. My fellow students and I are ready to not only be participants, but to be leaders in the vital discussions to be had by the several working groups that will comprise this task force. It is plain to see that we are a long way from where we need to be as a society, however, it is my hope that the important work that will be accomplished by this task force can begin to move us, the VTC community, in the right direction. 

Hello. I hope you're all doing well and taking care of yourselves. My name is Sarah Yosief and I'm a medical student here at Virginia Tech.

Following the "Community Forum: Finding Safety after the Killings of Brianna Taylor, (whose murderers have yet to be arrested), Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd," in which my classmates, Kenneth Young and Chukwuemeka Uwakaneme and myself shared our statement and action items for change for a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse medical school experience. We then shared these items with our fellow classmates throughout the school of medicine student body and received signatures of support to share with the administration. I'm pleased to say that our efforts and items were received with overwhelming support from both students and faculty alike, for which we are extremely grateful. However, as explicitly and assiduously detailed in our statement, there is extensive work to be done beyond the affirmation support.

I'm sure others have experienced this, but I've seen many times in the past where empty promises have been made, but assuredly I'm really excited to comment on the efforts of the administration here at Virginia Tech Carilion. The plans put in place for the task force and the working groups for key components of the medical education curriculum and experienced both didactic and clinical and out in the community have been carefully organized. These will be put in place longitudinally to ensure continuous improvement and long-term commitment and accountability as there will always be the need to consistently better ourselves as a community and as individuals. The decision to include students in the task force is a necessary approach as we have unique and indispensable perspectives and ideas that will facilitate in addressing the student experience and needs.

With the administration's dedication to transparency, there are also several efforts that can and will be put in place immediately. For example, VTC's chapter of the Student National Medical Association, an organization for minorities in medicine, will be supported with a dedicated advisor to help maintain membership and drive programming. I strongly believe that our administration is moving in the right direction to create a more ideal experience for each and every member of VTCSOM, allowing for the development of more aware and sensitive individuals as we go on to work with those of diverse backgrounds.

Thank you, Giovanni and Sarah. We will be consulting with our student government leaders and department chairs about how best to identify interested students and faculty for the task force and working groups, and we will communicate that once available.

Also, be on the look-out for our calendar invite to the Community Forum once we finalize the date during the last week of July. At the forum we will provide details about the task force and working groups, as well as the specific actions taken by the VTC School of Medicine to address our students’ concerns. 

Until next week, please stay safe and take care of each other. 

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, June 29th, 2020, and we are entering week 16 of the pandemic response. 

July is right around the corner and we are so happy that our M3s and M4s will soon be starting their clinical rotations and electives! This is something we’ve all been looking forward to ever since rotations were put on pause in mid-March because of the pandemic. It’s a first step for our medical school to return to a new normal, and it’s a step being taken with rigorous precautions. 

The Governor’s Office issued an advisement on May 26th to allow for in-person and clinical education to resume, as long as certain conditions are met. The health and safety of our patients, students, faculty, and staff are of utmost importance. Our returning students have been self-quarantining and tested. We are carefully following current guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health, the Office of the Governor, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Carilion Clinic.

To celebrate this milestone, we invited 3 students to share their excitement and anticipation about the start of a new academic year. 

Hi! My name is Adenike Adenikinju and I am a rising 4th year from the class of 2021 and I'd say I’m very excited to start clinical rotations starting in July. It’s been a long two and a half months since we’ve seen our last patient and COVID-19 and the response needed to keep up as safe has been unprecedented for all of us. But for me self-quarantining and social distancing helped me realize how much I enjoyed the interaction that I have with my peers, and how much learning I engaged in during my 3rd year clerkships.

It’s refreshing and symbolic that my class, the class of 2021, gets the opportunity to begin our final year of medical school where we are supposed to be. Which is in the hospital, learning from our faculty and mentors and most importantly, learning from our patients. Clinical rotations have been especially rewarding and this time away from patients reinforced my dedication to medicine.

Hi, my name is Varun Kavuru and I am a newly minted M4 medical student here at VTC. My classmates and I just wrapped up our last week of 3rd year, called assessment week, in which we presented our research projects, and took our end of year exams. Starting in July, next week, some of us will return back to the hospital and clinics to do our 4th year rotations. While some us, like myself, will be preparing to take our Step 2 board exams. But all of us will basically be back in the clinics soon, in the next month or two. 

It is exciting and kind of strange since we've been away so long. I think some of my clinical skills may be a bit rusty, but I think that we will adjust and adapt quickly to the flow of things. I've missed the structure of the days and talking to patients in person, so it will be nice to have that back again.  

Additionally, we’re preparing for our applications and our personal statements for residency. This upcoming 4th year and application cycle is going to be very different from any before in recent history as far as I am aware. So it will be interesting to see how things play out. But I am glad to be able to be back.

Hi I’m Mike North and I’m a rising third year student. My class, along with students across the country, has faced some challenges over the past few months trying to schedule and reschedule the Step 1 exam but the whole time, we’ve had our fingers crossed, hoping that we would be able to start third year rotations on time. So, with our first rotations starting a week from now, it’s time for us to get excited.

I’m personally looking forward to applying everything that we learned in the first two years and gaining hands-on experience and training in patient care throughout all of the rotations that I will working on this year. So thank you to everyone that has worked so hard to allows us to be in the hospital and the clinics this year!

Thank you Addie, Varun and Mike.  We look forward to checking in with you and your classmates over the coming weeks as you get back to clinical rotations and electives.

Our M2s will continue their virtual learning through the first block of next year ending August 28, and then return to appropriately distanced in-person instruction. 

And we will welcome our 11th class, 49 students strong, on July 27th, with a hybrid orientation consisting of both virtual and in-person sessions.

Have a safe and joyous July 4 celebration everyone, and we’ll see you next week!

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, June 22nd, 2020, and we are entering Week 15 of the pandemic response. 

Last Monday, we shared our plans to return to in-person learning and clinical rotations. We are excited to begin seeing our third- and fourth-year students in person soon, all of us wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and following social distancing guidelines. 

On Friday, Virginia Tech observed the Juneteenth holiday after an announcement by Governor Northam that he intends to mark Juneteenth as a permanent paid state holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, the end of slavery in this country. I hope that all of us, including members of our community who did not have Friday off, had an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth, the progress our society has made since 1865, and the additional progress that is urgently needed. 

A few weeks ago, I announced our medical school’s plans to partner with the Virginia Department of Health regional office and become volunteers in the Medical Reserve Corps, specifically as contact tracers.  Contact tracing will be essential for preventing the spread of new cases public health officials anticipate in the coming weeks and months, as the impact of relaxed social distancing occurs. Our dean’s office leadership agreed to sign up with me for the Medical Reserve Corps and complete the contact tracing training. Our students are signing up as part of new service learning requirement, and we’re encouraging all of our faculty and staff to sign up as well on a voluntary basis. 

Today we will hear from Dakota Buhrman from the Class of 2021.  Dakota has been an important voice in the process, helping to find a meaningful and safe way for students to make an impact on COVID-19 in our area.  Dr. Cynthia Morrow, who co-directs our Health Systems Science and Interprofessional Practice domain, served as a county health commissioner in New York state before moving to Virginia.  Dr. Morrow will share her perspectives, as a former public health official, on why contact tracing plays such an important role in controlling the current pandemic. First, we will hear from Dr. Dave Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture, who will oversee the new initiative.

Hello, this is Dave Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. I've been asked by Dean Learman to give a brief description of the medical school's commitment to helping out during this horrible pandemic, COVID-19 crisis we are all going through.

Dean Learman, and all the deans for that matter, have volunteered to take contact tracing training through the Virginia Department of Health. In addition, the school is requiring that every medical student fulfill this training. 

Taking the training is about a three to four-hour commitment. It's online, it's a module, it's not easy. There is an exam, but the key is: once all the medical students and all the deans have gone through this training, they're then available to join the Medical Reserve Corps with the Virginia Department of Health. That's a great way to get engaged, a great way to volunteer, by joining the MRC, the Medical Reserve Corps, through the Virginia Department of Health. Why is it a great way? Because it's very doable and very needed. The contact tracing, if you choose to volunteer, that's not a requirement. Just doing the training so that you're ready to volunteer is the requirement. But if you choose to volunteer, then everything's online.

You do several hours a day at most for about a week, and then the students will learn how to hand off the cases to another student volunteer. They can take on the cases that need continuing. All the deans have agreed to take the training and they will do the same. There is a website and an app where everybody who is taking the training will be able to turn down or accept an opportunity to volunteer for contact tracing. 

We feel as a school that this is very important, to give back to the community during this crisis. The key is contact tracing. The need for contact tracing will definitely go up as more testing is done and as social distancing is decreased. So, we feel the need will be there and having all the students and the deans and faculty who want to do it as part of the MRC will be very important for the health department. 

Dr. Molly O'Dell has worked very carefully with us in arranging this program. In fact, there's a special Virginia Tech Carilion MRC designation, and the people that are part of that MRC will go to the top of the line for opportunities to volunteer. In addition to doing contact tracing, students will also be asked if they want to, to become engaged in other things that the Virginia Department of Health needs. This could be data entry. It could be going to test people at polling stations. There are lots of opportunities that the Virginia Department of Health really needs during this crisis. And, to me, it's just such an important way and such a big showing on behalf of the school to require all the students to participate in this and be ready for contact tracing and the MRC. 

In addition, the school, you'll hear about hopefully in the next month or so, the school is implementing a service, a critical service learning requirement for graduation and everything that the students will be doing with the MRC will indeed help meet that requirement as well.

Our office, the Office of Community and Culture, with Courtney Powell and myself and with the help of our contacts at the Virginia Department of Health in the Roanoke and Allegheny districts, are keeping track of students that are registered right now. We have about 67 registered, 31 have completed, which is [a] great start.

Some students have asked for extensions due to some STEP exams and other research requirements, and we're working with them, but we're going to keep a bank of everybody that's completed the training and work very closely with the Virginia Department of Health to make sure those students have opportunities if they want them to participate and volunteer with the contact tracing.

It's a very exciting project and if anyone is interested in taking the training, we can give you a link and we can help coordinate with you as well. And if there are any questions, please feel free to contact me by email or Courtney Powell. Thank you.

Hi, my name's Dakota Buhrman. I'm a third year medical student at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. And I wanted to chat with you guys about the Medical Reserve Corps. For those of you who just joined welcome, for those of you who have been active members, thank you for coming out and working with the several different projects that have been going on since COVID started.

I joined the MRC in early March and the MRC's mission is to really help communities with any public health needs that arise. And so you can imagine with COVID, there's been quite a few things that the MRC has been able to help our community with.

Some of the projects that I have been involved with and helped start and kind of get off the ground: the most recent one dealt a lot with distribution of masks and hand sanitizers. We worked with our local delegate, Sam Rasoul, who got a lot of supplies from the government, but didn't really get a good direction on how to distribute them. What his group did was partner with the MRC, which included faculty and students and we went out to the community and had the opportunity to really go door to door, to different apartment complexes, a lot with our most vulnerable populations, to pass out masks, hand sanitizers, as well as some information regarding how to safe practices around COVID. I'm really proud to say that over the past few weeks, we were able to pass out nearly 15,000 masks and hand sanitizers, and that would have not been possible without the volunteers through the Medical Reserve Corps. So that's one project.

A lot of you guys are familiar with because you had to do the training is with the contact tracing. Contact tracing is a public health tool that we use to help limit the spread of disease. Getting in touch with people who may have been in contact with someone with COVID and making sure that they are quarantining and following their symptoms throughout the time period, which we know that with COVID is about 14 days.

In our second year of medical school, towards the end, we had a public health course led by Dr. Morrow and we got to do an outbreak situation where we really learned about contact tracing. For me, this contact tracing work has been really cool to see because it's public health in action. That includes not only just, you know, seeing the calls, but also the training, really learning, you know, what is the difference between quarantine and isolation? It's these terms that are thrown around all the time, but the training really elaborates on them because, you know, we are going to be entering the medical field as students. And we should know these things because we very, very soon our patients are going to be asking us for recommendation and then guidance. And the training alone really provides that basis.

So, we have the mask distribution projects, the contact tracing project. Some of us also got the chance to help out with our call centers early on. We also helped out with, myself included, at some of the testing sites, especially in the Blackburg area. The fact that students were able to help with that is just incredible to see. That, you know, helping ease the flow and ease some of the burden from the health department.

The other project that I did want to mention that I got to help out with, along with a few other students, was the PPE logistics portion of the distribution. Basically the health department had a stock pile given to them of all forms of PPE and N95 masks, surgical masks, the gowns, the gloves, and they had to find a way to distribute them to outside clinics. That includes local clinics, the dialysis clinics, dental offices, places like that, that maybe didn't have a larger hospital system oversight to provide these necessities to them. We got to work hand-in-hand with the incident command team with specifically their logistics chief officer in order to create a system where we can figure out what the PPE needs of these clinics are in our area, which there are so many more clinics than what I thought going into it. How we can help fulfill some of those needs? Just working with the incident command team and the health department and seeing how that runs and operates and seeing what happens when the incident command team is surfaced was really, really incredible.

Going through those NIMS courses, I thought at first I wasn't going to get a lot out of it, but at the end of the day, I got to see really what happens when an incident happens and how do we respond to it and how do we respond to it both as a health system, both in the Carilion system and at the health department level. So, just really getting a better grasp on how to respond.

With this COVID situation, I think is something that I will take with me on to better my future patients and better my future self. So the MRC has been wonderful and I'm so excited to continue to work with them. I'm really excited to have other students get the same opportunities, because there's a big need in our community. And, you know, if the MRC also too is really open that if you can kind of identify project and identify a need, then let's work together and make that happen because that's really how the project with Delegate Sam Rasoul, distributing the masks, that's really how that happened.

We were out pretty early on in one of the living congregate facilities. I had talked to one of the patients there and we had given her a mask and given her a cloth mask, and she had made the comment to me that, you know, she didn't really even have the money to purchase anything, to make her own cloth mask. So had we not given her that mask, she didn't know she was going to be able to, you know, abide by these rules and regulations that the government is putting out, that you have to wear a cloth mask in order to go to a public place. It's like, how are we supposed to enforce these policies if we can't give people the tools to work with them? That's really what sparked this drive and want to get masks out in the community and get them out pretty fast. So that way, we can try to keep flattening this curve as best as possible.

So again, excited to work with students on contact tracing, excited to work with students on PPE distribution, and collection of that and any of their ideas, let's work together. Thanks.

As a former public health director, I can speak firsthand about the importance of contract tracing. In concert with public health surveillance, contact tracing is a time-honored method in the public health toolkit. These methods are evidence-based and they're used by public health workers every day to control the spread of tuberculosis, measles, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Now, in a setting of COVID-19, contact tracing is more important than ever as across the United States, more than 2 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

So, what exactly is contact tracing? Contact tracing is a way to slow the spread of infectious diseases by identifying and interviewing individuals with that disease.

Through the interviews, contact tracers work with individuals to help them recall anyone with whom they've had close contact during the timeframe in which they are infectious. Through this process, contact tracers can identify the close contacts who had unknowingly been exposed. They can then provide support to these individuals with education, information, resources, help them understand their risks, what they should do, how to monitor themselves for illness and what to do if they should become ill.

To optimize their impact. It is important for contact tracers to be skilled in cultural sensitivity and in interviewing such that they can build and maintain trust with patients and their close contacts. They have to have access to social medical supports for the patients and their contacts.

For these reasons, it's really exciting to know that VTC School of Medicine is working to build a team of contact tracers to help protect our community now, and in the future.

Thank you, Dave, Dakota, and Cynthia. I hope our VTC School of Medicine community will consider joining this effort which will be critically needed as the commonwealth continues to reopen this summer and into the fall. You can find more information about this initiative on our website, medicine.vtc.vt.edu. Under the menu, look under community to find, “Medical Reserve Corps.” The link will also be posted on our weekly update page below this video.

Stay safe and until next week, take care everyone!

Medical Reserve Corps

Learn more about the Medical Reserve Corps and the requirements for completing the training

Virginia Tech will close this Friday, June 19 to observe Juneteenth.

