Progress Notes | October 2021

October is the month we celebrate Women in Medicine, and at Virginia Tech Carilion there is much to celebrate! We are most grateful for the women in medicine who contribute their time and talent teaching our medical students, providing expert care to our patients, and advancing knowledge through their research and scholarship. We are also thankful for the women in medicine who steward and support the educational, research, clinical and community engagement programs in their academic departments at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Carilion Clinic, and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.

Please join us at 5:30pm on Wednesday, October 13, for a Zoom Town Hall Meeting where we will present the VTCSOM Strategic Plan for 2021-25. We will share our updated mission, vision and values statements and introduce a graphical tool for tracking our progress with a dashboard of selected strategic metrics. We will also update our community with a progress report on diversity, equity and inclusion. We look forward to sharing what we’ve been working on over the summer.

Later this month, on October 15, members of the class of 2025 will don for the first time one of the most widely recognized symbols of the medical profession—the white coat. Steeped in tradition at medical schools across the country, the White Coat Ceremony is a much-anticipated event that marks the beginning of a student’s journey into the profession. Sponsored by the Gold Foundation, the most important element of the ceremony is the oath that students take in front of family members, school leadership and their peers to acknowledge their central obligation of caring for the patient. We look forward to a meaningful ceremony at the Jefferson Center.

Lee A. Learman

Angelica Witcher


  • Andrew Binks co-hosted a webinar for the International Association of Medical Science Educators on the lessons learned and future directions of medical education after COVID.
  • Elda Stanco Downey was recognized for the impact of her work including her roles teaching in the classroom and collaborating on DEI initiatives at VTCSOM at an event held at the Capitol with Senators Kaine and Warner.
  • Dean Lee Learman was appointed honorary chair for the 2021 Virginia Tech Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC). CVC is an annual giving program operated by and for state employees.
  • Congratulations to Randy Rhea, clinical preceptor in family and community medicine, for receiving the Bradley Free Clinic’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • We say goodbye to OB-GYN department chair Fidel Valea, whose last day will be October 4. Thank you for your many years of service to VTCSOM.
  • 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: Leah Birdwell, John Boone, Ryan Bradley, Emily Faulks, Michael Greenage, Dakshinamurty Gullapalli, Slater Jameson, Ashlee Laughey, Andrew Lee, Taneen Maghsoudi, Narmada Mannem, Vishal Patel, Vydia Permashwar, and Fidel Valea.


Mariah Trimble and Jonathan Holloway

Welcome to New Staff

A warm welcome to Mariah Trimble, assistant manager, anatomy lab program, and Jonathan Holloway, graduate assistant with assessment and program evaluations.

Natalia Sutherland

Diversity and Inclusion Notes

  • Natalia Sutherland, a fourth-year student at VTCSOM, envisions a future in medicine close to her Hispanic roots. Her mother’s side of the family is from Puerto Rico, and Sutherland speaks fluent Spanish. A pivotal moment of her young life occurred when she heard her mother, who was teaching English as a second language, explaining to Spanish-speaking students how to go to a doctor and what to say to get the care they needed. Read Natalia’s story.
  • 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.
  • National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated September 15 to October 15, provides an opportunity to recognize contributions to Latinx communities locally, regionally, and nationally. This year 6 Virginians were honored for their work at an event held at the Capitol with Senators Kaine and Warner, including our own faculty member, Elda Stanco Downey, PhD. Dr. Downey was recognized for the impact of her work including her roles teaching in the classroom and collaborating on DEI initiatives at VTCSOM.
  • Other holidays and celebrations in the month of October:
    • National Disability Employment Awareness Month
    • LGBT History Month
    • Global Diversity Awareness Month
    • 1: Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day
    • 4: St. Francis Day, feast day for St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment
    • 6-14: Navaratri, Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil
    • 10: World Mental Health Day
    • 11: National Coming Out Day (US)
    • 11: Thanksgiving (Canada)
    • 11: National Indigenous Peoples Day
    • 18-19: (sundown to sundown): Eid Milad un-Nabi/Mawlid Al-Nabi (Sunni Islamic holiday commemorating the birthday of the prophet Muhammad)
    • 20: Sikh Holy Day (celebration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
    • 20: International Pronouns Day
    • 23: Milad un-Nabi (Shia Islamic holiday commemorating the birthday of the prophet Muhammad)
    • 29: Latinx Women’s Equal Pay Day
    • 31: All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween)
    • 31: Reformation Day (Protestant Christian religious holiday)
    • October 31-November 1 (sundown to sundown): Samhain, a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year.
Richard Wardrop
Richard Wardrop underwrites the VTCSOM white coats each year.

