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 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.