Juneteeth celebrations were initiated mostly in Texas, and have since spread nationwide. On June 19, 1865, enslaved people of African descent in Galveston, Texas were FINALLY informed that they were free. The newly freed people were told about the Emancipation Proclamation -- "two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863."  Visit https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm for more information. 

Learn more about Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine's plans to reopen for the summer of 2020. Each class has its own starting date and instructions, so please read carefully. We also included frequently asked questions to help you know what to do. 

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, June 15, 2020, and we are entering Week 14 of the pandemic response. Last Monday, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands announced the university’s plans for the fall semester, and announced that VTC School of Medicine will phase in clinical and in-person instruction over the summer months. Today, we wanted to share a few more details about how we will implement the re-entry of our students.

We are committed to make sure our students get back on track with their education and are able to continue making progress towards their degrees without having to add additional time. We have had to take a look at each class individually – and sometimes specific students within the class to adjust their schedules accordingly. As we help our students resume their in-person and clinical education we will take care to ensure safety first above all else for students, patients, faculty, and staff.

Today, we will hear from Aubrey Knight, senior dean for student affairs, about the plans for our incoming class of 2024. Rick Vari, senior dean for academic affairs, will present the plan for our second-year students, the class of 2023. Associate Dean Tracey Criss will discuss our plans for third and fourth year students who will start their clinical rotations in July.

Hello, I am Aubrey Knight, Senior Dean for Student Affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and I was asked to speak briefly about our process for bringing our incoming class of 2024. I am excited with the knowledge that the halls of Riverside 2 will soon be filled with voices and footsteps again. I often talk about my office location being like Grand Central Station; frankly, I like it that way. The past few months of quiet solitude is beginning to get old. 

Just as we are preparing for the resumption of clinical education in the hospitals and clinics, we are also preparing for face-to-face education in Riverside 2. 

I wanted to speak briefly about our excitement with bringing in our first class of the expanded class size of 49 students. We made the decision to expand the class size for sound reasons this past year; we have not wavered from that decision as a result of the pandemic. 

We really desire that these new students were able to begin their medical school careers together in Roanoke and are pleased that guidance from our governor and Virginia Tech will allow that to happen.

By the same token, we are taking every precaution to protect the safety of the students and our community. To that end, we will ask that they arrive in Roanoke by July 15th to begin a 2-week self-isolation period. During that time they will be allowed to engage in essential activities but we ask that they adhere to social distancing recommendations and to wear face masks when in public. In addition, during that 2-week period they will undergo a COVID test. 

We will proceed with orientation the week of July 27th. It will be a combined virtual and live event. Current recommendations restrict the size of gatherings to 50 people and with a class size of 49, you can image that much of the live orientation will be in smaller groups and concurrent sessions. 

One of the goals of orientation, in addition to orienting the new students to the structure, policies, procedures, and people of Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, is to begin the process of creating an internal class community. There will be some opportunities and activities aimed toward that goal. 

Finally, during orientation, students will be introduced to our brand of problem-based learning by working in their group through a case during orientation week.

We are looking forward to the process of getting back to some sense of normalcy in the learning environment and the medical school experience. I must admit, however, that despite the inconveniences that we’ve experienced since March, we have learned some things about ourselves such that the new normal promises to be richer and even better than before.

Hello everybody. This is Rick Vari once again, senior dean for academic affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dean Learman has asked me to brief everyone about our process for our M2 students, class of 2023, returning to class here in Roanoke. 

Right now, we are busy working on the building capacity, social distancing, and an attestation process in order for us to gradually reopen the building beginning on July 6th, to our M2 students who are in Roanoke.

In order for M2 students to enter the building, once we have our attestation process complete, they will have to attest about COVID-19 exposure and travel, and that they have been in Roanoke for two weeks and self-isolated prior to entering the building. 

As you know, block five currently is online. Our plan is to have most, if not all of our exams, to be able to be delivered in the building beginning on August 17th. This means that all M2 students must be back in Roanoke by August the 17th, to begin their two-week isolation procedure and take these exams. So, exam week will count as one week of self-isolation. Special studies week will follow that for the second week. 

On August 28th, all M2 students will be required to take a COVID-19 test prior to beginning block six, which will begin on August 31st. Any subsequent travel away from Roanoke after beginning block six will require two-week notification to Dr. Knight and myself. Upon return from that travel, the students will have to fill out a Virginia Tech questionnaire with details about what they will have to do required following their travel. 

We're looking forward to everyone returning safely and proceeding to begin to deliver block six in person. If you have any questions, please contact your COVID-19 task force representatives or myself. Thank you very much.

I'd like to say hi to everyone. As we talk about what's going on with our M3's and M4's. First of all, who would have ever thought that we would feel like astronauts working in the hospital? We have goggles, some have face shields. We have N95 masks, which causes hypercarbia. And then we also have our face masks, which we have to wear at all times in the hospital, no matter where we are, but we'll do the right thing. We'll participate and do the right thing so that we can take the best care of our patients and be safe around each other as well. 

So, a little bit about our M3's and our M4's. Our current M3's are finishing out their M3 year in the last two weeks, and then they'll go into assessment week. Once they come into the hospital, they'll be supplied with the proper PPE, for whatever they'll be doing at the particular time. Something to note about our M3’s, going into the M4 year. They will be finishing off clerkships that were not able to be completed in this year. Also, we'll have a little bit of a different look to their schedules. They will not be doing away electives unless that particular elective offered here is not tied to a particular residency program. So, we will have less M4's going away than what we have had in the past. So there will be a lot of our students will be here throughout much of the year. 

As far as our, M2's coming into the M3 year, they'll be prepared to go into the year. We're going to have M3 orientation and at that time we'll also give them their PPE so that they'll be prepared to go into the hospital. Some of the M3 orientation will be online, such as their OSCE's, as you all are familiar with. Then some of it will be in person with social distancing. The M3's will be ready to go into the hospital. We'll start that then on July 6th.

One thing that will occur for all medical students at VTC School of Medicine is that they'll have an attestation process and the M3s and M4s will have an attestation process that they will have to do prior to entering Carilion Clinic. Each day, each student will be expected to attest to this. Then, this is called a boarding pass and these will be checked by the clerkship directors to make sure that the students are following up on this. 

So, the years for the M3's and the M4's will look slightly different, but they'll still be here with a caring faculty and caring residents. Though it will be different, we will all get through this together. We look forward to having our M3's and our M4's back on campus and seeing everyone as we work our way throughout this next year. We're all in this together. Thanks so much.

Thank you Rick, Aubrey, and Tracey for those updates on the return plan for our students. We will share some of these details on the medical school’s website later this week.

Last week, we had a medical school staff meeting to discuss how our plans for student re-entry may impact employee’s plans to return to in person work or to continue telework. Please talk to your supervisor or Patricia Wooten, our human resources manager, if you have questions. More information will be forthcoming.

I look forward to seeing your masked faces in person over the coming weeks and months.

Until next week, stay safe and take care everyone!

Dear Members of the VTCSOM Community:

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Wednesday, June 3rd for the VTCSOM Community Forum: Finding Safety after the Killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. More than 150 students, residents, faculty and staff participated in the forum that during which Dr. Nathaniel Bishop, Dr. Frank Clark, Ms. Patricia Wooten offered personal perspectives on how the events of recent weeks have impacted them and their loved ones. We also heard from several first-year students who proposed thoughtful actions that can help VTCSOM strengthen and maintain a school community that is welcoming, inclusive and safe for all; and includes diverse, culturally aware and competent students, faculty, and staff.

During the past two weeks, our communities have actively engaged in conversations, gatherings, peaceful protests, and dialogues that aim to expose the systemic racism that plagues our nation, and to disrupt the routine of biased, violent policing in the Black community. For example, VTCSOM was well represented at Roanoke’s social justice march on Sunday, May 31 that started at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge and concluded at the Roanoke Police Department. addition, a diverse group of VTCSOM students and faculty were among the “White Coats 4 Black Lives” healthcare professionals who knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds last Friday (June 5) to raise awareness about healthcare challenges and inequities faced by minorities. [N.B. To learn more about White Coats 4 Black Lives (WC4BL), a nationwide medical student-run organization that supports the Black Lives Matter movement, check out a webinar presented by the AAMC GSA-Committee on Student Diversity Affairs (COSDA) in 2015.] Our students were also among the participants in the NAACP and SCLC observance on Saturday evening, June  6, and they will be joining residents and faculty at tonight’s Carilion Clinic Healthcare Equity Vigil at 6pm across from the hospital (flyer).

Our collective efforts and shared commitment to equity, justice and civility have gathered momentum, leading to us to redouble our school’s focus on intentional, impactful and measurable access, equity and inclusion efforts. With this in mind, in the coming weeks I will assemble a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force comprising VTCSOM students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The task force will examine current VTCSOM diversity and inclusion initiatives, review innovative diversity-related policies and practices in medical education, and review the suggestions offered by our medical students regarding the learning environment during and after the Community Forum. I will ask the task force to present to me by September 1, 2020 their recommendations and plan for implementing unbiased policies and practices that will help VTCSOM be a model, principled learning community that prepares the next generations of equity-minded physicians leaders.

We are also identifying several early initiatives that we can implement prior to September, and will communicate those in the coming weeks.  I appreciate your support and I am hopeful that you will contribute to the dialogue, and ultimately, the actions that will help foster a safe, welcoming and inclusive learning community for everyone.   I am confident in our ability to make meaningful progress through implementation of initiatives that are co-created and that leverage the wisdom of our community.  You have my commitment that this will be a sustained and intentional priority. 

Lee. A. Learman

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, June 8th, 2020, and we are entering Week 13 of the pandemic response. Today, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands announced the university’s plans for the fall semester, and announced that VTC School of Medicine will phase in clinical and in-person instruction over the summer months. In the coming weeks we will be communicating with you about how we will implement the re-entry of our students.

The recent and tragic killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd have created tremendous anguish, anger and sadness throughout our country, particularly among African-American communities. These events, and similar ones before them, represent structural racism’s violent impact on black lives, an impact that is compounded by the heavy burden of serious illness and deaths from COVID-19 in African-American communities.

Protests, mostly peaceful, have been held in major cities across the country and in our own community to mobilize, stand up and say, "enough is enough". On Friday afternoon, members of the health care community held gatherings and vigils called "White Coats for Black Lives", to raise awareness that racism is a threat to the health and well-being of people of color. Many local physicians, students, residents, and other health care workers participated in downtown Roanoke.

Last Wednesday, over 150 members of our School of Medicine community gathered together in a virtual community forum to share perspectives on these recent events, to support our community and work together for positive change. I was joined by three panelists: NL Bishop, senior associate dean for diversity, inclusion, and student vitality; Patricia Wooten, human resources manager for the medical school; and a special guest, Dr. Frank Clark. Dr. Clark is a former VTCSOM faculty member and Carilion physician who now practices in Greenville, South Carolina. He is an emerging national leader whose work draws attention to the impact of racism and health inequities on the African-American community. The 90-minute forum began with statements from the panelists followed by opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to express their thoughts and ask questions.

To summarize a bit of the conversation, in today’s video, we will hear from panelists NL Bishop and Patricia Wooten, as well as rising second-year medical student Sarah Yosief. At the forum Sarah and two fellow students presented a statement and a list of thoughtful recommendations for positive change within the medical school.

Hi, I am NL Bishop, senior associate dean for diversity, inclusion, and student vitality at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. I was honored to be a panelist as Dean Learman arranged for our [medical school’s] community to come together in a forum on Wednesday evening. I appreciated the opportunity for us to come together, learn, share, and listen to each other on this important topic of national, and even international significance. I was humbled to be joined by my friend, Dr. Frank Clark, and Patricia Wooten as together we shared our perspectives. The comments and questions showed an eagerness for this medical school to make a positive impact in the community of our school, in the community that surrounds us, and the nation… and be part of a change that needs to come.

I look forward to working with students, faculty, staff, and Dean Learman and his leadership team, to advance initiatives that help us to make a difference.

Good morning, VTCSOM. It is Monday morning and here we are with another Progress Notes. I have been asked to talk about our revelations or reflection after last Wednesday's community conversations. First, I just want to thank all 155 of you who attended that session with us. I think that is a testament to us all wanting to get together and be a part of a solution and figure out a way to better the world that we're living in. So, thank you all for joining and thank you, Dean Learman and our panelists for the insights that you shared with us. 

We're on about day 13 or 14 of demonstrations across the country and we're seeing many bold actions that were taken over the weekend and late last week by mayors in DC, by different organizations, Black Lives Matter. I'm just really, really encouraged by the things that I've seen over the last week or so.

Demonstrations are becoming more peaceful. It was great to see at Carilion and other healthcare organizations, "White Coats for Black Lives." I think that was a huge testament to our medical community and if any of you participated in that, thank you. So, I'm very, very encouraged by the progress that we're trying to make in the road that we're going down. There's still a lot of work to be done. I don't think this is ever going to be done. I think we will always work towards bettering the environments that we all operate in. I think I would like to get to a place personally where our positivity as a collective is more prevalent, rather than negativity. 

I personally took a break from social media this weekend. Just went out on the lake with my husband and that was wonderful. We still had really, really deep conversations with our friends, good conversations on how do we get out here and educate folks, but not being bombarded by the negativity that we may see on social media, the news, etc. So that's one thing that I'll sort of leave you with if you're struggling with, how do you get that negativity out of your everyday life? 

In regards to last Wednesday’s session, I just want to mention that I am super proud of our medical students for sharing their thoughts, their feelings, their ideas on ways for us to act as a school. You know, being in human resources, I don't get to interact with our students on a daily basis, but I was impressed. I have shared with everyone in my family and everyone that I know that I thought that was just phenomenal, professional, and one of the best ways to get your point across and be able to share your insights. So, thank you, students, for holding us accountable, transparently holding us accountable and making sure that there are going to be some actions following this. I think community conversations, as Dean Learman said, was not a one-time deal. We will continue to have those conversations and hopefully we'll have additional forums in the future for that. 

I think for us as people, a lot of questions that came in as I was moderating the session was in regards to

  • How do I strike up this conversation with someone that looks different than me?
  • How as a white person do I go to my black colleague and express my empathy, my compassion?
  • How do I get educated?

All of those questions were coming through in our chat. We didn't really get to touch on a lot of those because we were having great conversation, but over the weekend, actually, my father-in-law stopped by and gave me a book. One of the local churches in our town is going to be holding a book club. And, I think this book will be a great starting point for those of you who are struggling to get educated, understand about racism in America, understand where the anger and angst comes from as a person of color in this country.

This is the book, “White Fragility,” as you can see here, "why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism." I think this is a great start for anyone that's struggling with this concept, trying to figure out how do they talk about racism. You know, if you've got friends that are also interested, start a book club, start a conversation about the chapters in this book. I think you'll get and gain a lot of knowledge from this. So, this is my one piece that I'll leave you with to start that education for yourself. 

In closing, I'll just say I really, really think it's important for you to take care of your mental state, especially those of us, people of color at this time. I know that there can be individuals that sort of fan the fire, if you will. So it's really important that you find your community, find people that you can talk to, go to, to vent those frustrations in a positive manner. Take care of yourself, but also I think it's really important for us to continue to focus on being compassionate, being passionate about justice in America, doing the things that we should be doing to make sure that we can find equality. And I also think it's again important for us to be held accountable for our actions and for you all to continue to hold us accountable to make sure that we do act in the future and have equal workplaces, equal places of congregation, et cetera, those types of things. 

I will just leave you with that. Those are my thoughts after last Wednesday and I'm excited to continue this conversation. I am an individual that would welcome anyone to come and talk to me about their thoughts and their feelings. In my profession, there's a faction of... called diversity and inclusion, but please know all of us HR professionals, we are an open-door policy for anyone to voice their concerns and just be a listening ear. So, again, thank you all for joining us last Wednesday and have a great week. Thank you.

Hello everyone. My name is Sarah Yosief, and I'm a second year medical student here at Virginia Tech Carilion. In the wake of the brutal killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, America is confronting how its long history of racial injustice, treating black bodies as the enemy from the beginning, continues to be present. It is imperative that each and every one of us addresses these wounds, especially those of us in medicine.

