Progress Notes | April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first large-scale crisis many of us have faced. My wife, Beverly, and I have been around long enough to survive catastrophic hurricanes (Florida), earthquakes (California) and tornados (Indiana). We observed from afar the September 11, 2001, attacks and aftermath. In each case we experienced communities coming together to support each other, bringing friendship, food, comfort, and assistance to neighbors and strangers, family and friends.

What makes this current situation so challenging is the long period of preparation and uncertainty, rapidly changing public health interventions, and imposition of social distancing and self-isolation. Social distancing is critically important for flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases, reducing transmission, and enabling the sickest patients to get the care they need during the pandemic. Feeling well is not a reason to avoid social distancing. Particularly when community spread occurs, each of us can spread the virus to each other before we feel symptomatic ourselves.

As we adapt our curriculum at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, we will learn a lot from our transition to virtual problem-based learning and to clinical learning opportunities that don’t involve actual patients. As our community adapts, we will learn how to support our most vulnerable citizens, including families with food insecurity who rely on school meals for their children and isolated seniors who are too worried about exposure to answer the door when a neighbor comes by to check on them.

We have been extremely vigilant about following the recommendations put forth by Governor Northam, the administration at Virginia Tech, and guidelines from Carilion Clinic regarding smaller gatherings for classes and events as a way of helping to flatten the curve of the virus spread. Cancelling the Match Day festivities for our M4 students was the hardest decision of all.

The class of 2020 celebrated in small groups of family and friends when their residency program matches were revealed by email at noon on March 20. All members of the classes successfully matched, continuing our school's 100 percent match rate (see story under News Around Campus). We are thrilled and extremely proud of the members of the class – not only for their success but also for their adaptability to the current circumstances. We are also delighted that Carilion’s residency programs had a 100 percent match rate, surpassing national averages in many specialties. Five class of 2020 members will stay on in Roanoke as they join Carilion Clinic as resident physicians and two more will complete their preliminary year at Carilion. 

Frequent communication has been essential for sharing information, allaying fears and keeping up with public health recommendations and event cancellations. Please take note of the Events section below for announcements regarding commencement.

Spring is here. Social distancing does not apply to the Roanoke flora and fauna that are not susceptible to coronavirus. Please enjoy the warming weather and inspiration of the natural world!

Lee A. Learman

From left: Heidi Lane and Devasmita Dev

Take Note

Over the past few weeks we have received numerous communications regarding COVID-19 and the resources available here at the school of medicine and at Virginia Tech. In addition, Dean Learman and the leadership team have created weekly video briefings. For your convenience, all special communications regarding COVID-19 at VTCSOM are being archived at

Humanism Notes

Razia Jayman-Aristide is a hospitalist and assistant professor and science educator at the Donald & Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New York. In her reflective piece entitled Before We Begin she writes about work-life balance and shared her poem recently on a listserv for medical educators and encourages us to share it broadly “to build camaraderie and self-compassion through shared experience.”

The message of Before We Begin is particularly poignant during these tumultuous times for physicians, educators and families as we manage the challenge of continued self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please share it.

Upcoming Events

Virginia Tech made the decision to cancel in-person graduation activities in May, which impacts our planned ceremony on May 9. We are making plans to hold a virtual ceremony. We will announce plans as soon as we can.

The Last Note

Members of the class of 2022 celebrate at the completion of their last problem- based learning case. Over the last two years, the group studied more than 50 cases ranging from addiction and hypertension to spinal cord injuries and renal disease. We wish them well on the second phase of their medical education!

Second year medical students, dressed in their white coats, celebrating the last day of problem based learning (PBL)
Group photo of the class of 2022 taken at their last PBL class in January 2020

Add Your Own Note

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