Progress Notes | January 2021

Welcome back from what I hope was a joyous and rejuvenating winter break! In last year’s January newsletter, I noted two key initiatives in development that I looked forward to seeing mature over the course of the year. And we succeeded! Implementation of both our health systems sciences curriculum (HSSIP domain) and our class size increase to 49 occurred in July. That the unforeseen pandemic and emergency actions taken last spring did not delay these initiatives is a tribute to our amazing team at VTCSOM!

In 2021 we will continue to mature both these initiatives, while also implementing the recommendations of our InclusiveVTCSOM task force due February 1 and our strategic planning recommendations to be announced by June 1. High on the list of strategic priorities will be action steps to continue promoting inclusion, diversity, and equity in our community and among our students, faculty, and staff.

We will also pursue new collaborations with the other colleges and institutes of Virginia Tech and with our health system partner, Carilion Clinic, in areas of strategic alignment. The scope of these academic collaborations will be defined by a series of key discussions that will unfold in the coming months, and will be guided by the VTCSOM strategic plan currently in development. My goal is for specific programs, plans, and timelines to be announced by July 2021.

Updates and requests for your feedback will occur through a series of zoom town hall meetings that will hopefully transition to in-person gatherings as the pandemic abates.

I look forward to working with you as we begin another momentous year for VTCSOM!

Lee A. Learman

head shots. details below
Madeline D’Aquila, Alyssa Dewyer, Chukwuemeka Uwakaneme, Sarah Yosief, and Kenneth Young.
Karen Burns, Renee LeClair, and Angelica Witcher


  • Special thanks go out to Karen Burns for her help distributing the holiday gift boxes. Rebecca Pearson says, “I couldn’t have done it without her.”
  • For the second time, Renee LeClair, chair of the Department of Basic Science Education, has received an Excellence in Teaching Award by Virginia Tech’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes effective, engaged, and dynamic educators at Virginia Tech during the academic year.
  • Angelica Witcher, director of student affairs and instructor of interprofessionalism, presented at the 8th Annual Black Doctoral Network Conference: Leveraging the Power of Black Excellence. Her presentation was titled, Investigating Academic and Psychosocial Outcomes of First-Generation African American Postsecondary Students who Completed Early College Access Programming. Also, she was co-author, along with colleagues from Virginia Tech, of a book chapter titled, Working Mothers Making It Work While Homeschooling and Educating Others Through a Pandemic.
David Musick, Richard Vari, Suzanne Kraemer, David Trinkle, Patty Vari, Judy Smith, and Lee Learman


David Musick, Richard Vari, Suzanne Kraemer, David Trinkle, Patty Vari, Judy Smith, and Lee Learman recently had an article, Building Health Systems Science Education from the Core Domain of Interprofessional Education at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine published in Medical Science Educator.


InclusiveVTCSOM Task Force

The InclusiveVTCSOM task force has been busy since the last update:

  • First-year students have been incorporated into task force projects and are significantly contributing to the work.
  • Working group facilitators will submit reports to Dani Backus and Karen Sanders, who will review the reports and forward to steering committee members.
  • The Community Engagement, Learning and Working Environment, and Student Support working groups submitted their reports in December. The remaining working group reports will be submitted as follows:
    • Phase I Curriculum – January 8
    • Faculty and Staff Development, Recruitment, and Retention – January 8
    • Phase II Curriculum – January 8
    • Admissions – January 15
  • Working group reports will be forwarded to the strategic planning committee as they are approved.
  • Kemi Bankole, VTCSOM's new Chief Diversity Officer, began her role January 4th. Karen Sanders will continue to work as a task force liaison and will assist the diversity team during the transition.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • Registration is open for Virginia Tech’s Advancing Diversity Virtual Gathering on Jan. 12, 2021.
  • Online diversity pathways and inclusive pedagogy spring courses.
    There are new courses on the TLOS professional development network for diversity and inclusion. In addition, new SafeZone courses are available for the spring. 
  • The Breakthrough Inclusive Action Tool Kit is available for anyone ready to become an agent of change in the academy! Although it is written for students and faculty in STEM fields, the content is adaptable to any academic unit. This excellent resource was produced in collaboration with Science Friday and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Tangled Bank Studios. 

Strategic Planning Update

The Strategic Planning Committee is meeting regularly and making good progress. Recent discussions have focused on 1) preliminary results from our survey, which was completed by 499 people (26% overall response rate); 2) approaches taken to strategic planning by benchmark medical schools; and 3) planning for upcoming meetings with constituent groups.

This month will be very busy as the committee plans to conduct individual engagement sessions with the various groups who were surveyed, sharing data with them and asking for additional input and recommendations for the future direction of our school. The committee is also working collaboratively with the InclusiveVTCSOM steering committee, as that group prepares its final report. It is anticipated that recommendations from that group will serve to inform portions of the final strategic plan.

If you have ideas or further input on the strategic planning process, we want to hear from you! Please contact either Rebecca Pauly or David Musick.

CVC Update

The Virginia Tech Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign raised over $403,000! This is the first time that the university has broken the $400,000 mark.

Although we won’t know our VTCSOM final total and percentages until sometime in January, co-chairs Pam Adams and Courtney Powell have determined that VTCSOM raised more than $8,300! That’s at least 162% of our goal! Also, at press time, the dollar amount to benefit charities within the Roanoke Valley was over $50,000.