Last week, the VTC community was able to come together for a forum to help find safety following these heinous heart-wrenching acts. I’d like to thank Dean Learman for organizing a discussion and our panelists – Dean Bishop, Dr. Frank Clark, and Patricia Wooten – as their perspectives and experiences were not only comforting, reminding us to take care of our own mental health, but also inspiring, feeling the community's passion to continue to work towards change and enlightening, educating the community of how to best assess ourselves personally, as biases are present within all of us.

Another takeaway from the community forum was that, although we may be exhausted, as we have a long way to go, to have progressive change, we must have progressive leadership. We must all come together and support each other throughout this entire journey.

Finally, I wanted to express the gratitude for the VTC administration, committed to the wellbeing of their students. During the forum with my classmates, Chukwuemeka and Kenneth, we were able to share our actionable items that we worked so hard towards and are very proud of, that we believe are crucial for improving medical education. Our statement and items were received with overwhelming support and appreciation for which we were also so grateful. We believe VTC can and should become more inclusive, supporting both students and faculty of color, and allow for greater understanding of racial disparities in order to narrow them and how to limit implicit biases by teaching the social and structural causes of health inequality. As we move forward, we must not just work against disease, but also for justice, to create more culturally competent and sensitive practicing physicians. Thank you.

Thank you NL, Patricia, and Sarah for your participation in the forum. The thoughtful action steps suggested by our students will be discussed in the near future and plans put in place to further understand and implement them.

Thank you to the many other VTCSOM students, residents, faculty and staff who tuned in and participated with questions, comments and follow-up after the event. While this forum was open only to our medical school community, we plan future conversations on different aspects of diversity and racial equity in the near future.

These will be open to our larger community and we hope you will join us.

Until next week, take care everyone!

We have identified a significant and growing need in Southwest Virginia to support the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). In a recent conversation with Dr. Molly O’Dell, our region’s public health official, she confirmed that we do not currently have enough people trained in Contact Tracing to respond to an expected surge in COVID-19 cases that will come either from expansion of testing or from relaxation of physical distancing orders.   Each new case generates the important work of identifying contacts who have also been infected and facilitating precautions against further spread. As detailed in these stories from Wired and the New York Times, communities that have ramped up their Contact Tracing workforce have successfully contained the pandemic as physical distancing orders have been relaxed.

With our support as Contact Tracing extenders, VDH can contain small outbreaks and prevent the type of surge that could result in a return to stay-at-home orders.  Without containment,  our community’s ability to recover from the social and financial consequences of the pandemic will be hobbled, causing further delays in needed health care and persistent unemployment that disproportionally affect low-income and food-insecure communities. 

Therefore, I am appealing to our VTCSOM community – students, faculty, and staff – to work together and be part of the VDH pandemic response in our region:

All deans at VTCSOM have agreed to become members of the VDH Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and complete the 3-hour online training course on contact, so we can be ready to help when a spike in new cases overtakes the ability of VDH to trace these outbreaks. 

Today I requested that all students register for the VDH MRC and complete the 3-hour online training by June 15, as part of a proposed service learning requirement.

Through this note I am strongly encouraging our faculty and staff to join us by completing these 3 steps:

  1. Register for the VDH Medical Reserve Corps
  2. Receive confirmatory email from VDH (in about 3 days)
  3. Complete the module, Making Contact: A Training for COVID-19 Contact Tracers

The work that we at VTCSOM will do is primarily Contact Tracing, but there will be other related tasks as well like symptom check lists (case investigation), worksite outbreak investigation, data entry following targeted testing (e.g., nursing homes, neighborhoods), wellness monitoring, etc. All of the jobs can be done virtually.  If called upon to volunteer, MRC members  (including our students) are not required to say yes to every offer.  Per MRC procedures, we can respond to any given request as “not available.” 

Your participation is completely voluntary but much appreciated.  Many of us are already engaged in service activities that are important and personally meaningful.  Please continue these efforts – our community is most grateful.  To those of you who are able to sign up with the VDH Medical Reserve Corps, thank you for helping our community prepare for the next big push to contain the pandemic.  

We are truly in this together, and collectively we can make a difference for our public health system and community.

Lee A. Learman

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, June 1, 2020, and we are entering our 12th week of COVID-19 response.

As I emailed last week, we are very excited to see our Interprofessionalism value domain transition to the broader focus of Health Systems Science and Interprofessional Practice, effective one month from now on July 1st. 

From its beginnings, VTCSOM has been a national leader in the field of interprofessional education, preparing our students for careers in which care is provided by highly skilled teams from different health science disciplines. The additional focus on health systems science will only grow the impact of this domain. Our students will emerge with a better understanding of the way health care is delivered and how to effect positive change in health systems.  

Some have called health systems science the 3rd pillar of medical education, just as essential as basic science and clinical science.  The current pandemic only highlights the value physicians bring to systems thinking, from emergency management to health policy and beyond.  Examples include trusted national leaders such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, as well as VTC School of Medicine faculty who are called upon or volunteer to inform decision-making in our public health system, state and local governments. 

Today, we will hear from Richard Vari, Senior Dean for Academic Affairs, on how our domain change will positively impact the curriculum as a whole.  Our Senior Dean for Faculty Affairs, David Musick, will share his perspectives as co-chair of the task force who recommended the change. And we will then hear from the co-leaders of our new Health Systems Science and Interprofessional Practice value domain, Drs. Cynthia Morrow and Natalie Karp.

Hi, I am Rick Vari, Senior Dean for Academic Affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. These are certainly interesting times as we watch on a daily basis, doctors, nurses, PAs [physician assistants], respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals battle in this COVID-19 pandemic in health systems across this nation and indeed across the world. There is no doubt that this pandemic will change medical education going forward in many ways. Also, on the national scene is the emerging discipline of health system science, which is being labeled the third pillar of medical education. 

We have a unique opportunity at VTC to build upon our legacy of our nationally known and recognized interprofessional education program that we started with our colleagues at Jefferson College of Health sciences, now RUC [Radford University Carilion] and Carilion Clinic, when we started the medical school. We have built upon our program and expanded it with colleagues from Virginia Tech and Radford [University] and now have the opportunity to merge our IPE [Interprofessionalism Education] program with foundational important principles of teamwork, conflict resolution, the understanding of professional roles and responsibilities with the emerging health system science principles of population health, quality and safety, health systems analysis, and improvement. This will provide our students with a longitudinal program that will better equip them and prepare them to deal with the challenges of health systems in practice and also with improvement of quality care. This will impact, in a very positive way, patient care, which is what medical education, its primary mission is. 

I am excited and honored to be a part of this process. I look forward to what this new curriculum development will bring to VTC in the next 10 years. I want to thank Cynda Johnson for her leadership in the past and her support of our IPE program and our new Dean Lee Learman for his vision to incorporate these principles that will lead us to better health systems and practice and better patient care. Thank you.

Hello everyone!  I’m David Musick, Senior Dean for Faculty Affairs.  Along with my colleague Dr. Suzanne Kraemer, it was my privilege to co-chair the Dean’s appointed task force examining health systems science [HSS] and how to incorporate this new, third pillar of medical education into our medical school curriculum.  

Our 13-member task force was representative of our faculty and student body.  We worked together for approximately five months and delivered our final report to Dean Lee Learman on January 27th of this year.  The task force first examined every part of the current curriculum to determine where we were already addressing selected aspects of health systems science.  We then designed a proposed expanded health systems science curriculum for the consideration of our curriculum committees, wherein our students will retain our prior emphasis on interprofessional team science, but also learn new core content areas of health system science.  

Many of these core concepts will be delivered during the first two years of the curriculum, and will include a new experiential learning component that is currently being developed.  We also considered ways to incorporate this content into the final two years of the curriculum where students are actively engaged in patient care activities.  

Our faculty will also be supported by a major effort in faculty development which will allow us to tap into the expertise and experiences of current faculty plus many of our health system leaders from our partner institution, Carilion Clinic.  

In closing, please allow me to thank the members of the task force for their hard work on this important project.  Please be watching for more information about this exciting new work in the near future! Thank you.

I am honored to be involved in the design and the development of the new curriculum in health systems science and interprofessional practice here at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. We have a team of dedicated medical educators who are excited to bring the dean's vision of this new curriculum into the classroom, the clinics, and the hospitals. In the preclinical years for this new curriculum, early learning experiences, and health system science and interprofessional practice will be anchored by didactic sessions from local experts. 

We'll cover a wide range of topics from leadership and social determinants of health to have equity and value-based care. And for each of these topics, students will have the opportunity to do a deep dive into the details by exploring clinically relevant cases. These discussions will be facilitated by clinical mentors who are committed to advancing health systems science and interprofessional practice.

By coordinating our efforts across a four year curriculum, we will be able to ensure that every student who graduates from Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will have the skills and knowledge that they need to work in interprofessional teams to help the health systems in which they work, improve the health of the communities that they serve.

It's so exciting to have the opportunity to help develop this innovative new curriculum. COVID has shown us even more that while the status quo is comfortable, if you aren't growing and innovating and anticipating, you'll be left behind. This doesn't mean that we will be abandoning all of our traditional educational models in the clinical years, but rather it means that we'll be taking a fresh look at our students' experiences in these years and saying, how can we take this and make it better? How can we educate systems, citizens and physician thought leaders? That's what health system science gives us: a construct to address these growing needs and questions, and I'm excited to be able to work with the Dean and Dr. Morrow to bring this to life in the clinical years.

Thank you Drs. Vari, Musick, Morrow and Karp. 

We all look forward to seeing the new value domain take shape as it is implemented in the coming year.  

Until next week, take care everyone! 

Statement about the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, and George Floyd

Dear VTCSOM Community,

The historic and cumulative impact of structural racism on black lives was punctuated recently by the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.  Their deaths were horrific, senseless and brutal.  I stand with my fellow citizens, physicians, educators and academic leaders in condemning these acts.  They are an affront to our values of inclusion, diversity, humanism, compassion, justice and respect.

The cruelty and inhumanity perpetrated against Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd remind me how little progress we have made as a society over the past 30 years.  I was a resident physician in Los Angeles in 1991 when Rodney King was brutally beaten on the streets of that city. The beating was caught on camera by a bystander and broadcast into homes across the nation and worldwide.  A year later the Los Angeles policemen involved in the beating were acquitted on charges of assault and the use excessive force, an injustice that triggered protests and violent riots.  Although the increase in senseless violence against unarmed African-Americans over the past 3 decades may seem to be an artifact of capturing more of these tragedies on camera, I fear we are still seeing only the tip of this iceberg.  

In our shared sense of dismay what can we do to be helpful?  Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Elie Wiesel, and Desmond Tutu have pointed out in their own unique ways that “neutrality” creates a deafening silence that supports continued oppression and torment.   It is each citizen’s duty to call out and acknowledge the real and continued inequities that limit life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for people of color. The statement released yesterday from Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke does just that and points out, “As great as our ideals of freedom, justice, and equality may be, the reality is persistently and pervasively falling short of what we say we are all about.”

I celebrate the growth in diversity our society has experienced during the 6 decades of my life.  Inclusion of people’s diverse experiences, perspectives and thoughts is a defining feature and strength of America.  Diversity has been a driver of innovation and success, but the economic fruits of progress have not resolved racial inequalities and health disparities.  Over 20 years ago the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. David Satcher, pointed out the existence of “continuing disparities in the burden of illness and death experienced by blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders”  and predicted that “the future health of America as a whole will be influenced substantially by our success in improving the health of racial and ethnic minorities.”  COVID-19 reminds us that the institutional and structural factors that define race in our society have sustained these disparities, setting the stage for greater rates of illness and death in African-American families from the pandemic. Our community’s suffering, grief and anguish over the resulting loss of life is real and must be acknowledged, heard and supported. 

The compounding impact of long-term inequality, health disparities, the pandemic and the recent killings of unarmed citizens can create a heavy burden of stress, fear, outrage and trauma in communities of color, and yet may be hidden from the awareness of individuals who do not feel this impact.  I acknowledge the burden of repeated trauma carried across many generations in the African-American community.   I also acknowledge my privilege -- not to fear that an encounter with law enforcement or jog through the neighborhood could result in my death or that of my children.   I want to listen, understand, acknowledge and support members of our VTCSOM community who are fearful, worried, aggrieved and anguished.     

Please join me on Wednesday, June 3, from 5:30-7:00pm for a special “VTCSOM Community Forum: Finding Safety after the Killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd”.  An outlook invitation is forthcoming for this zoom forum.  Former VTCSOM faculty member, Dr. Frank Clark, will join us.  Before moving to the University of South Carolina at Greenville Dr. Clark practiced at Carilion in the department of psychiatry and was a member of the VTCSOM Dean’s Council on Advancement.  Dr. Clark is an emerging national leader whose work draws attention to the impact of racism and health inequities on the African-American community: https://www.nmqf.org/40-under-40-awardees/2019/clark.  The forum will create a safe space for sharing and listening, acknowledging and supporting each other – a place of compassion and understanding.    In preparation I hope you will have time to read this short and moving poem by Morgan Harper Nichols, a 30-year old artist and poet from California.

It is my sincerest hope that we can come together to help those who are suffering and in pain.  Thank you for your support!

Lee A. Learman, MD, PhD
Dean, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Also read: AAMC Statement on Police Brutality and Racism in America and Their Impact on Health


Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Tuesday, May 26, 2020, and we are entering our 11th week of COVID-19 response.

I hope each of you had a restful – and dry – Memorial Day weekend. Last week, our area had flooding and I know many experienced wet basements and flooded roads in their neighborhoods and near our campus. I hope all of you are safe and the weekend gave some time for clean-up and enjoying the emergence of the sun once again.

The focus of our video this week is on our alumni. We will hear from two of our Dean’s Council on Advancement alumni members.

Chris McLaughlin from the Class of 2017 is a general surgery resident at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.  Chris will share words of welcome for our newest alumni, from the class of 2020. 

Ashley Gerrish from the Class of 2014, will give us her perspective on how COVID-19 is impacting the end of her minimally invasive surgery fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University. Ashley will be returning this fall to join the VTC Department of Surgery at Carilion Clinic.   

And, finally, we will hear from our Director of Alumni Relations Sammi Hoover, on how her office has been connecting with our alumni during this time.

Congratulations to the class of 2020! You've worked so hard to get where you are today and your accomplishments deserve to be celebrated. 

As Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine's newest alumni, you join a network of physicians well-trained to serve patients and lead teams of healthcare professionals. These skills were needed before a global pandemic and now, more than ever, your role as a physician thought leader, as someone who knows the role of community and medical training, and as a reliable colleague, will make you an amazing asset to any residency program. 

There's no doubt residency can be challenging, but you're more than ready to meet those challenges. Always keep in mind the patients and faculty you met during your time at VTC. The lessons you learn will serve you well no matter where you end up.

And wherever you go, I would encourage you to stay involved at VTC through programs like the white coat letters, which takes place every fall and the host program, which takes place through every interview season, alumni can continue to support the VTC community. These programs are becoming even more effective and more meaningful as our alumni base and our school grows. 

Congratulations again to the class of 2020! Wishing you continued success and welcome to the VTC alumni community.

Hi, I'm Ashley Gerrish, I'm a member of the charter class. Dean Learman asked me to say a couple words about my experience with fellowship training and the COVID pandemic.

I'm currently an advanced GI and bariatric surgery fellow at VCU in Richmond. And, for us, the biggest thing that really has happened is the halting of elective cases. It sort of put a damper on fellowship training for several weeks. I think we went about six to seven weeks without any elective cases, which is the majority of our cases. So, we spent that time doing a lot of telemedicine and clinic visits, which is not typical for surgery fellow. Fortunately, now we're back in full swing with elective cases and get to finish out the rest of fellowship year. I'm getting all my case numbers and everything that I needed from that standpoint, which is great.

I'm happy to announce that in the fall, I'll be coming back to Roanoke, to Carilion as a faculty member. So, I look forward to seeing everyone there. Bye.

Hi, my name is Sammi Hoover and I’m the director of alumni relations at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. I’m excited for you to hear from some of our alumni this week, as they are an integral part of our community. You’ll hear about how they are handling the challenges of the pandemic and the great work they’re doing out in the world. 

