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Announcing the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

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
Dean