Progress Notes | January 2020

I hope each of you had a joyful and rejuvenating winter break and are ready to dive into the new decade. At the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, I look forward to two key initiatives unfolding in 2020: implementation of our health systems sciences curriculum and planning for a potential increase in our class size from 42 to 49.

When I addressed the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors last November, I told them I felt the time was ripe to nurture some of VTCSOM’s best features while looking for opportunities for growth and improvement. This year we will feature presentations by visiting speakers to share their experiences implementing health systems science curricula in other medical schools. We look forward to joining them at the cutting edge of medical education!

I believe these two initiatives are prime examples of leveraging our strengths while maintaining what makes us special. I encourage you to keep informed of how these initiatives progress this year. Each one has a task force assigned to it and will be publishing updates regularly in this newsletter.

Lee A. Learman

News Around Campus

  • In this Driven by Data feature, Sarah Parker, senior director of the SIM Center, talks about how data is used to solve complex patient care issues.
  • At the culmination of the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign, VTCSOM employees raised $6,889 which is 180% of our $3,828 goal! We also increased the number of employees who donated from 38% to 45%. Let's all give a big thank you to Pam Adams and Courtney Powell for their hard work on this initiative and for a job well done. 
  • This month's Voices video we feature Sam Plant, Class of 2021, who talks about his experience as a medical student and a new dad. Watch the video below.

My name is Sam Plant, and I am a medical student at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

I'm a reapplicant to medical school. The first year I didn't get in and so during the timing between graduating from college and the time that I went to medical school my wife and I had a baby. That was really crazy because it wasn't it wasn't anticipated it wasn't the plan. "Say Cheese!"

And so it was tricky to try and manage how we were going to balance medical school and having a family. The difficult part is that you have to have balance. Even if I want to spend 24 hours a day studying it's it's not good for my health, it's not good for my family and my relationships.

What I do is I try to... when I come home at the end of the day whether I spend ten minutes or an hour with my family, I really try hard to to block off a certain amount of time just so that I can spend with them. Whether that means going to the park, whether that means reading a book to my son, whether we watch a movie together as a family. I think it's really important to block off at least part of your time to completely undivided attention to your family. Making sure that you have that as a priority has helped me to be a more efficient more successful medical student.

My research right now, it focuses on brain cancer. I work a lot in the lab so I have cells that I take care of and I and I treat them with certain drugs to try and restore sensitivity to some of the other drugs that we treat them with. There's been advancements in the way that we treat brain cancer over the past several years that are really exciting and I'm happy to be a part of that.

Medical School is hard but the school does a really good job I think of trying to promote balance, having a healthy lifestyle, making sure you incorporate wellness into every part of your journey.

Even though this huge commitment takes a lot of our time it's something that you know we're in together and so I've tried really hard since I've been in school to make sure that they know that I am there for them. I want him to look back on on his dad as someone who works really hard and is dedicated to not only his family but to serving the people around him.

I am a father. I'm a husband. I'm curious, tired, passionate, and I'm excited for the future my name is Sam Plant and this is my voice. 

Dean's Forum on Health Systems Science

Dean Learman and TEACH present the Dean's Forum on Health Systems Science. Please join us February 3 and 4, 2020 for 3 UNIQUE sessions during which participants will be introduced to the concept of Health Systems Science (HSS) and what it could mean for us and our learning environment as we look toward the near future.

The speaker will be Jed Gonzalo, MSc, MD, Associate Dean, Health Systems Education, Penn State College of Medicine. Attend as many sessions as you are able! Register by emailing

From left: Farah Shah, Soleille Everest, Justine McGiboney, Hannah Palmerton


  • VTCSOM fourth-year students Farah Shah, Soleille Everest, and Justine McGiboney have received Global Education Scholarships through Virginia Tech.
  • Thanks to the Military Match program, class of 2020 student Hannah Palmerton found out that she will be going into General Surgery at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, which was her first choice.


  • Jordan Taylor, Class of 2020, along with Badr Ratnakaran and Ayotunde Ayobello, resident physicians in psychiatry and behavioral medicine, are featured in a special section called, Psychiatry and the Visual Arts in the American Journal of Psychiatry Residents’ Journal.

Task Force Updates

The task force on health systems science (HSS) is on track to complete its final report including recommendations to Dean Learman, by the end of January 2020. Key considerations include opportunities to involve our students in meaningful clinical roles within the health system during the first two years, developing methods to teach and assess these new content areas across the entire curriculum, and how to provide the faculty development necessary to accomplish our HSS curriculum goals. If you are interested in providing feedback or contributing to these efforts, please contact either David Musick or Suzanne Kraemer.

The task force on incremental growth has been collecting and analyzing data to support a request to the LCME for permission to increase our class size from our current roster of 42 students. The request to the LCME has now been submitted with a target at this time for 49 students who would be matriculating in August of 2020.

Humanism Notes

For this month’s Humanism Notes, we go to a TEDx Talk titled “How 40 Seconds of Compassion Could Save a Life” by Stephen Trzeciak. The 15-minute talk answers the questions, “What benefits of compassion on patients and health care providers have been proven in randomized trials?” and “How much time and effort does it take to create these benefits?”

The VTC Humanism in Medicine Club is excited to invite you to participate in the 6th Annual Martin Luther King (MLK) Day of Service. Come join fellow students, faculty, and staff in community service on Monday 1/20 from 9am-4pm! Friends and family are also welcome. Please RSVP by Wednesday, January 15.

The VTC Humanism in Medicine Club partners with a local organization every MLK Day in service to the Roanoke community. We are happy to announce that we will again be working with Renovation Alliance to help perform home repairs for some of Roanoke’s disadvantaged families. This year we will be building ramps at the Renovation Alliance office. All necessary supplies and safety equipment will be provided, as well as breakfast and lunch.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow members of the VTC community and come together to help our broader Roanoke community!

Upcoming Events

The Last Note

VTCSOM faculty, employees, and students came out in fine form to take part in the annual legendary holiday video. We thought these outtakes would put a smile on your face going into 2020! 

VTCSOM holiday video snapshots, described below

Image legend:

First row from left to right:

  • The standardized patient team got run over by a reindeer
  • The holiday chorus with Dean Lee Learman
  • Meetings? What meetings? 

Bottom row from left to right: 

  • The IT crew created a blazing yule made out of computer equipment
  • The anatomy team's rendition was quite humerus
  • Just enough Fa La La's to go around

Add Your Own Note

Have something noteworthy to share in Progress Notes? Do you have feedback about this newsletter? We'd love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts with us.