It’s the mission of our team to provide great opportunities for alumni to stay connected to the school and to each other. Normally, this would happen with regional events in cities where alumni live, scholarship receptions, tailgates at VT football games, and the M1 welcome at Rockledge. But until we can be together to celebrate those events in person, we’re using this unique time to engage with our alumni virtually. 

Our communications team has produced great content for alumni to watch, including the virtual research symposium and poster presentations as well as the 2020 virtual commencement ceremony featuring our fabulous alumni speaker, Michael Gallagher. You can find all the content on our website and social media. 

I hope you will stay tuned to your email for some interesting stories about how VTCSOM alumni are taking on the challenges of Covid 19 and ways you, as alumni, can be of assistance to our current students in the near future. We would love to hear from you and know how you’re doing - I truly hope everyone is healthy and safe.

Thank you to Chris, Ashley, and Sammi for those perspectives. We hope all of our alumni across the country are staying safe. 

As Sammi mentioned, we will get to read about the experiences of nine more alumni in a story series that will be shared beginning tomorrow through the end of the week. You’ll be able to find them on our website – medicine.vtc.vt.edu – as well as our social media channels.

Take care everyone, and we will see you back here next week.

Dear VTCSOM Community,

Happy Tuesday. I hope you were able to enjoy the warmer, dryer weather over the holiday weekend! 

I am pleased to formally announce that the VTCSOM curricular domain of Interprofessional Education (IPE) will transition to the domain of Health Systems Science and Interprofessional Practice (HSSIP), effective July 1, 2020.    IPE is currently one of four domains that organize our curriculum, with Basic Science, Clinical Science and Research.   Our school’s commitment to IPE has been present since its birth, and we have been recognized for our leadership in IPE nationally. Our collaboration with the health professions of nursing, physician assistant, healthcare administration, and occupational therapy from JCHS/RUC has created the foundation of interprofessional teamwork with a shared vison of improving the quality of patient care.

The HSSIP domain will continue this legacy while focusing also on Health Systems Science (HSS). The HSS component of the HSSIP domain will provide students a clear understanding of how health care is delivered, how health care professionals work together to deliver that care, and how the health system can improve patient care and health care delivery.   It will use clinically relevant examples to illustrate the principles and practices of high-value care, quality improvement, population health and health disparities, informatics, systems thinking and many other systems-oriented topics.   

Successful implementation of the HSSIP domain is critically important to the VTCSOM mission of training future physician thought leaders and scientist physicians.  Our graduates are well-prepared to bring rigorous thinking and creativity to their careers in medicine.  Expanding our existing coverage of HSS will prepare them even more to improve the health of their patients and communities.   The task force that developed recommendations for the new domain, co-chaired by Drs. David Musick and Suzy Kraemer, brought together a broad group of stakeholders from different professional disciplines with experience in curriculum development, health systems leadership, public health, and clinical medicine, as well as our medical students.  Harvesting ideas from a similarly diverse group will be essential for successfully developing the HSSIP domain.

I am delighted to inform you that we have identified two outstanding faculty members to lead the new HSSIP domain.  

  • Cynthia Morrow, MD, MPH, is a graduate of Swarthmore College (BA) and Tufts University School of Medicine (MD, MPH).  She completed an Internal Medicine residency at the Medical University of South Carolina.  Before joining the faculty at VTCSOM in the Department of Interprofessional Education, Dr. Morrow was the Lerner Chair for Health Promotion at Syracuse University and Professor of Practice in the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs at Syracuse University.  She was Commissioner of Health for Onondaga County during which time she earned numerous awards from community-based organizations.  At VTCSOM Dr. Morrow serves as a PBL facilitator, IPE course director for Public Health and Medicine, and as a member of the medical curriculum committee.  Dr.  Morrow is a consulting editor for the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and is also an editor of 5 books, including Bioethics, Public Health, and the Social Sciences for the Medical Professions; Public Health Administration: Principles for Population-Based Management; JPHMP’s 21 Public Health Case Studies on Policy & Administration; Essentials of Public Health, 4th Edition (published last month), and  Public Health: What it is and how it works (to be published in the fall).  Growing up in Uganda, Ghana, Switzerland, and the United States fostered Dr. Morrow’s passion for public health and social justice.
  • Natalie Karp, MD, is a graduate of the University of Richmond (BA) and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine (MD).  In August of 2017 she joined Carilion Clinic and VTCSOM in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, after completing residency training at the University of Virginia and a fellowship at the University of Michigan in Urogynecology.  Dr. Karp has received national awards for outstanding teaching, and during her residency she received an award for outstanding professionalism by the UVA nurses.  In addition to serving as our OBGYN clerkship director Dr. Karp is involved in direct teaching across the continuum of undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education including faculty development for educators.  Her multiple teaching activities across all 4 years of our VTCSOM curriculum include LACE preceptor, didactic and small group instruction, and OSCE faculty instructor and evaluator.   Dr. Karp’s community engagement includes serving as a Physician Thought Leader Community Advisor for Tech Girls, an international summer exchange program sponsored by the US Department of State to empower and inspire women from the United States, Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa to pursue careers in science and technology.

During my conversations with Drs. Morrow and Karp over the past several months, each leader impressed me with her passion and vision for the important work ahead.    As co-leaders of the HSSIP domain, Drs. Morrow and Karp will develop an integrated curriculum that unfolds across the 4 years of medical school.  Dr. Morrow will focus on VTCSOM Phase 1 comprising the M1 and M2 years, and Dr. Karp will focus on VTCSOM Phase 2 comprising the M3 and M4 years. Although their official positions begin July 1, they have been busy helping develop aspects of the HSSIP domain that will be implemented in the 2020-21 academic year, including revisions to the M1 curriculum and the introduction of enhancements to the M3 clerkship experience.  These efforts have been truly exceptional and have generated much excitement about the future.   

The current mission of the Department of Interprofessionalism is to implement the IPE curriculum.  We will initiate the process to change the department’s name and mission, according to the policies of Virginia Tech and our accrediting body, to align with the new HSSIP domain.  Departmental leadership will also need to align with domain leadership.  Dr. Dave Trinkle, our Associate Dean for Community and Culture, has agreed to continue as interim department chair through the summer as we identify a new chair.  

Please join me in congratulating Drs. Karp and Morrow, and in appreciating the excellent work of our outgoing IPE domain co-directors, Drs. Musick and Trinkle, who will stay engaged in supporting the new HSSIP domain!

Lee A. Learman, MD, PhD
Dean, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, VTCSOM
Professor, VT Faculty of Health Sciences

Hello everyone. It is Monday, May 18th, 2020, and we are entering the 10th week of COVID-19 response. Last Friday, most of the Commonwealth entered Phase 1 relaxation of restrictions on businesses according to the Governor’s Executive Order 61. 

Every member of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine community has adjusted to keep themselves and our community as safe as possible during the current pandemic. . . from our staff and students now working and learning virtually from home, to our faculty who are teaching online, using technology to minimize in-person patient visits, maintaining and modifying their research, and adjusting to the financial challenges at Virginia Tech and Carilion. 

This week’s update will focus on faculty affairs.  Our school of medicine faculty is over 800 strong!  These talented colleagues have primary academic appointments in one of our 11 academic departments.  Our faculty also includes scholars with primary appointments at Virginia Tech who have secondary appointments in our medical school to support our teaching and research programs at VTC.  Together, this broad and diverse group enriches our school in many ways and defines in large part who we are.  We are committed to their success. 

First, we will hear from Dr. David Musick, senior dean for faculty affairs, with updates regarding faculty governance and promotions. Next, we will hear from our faculty development team - Mariah Rudd, manager of faculty development, and Dr. Shari Whicker, assistant dean for faculty development.  Mariah and Shari also manage and direct TEACH – the Teaching Excellence Academy for Collaborative Healthcare, which brings together faculty from our school of medicine, Carilion Clinic, and Radford University at Carilion. The programs and educational sessions offered by TEACH support the success of our faculty - as teachers, learners, leaders and scholars.  

Hello Everyone!  The current circumstances associated with the pandemic have certainly had an impact on all of us.  Like you, the Offices of Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development at our school have had to adjust to working very differently.  But, the everyday activities of the school in terms of teaching, research, clinical care and service have continued.  

Our faculty members have proven themselves over and over to be flexible, resilient, and downright creative in the manner in which we have stepped up to deliver the curriculum to our learners, and to continue our school’s tradition of service to the university and the community.  

On behalf of our faculty affairs team, I want to update you on two important items pertaining to governance. First, we have concluded our annual election process whereby we elect faculty members to serve on our various medical school governance committees.  We will be releasing the results of this election process very soon.  For the first time this year, our election process included an opportunity for our faculty to represent our medical school on various commissions and committees at the university.  And, this fall we will also have representation in the Virginia Tech Faculty Senate, with our selection process for those Senate seats to begin very shortly.  These actions represent very important steps in terms of our school’s further integration as the 9th college at Virginia Tech.  When presented with these opportunities, our faculty members have stepped forward in the best tradition of Ut Prosim and said “I am ready to serve.” Thank you!  

Second, our most recent promotion cycle resulted in the successful promotion in rank of 15 of our faculty members.  Congratulations to each of you!  We will recognize you formally at our next faculty assembly meeting.  The current promotion cycle is also underway, and I am sure we will see more success in this regard during the coming year.  This brings our total number of promotions to 120 since our school started over ten years ago.  Advancement in rank represents both the quality and quantity of the outstanding work of our faculty, and is an important developmental milestone in the continued growth of a new medical school.  A vibrant community of faculty members is the backbone of any medical school, and I am so proud to work with each one of you!  

And now, I am anxious for you to hear about the great work of our faculty development team.  So, let me wrap up by again saying thank you so much for all that you are doing for our learners, our patients, and our community.  Don’t forget to take care of yourselves, too!  I hope to be with you again in person very soon.  Take care!

Hi everyone! We are all working to adjust to these changing times and embrace the new normal. In the Office of Continuing Professional Development, a large deal of what we do is support our faculty in their complex roles through the provision of in-person trainings, sessions, and courses. The changing times have encouraged us to identify innovative ways to continue our mission to meet the needs of our faculty. While we miss the opportunity to engage with everyone in-person, we are continually impressed by the willingness and enthusiasm with which you have all embraced our alternative offerings during this time.

One group who has fully embraced change during this time is the Health professions Education Research Scholars, or HERS as many of you may know it. This small group of seven faculty members have dedicated 18-months to this program aimed at equipping participants with the knowledge and skills to be effective health professions education researchers.

HERS participants engage in a full day session each month. Unfortunately, in-person meetings haven’t been possible at this time, so we’ve had to find alternative means for moving forward. We have tried our best to emulate the experience our participants get at our in-person meetings by utilizing Zoom for breakout rooms and synchronous didactics [even with our AAMC MERC facilitators]. We have also employed the use of email, online resource sharing, Google forms, and individual synchronous online consultations to ensure that we stay connected and on target. Our current cohort of scholars truly embodies the innovative spirit of our community during these times. They have shown continued commitment to the program as well as to the growth of education research and educational improvement within our organization.

There are numerous examples across our health system of innovation, collaboration, and triumph during these challenging times. The HERS program participants represent only one among many of our faculty groups who have gone above and beyond to continue to meet the needs of our learners, providers, and community. The Office of Continuing Professional Development will continue to meet the changing and evolving needs of our faculty.

If there is some way in which we can help you or your department, please feel free to reach out. We are excited about how we can continue to make changes and innovate as we adapt to the new normal in the days ahead. What is a crisis if we don’t take the opportunity to grow and learn from it?

Just as our HERS participants have done, we will continue to enhance and evolve to build and identify better tools, resources, and information for our faculty. Thank you all and have a great day!

I hope this message finds you well.

One of the most encouraging themes I’ve seen arise from the events of the last couple of months is that many of us find ourselves in a variety of new stages of growth. Whether it’s in our relationships with our children and families, by expanding how you care for your patients or how we interact with our work families, or by learning new ways to reach our learners…. We’re all growing.

As we’ve all experienced, growth doesn’t always come by choice and it isn’t always easy… hence the term “growing pains.” When I was little, I remember experiencing what I thought were excruciating bad growing pains. My mom would always coming to rescue with consoling words of advice and warm compresses to ease the aches. 

While we can’t mitigate all of your aches and pains, TEACH is here to help as you grow within your role as a teacher. We are all in a situation in which we need to modify how we effectively reach our learners in thoughtful and meaningful ways… at a distance.

Prior to mid-March, our TEACH observation and consultation team was busy observing our faculty teach in a variety of in-person settings: in the classroom, at the bedside, on rounds, with small groups/large groups, even in the operating room.

Since the pandemic began, there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of requests for ONLINE teaching observations and consultations. If this is something that might interest you, please let us know either via the Observation and Consultation form on our website, teach.vtc.vt.edu/, or by emailing us at TEACH@carilionclinic.org to schedule an opportunity for one of our qualified consultants to either observe your online teaching or discuss with you various online options that would best fit your and your learners’ needs.

We look forward to hearing from you.  Stay well!

Faculty seeking life-long learning opportunities to keep their teaching skills fresh are encouraged to contact Shari or Mariah and take advantage of the wonderful programs their office has to offer.

Thank you in advance to our faculty members who will be joining committees here in the medical school and representing us at Virginia Tech in the coming year.  And, congratulations to all the many faculty are on track for promotion.  We will look forward to celebrating your achievements, hopefully in person, at the next faculty assembly.

Take care everyone, stay safe, and have a great week!  In light of the Memorial Day Holiday, our next update will be released next Tuesday.  Enjoy the long weekend!

Links to resources, workouts, games, and apps mentioned in the video

Virginia Tech & VTCSOM Wellness Resources

Workout Links

Group Game Links

Meditation/Sleep Apps

  • Aaptiv – They have a 50% student discount!
  • Sleep Cycle – Alarm clock that wakes you up in your lightest sleep stage so you don’t wake up groggy 
  • Slumber – Guided meditation and bedtime stories

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, May 11th 2020, and we are entering the ninth week of COVID‑19 response. I hope you were able to tune in for our virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday honoring our 45 graduates. While we wished we could have celebrated in person, our pre-recorded event provided the next best way to celebrate the successes of each graduate.

Our speakers were top notch. Kudos to the two student speakers – Justine and Sol – who provided a fresh take and perspective for their class. It was wonderful to welcome “back” alumni speaker, Michael Gallagher from the class of 2017. Our faculty speaker, Dr. John Sweet from internal medicine, inspired the class with words to lift the spirits. And we were honored to have Virginia Tech's President, Tim Sands, join us this year for the keynote address. At the close of the ceremony we were able to hear well-wishes and memories from the class as well as congratulatory messages from friends, family, faculty, staff, and community members. If you missed it, you can still watch it! It's the main feature on our website this week: medicine.vtc.vt.edu.

For this week’s update we’re focusing on well-being. High rates of professional burnout have focused national attention on how to maintain wellness during careers in medicine. Recent publications from the National Academy of Medicine, American Medical Association, American Association of Medical Colleges, and many other organizations have made thoughtful recommendations for how to support well-being during medical training and beyond.  

And then COVID-19 happened, increasing stress, workload, uncertainty and concern about the future, as well as physical distancing when we most need social support.  Part our response to the pandemic has been to double down on our ongoing commitment to medical student well-being.  

This week we highlight our student well-being programs and how they have adapted and responded to the challenge of providing support during the pandemic. We will hear from Emily Holt Foerst, director of academic counseling and enrichment services, Katie Hardin from the Class of 2023, and Dr. Jennifer Slusher, a licensed professional counselor and coordinator of clinical services for the Cook Counseling Center’s Roanoke campus.  

Hi Everyone!  I look forward to seeing back at VTC again someday soon. 

As you know, wellness has been a priority at the medical school for a long time, but that has never been more true than right now.  These past several weeks, in spite of the distance, there have been a variety of activities planned by the VTC wellness team and the Hokie Wellness program.  Wellness takes on a variety of different shapes and so there’s lots of things for employees and students to choose from. From VT Rec Sports, courses on demand, to Mindfulness with Cathy Kropff. 