Spotlight on Giving

For several years, Richard Wardrop, a physician at The Cleveland Clinic, has paid tribute to his roots as a Hokie alum by underwriting VTCSOM’s white coats. “This profession has been such a rewarding thing to me that I wanted to share it forward in some small way that was meaningful to my Hokie roots. I used to walk across the drill field as an undergraduate and dream about the day when Virginia Tech had a medical school.”

Humanism Notes

Active listening involves the use of communication skills to make a human connection, build trust, establish rapport, demonstrate concern and assure we understand our patients. However, time pressures can make these essential skills difficult to implement.

As mentioned in a paper co-authored by a physician and a senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, “Medicine is constantly evolving as new ways to treat, heal, and even cure emerge. We must continually reflect on the changes, and correct the course as needed. This work cannot happen in a vacuum of forced efficiency. Physicians, patients, and administrators all must maintain and build on what is sacred and soulful in clinical practice. We must listen generously so that we nurture authentic, bidirectional relationships that give clinicians and patients a sense of mutual purpose that no best-practice guideline or algorithm could ever hope to achieve.

The full article published in Harvard Business Review provides additional insights and suggestions.

Take Note

Take Note

  • The Hokie Hike is back for another year! Thousands of Hokies joined the fun last year completing hikes all over the world. Register for the Hokie Hike and then hike anywhere, anytime between Oct. 16 and Nov. 20
    Participants will receive a box of Hokie gear, and a portion of each registration fee is a gift to support outdoor recreation for current students.
  • VTCSOM has several open job postings. If you know of someone who might be interested, please direct them to our jobs page.
  • Employee business cards are now being printed by Old Town Printing in Christiansburg. Please complete a request form, and send it to Martha Mullins.
  • Feel like you know your way around the school pretty well? Great! Help us show off our beautiful facility by signing up to be a tour guide. For more info, contact Catherine Doss.
  • MedDOCs is a new student-run after school pipeline program for Roanoke area high school students from backgrounds under-represented in medicine with the goal of exciting them about pursuing education/careers in science and medicine. Interested in getting involved? Contact Alex Miner.
  • Virginia Tech and Microsoft will be offering several classes on Microsoft Teams and the Google Workspace. All will be offered online only. Register for professional development credit (PDN) here. You can also enroll without PDN credits.
    • October 19, from 3 pm to 4 pm: Microsoft Teams Channels and Files
    • October 26, from 3 pm to 4 pm: Microsoft Teams Chat and Meetings
    • November 2, from 3 pm to 4 pm: Microsoft Teams as a Platform - Integrating Apps
    • November 9, from 3 pm to 4 pm: Collaboration using Google Workspace
  • Past issues of Progress Notes are available on the website.

Upcoming Events

Collage of four photos from the tailgate. Top: group shot with 9 people; bottom row with three photos: two people smiling, three people smiling, two people smiling

The Last Note

What says fall more than college football? This year’s VTCSOM tailgate at the September 11 Virginia Tech football game was a rousing success! Go Hokies!

Add Your Own Note

Have something noteworthy to share in Progress Notes? Do you have feedback about this newsletter? We'd love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts with us.