Thank you Pam and Courtney for your hard work on making this year’s campaign a success, and most of all, thanks to all of you for your support!

Humanism Note

Brother David Steindl-Rast is an American Bendictine monk born and raised in Vienna, Austria. Now 94 years old, he has devoted much of his adult life to building dialog among religious traditions. In 2000, he co-founded A Network for Grateful Living, an organization dedicated to gratefulness as a transformative influence for individuals and society. To experience the sense of peace and connection associated with gratefulness, please set aside five minutes to view “A Grateful Day.” Produced 13 years ago and narrated by Brother Steindl-Rast, its messages are beautiful, breathtaking, and timeless.

Take Note

  • Virginia Tech requires that all public-facing videos and live events produced by the university include closed captioning.
  • If your New Year's Resolutions include improving your knowledge and skills, please know that LinkedIn Learning, formerly known as, is available to everyone at Virginia Tech, including faculty, staff, and students. Check it out. You might be surprised what you can learn in 2021!
  • A reminder that you can find us on various forms of social media, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Past issues of Progress Notes are available on the website.

Upcoming Events

Video Transcript

[Dean Learman] A year ago it would have been hard to imagine that 2020 would bring a viral pandemic that would challenge so many aspects of our lives both personally and professionally. We met these challenges together as a medical school community and accomplished many remarkable things: we assured the continuity of high-quality medical education for our students; the on-time graduation of our class of 2020; and the safe return to in-person and clinical education starting in July. We designed and implemented the first year of a major curricular innovation focused on health systems science, we launched a rigorous strategic planning process starting with diversity equity and inclusion, and we welcomed the largest matriculating class in our history. I am so grateful to each of you: our faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends, and community members for all that you have done to make us strong and keep us strong.

Here are the reflections you shared about 2020 and some of the great things that happened.

My 2020 has been interesting; and varied; different than expected; exhausting; a lesson in resilience; challenging in ways that that I had never envisioned; impactful; mostly good actually; an emotional roller coaster; but rewarding; overall been pretty positive; and completely unusual. It's been unique; interesting; a roller coaster ride; wonderful; it's been a blessing and a curse; surprisingly positive for me; an awesome learning experience. 2020 was a year that definitely really challenged me, I think it challenged everyone; challenging, surprising, um lots of... I think lots of opportunities to look for silver linings.

There's been a lot of great things that I've gotten to do that I probably wouldn't have been able to do had this pandemic not happened:

  • I had this wonderful precious little angel over here, this is Nora. 
  • We have been able to figure out how to have wonderful quality family time. 
  • I realized that as a working mom who likes working I would never have an opportunity like that where I got a ton of time with my kids. 
  • We've had mandatory recesses every day. 
  • And we've had some sit-down dinners that's a gift. 
  • My wife and I got to spend a lot more time together. 
  • I traveled less than ever before and had more quality time with my wife, our dog, and two cats. 
  • You sort of get to the nitty-gritty when you're spending 24/7 with them. 
  • My fiancé and I finally set our wedding date. 
  • Like I actually got engaged. 
  • Picking up and moving to a new city has been a growth moment for me. 
  • I bought a new house and I graduated with my master's. 
  • I was able to focus on my research study and complete my dissertation for graduate school. 
  • I wrote three manuscripts. 
  • I started medical school and I got my white coat. 
  • I've gotten back into meditation. 
  • I decided to adopt a dog. 
  • This sweet little calm laid back puppy. 
  • My teenagers cooking which is amazing. 
  • I fixed my mower all by myself I'm actually trying to repair stuff on my own. 
  • I started a new window garden - it all died. 
  • I taught myself how to use tools I built a screened-in porch. 
  • I've been helping a friend recover from a stroke and this year we actually started walking which was really cool.

Holiday wishes from VTCSOM

  • Happy Holidays to everyone at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. 
  • You guys inspire me every single day. 
  • Get some much needed rest and relaxation. 
  • But also stay safe and stay well. 
  • Embrace that everything's gonna be different. 
  • Be smart, make sure you mask, and make sure you stay at home. 
  • Wear your masks, please! 
  • I know that this is a weird time and a very challenging time. 
  • Focus on the good instead of bad. 
  • Look for ways um to help and do so whenever you can.
  • And thank yourself for all the good work and the dedication that you've done this year. 
  • I think there's no better gift than one another than grace and being there for each other. 
  • Family really is everything and making memories is what it's all about. 
  • Merry Christmas everybody, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice, all of the things. 
  • Look forward to brighter times ahead. 
  • I can't wait till we are on the other side of this and we can all celebrate together. 
  • May all of our pain be champagne, so Cheers! 
  • Here's a big virtual hug for me love you so much. 
  • Yay we made it to the end! 
  • And see you next year! 

[Dean Learman] This year the holidays remind us more than ever to cherish what we have, to understand more deeply what we need, and to care for ourselves physically emotionally and spiritually. Happy Holidays everyone! 

Happy Holidays!

The Last Note

Special thanks to everyone who offered kind words, reflections, and heartfelt greetings in VTCSOM’s annual holiday video. More than seven hours of raw footage resulted in this piece that captured the holiday spirit marvelously. Thanks to Ryan Anderson for another video masterpiece. 

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