If you haven’t had a chance to do so, please look at the VTC Wellness website. There are so many different resources there for mental, emotional, physical, academic, and financial needs; so have a peek.  In addition to this resource, the VT Hokie Wellness program has a variety of different resources on their website as well. And one last resource, the VTC Google folder, Learning, Working & Wellness Google folder [internal linked in wellness weekly newsletter]. A recent addition to that would be some pdfs made by VT Hokie Wellness among which is a May calendar to give you inspiration for one healthy thing a day for the month of May. 

I’m also happy to report the Wellness Weekly has not missed a beat!  Even if you don’t read it and you just hit delete and it fills you with wellness just being able hit delete and have one less thing to do, then that makes me happy.  For those of you who do check it out, you will have seen that on May 1st we rolled out a new series, "Harry’s movie corner". And, I’m very excited about that series and Harry is going to be showcasing more movies in the weeks to come. So, have a peek.

For those of you who are Peloton fans, the two Peloton bikes that were purchased in partnership between VTC and the VT Rec Sports department will arrive as soon as it is safe for them to do so; so one more reason to look forward to returning to Riverside.

I also want to send a special thank you to the Class of 2020 for their class gift to the wellness room!  It is much appreciated and will be spent wisely on the resources that you suggested at the beginning of the [academic] year.

Until we meet again, take care and remember if you need support, it is always just a email, text, phone call away!

Take care and see you soon!

Hi, my name is Katie Hardin and I’m a first-year medical student.

Something I’ve really missed since social distancing measures have been put into place is going to the gym with my classmates. There used to be a huge group of us who would go to cycling, or yoga or our favorite was Sunday afternoon Body Pump class, which is a weightlifting class at the RAC. So, we decided to try and replicate this over Zoom. Each week we rotate who gets to pick an online workout video and then they share their screen while the rest of us follow along. And it’s just been a really great way to take a study break, get our blood pumping and of course, see each other.

We’ve linked some of our favorite websites and workout videos below. Zoom has also been really great to keep in touch with family and friends, which I think is so important during this time.

Our class social chair actually put together this fun little trivia night for all of us and then I’ve been using the apps Psych and Jackbox to play little minigames with my friends. I’m also taking VTC’s mindfulness elective and to help me keep up with my practice at home, I’ve been using this app called Aaptiv that has a lot of other great workout videos but I really like their sleep, or night-time focused meditations that really, they just knock me out. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, I would definitely recommend trying some meditation before bed.

So with that, I challenge you to get a little movement in your day, have a glass of water, eat some greens and do something for yourself. Whether that’s just watching TV, or for me, I’m going to take my little pup here on a walk and then get ready for our weekly workout. Tonight we’re doing an Alo Yoga video to destress before exams. So I hope you all have a great day, thanks!

Hi everyone. I'm Jennifer Slusher, coordinator of clinical services for Cook Counseling Center, Roanoke campus. There are a couple of key questions that a lot of folks keep asking me and I'd like to share those with you today. 

The first one is what should I be feeling and what is normal? Well, the answer to this is pretty simple. Whatever you're feeling is normal because we've never experienced anything like this before. You may be burned out, angry, grieving, numb, or even enjoying this time and all of that is okay. 

The second one is, what can I do right now to maintain my mental health? There's no magic to this question either. The answer is really to keep things simple. 

The first thing you can do is maintain some sort of routine bedtime routines, meals, exercising, whatever it is you typically do in a day. Try to continue to do those things around the same time, but don't be too rigid because some flexibility is okay. 

The second thing is try to find something small each day that you can look forward to. Now, this is going to look different than it has in the past. It might be something like taking a walk, staying connected with family and friends, starting a new hobby or reading that new book you've been wanting to read. 

The third thing is trying to figure out what you can and what you can't control. Don't waste time on those things that you absolutely can't do anything about and take small steps towards changing or even just maintaining those things that you can. 

The fourth one is decreasing social media use. Pay attention to facts only and ignore the rumors.

And lastly, be patient with yourself. Self compassion is so important right now. If you need to lower your expectations for the time being, that's okay. Don't beat yourself up. 

And finally, I want to remind everybody that we're experiencing a trauma right now. This is a trauma event, and during an event like that, parts of our brains literally shut down. It can leave us numb and confused or even out of touch. We're all dealing with this together, but we're dealing with it differently. Anxiety and depression are up and just getting by emotionally and functionally is okay right now, but if you're feeling really low, if you're really struggling, please reach out to a family member, reach out to a friend. 

If you're a student, you can email me at jslusher@vt.edu and if you're a faculty or staff member, you have resources as well. You can reach out to our employee assistance program for help. So please take care of yourselves and I hope to see you in person very soon. Thanks.

Thank you to Emily, Jennifer, their colleagues at Hokie Wellness, and to all of the students, faculty, and staff who support our wellness resources, activities, and events.

During this time of physical distancing, social connection is more important than ever.  Dr. Vivek Murthy – the 19th Surgeon General of the United States  - was interviewed recently on NPR’s Hidden Brain in a story called, “A Social Prescription - Why Human Connection is Crucial to our Health.”  

Dr. Murthy believes that social isolation and loneliness are major public health problems in the United States.  In the story, Dr. Murthy shares important reflections on his childhood and primary care practice, and his realization as Surgeon General that loneliness as a cause of chronic stress is as strongly associated with chronic illness as obesity, inactivity and other cardiovascular risk factors.  

The story ends by suggesting solutions.  Dr. Murthy says, “Despite being a doctor who has prescribed a number of medications over the years, it stands out to me that one of the most powerful medicines we have is LOVE, and the vehicle through which that love is delivered are relationships.” 

As we reach out to remedy loneliness through strengthening relationships in our families and communities during a time of physical distancing, please remember to take the time to quiet the noise around you, connect with yourself, and practice habits of gratitude, self-forgiveness, and self-compassion. 

We are all in this together. I’ll see you again next week.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, May 4, 2020, and we are entering the 8th week of COVID-19 response. Because we are starting a new month I thought it would be timely for our community to hear an update on the major challenges our students are facing, class by class. Dr. Aubrey Knight will get us started with that update and we will do the same on the first Monday of every month.

The inability to conduct clinical rotations and other forms of experiential learning have spurred creativity. We are developing new electives that are relevant, valuable, and address challenges of our current circumstances. After Dr. Knight’s briefing we will hear from Dr. N.L. Bishop about a new elective he is developing on Health Care Leadership in Emergency Management. The elective will provide insights from clinical and public health leaders with real-world crisis experience.

My closing comments will include personal reflections on how leaders can support their teams, and how we can support each other, through the challenges we are facing.

My name is Aubrey Knight. I'm the senior dean for student affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. I was asked to provide an update as to the status of students during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am pleased to say that our students are doing well, despite the disruptions that have occurred. 

The Class of 2020 has been forced to do their various celebrations and their last few rotations virtually, but despite all that, they are checking those last few boxes toward graduation. They had an incredibly successful match this year, with each member of the class of 2020 matching into categorical residencies. Seven class of those students have matched into at least one year of residency with Carilion Clinic, so we'll be seeing some of them more often. Speaking of seven, at least seven members of the class of 2020 had planned weddings this spring. Some of those weddings have been postponed and others have found innovative ways to exchange vows. There promises to be many opportunities for this class to come together this summer with postponed weddings and postponed wedding receptions. 

The members of the Class of 2021 were able to complete three quarters of their clinical clerkship year prior to COVID-19 forcing us to remove them from clinical rotations. They are now anxiously awaiting the go-ahead to return to the hospitals and clinics. In the meantime, they are making preparations for residency applications. We have a record number of students from this particular class, the class of 2021 applying in residencies in pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology.

The disruption of the spring has been particularly hard on the class of 2022. Many were within weeks of taking the Step 1 examination when social distancing regulations took effect and the Prometric Centers were forced to close. The centers reopened on May 1 but are only able to test half of the usual examinees, so students who had intended on taking Step 1 in April were forced to delay until June and, in some cases, August. This class is also anxiously awaiting the return to... the ability to return to the hospital so that they can start their 3rd year clerkships.

The class of 2023 has moved to a virtual learning format early in Block IV and are now in the last week of that block. They have all identified a research mentor and project and will begin work on their research once Block IV is complete.

The class of 2024 is taking shape as we look forward to an incoming class of 49 new students. Time will tell whether or not COVID-19 impacts the beginning of their medical school careers.

So as you can see, there has been major disruptions. I have been inspired by the innovation of the faculty, the resilience of the students, and the flexibility from everyone. I am confident were at VTCSOM have remained true to our mission and that we will continue to prepare amazing people to be physician thought-leaders who will serve their patients and communities well and will have gained valuable lessons from the experiences of the spring and summer of 2020.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have developed healthcare leadership in emergency management as an elective course for some of our students. I am part of Carilion Clinic's incident command teams that has been managing the organization's response and planning over these many weeks.

The teams necessarily include physician leadership from the departments of emergency medicine, medicine and infectious disease, behavioral health, family and community medicine, and other areas. From time to time, situations arise causing healthcare settings to enter into disaster status with emergency management activation.

The goal of this elective is to introduce medical students to the important roles assumed by leaders during a disaster or a crisis. Objectives include identifying issues that might create reasons for an institution or clinic to enter into emergency operations. Describing the roles of leaders, identifying logistical issues such as interruption of operations, identifying psychological challenges that healthcare workers may face, recognizing the importance of communications to both the general public and internal workforce and applying skills of interprofessionalism and teamwork.

In addition to my own, lectures will be provided by Craig Bryant, Carilion Clinic's director of emergency management. Dr. Cynthia Morrow, a physician leader with a strong background in public health, and Larry Hinker, former chief communications officer of Virginia Tech, who was a key figure during the tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. The course will include readings, lectures, completion of online National Incident Management System, or NIMS courses, and lots of interactive discussions.

Thank you, Drs. Knight and Bishop. Leading now feels different to me than leading before COVID struck. How it is different was hard for me to describe until I read a recent article on the psychology behind effective crisis leadership in Harvard Business Review. According to the author, “When a leader’s appeal rests on vision alone, leadership is not whole.” Moving forward together in a crisis requires something else, and that is called “holding.”

Holding describes the way another person contains and interprets what is happening in times of uncertainty. Containing refers to the ability to soothe distress. Interpreting is the ability to help others make sense of a confusing predicament.

Leaders provide institutional holding when we strengthen the structure and culture of our organizations, when we explain what will happen to salaries, benefits, and working conditions during a crisis, when we set priorities based on our interpretations of facts, dispel rumors, offer encouragement and participation.

Interpersonal holding is also important and something we can all do for each other. It relies on being in the present. It includes giving permission to feel whatever we are feeling without shame, and acknowledging distress. It encourages curiosity to consider different ways to understand the present and imagine the future.

Holding is present when we show clear thinking, offer reassurance, orient each other to what is going on, and help our teams stick together. Through holding we can promote mutual support, maintain the continuity of our work, and show openness to a new vision as the crisis emerges.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be with you during this unprecedented time. We have limited opportunities to be in the same physical spaces, but we can hold each other even from a distance. We can validate concerns and soothe distress, share information, and find direction together through the uncertainties ahead. And by holding each other in this way, we can give and receive kindness and preserve the culture and climate of our community that we hold dear.

Take care and stay safe. I’ll see you again next week.


Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, April 27, 2020, and we are entering the seventh week of COVID-19 response. Last week, we were excited to announce final approval to increase our class size by seven – from 42 to 49 – starting with our class that begins this fall. This move allows us to maintain our small, close-knit learning environment while also giving more deserving and qualified students the opportunity to benefit from our unique research-intense curriculum and mission to prepare future physician thought leaders.

After reviewing nearly 4300 applications and interviewing 280 highly qualified applicants we will soon reach the important date of April 30, when all applicants to medical schools with multiple acceptances can hold only 1. In anticipation of our incoming class of 49 students I asked several members of the task force on class size expansion to share a brief message with the future Class of 2024.

Hello, I'm Rick Vari, senior dean of academic affairs at VTC and had the distinct pleasure of serving as the task force chair for the expansion of our class size. I want to publicly thank the members of that task force for all of their hard work, gathering the data, and writing the documents that support this very important decision. We are busy preparing for the increasing class size, preparing our faculty and our resources so that this transition will be a smooth endeavor. 

I've been with the school since 2008 and I've seen many changes. This is truly an exciting opportunity as we expand our medical enterprise and produce more and more doctors. To the incoming students, welcome. I had the pleasure of meeting some of you on MMI Saturdays when I discussed the curriculum and hopefully I enticed you into making this very, very wise decision. We look forward for you joining us, working with you as you embark on what will be a most brilliant career in medicine. Thank you for the opportunity to teach you and we look forward to your arrival.

As one of the committee members on the task force to increase our class size, I worked with the clinical science domain team to consider the options of growing the class size with our current building structure and identify what resources would be necessary to successfully roll out a proposal in an incremental fashion. This necessitated getting down into the weeds of our curricular delivery, including the details of room size, the number of faculty facilitators for each of our clinical skills workshop, the OSCE [Objective Structured Clinical Examination] suite capacity, and standardized patient demand. We inventoried and considered our simulation resources such as task trainers and our ultrasound equipment here at the med school. In addition to our resources with our wonderful colleagues at the Carilion Clinic Center for Simulation Research and Patient Safety. 

In a nutshell, we worked really hard to present a proposal that captured and advocated to preserve what we felt were important components of the clinical science curriculum throughout the pre clerkship years. We feel confident that we will be able to continue to provide an outstanding education as we all grow together. 

On a more personal note, I am most excited about meeting the people represented in the number 49 and hearing their stories about what brought them to our school. It is my hope that our incoming students feel well supported and quickly integrate into the curriculum as well as the community in ways that allow them to thrive. And I look forward to the day when our hallway and these classrooms and OSCE suites are buzzing with activity again, and we can welcome the class of 2024 to our VTCSOM family.

Hello! My name is William Reis and I am in the class of 2022. Welcome to VTC! VTC is a school that is small enough where everybody knows everybody and every class is known for having its unique features. Let me be honest, as our first class of 49-you're already in a special class. Being a research-based school means we are always investigating new ways of doing things and the class of 2024 is going to have the unique opportunity of discovering what it is like to have 7 new friends, 7 new research projects, 7 new ways of thinking, and 7 new support systems. So, to the class of 2024, you're coming into something new and something special and we are already so proud of you!

I think now more than ever, it's really apparent that we need every physician to bring a scientific perspective to their work. We want physicians to look at each patient carefully and individually to make observations, to draw conclusions, and then to proceed to care for that patient in a way that is based on sound evidence, not just apply an algorithm. 

We've built our research curriculum at VTCSOM to help each one of our students develop these skills. So, bringing seven more students to VTC will, yes, be a little bit more work because that's how our school works. We provide hands on individual education, but over the long term, it will help us grow this very important cadre of scientist physicians. In the short term are really looking forward to welcoming our expanded class of 2024 in the fall and excited to see what new research studies they're able to bring to life, helping grow our base of scientific knowledge right here at VTCSOM.

Hello class of 2024! We are so excited that the 49 of you will be arriving in the next few months. I know this must be a challenging time for any life change, especially something as demanding as starting medical school, but you are joining a truly exceptional group of students who will become your close colleagues and faculty who will become trusted mentors. You each bring your own experiences and background to our school and your expanded class size will highlight that even more. 

I hope that you take advantage of all that VTC and Roanoke have to offer. You are all most certainly smart and accomplished. My hope for you over the next four years is that you stay curious, find joy in your education, and look for new and creative ways to contribute to your community as you spend the next four years with us. I hope you remember to approach challenges with grace and an open mind. 

We are committed to educating you to become outstanding physicians and physician leaders. Congratulations and welcome everyone.

Thank you to the task force members we heard from today as well as the others who served on this group. Also, a big thanks to the leadership at Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic who supported this work over the last nine months. We look forward to seeing our first wave of growth this fall with the class of 2024.

Finally, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began last Thursday night.  To all who celebrate the holiday and are fasting today, I wish you a happy Ramadan, a Ramadan Mubarak. 

Take care and I’ll see you again next week.

There were a few articles in the VT Daily News this morning that I would like to highlight to ensure you have details around these important topics.

