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Videos about the InclusiveVTCSOM Task Force

Weekly Briefing, August 3, 2020

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.

InclusiveVTCSOM Community Forum, July 28, 2020

Zoom screenshot from Community Forum. Click to view forum transcript.
Screenshot of Community Forum. Link opens in a new tab.

On Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 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 were palpable. 

Weekly Briefing, July 6, 2020

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. 

Weekly Briefing, June 8, 2020

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!