Progress Notes | July 2020

We reached an important milestone this month as we welcomed back our M3s and M4s starting clinical rotations and electives! This is something we’ve all been looking forward to ever since rotations were put on pause in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a first step for VTCSOM to return to a new normal, and it’s a step being taken with rigorous precautions.

Our M2s will continue their virtual learning during this year’s first curricular block, which ends August 28, and then return to in-person instruction.

Starting July 27, we will welcome our 11th class, consisting of 49 students, with a hybrid orientation consisting of both virtual sessions and appropriately distanced in-person meetings.

As most of you know, the Governor’s Office issued an advisement on May 26 to allow for in-person clinical education to resume, as long as certain conditions are met. The health and safety of our patients, students, faculty, and staff are the utmost importance. Students who left the area and returned have been self-quarantining for the past two weeks. We are carefully following current guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health, the Office of the Governor, SCHEV, Virginia Tech, and Carilion Clinic. Read more about our return to in-person and clinical education here.

The last few months have been an unprecedented period for our school, our nation, and the world. As we move forward cautiously in the coming weeks and months, seeing our students return to the VTC campus is a tangible sign that our important mission “To develop physician thought leaders through inquiry, research and discovery,” shall not be impeded.

Stay safe and be well,
Lee A. Learman

Kim Blair, Joalenn Tabor, Angelica Witcher, Cathy Duerbeck


  • Congratulations to our 15 faculty members who were approved for promotions by Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors in June.
  • Kim Blair, assistant vice president for VTC Advancement, has been elected to serve on Virginia Tech’s Commission on Administrative and Professional Faculty Affairs.
  • Congratulations to Joalenn Tabor, health systems science and interprofessional practice domain manager, for being nominated for a Virginia Tech President’s Award.
  • Angelica Witcher, director of student affairs, has been accepted to give an oral presentation at the University Council on Educational Administration (UCEA) 2020 Annual Convention in November. The workshop is titled, Peer Group Mentoring Dynamics Among Educational Leaders in Search of Belonging.
  • Cathy Duerbeck, business office manager, has accepted a position as finance director for University Libraries. We congratulate her on this move and wish her well

Diversity and Inclusion

This article published by the AAMC provides some alarming facts and figures regarding morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 in communities of color. The data underscore long-standing structural health disparities that are crucial to enlightening medical students.

June was LGBTQ Pride Month, and even though most events across the country were either cancelled or moved online due to COVID-19, the month was still recognized as a way to raise awareness about the current state of LGBTQ human rights and how organizations are working to protect and advocate for those rights. Learn more about LGBTQ+ Resource Center at Virginia Tech.

Humanism Notes

Empathy can fuel personal and societal transformation. We offer two readings surrounding empathy: an article written by Roman Krznaric, and a poem by Morgan Harper Nichols. 

Empathy can fuel personal and societal transformation. Oxford-trained sociologist and philosopher Roman Krznaric identifies six habits of highly empathic people that can help expand our potential.

  • Habit 1:  Cultivate curiosity about strangers (and you will become less lonely)
  • Habit 2:  Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities (and you will find unexpected partnerships)
  • Habit 3:  Try another person’s life (to truly understand their experience)
  • Habit 4:  Listen hard – and open up (remove your disguise, become vulnerable, and make empathy a two-way street)
  • Habit 5:  Inspire group action and social change (stand up for people who are suffering and others will too)
  • Habit 6:  Develop an ambitious imagination (to empathize with people whose beliefs you don’t share)

Like any other habit a commitment to deliberate practice is essential for unlocking our empathic potential. Start with the habit that feels most comfortable to cultivate and then move on to the more challenging ones. 


Morgan Harper Nichols

Let me 

hold the door for you.

I may have 

never walked 

in your shoes,

but I can see 

your soles are worn, 

your strength is torn 

under the weight of a story 

I have never lived before. 

Let me hold the door for you. 

After all you’ve walked through, 

It’s the least I can do.

- Morgan Harper Nichols

Take Note

The Last Note

Assembling face shields is one way our students are stepping up to the plate to assist in COVID-19 efforts. The shield components were made by teams from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering using 3D printers. The shields are going to local health care organizations.  

Harrison Brookman, Class of 2022: We are assembling face shields that have been produced by the Virginia Tech engineering department so they've 3-D printed frames and then laser-cut clear plastic for the shield.

The design was adapted initially from Prusa which is a 3d printing company and then the Virginia Tech engineering group modified it based on what the Carilion infection control providers gave some feedback on.

Dr. Damon Kuehl reached out to us and we kind of put a call out to the students and have been coming together maybe once or twice a week for the past couple weeks. Dr. Kuehl told us that the first demos that we sent to the emergency department, a nurse started crying and made sure to write her name on it because she was so excited didn't want anybody to take it. 

It makes me feel really good I mean I've been stuck in my apartment here in Roanoke for the past couple months trying to isolate myself and it feels good to be able to give back to the community and give back to the folks that are out on the frontlines.

Add Your Own Note

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