Flexible Spending Accounts

There are a few updates to our Flexible Spending Accounts that may be of interest:

  • Expenses incurred after December 31, 2019, for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines may be submitted for reimbursement from Health Care FSA funds without requiring a prescription from a physician. This includes drugs and medicines needed in quarantine and social distancing, and also adds feminine hygiene products to the list of eligible OTC items.
  • Can my annual election be reduced as the result of a change in planned surgery?
    At this time, guidance is not available regarding funds set aside for planned medical procedures that have been postponed due to COVID-19.
  • Can a Dependent Care FSA annual election be reduced due to closure of school, daycare, or after-school activities due to the pandemic?
    A change in the cost of childcare services is considered a Qualifying Mid-Year Event (QME) or Life Event. The employee may make an election change by submitting the enrollment form indicating the new election amount. The change will be effective the first of the month following receipt of the completed enrollment form and appropriate documentation.


As we continue teleworking, there may be some Ergonomic Issues you face with your new work area. VT Environmental Health & Safety has put together a few ergonomic tips for all of us.

Adjusting Work Practices

  • Minimize fatigue and discomfort by alternating tasks and changing body posture often.
  • When typing, use a light touch to minimize strain on muscles and tendons. A wrist rest, if used, should support the palms of the hands.
  • Avoid awkward body positions (extended reaches and using a shoulder as a telephone rest).
  • Take short breaks frequently and longer breaks hourly.
  • Blink often and periodically refocus on distant objects to reduce vision fatigue. Use the “20/20” rule—every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Recommendations for Laptops
    • Use on a desk. Avoid use on a couch or chair for long periods.
    • Place on a riser (or boxes/books). Put the top of the screen at eye height.
    • Connect a separate keyboard and mouse.
    • Use a separate monitor. Their higher resolutions can reduce eye strain and typically have a height adjustment.

I hope these are helpful and timely reminders as you evaluate your new work areas.

Have a great week!

Patricia Wooten, PHR, SHRM-CP
VTC School of Medicine
Human Resources Manager


Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, April 20th, 2020, and we are entering the sixth week of COVID-19 response. With our rapid switch to teleworking and teleteaching, we had to either cancel or move events online to help keep our community safe. Unfortunately, that impacted several key events for our class of 2020, including the upcoming commencement. 

Our faculty, staff, and graduating students have shown enormous flexibility as we have transitioned the in-person event to a virtual one. Today you will hear about this year’s ceremony from our Director of Communications Alison Matthiessen, Senior Director of Enrollment Management and Assistant Registrar Hope Reynolds, and Senior Dean for Student Affairs Dr. Aubrey Knight.

Hi! I am Alison Matthiessen. I'm director of communications at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. The communications team typically supports graduation in a variety of ways, but this year, we’ve really stepped up to help transition it to a virtual format.

Ryan – our videographer and photographer extraordinaire – typically puts in a good bit of work to capture the sights and sounds of graduation. This year, he’s not only capturing the event, but also producing the ceremony itself. Last week, he took photos and videos of the graduating students in regalia – one at a time and properly social distanced, of course. Now he has begun to film the speakers for the ceremony. He will work his editing magic to put all of the pieces together for the ceremony.

Catherine – our communications manager – has always been our point person for putting together the program. We decided to continue doing a printed piece this year that we will be mailing home with the diplomas, so family and friends and graduates will have a memento to keep with them. She is also working on some written stories about our graduates, so be on the lookout for those soon.

Meanwhile, Vianne – our web manager – has put together an electronic invitation that is going out soon. She’s also building out the graduation website so that it can house all of this content in one place so that it's easy for everyone to find.

One thing that we could use YOUR help on is submitting a written or video well-wish for the class. We hope to get some from a wide variety of people, from faculty, staff, other students, alumni, family and friends of students, and community members. We plan to edit them and play them before the ceremony and also share some on social media. You can find a link to submit one right below this video and also on our commencement website: medicine.vtc.vt.edu/commencement.

I am so thankful to have an amazing team and we hope you enjoy the ceremony on Saturday, May 9. Stay safe and well!

Hi everyone. I hope you will remain healthy while we continue to telework. 

I'm here to let you know what has been going on behind the scenes with our graduation ceremony. I can honestly say in the past 20 years of working within a registrar's office and enrollment management that I have never had to move a ceremony to a virtual platform before. Once, while working at Roanoke College, we did have a sudden thunderstorm where we had to move our ceremony inside very quickly, but I have never experienced anything like this. 

I have been speaking with the Dean, student affairs, and the communications team about how we would capture the most precious moments of a ceremony within a video. I think we have a great plan formulated that you all will get to view on Saturday, May 9th. 

Ryan Anderson and I, also this past Monday and Tuesday, met with a majority of the M4 students that came in individually to the school in 20-minute intervals. They put on their regalia. Ryan took pictures of them in the regalia for their families. Plus, he videotaped the students hooding themselves and then interviewed the students as well. And some of that footage will obviously be incorporated into the graduation video.

On another note, Vianne and Robin have worked together wonderfully over the past couple of weeks to now make the new email announcement concerning the virtual graduation and we have moved all of the paper copies of invitations that were to be sent out. Everybody will get an email notification now. 

Then finally, after Saturday May 9th, I will be sending out the students' formal diplomas to them plus copies of the commencement ceremony that they can share with their families, plus their letters of distinction. And, all of that is being sent to the address that they prefer in the coming month. 

I do know that after seeing some of the students at the school that even though they know that this is an extraordinary time for them to be graduating, they are very thankful for the opportunity to have a video put in place so that it will commemorate this special day for them. 

I do wish all of them the very best of luck in their future endeavors. And, I guess that's it. Thank you all. And please try to tune in and watch the graduation video. These students have worked so hard and they really need your support during this time. Thank you!

My name is Aubrey Knight. I'm the senior dean for student affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. It's my privilege to share with you my thoughts around graduation.

Graduation really is among my favorite times of the year as it gives us a chance to look back on the medical school careers of those we honor. The other good thing for me is that the advancement team and Hope Reynolds and her office do all the pre-graduation work, allowing me the freedom to enjoy that moment with our students.

While this year's graduation may be a little bit different and unique, it is no less impactful for our graduates, and for me. It became apparent around the time of match day that the spring of the fourth year for the class of 2020 was going to be different. First the virtual match day ceremony, then the virtual electives that to allow the fourth years to finish out their medical school careers. And now we're faced with a virtual graduation.

Virtual or not, this year’s graduation ceremony promises to be special because the class of 2020 is special. They have much to be proud of. They've matched into prestigious categorical residency programs, all of them. They have had incredibly productive research experiences and endeavors while students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and they have finished well, though not in the conventional manner. 

The one thing I'm going to miss with the way we're going to be forced to do graduation this year is looking at each student in the face as I call their names. That moment for me brings back a flood of memories of the various conversations we've had, of students sharing with me their joys and their struggles. And that culminates at that moment as I call their name, and I look at them, look at their faces and remind them and myself that they have achieved this incredible milestone on this important milestone for them. 

I know that seven of you will be walking the halls of our hospital at least for one year. And that allows me the opportunity to see you all at some time in the future. It grieves me, however that for most of you, aside from running into you in the hallways at some point between, over the last a month or so, I have not had the chance to just close things out with you, but it's amazing. In the last week, I have had three random, unscripted conversations with our graduates. These conversations served for me a reminder that we are still connected and we will remain connected. 

So, I wish our graduates well, I’m incredibly proud of you. I know that you're going to do amazing things at your institutions and beyond. I thank the faculty and the staff of our medical school for all that you've done to nurture our students, to prepare our students, and for the roles that you've played in the growth of the class of 2020. Thank you so much for all of your hard work students, staff, faculty. We appreciate you.

As always, Dr. Knight has put into words the feelings we all wish we could express. Thank you.

While we can never replace the pomp and circumstance of an in-person commencement event, this will still be a memorable and celebratory opportunity to recognize the achievements of our 45 graduates. They have worked incredibly hard to get to this day – from the work that prepared them to get into medical school, through their last four years. They are graduating into extraordinary times in health care, and I am confident they will serve their next communities well – whether they stay here in Roanoke, move across the country, or land somewhere in between.

I encourage you all to consider sending in a well-wish to the graduates. As Alison mentioned, you can find the link below this video or on our commencement webpage. We would love to show each graduate the support of our community during this time.

Take care and I’ll see you again next week.

Diversity and Inclusion Learning Opportunities

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine faculty, staff, students, and community members are invited take advantage of a variety of virtual learning opportunities that relate to inclusion, diversity and community.

Questions? Contact Karyna Nevarez, VTCSOM Inclusion Coordinator at karynad@vt.edu

Inclusive Pedagogy

Two sessions related to inclusive teaching will be presented via Zoom gatherings. Contact Michele Deramo at deramo@vt.edu to receive Zoom information to join the sessions.

  • Handling Difficult Conversations, Monday, April 20, 2-4 PM
  • Courage to Teach, Thursday, April 23, 2-4 PM

​InclusiveVT Insights

​InclusiveVT Insights are micro-learning modules available to all Virginia Tech Hokies, anytime, anywhere. Mark Nichols, Senior Director of Universal Design and Accessible Technologies at Virginia Tech has an Insight that is timely: How can I make my classroom accessible to all learners?  Also, check out the full list of diversity and inclusion Insights and discussion guides.

Interfaith Brown Bag Online Lunch Dialogue 

Educators' Awareness of Worldview Difference.
Thursday, April 23, 12-1 PM.

RSVP at www.dos.vt.edu/brownbag and you will be sent  Zoom information to participate. This session is open to faculty, staff, students, and community members, and will be an online interfaith conversation with people for diverse religious, spiritual, and secular identities. Let's find creative ways to keep building community and support one another. Everyone is welcome!

Bystander Intervention Training

As history has shown us, anti-Asian/American harassment and discrimination are not new. This is why it is imperative we all do our part to address the anti-Asian/American and xenophobic harassment emerging as a result of COVID-19.  Hollaback! in partnership with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) is offering one-hour virtual bystander intervention trainings. The training dates/times below are all Eastern Time.

Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month Events

Virtual Cafe Hour
Featuring Swathi Prabhu, Mental Health Initiatives Coordinator for Hokie Wellness
April 22, 2020 at 3-4pm

Parasite - Film Discussion
April 21, 2020 at 5pm
Register for the Zoom Conference

Virtual Cafe Hour
Featuring staff from the Cultural and Community Centers and Office for Inclusion and Diversity
April 29, 2020 at 3-4pm

Accessibility Conference

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, April 13, 2020, and we are entering the fifth week of COVID-19 response. I hope each of you had a restful weekend – and for those who observe, a fulfilling Easter or Passover celebration. 

Our video updates are part of a strategy for staying in touch across our VTC School of Medicine community.  In the past week we initiated our first in a series of Town Hall Meetings.  Each class of the medical school will have its own Town Hall with me and our curriculum leaders each month to discuss updates on curriculum planning and answer questions.  

In addition, we have created a task force featuring elected student leaders from each class to assist with planning the curriculum for next year.  It will be a unique year as we aim to help all of our students fulfill the clinical learning requirements and assessments that were delayed from this year.  

Last Monday’s video update featured three of our faculty who are serving as community helpers, either by serving COVID-19 patients or those suspected of having the virus, or by adapting their work flow to continue to serve patients through virtual telehelp appointments.

Today, we will hear from two residents – Dr. Kennedy from Internal Medicine and Dr. Nguyen from OBGYN.  They will share how working on the front lines of health care has impacted their work and learning.

In addition, we will hear from two of our third-year medical students who, with other students, have mobilized a COVID-19 Response Force. 

Hello. My name is Katie Kennedy and I'm a third-year internal medicine resident, currently working on Eight South and Eight South Radius. These are both closed isolation units currently working with patients who have COVID-19 or who are suspected of having COVID-19.

There have been a lot of changes recently, such as our morning report has been changed to an online didactic forum. Also, the way that we round on patients in the morning has changed. So, to reduce the amount of PPE we use along with potential exposures, we don't round in large groups at bedside. We typically round individually now. 

Now, another thing that's been more difficult, I imagine for each of us, is that we have to wear a lot of PPE now. So, we have goggles, and face masks, along with gloves and gown, and this has definitely made connecting with the patient a little bit more difficult. 

Another thing that's been difficult for the patients has been, you know, not being able to have their family members at bedside. So, we have made sure to call family members much more often to update them on what's going on. 

One thing that's been a real positive, is seeing how the residents interact with each other and how the residents have been willing to step up and help one another anytime that's needed. So that's been a real positive aspect.

Hi everybody. My name is Hoa Nguyen and I'm one of the OB GYN residents. I've been asked to say a few things in the wake of this COVID-19 pandemic, but first off, I hope that everyone is staying safe and finding creative ways to socially distance for the greater good.

I know this is a scary uncharted time, but my experiences thus far have taught me to never underestimate a community's strength and perseverance. I've noticed that although we are physically isolating, we are finding amazing ways to support each other. 

Our patients have been completely understanding of our visitor limitations, our rescheduling of their surgeries or office visits. They've even asked how we are holding up from a provider standpoint, which has been much appreciated during these hard times. 

I've been trying to decrease my pandemic footprint by not going into cases that already have the correct amount of coverage and by doing this I hope to serve two purposes. One is to decrease patient exposure to providers and provider exposure to patients. And second is to try to conserve PPE for when we critically need it. 

In lieu of not going into cases, we've all been trialing virtual educational options and testing those out for the ones that seem to work well. We've been sharing that with our colleagues. 

Once again, there is a huge sense of "camaraderieship" everywhere, and I believe the humanities component is the silver lining in this epidemiologic crisis. Stay safe everybody and flatten that curve.

Hi, my name is Grace and I'm a third-year medical student who's been working with other medical students, Vaish, Manavi, Ayesha, and Dakota to start a Southwest Virginia COVID Response Force. We've been taking a grassroots approach to responding to this crisis by mobilizing volunteers and donations for supplies in our community. 

We've been encouraging volunteers to work with the Virginia Department of Health Medical Reserve Corps at their call center and at their testing locations. We can also contribute to their epidemiology investigations. We've been working with the Virginia Department of Health and members of the Carilion community to create a region-specific needs assessment in order to guide our donation goals and our distribution. This effort has made it really clear that there's a widespread shortage of personal protective equipment in the Roanoke and Allegheny health districts. 

We feel that starting this organization is the very least we could do in order to try to mitigate the situation and give back to the community.

I'm Manavi and I'm also a third-year medical student involved with COVID response in the region. My specific role on the Southwest Virginia COVID Response Force has centered around the collection and distribution of personal protective equipment in the Roanoke Valley region. 

Our first approach was to contact local businesses and solicit donations of personal protective equipment from them. We actually got a really good response and were able to get several masks and gloves in the hands of healthcare workers when the need was really great.

We also began fundraising efforts and we've been working hard to fundraise in different manners including monetary donations, t-shirts sales from local businesses, and we're even putting together a virtual open mic night, which we'll solicit donations in the process. We are using these funds to figure out the best way to order bulk supplies to the region and we're in contact with manufacturers now that can directly supply us with PPE that we can then donate to the hospitals and clinics that are in greatest need. 

We've also been working with VT engineering to try to figure out how medical students can be of assistance in the manufacturing of masks and face shields that their group is working on. We have some medical students that actually have engineering background and those students are contributing with different designs and prototyping with the Virginia Tech group. We're hoping to be involved in assembly and manufacturing as these prototypes become approved. 

What you can do to support us now: You can email Southwest Virginia COVID response to donate to us. You can also purchase t-shirts or participate in our open mic night and we would love your support in the process. Thank you so much. Bye.

Thanks to our residents on the front lines and to our students who are doing what they can to support local efforts, while also keeping themselves and the community safe.

If you’d like to contribute to our students’ Southwest Virginia COVID Response Force, you can follow them on Instagram to learn more. Look for @ S-W-V-A dot COVIDRESPONSE - one word. They are regularly sharing their fundraising efforts and successes in securing PPE to donate.

I know there are many other helpers out there – and I appreciate everything that each of you is doing to help in this pandemic. I’ve heard of some of our staff are making masks at home or buying meals for health care workers. Each act of giving is noticed and important. Even just staying at home and limiting your physical contact with others really will make a difference.

Also, don’t forget to help yourself. This pandemic can be challenging, both physically and mentally, emotionally. Please make sure to fill your cup before you try to fill others. Thanks for all that you are doing. Stay safe and well.

