Progress Notes | August 2020

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 were palpable.

The mission of this initiative is to advance an inclusive environment that attracts and retains the best talent, values diversity of life experiences and perspectives, and encourages innovation in our pursuit of equity. The forum, and an earlier one in June, were held as responses to recent events that put a glaring spotlight on the systemic racism and biased, violent policing in the Black community. It was also a time to introduce the task force that will focus on a wide range of diversity issues, including many of those raised by students in June.

Co-chaired by Michael Jeremiah, department chair of family and community medicine; Fidel Valea, department chair of obstetrics and gynecology; and Patricia Wooten, human resources manager, the task force will include more than 100 members participating in the steering committee or seven working groups:  Phase 1 (M1-M2) Curriculum, Phase 2 (M3-M4) Curriculum, Student Support, Community Engagement, Admissions, Faculty/Staff Recruitment, Development and Retention, and the Learning and Working Environment. Each working group is co-led by a VTCSOM student working in collaboration with a faculty, staff, or community member.

While a 100+-member task force may seem large, we need a variety of skills, experience, perspectives, and ideas to guide its multidimensional work.  In order to make meaningful and sustainable change, we need many voices at the table co-creating our future vision. Each working group is charged with developing deliberate, measurable action steps that advance our equity and inclusion goals and submit a report to me by December 2020, or in early 2021 if there are delays related to the pandemic.

If you missed the forum, I invite you to listen to a recording here.

Please join me in welcoming the class of 2024.
Lee A. Learman

Jennifer Cleveland, Kristen Eden, Michael Wiid, John Pendleton, Jesse Davidson, Doug Althouse, Katherine Brown, Vianne Greek


  • Jennifer Cleveland, assistant professor of basic science education; Kristen Eden, assistant professor of basic science education; and Michael Wiid, associate professor of internal medicine, have received teaching awards voted on by the class of 2022.
  • The class of 2022 also recognized these PBL facilitators: John Pendleton, associate professor of internal medicine; Jesse Davidson, senior instructor of surgery; and Doug Althouse, assistant professor of pediatrics.
  • Kudos to Katherine Brown, assistant professor of basic science education, for working with the Virginia Skyline Girl Scout Council to create the curriculum for an infectious disease patch. She also participated in a Facebook Live event that drew scouts from across the country.
  • Vianne Greek, web manager, has become a certified professonal in web accessibility (CPWA). The designation of CPWA is earned by individuals who successfully pass both the Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) exam and the Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) exam. She is one of 10 CPWAs at Virginia Tech.


Angelica Witcher, director of student affairs, along with colleagues from Virginia Tech, had an article titled Dynamics shaping collaborative peer group mentoring among educational leaders published recently in Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • Karen Sanders, chief diversity officer, recently published this article for the Teaching Excellence Academy for Collaborative Healthcare (TEACH). It offers timely ideas on how to combat racism in the classroom along with a list of tools and resources on how to respond to individuals who advocate against messages of equity, civility and anti-racism, among others.
  • Don't forget to register for Virginia Tech’s Office for Inclusion and Diversity's Annual Diversity Summit, Thursday, August 13, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. More information and registration.

Humanism Note

Creative Expressions in Times of Extremity: The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is currently collecting original 55-word stories and poems (with or without images) that capture health care professionals’ and trainees’ experiences during these unprecedented times. To submit your original work, use the submission form linked here. A diverse team will review submissions to curate collections of pieces. The AAMC will notify authors if their 55-word story or poem will be shared.

Take Note

Scripted and compiled like a newsreel of bygone years, this entertaining video tells us what VTCSOM has done to prepare for the return to campus amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and what you can expect going forward.

Here at VTCSOM, we have spent weeks preparing for our students, faculty, and staff to safely return to campus. 

Signage is everywhere to help remind us all about the importance of masks and social distancing. 

Plexiglass has been installed in high traffic areas to protect our employees and visitors. 

Hand sanitizer is readily available to help keep our hands germ free. 

All rooms have been modified or marked to ensure proper social distancing measures are followed.

And, we have increased the cleaning and sanitation of all spaces. 

This is Brian. He reports to the building daily to aid in this process. But what do you need to know if you are returning to campus?

“The first thing you should ask yourself is, “Do I really need to be on campus?” Teleworking is still encouraged whenever possible. STAY home if you can work effectively from there.” 

Please take your temperature. If you have a fever above 100.4, stay home!

If you have to come in, you must first complete the online re-entry screening. The link can be found in the email sent by Brock Mutcheson every morning at 5am “Thanks, Brock!”

Bring a face covering. These will be required in all indoor areas. 

And please, only 2 people allowed in elevators at a time. Remember, its easy to social distance while taking the stairs, and it promotes a healthy lifestyle!

All rooms will be marked with the maximum number of people allowed under current guidelines. 

Furniture will be placed to encourage social distancing. Please leave furniture in place!

Some rooms will be marked with doors for entrances and other doors for exits to minimize close contact. 

Conference rooms and classrooms should be reserved with names of attendees provided and logged. 

However, please continue virtual meetings when possible to limit contact. 

If you need to schedule meetings, please make sure you sanitize the space after using it. Please allow at least 30 minutes between use of the space. 

And, of course, don’t forget the simple things like coughing into your elbow, regularly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and avoid shaking hands!

While we are all excited to return to campus, we must remember to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, and ensure a safe working and learning environment for all our our VTC family. 

Learn how to use Google and Microsoft products when collaborating with others. 

The Division of IT recently led two live events, where representatives from the respective companies led live demonstration sessions. Recordings of the sessions are linked below.

The Last Note

Recognize these faces? Ten years ago, our charter class, the class of 2014, entered a brand new VTCSOM building to begin medical school. Their arrival was celebrated by members of the media and community as well as excited faculty and staff. 

Group photo of the first VTCSOM class of medical students
Charter class of 2014 group photo

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