Progress Notes | July 2021

July 1 marks the beginning of our next academic year and my second anniversary as dean. On this occasion I have been reflecting on the past year and all we have accomplished together! Your commitment to our important and innovative work shone through the disruptions and uncertainties that changed our lives in March 2020. There are many examples of what makes the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine special, but today I’d like to focus on just one that came to light during the pandemic.

A year ago, I put out a call for our students, faculty, and staff to join me and our dean’s group to volunteer for the Virginia Department of Health’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). I hoped this would connect our non-clinicians with meaningful opportunities to reduce morbidity and mortality in our community. MRC volunteers ended up serving in a wide range of roles: contact tracing, election safety, logistical support for testing and vaccination, and more.

As we emerge from the pandemic I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the 60 of you who stepped up to the plate and played an important role in our community response. You and other volunteers from across the state contributed many thousands of hours of support, allowing public health practitioners and clinicians to focus on their critically important work, as these recently released statistics from the VDH indicate:

MRC by the numbers (as of 6/11/2021):

  • Central Virginia: 182 volunteers put in 7,750 hours
  • New River: 475 volunteers put in 17,428 hours
  • Pittsylvania/Danville & West Piedmont: 106 volunteers put in 3,241 hours
  • Roanoke/Allegheny: 524 volunteers put in 25,876 hours
  • Near Southwest MRC totals: 1,287 volunteers put in 54,295 hours

To all of our faculty, staff, and students who provided care and support for others during the pandemic, thank you for being The Helpers others could look to for support!

With the pandemic restrictions now lifted for vaccinated persons, I hope that each of you will find the time to unplug from the challenges and demands of our important work, refresh in activities that bring you joy, and renew the social and family connections that you missed the most over the past year. I look forward to seeing your unmasked smiles in the weeks and months ahead!!

With my best wishes and thanks,

Lee A. Learman

Ayesha Kar (left) and Meyha Swaroop (right) helped identify the need for and the development of a proposed elective on substance use disorder during pregnancy.

News Around Campus


  • Alex Miner, class of 2023, has been named one of 24 Gold Student Summer Fellows through the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for her research project looking into the challenges faced by patients with limited English proficiency in a free clinic setting.
  • Congratulations to the 19 VTCSOM faculty members whose promotions were recently approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.
  • Thank you to these faculty for providing a great experience for our students and whose exceptional teacher recognitions were shared with the Learning Environment Advocacy Committee last month: Paul Haskins, Nathaniel Linger, Brittany Hayes, Karen Perkins, Chad Demott, Jose Martin, David Epstein, Jim Schmidley, Kimberly Simcox, Nicole Thieken, Hiren Patel, Jacquelyn Gillman, Justin White, and Michael Ferguson.
  • Farewell to Emma Huston, medical education coordinator, who has accepted a position at University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.
  • We say goodbye to Alison Matthiessen, communications director, who will be leaving us to join the private sector. Her last day will be Friday, July 9.
  • Fidel Valea, professor and chair in the department of obstetrics and gynecology, will be leaving Carilion Clinic and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine this fall. His last day will be Friday, October 1.

Featured Publication

head shots. details below
Jamie Hollimion and James Kittinger


We welcome two new additions to the VTCSOM family: 

  • Jamie Hollimion, Human Resource Manager
  • James Kittinger, Faculty Affairs Coordinator

Welcome to New Faculty

Welcome to all the new faculty who joined us in June:

  • Emergency Medicine: Justin Gardner
  • Internal Medicine: Ian Reynolds and Gita Verma
  • Orthopaedic Surgery: Mark Coggins and John Martino
  • Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine: Deirdre Rea

Diversity and Inclusion Notes

  • Did you know that you can find events related to diversity, equity, and inclusion at VTCSOM all in one place? Events are continuously being added to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion calendar, which can be found on our website.
  • Registration is now open for Virginia Tech’s annual Diversity Summit to be held August 11. The event will feature short, asynchronous sessions available all day. There will be live components on a by-invitation basis including the keynote speaker, Claude Steele, whose lecture will be livestreamed from 9-10:15 a.m. More information on the lineup of programs will be available by the end of July.
  • Holidays and celebrations in the month of July:
    • 14: Bastille Day
    • 14: International Non-Binary People's Day
    • 17-18: Tisha B'Av
    • 18-19: Eid al-Adha (sundown to sundown)
    • 24: Asalha Puja
    • 26: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Anniversary
    • 30: International Day of Friendship
Lew Singer, Abby Simpson, Dotsy Clifton
First-year student Abby Simpson stands with Lew Singer and Dotsy Clifton outside VTCSOM.

Spotlight on Giving

The Lewis J. Singer, M.D. Scholarship was established in 2020 by Dr. Singer, a retired Roanoke ophthalmologist. It awards general scholarships for students demonstrating financial need at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. First-year student Abby Simpson is the first recipient of the scholarship. “I was surprised and honored,” Simpson said about receiving the scholarship. “Anything that helps financially allows me to focus even harder on my studies.”

Humanism Notes

As we emerge from the pandemic and into a new academic year this John Williams majestic arrangement of Aaron Copland’s work, The Promise of Living, seems to fit the moment. The video’s words, music and images build to empower each other in a moving and universal message of hope and community. Viewing tip: starts about 20 seconds into the clip, full screen and stereophonic speakers/ear buds recommended.

Take Note

  • All Virginia Tech employees are encouraged to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, all employees, including full-time and part-time faculty, staff, and wage, are required to provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccination once they are fully vaccinated. This includes employees who are also registered for classes at Virginia Tech. Employees are required to register vaccination information in the COVID-19 Vaccination Status Self-Reporting form after receiving their final dose. Contact the HR Service Center at for help.
  • The VTCSOM website lists currently open job opportunities for the school of medicine. 
  • The VTCSOM offices of Student Affairs and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion are leading the school’s transition from our current Physician Thought Leader Communities to Mentoring Communities.
    Mentoring Communities are faculty-led student communities that provide an administrative structure through which students can experience individualized advising and mentoring that fosters personal and professional growth, some within a specific identity group. If you’d like to be considered for mentorship, please fill out this quick survey.
  • Past issues of Progress Notes are available on the website.

Upcoming Events

  • July 6 – Class of 2024 (M2) classes begin
  • July 6 – Class of 2023 (M3) rotations begin
  • July 19 – Class of 2022 (M4) rotations begin
  • July 26-30 – Class of 2025 (M1) orientation
  • August 11 – Virginia Tech 11th Annual Diversity Summit
  • October 15 – White Coat Ceremony
Hey there! How as your pandemic? Tell us all about... with ART!

The Last Note

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Creativity in Health Education Program’s upcoming Fall 2021 Exhibit will explore how folks got creative with art during the COVID-19 lockdown. Learn more about the show and how to submit your artwork.

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