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It is Monday, April 6, 2020, and I am here in my office surrounded by some construction noises across the street. We are entering the fourth week of COVID-19 response here at the VTC School of Medicine. Last week, Virginia Tech moved to essential operations – meaning that only a very small number of employees will report to work physically. At the medical school, this has been almost all faculty and staff working at home as we continue to be innovative and implement curriculum delivery online.

As I mentioned at the close of last week’s video, this week will focus on helpers in our community. Today, we will hear from three faculty members who each have a unique perspective on how COVID-19 is changing how they help patients, their teams, and our community.

First up is Dr. Jon Sweet, associate professor in the department of medicine and a specialist in hospital medicine. We will then hear from Dr. Melanie Prusakowski, associate professor in the departments of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics. And our third speaker will be Tracey Criss. Dr. Criss is associate professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine. All three of these physicians lead important educational and administrative programs at our medical school, Carilion Clinic, or both, but today they are focusing exclusively on what they are noticing on the front lines of healthcare during the pandemic.  

My current role is core faculty member with the internal medicine residency. Specifically, for the past 13 days, I have served as attending physician for 8 South Radius at Roanoke Memorial Hospital, which is now exclusively for patients with COVID-19 and patients under investigation for this illness. 

We're all being quite flexible in this unprecedented time. We are adapting to new workflows. We are ironing out the wrinkles of our triage treatment and disposition processes, and we're becoming masters of donning and doffing and conserving PPE. I've been impressed by the resilience and collaboration of the nurses, residents, staff, and physicians. Now more than ever, we are putting our patients in this crisis first, even as some healthcare workers are unfortunately being exposed and infected with COVID-19. 

Communication among the healthcare workers is even better now than usual, and the commitment and courage demonstrated by the staff and leadership at Carilion Clinic and VTC have been obvious to the most casual observer. 

We greatly miss the third and fourth year VTC students and our usual schedule of academic conferences. The medical students keep us sharp, ask great questions, and improve patient care through their compassion, curiosity, presence with the patients, and research of current literature and guidelines. Much of our formal education is now away from the bedside and many of us lament this focus more around the table in the work room and increasingly our education is self-directed. 

There are many challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead in the weeks and months to come. The turnaround time for COVID testing remains extraordinarily problematic and greatly impacts the proper triage and disposition of patients to the venues where their care can and needs to be optimized. Public education is still very much a work in progress in terms of the vital importance of hand-washing, meticulous adherence to social distancing, and remaining or returning to home when emergency or hospital care is no longer required. And of course the physical, social, emotional and financial toll on so many is hard to fathom. 

Personally, I feel tremendously supported by my section chief, our residency director, our department chair and Carilion Clinic. The leadership at VTC has been exceptionally nimble and effective and quickly moving the curriculum online. 

I'm also blessed by no longer being an empty nester. All three of our adult children have recently returned home from their colleges and grad school, which is especially sweet for us. Since in the next month, one is graduating from college and joining the Navy and another is graduating from physical therapy school and getting married. In fact, just yesterday, my eldest daughter asked me to officiate her wedding since our two families together plus one photographer constitutes the maximum allowable group size of 10. 

My wife recently posted "Prayer for a Pandemic" on the door that leads to our garage. We read this every day. If you have not yet seen it, a quick look will be well worth your while and we will all get through this pandemic together.

Hello Virginia Tech Carilion community. It's Melanie Prusakowski. We are living and working in unprecedented times. The last two weeks, volumes have been down in the emergency department because people are taking social distancing recommendations to heart. We truly believe this measure has decreased the rapidity with which new cases are occurring, decreasing, or at least postponing the inevitable surge of patients within our hospital system. 

Today I want to share a little bit with you about what's going on in our emergency room. I have been overwhelmed with pride when I see how passionately my colleagues, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, come to work ready to serve the community. I have been humbled by the sharing of data, information, problems and solutions by vlog, web serves, and workplace discussions of the literature. We believe that social distancing has added to the time over which we can collect, reflect upon, and respond to data with new policies and new procedures. 

What we've learned is that we have a lot to learn. One day we may be asked to wear a certain type of mask only with high risk patients. Another day we might be asked to wear a completely different type of mask and in all patient encounters there is a lot of uncertainty. 

Emergency physicians are no strangers to this type of uncertainty. Many of us have experienced working with similar types of illnesses like SARS before we knew the prevalence and transmission. We are debating and practicing new ways of intubating our sickest patients, honing our triage processes to put as few people at risk as possible, and we've even completely relocated our trauma activations to decrease risk to physicians and staff. 

Through all of this, people are proud to be at work. Many of us have offered to work extra shifts or to move to places in the department where we can be most helpful. We are buying new video-assisted intubation devices because we are finding information about this being a safer means to perform this life saving procedure. We are refreshing our knowledge about the ventilator strategies best used in the type of lung injury we see with COVID-19 and we are washing our hands, a lot! We are showering as soon as we get home. We are taking advantage of the good weather when we're not working. Reading good books, saying powerful prayers, and visiting with friends online in venues like this to say how much we love being a part of and serving the Virginia Tech Carilion community.

Hi everyone. Tracey Criss here. Just wanted to give an update on seeing patients during the COVID-19 situation. I last saw a patient in person on March 18th when I saw a patient in the hospital and did electroconvulsive therapy for that patient. I have been seeing patients on the phone for the last two weeks and including starting today and that has gone well. 

I really have two main areas of focus. One is just checking in on them like I would during a regular visit in person and I assure them that I'm looking at their chart and I'm listening and everything is just like it would be if we were in the office except it's on the phone. And I also ask them how are they doing during this particular situation and I want to know how their stress level is being handled during this time. 

So those are the two things that I really focus in on when I'm, when I'm doing these telephone conversations and I let them know to call whenever they need to. And I really just want them to know that at that time, we're here for them and we're here to really provide care and comfort for them. So that's what I've been doing in the world of psychiatry. 

And, I hope everyone's doing well and, uh, try to keep your schedule as normal as possible, which isn't very possible right now. But remember that life is really like a square and take care of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self, in order to keep yourself in balance. Thanks much. Take care everybody. Bye. Bye.

Thanks to our faculty for these valuable perspectives on the work they are doing to help the community. We deeply appreciate them and their co-workers and many other unsung heroes in our community at this time. We will continue the theme of helpers next week, with perspectives from residents and some of our students who are working to support the health care community.

I know for many, this week would have normally meant the kids were off for spring break, and for those who celebrate, preparations were underway for Passover and Easter celebrations. While certainly different from previous years, I still wish each of you a peaceful and renewing Passover or Easter holiday, perhaps now more than ever. 

Dr. Sweet referenced that his wife posted a Prayer for a Pandemic on the door leading to their garage. I thought I would share this as our close this week. 

Prayer for a Pandemic, Cameron Bellm

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. Amen.

Dear Colleagues,

The COVID-19 crisis is evolving rapidly and requires us to adjust university operations to protect the health and safety of our entire community. The purpose of this email is to provide information on what these adjustments mean for VTCSOM.

In light of the Governor's most recent "stay-at-home" directive, Virginia Tech will transition to "Essential Operations” status by today, Friday, April 3.

Only those faculty, staff, and students whose names have been submitted by HR to the University as essential on-site employees should be on-site on a regular basis after 5:00 pm today, Friday, April 3.

If you are designated as an essential on-site employee, you will be notified by your Supervisor. If you have not been designated as an essential on-site employee and you believe you should be based on the descriptions below, please send an email request to your Supervisor that includes your rationale for the request.

For this purpose, the definition of “on-site” includes the Roanoke VT campus, VT main campus, other VT campus sites, and spaces leased by VT.

The list of essential on-site personnel includes only those employees who must be regularly on-site to deliver remote instruction, those employees who are listed as emergency personnel necessary for regular walkthroughs and inspections, and emergency situations. Essential on-site employees should only be on-site for the time required to accomplish essential functions. 

Please note that most of our VTCSOM employees are teleworking. At this point there are no prohibitions for coming to campus to take care of items such as picking up a book, making a copy, etc. You do not need to be listed as essential on-site personnel for infrequent trips to on-site locations. However, unless you have been identified as an essential on-site employee, your trips to campus should be infrequent to minimize your exposure to the COVID-19 virus and to minimize the risk you pose to others.

I recognize how difficult these changes are and the significant challenges they present.  Some of you are worried about your academic progress or your professional development.  Some are concerned about clinical productivity or continuity in research funding. Many of you are trying to stay productive while taking care of elderly parents or young children. And we are all worried about the health and safety of our loved ones. Please know that at VTC School of Medicine we understand and will adjust as best we can to support your continued success once the current crisis passes. 

I am extremely proud of the adjustments, patience and perseverance shown by everyone in response to the unprecedented circumstances we are experiencing. I am grateful for all you continue to do for VTCSOM to strengthen and protect our broader community.

With best wishes for your health and well-being,

Dean Lee Learman

HR and Hokie Wellness are still hard at work for YOU! We are launching a new Talent Development Virtual Learning Center to afford you the opportunity to hone skills related to working remotely, leading at a distance and enhancing teamwork. Please check out the new Virtual Learning Center. These are self-paced courses that contain job aids, key takeaways, etc. and can truly assist in continuing your professional development during this time.

In addition, Hokie Wellness will kick off virtual Resiliency Workshops for employees (the dates/times and links to register are listed below). We are all experiencing changes, likely anxiety or other emotions surrounding our new world. These workshops will provide you with some tools and tips on building resiliency as well as managing stress.

I hope you are all doing well and staying safe!

New Talent Development Virtual Learning Center

Interested in increasing your skills for working remotely, leading at a distance, enhancing teamwork, communicating with transparency, or building resilience? The new Talent Development Virtual Learning Center has been launched to support Virginia Tech employees to provide meaningful and relevant information while working remotely. Explore these self-paced opportunities here. Be sure to view the online content, any associated exercise files, and key takeaways or job aids to apply the information for continuous professional development. Please let us know at hr@vt.edu if there are courses or topics of interest we can address in the future through the Virtual Learning Center.

Hokie Wellness offering virtual resiliency workshops for employees

New work environments, increased anxiety, and shifting responsibilities due to changes brought on by COVID-19 cause us to have to adapt to new stressors. Often when we’re stressed and feeling strong emotions in the workplace (or in our new work environments), we don’t think or react as rationally as we would like. Many of us experience patterns of thinking, or "mind traps," that can be ineffective and even irrational sometimes. We can shift these reactions by learning more about how our thoughts, feelings, and actions all connect.

Hokie Wellness will be offering "Resiliency in the Workplace: Learning to Press Pause" via Zoom. In this workshop open to all employees, we will cover how we can press pause in the heat of the moment, consider how to react to life stressors in a productive way, and recognize when we’re starting to fall into these common mind traps.

Click on the dates below to register. 

Thank you,

Patricia Wooten, PHR, SHRM-CP
VTC School of Medicine
Human Resources Manager

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. It's Monday, March 30, 2020, and we are entering the third week of COVID-19 response. Thank you to everyone who made the transition from being in the office to home last week. We are all working together to reduce in-person interactions and help stop the spread. And so far we have had only a few more confirmed cases in the region. A big thanks especially to our IT team for helping employees get set up at home.

One thing we changed quickly with the public health restrictions was a transition in our M1 curriculum to web-based instruction. That included one of our signature curricular pieces – our problem-based learning in small groups [PBL]. Typically, that means 7 or 8 students and a faculty facilitator working on patient cases together in our small group rooms. Our faculty worked quickly to move it into a virtual space while striving to preserve the special features of PBL. 

With now 2 weeks under our belts I asked several faculty to share their experiences with the transition to virtual instruction.  You will also hear a more in-depth report from first year student Rebekah Sayre.

Renee LeClair
So, when I first heard PBL was going virtual, I thought "we can do this." We have the skills and the knowledge and the knowhow on this campus to make this work and be very effective. What I'm most surprised about over the PBL experience in the virtual environment is that the interactions remained very organic and very positive between the facilitator and the peers and the peers themselves.

Joanne Greenawald
I was initially nervous about having to move to an online platform so quickly without much time for training. But with Dr. LeClaire's "we can do this" attitude and the help from Dustin and Brian and all the IT guys, it's gone much more smoothly than I had anticipated. I've had a few minor speed bumps, but the students have been patient and helpful.

Helena Carvalho
What surprised me the most is how much I like it. It's better than I was expecting and what is most important: Our students will continue to learn as well as we facilitators regardless, without any disruption to the classes.

Andrew Binks
Everybody showed up in the right room. Everybody showed up with the right case and that technology hung together. The biggest surprise was my teaching environment. Now I have two children, two German shepherds, and a washing machine and clothes dryer in it. Maybe that's what my teaching environment needed, but it was still a bit of a surprise.

Jennifer Cleveland
The opportunity to stay connected is so important, and virtual learning is providing continuity for both students and faculty during this time away from our campus. And even though it's going well, I look forward to the day when we can all see each other again in person.

Renee LeClair
So, the one thing I miss most has nothing to do actually with the PBL process at all, but it's the missing of the Friday breakfast. I think that's so much fun to see the students prepare breakfast for their peers, bring something in, show off their culinary skills, and it is a really fun aspect of PBL that the students have generated themselves.

Joanne Greenawald
But I will say that the thing I miss the most is the laughter. I usually hear coming from PBL rooms and I look forward to being in the room again with the students.

Renee LeClair
My overall impression of virtual PBL is that it's working great, we're having a fun time doing it and I think more importantly, it's really humanized the experience of being separated at this moment. We're seeing everybody's cats and children interact and pop on the screen and making this environment as positive and cozy as possible.

Hi, my name is Rebekah Sayre and I'm a first-year medical student at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and today I'm going to be providing the student perspective on what it's been like to transition to virtual PBL.

When I first found out that PBL was going to be transitioned virtually, I was really trepidatious. I personally have always used PBL to synthesize what we've been learning in basic science and clinical science and really combine those to help me better understand and better learn the material for the block. So when I found out we were transitioning, I was nervous that it wouldn't be the same and I wouldn't have the same opportunities for learning. What I can say is that PBL has been one of our most successful transitions as far as staying true to what I would expect to see in an in-person live PBL session.

We're still able to give our presentations, interact with our facilitator and cohort, and for the most part everything has been really seamless and very true to form to what we've been seeing block to block.

There are a few things I really miss about in person PBL. The main and biggest one being that we're no longer interacting with our patient case wrap up once a week. We're still able to interact with the physician, which is still really valuable. But I think being able to interact with a patient who has the diagnosis, ask them about the process of being diagnosed, what it's like to live with their diagnosis and how it affects their life day to day is really valuable. And I know something that all of my class has really been missing. Outside of the patient interaction, there are a few things that have taken getting some use to as part of the virtual PBL. For one, not being able to see people's body language or faces individually makes it difficult to know when is it, when it's appropriate to ask a question. And it completely, as from a teaching perspective, eliminates the opportunity for calm response, questioning worksheets or any type of group learning modality simply because we're all tethered virtually to each other and to the presentation.

Similarly, there are some, uh, difficulties with us all not being in the same time zone anymore as part of our self-isolation practices. So there is a little bit of an undue burden for our classmates who are on the west coast who have to get up much earlier than us to be present with us during PBL. Also, WIFI can be difficult in that sometimes people will cut out and it's difficult to make sure that everybody's getting the same information and getting it at the same time for flow of PBL.

Outside of those things, there are a few benefits to PBL. Most being that now all PBL classes are from the comfort of one's home. So there's unlimited opportunities for coffee and snacks and anything that you would need to make yourself comfortable to facilitate your learning is really at the tips of your fingertips, which is quite nice.

Um, as far as opportunities for PBL, I think that it's done a great job transitioning to this on-line modality and I think the success could really be used to take some of the stress off of the student body considering so many of our other classes that are typically so hands on are not able to transition online such as anatomy and clinical science and basic science are opportunities to interact in that classroom are just not the same. And I think PBL gives us an opportunity to maybe transition from doing two 15-minute presentations to one 30 minute presentation to make it so that we have more opportunities to interact with other classes, um, and really facilitate that learning and dive into material in more depth.

Outside of that, I would say that PBL has an excellent job transitioning and I have really been enjoying the virtual PBL and getting to know my classmates or small group for this block, though I will be really anxious and excited to return to campus and see everybody in person. Thank you.

Thank you, Rebekah, and thanks also to Drs. LeClair, Greenawald and our other Basic Science Education faculty for sharing their experiences.

So far, things sound like they are going pretty well. Our faculty stepped up to the challenge with their creativity and figured out how PBL can be adapted to our temporary “new normal”.  We are all looking forward to be back together in person again. Until it is safe for our community to resume normal operations, our virtual PBL method will allow our students to stay on track with this important component of the M1 and M2 curriculum. 

Before closing I want to congratulate our students in the Class of 2020 and their faculty mentors for sharing a very impressive body of work at last Friday’s Medical Student Research Symposium. Thanks to all who made our streamed event such a success while keeping all participants and observers safe. If you weren’t able to catch it live on Friday afternoon, I encourage you to watch the presentations later this week. You’ll find it linked directly from our homepage – medicine.vtc.vt.edu.

Finally, some wisdom from Fred Rogers, who came out of retirement after the September 11 terrorist attacks to help his young viewers through the challenges of that time. Over the years of helping children learn how to process loss, he would deliver this advice: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Next Monday’s video update will feature how members of our VTC community are helping each other and our larger community. Take care, stay safe, and have a great week!

Good Evening All,

I hope you all are doing well and staying safe in our current climate. As we adjust to our new normal, I wanted to provide a broad array of resources available to all of us as VT employees. Not only are we learning how to meet via video and how to set up our home office, but we are dealing with uncertainly and anxiety, all while trying to stay positive for our children and families.

I encourage you to take this time as an opportunity to nurture your well-being. Our HR and Wellness teams have been working diligently to put together an amazing catalog of resources. I have highlighted a few below, but this dedicated website will have all of the details.

Employee Assistance Plan website resources available to all employees:

Anthem will be providing Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) website resources to all employees including those not receiving EAP benefits through the state employee health plan. Employees can access these resources by going to www.anthemeap.com and entering EAP Can Help as the company code.

The following recorded webinars have been added to both this new website and the Commonwealth of Virginia website:

  • Talking with your child about COVID-19
  • The intersection of uncertainty and parenting COVID-19
  • Living in Uncertain Times
  • Financial Uncertainty
  • Handwashing
  • When and where to get medical advice
  • How to keep your family healthy
  • Mindful meditation

An additional webinar on coping emotionally with the current pandemic will be added to the website by early next week. This webinar will focus on the following areas:

  • Strategies to tackle feelings of anxiety and stress.
  • Practical techniques for working from home.
  • Ways to address signs of panic in the workplace.
  • When to reach out for further help and support.

Using StrengthsFinder

As you may recall, during our Fall Employee Retreat, we focused on our Strengths through StrengthFinders and Vianne found a few sessions focused on using our intrinsic strengths during this difficult time. Thanks Vianne!

  • Thursday, 3/26
    • Using Strengths for Remote Learning and Engagement
    • Using Strengths During Times of Change and Transition
  • Thursday, 4/2
    • Using the ExperienceVT Web App for Remote Learning and Engagement
  • Thursday, 4/9
    • Nurturing Your Well-Being While Working Remotely
      • presented by Lauren Shelor, Hokie Wellness
      • 1pm-2pm
      • Register here
      • Zoom Link (this will be a recorded session)

I truly hope the variety of resources available to all of us is helpful as we navigate these uncharted waters. We will get through this time together and be more resilient than ever!

Have a great rest of the week.

Patricia Wooten, PHR, SHRM-CP
VTC School of Medicine
Human Resources Manager

Video Transcript

Happy Monday everyone! It’s March 23rd, 2020. Welcome to our very first weekly web briefing where our goal is to keep in touch with timely updates from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. 

Last Friday was Match Day and we are incredibly delighted and proud of our students in the class of 2020 for their successful matches into outstanding programs around the U.S. Thanks to the entire VTC community for supporting our students through the emotional rollercoaster of applications, interviews, and rank lists. Last week was memorable for other reasons: the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Roanoke; today governor Northam announced that the K-12 closures would continue for the rest of the school year. If our region follows the pattern in other parts of the country community, spread of COVID-19 will increase the risks for our entire community in the coming weeks. Consequently, I announced this afternoon our decision to implement mandatory telework for non-clinical faculty and staff at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine beginning tomorrow, March 24th, until further notice. 

Access to 2 Riverside will be restricted to only those faculty and staff whose building access is deemed essential during this time. Our top priority is creating a safe learning and working environment for our students, faculty, and staff. I have been so impressed with the work that everyone has been doing over the past couple of weeks as we transition to online instruction for the first and second year students.  You have all stepped up to make it work and I have confidence that we can rely on each other's strength and resiliency through the most challenging of times.

The next segment of this web briefing will feature several short updates from medical school leaders. Today, you'll hear from Dr. Tracey Criss, associate dean for clinical science in years three and four, on adjustments under way to clinical rotations and electives. Dr. Leslie LaConte, assistant dean for research, will describe the virtual Medical Student Research Symposium featuring the work of our class of 2020 this Friday, and I'll see you on the other side to wrap up.

Hello everyone, this is Tracey Criss. I just want to give an update on years three and four. Our M3s and M4s have certainly been busy, and part of that busy time is just adjusting to their new schedules. Since neither one of them are doing any more clinical work at this time. So our M4s have been busy, especially with a match. What a great match day and congratulations to all of them. Though again, it was on a revised schedule, and they celebrated at home with loved ones and congratulations to all of them.

Our M4s also have been participating in entrustable professional activities or EPA's as they've typically done in transition to residency or TTR1 so during this time we've also had to revise their schedules and most of their EPA's have been done in an online format. Our big OSCE days, we typically call that, has been revised and will now do that online and do some simulation with them and have them participate online in that, so we really appreciate their ability to adapt to whatever we have going on at this time.

I also want to point out that the M4s will not be doing any more clinical electives, and so therefore we will transition them into non-clinical electives. And, just like our VTC school medicine community, they've adapted well, and actually some of them have created their own electives, and we'll be adding this to their academic portfolio as something that they've done to help out the VTC school community medicine community right now. 

As far as our M3s, they have been getting used to online clerkships. They were not participating in clerkships on the inpatient units as of March 30th and we'll continue that through April 12th. Just before then, we'll reassess the situation and see if our M3 students can re-enter the hospital, but for now they've adapted quite well to online learning and to working on their cases at home online and also looking at some online lectures.

So, all in all, in summary, what I would say is our M3s and M4s have been very resilient to this process during this COVID-19 situation and I owe them a big thanks. Also, a big thanks to our clinical faculty and our clerkship directors who have put in great efforts to make sure that that we can continue the education of our students. As I've said earlier, the VTC School of Medicine community comes together in all times, and truly during this time, has exhibited the collaboration and camaraderie that we know exists here in the good times and the bad. Thanks for all, for making the adaptations. 

Hi students, I'm here to give you a few details about our Research Symposium which is coming up this Friday. So, the class of 2020 is going to be showcasing the research that they've done while they were here at VTCSOM.

I always look forward to talking to each student individually, finding out what they've done since we've last talked, hearing how they've wrapped up their research, and what their future plans are. Unfortunately, things are going to be a little different this year as you are well aware, but we're going to have our fourth years record five minute presentations of their posters, and then we're going to make sure that our students in the other classes, so our third, second, and first years get a chance to see those poster presentations with video recordings.

So if you're a class of 2020, you have already heard the drill. You're going to start – we begin making those recordings on Monday and we've got times on Monday, Tuesday and I think Wednesday when we're going to wrap it up. Crystal Barnett is going to help you navigate that process. You will log into a zoom meeting. You will share your screen, which is going to be a one slide power point, of your poster and you're going to spend about five minutes talking us through the highlights of it. We're gonna compile those into videos that we're gonna then be able to share with the rest of our student body. 

So, if you are not a fourth-year then you're going to receive a link to view these videos sometime on Friday. To meet the research domain requirements if you're a third-year, you're in a domain day. If you’re a first year, this is part of your research domain class. We're also going to send out a Qualtrics survey. So that Qualtrics survey will be coming to you, starting when the symposium should have started at about noon, and that survey will ask you to vote for your favorite posters. So some of the categories are: project most likely to receive NIH funding, project most likely to get a Nobel Prize, those sorts of things. So you know, spend some time with those videos and vote for your favorite research project. 

We will have a live stream of the other parts of the symposium and that'll begin at 1:00 p.m. So 1:00 p.m., we're going to hear a little bit from our mentor of the year who is selected, nominated, by several of our current students. So we're going to hear a little bit from her, and then after that we're going to hear from our first 4 letter of distinction in research scholarship presenters and those will wrap up about 2:40 p.m. 

So we ask that all students tune in from 1 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. to hear those oral presentations. And we're going to take a little bit of a break because nobody wants to sit that long and watch all of these videos, and then we ask you to rejoin us at 3:30 p.m. for the remainder of the oral presentations. So, there will be another four presenters and then following that, we will announce our award winners, and kind of close out the symposium. So, I'm trying to make it as engaging as possible. Feel free to email me if you've got questions, whether you're part of the symposium itself, or whether you're a student who's going to be engaging that afternoon with us. I miss all of you guys, and hope everybody's hanging in there, and shoot me an email if you have any questions. Bye.

Well, thank you very much for joining us this week. Because so many of us are going to be spending quality time at home in the future, I thought I would end with a very short story. One that I think reflects the generosity that we're beginning to see around us during this COVID-19. 

This is called “The wise woman's stone” by an unknown author.

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day, she met another traveler who was hungry and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. “I've been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.” 

To all of you who are so generous of your time and effort and contribution to our community and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, have a wonderful week. Thank you.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Dear VTCSOM Faculty and Staff,

Last week was a week to remember — and now we know that this is our "new normal" for the foreseeable future. I would like to share how impressed I am with the work that everyone has been doing — faculty and staff. Our courses, PBL, including our plan for exams, have been going smoothly as we transitioned to online instruction. You have all stepped up to make it work.

One of the recent decisions we have made with careful consideration is regarding telework. Telework is mandatory for all VTCSOM faculty and staff beginning tomorrow, March 24, until further notice with the exception of a very small number of essential personnel who will continue to have building access. Supervisors are required to be flexible and creative in developing a telework plan for their staff members. If there is no telework for the employees to accomplish after considering regular job duties, special projects for their department, and professional development, then the employee must take available leave.

Below are a few resources to guide you through this change to telework:

In addition, access to 2 Riverside will be restricted to only those faculty and staff whose building access is deemed essential during this time. Student access will be similarly restricted. Carilion Clinic employees are currently asking screening questions to all patients upon entry to the 1 and 3 Riverside buildings, but our suites will remain under badge access only with no access to the public.

You have all been receiving multiple emails with information and policies. Please continue to stay connected and review those emails in detail, particularly the Daily Email from Virginia Tech, which provide updates on this changing situation.  I have scheduled Zoom meetings  with school leaders, faculty and key staff to ensure that we maintain good communication and provide updates. I will also send out a short weekly video message highlighting upcoming events and other important announcements.

Lastly, I think it is good advice that we all maintain some important routines such as exercise, good diet, etc. As long as we are allowed to, do your best to get outside for a walk, run, or bike ride, while still maintaining proper social distancing. Use the opportunity to catch up with friends and family via Facetime or Zoom. It’s important to keep those connections as best as you can. Here’s some great advice from Dr. Robert Trestman, our chair of psychiatry and behavioral medicine.

These are extraordinary times for the entire world. In the face of uncertainty, our response must be based on our values and mission. Your safety and health is our top priority. Please do not hesitate to contact me or any of the deans if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions.

You are all the GLUE keeping us together and moving forward. Stay safe.


Dean Lee Learman

Monday, March 23, 2020

Message from Nancy Agee, President & CEO, Carilion Clinic

"It's been a wild week or two and even as we consider those across the globe so impacted by this pandemic, our hearts remain with our own physicians, staff and communities.  I see how hard you are working.  I wish I could tell you it’s now all behind us but of course, that’s not true.  There’s not much to suggest it will get better before it worsens. 

As I see you with showing such incredible leadership and I see our real heroes… the folks on the front lines, I know we will get through this together. 

You learn a lot about people in crises.  I know you are the best of the best.   

Thank you!

Someone sent me this poem and I thought it might touch you as well.  

Social distance hugs,  Try to rest up this week end.

Nancy Howell Agee
President and CEO, Carilion Clinic

What if you thought of it
As the Jews consider the Sabbath-
The most sacred of times?

Cease from travel

Cease form buying and selling

Give up, just for now,
On trying to make the world
Different than it is

Sing. Pray. Touch only those
To whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still,
Reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected
In ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now)

Know that our lives
Are in another’s hands

Do not reach out your hands

Reach out your hearts

Reach out your words

Reach out the tendrils
Of compassion that move invisibly,
Where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love-
For better or worse,
In sickness and in health
As long as we ALL shall live.

        Lynn Ungar

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Dear Team,

In light of the state-mandated school closings over the next 2 weeks, and the messages from many organizations allowing their employees to work from home if possible, I am encouraging all VTCSOM leaders to OK teleworking arrangements for faculty and staff wherever this is feasible and would not cause an interruption in curriculum delivery, assessment, student affairs, communication, technology support and other critical operational areas.

Please check with your supervisor to obtain their approval if you are interested in this option.   Dr. Harrington and I are available by email over the weekend and will be keeping our usual office hours in case supervisors need to consult with us regarding teleworking approvals.  We will re-evaluate the situation by the end of the month with Patricia Wooten and let you know if the teleworking option will be extended into April.

General updates for next week (check with your unit leader on Monday for additional scheduling changes):

  • The Monday Deans and Chairs Meeting on March 16 from 5:15-6:30pm will occur as planned.  We will be relocating it to a larger room and hope to have a call-in option (more to come).
  • The Tuesday morning Dean’s Meeting on March 17 will be rescheduled for March 31.  On March 17 the Executive Leadership Team will meet at its usual time (8:15am).
  • Match Day festivities on Friday, March 20, will include only the M4 students and a handful of essential deans and staff.

Although we try to refrain from sending work messages on weekends and holidays, I wanted to get this information to you today to assist in your planning for the next 2 weeks. Thank you. 

Lee A. Learman, MD, PhD 
Dean, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine is taking steps to align with the university’s guidelines on COVID-19, released through President Tim Sands yesterday evening. Our first priority is the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and community while also keeping our students on track in their education.

With Virginia Tech’s guidance to cancel events that would bring together more than 100 people, we are making some changes for events coming up between now and April 30.

  • Match Day is coming up on Friday, March 20. Our event will now be private and limited to the fourth-year students. We will share an overview of our Match Day results later that afternoon.
  • The Medical Student Research Symposium scheduled for Friday, March 27, will now be virtual. Oral presentations will be livestreamed.

Any additional events hosted by, or at, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine that are expected to attract more than 100 people will be canceled or offered virtually to follow university policy. Event organizers will alert guests if their event is impacted.

For the curriculum, the medical school will follow Virginia Tech’s guidance for virtual learning whenever possible.

  • First-year students begin a new block of study on Monday, March 16. Faculty are prepping for online delivery of the block and will communicate with students directly about the new schedule.
  • Second-year students are largely not on campus, prepping for the Step 1 exam. We encourage them to stay where they are for now.
  • Third-year and fourth-year students are rotating through clinical clerkships and electives at the hospital and clinics. As part of their learning, it is critical to be present and an active member of the health care team. For now, students will continue in these rotations with limitations. Students will not be able to provide care to patients suspected to have or with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and should not interact with patients that require personal protective equipment (PPE). This is for students’ safety and also to help conserve PPE for health care workers who must provide care for these patients. This restriction follows guidance for other medical schools from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Students should also not enter nursing homes and other facilities that serve vulnerable populations. Leadership will continue to evaluate the current location situation and reevaluate this as needed.
  • Longitudinal Ambulatory Care Experiences (LACE) should be suspended until April 30.
  • Many of our students give back to the community and volunteer clinically at the Bradley Free Clinic, Rescue Mission, and other locations. We advise students to suspend these activities until April 30.