Progress Notes | November 2021

Last week we gathered to celebrate the retirement of someone whose contributions to VTCSOM are immeasurable. Dr. Richard Vari will be retiring from Virginia Tech on June 1, 2022, and his last day in the office was last Friday. Dr. Vari is retiring sooner than he had planned due to the challenges of ALS and his desire to spend more time with his family and friends in the coming months.

As founding associate dean for medical education, recruited by Dean Cynda Johnson, Dr. Vari led the development of our innovative four-domain, problem-based learning curriculum and successfully stewarded our initial accreditation prior to the inaugural class graduation in 2014. In addition to his administrative leadership over the past 13 years he has continued to be an engaged educator, award-winning lecturer, and small group facilitator. He became senior dean for academic affairs in 2015.

Dr. Vari’s many honors include the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award from the Association of American  Medical Colleges in 2017. He also served as president of the International Association of Medical Science Educators from 2018-2020 and was instrumentally involved in bringing the organization’s annual meeting to Roanoke in 2019.

Aside from his professional accomplishments, I think it’s safe to say we will all miss Dr. Vari’s personal integrity, his dedication to our students, his playful and engaging sense of humor, and of course, his love for all things Kentucky.

Thank you Dr. Vari for the legacy you have instilled at VTCSOM, and here’s to a happy, peaceful, and well-deserved retirement.

Lee A. Learman

Students checking up on each other at this year's White Coat Ceremony


  • Carilion Clinic President and CEO, and VTCSOM faculty member, Nancy Howell Agee received the 2021 Cabell Brand Hope Award from Total Action for Progress for her service and contributions in health care.
  • Brian Brindle was a speaker in a webinar for maximizing student potential with anytime remote computer access.
  • Second-year student Lauren “LB” Canary spoke in a virtual workshop on “Getting Started in State Advocacy” presented in a joint partnership between the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) and the Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF).
  • Erika Coleman, class of 2024, has been named to the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians Board of Directors as a student director.
  • Carrie Knopf, student affairs coordinator, was a member of a panel for Emerging Practices in Health Science Education Disability Access at the Association on Higher Education and Disability 2021 Conference.
  • Dean Learman and Paul Skolnik were on a panel with Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District to discuss vaccines and mitigation strategies still needed to handle COVID-19 in the region.
  • Third-year student Alex Miner presented her research poster about “The effect of pre-operative anticoagulation use on the rate of post-operative brain re-expansion in chronic subdural hematomas” at the 2021 Congress for Neurological Surgeons.
  • Courtney Powell has been selected as a faculty fellow for Virginia Tech's VT Engage Faculty Fellow Program.
  • A fond farewell and best wishes go out to our “faces” of VTC Robyn Lynch and Stephanie Hairston.
  • Kudos to the communications team and the diversity, equity, and inclusion team for their collaboration for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (#NDEAM), where they put the spotlight on some of our valued staff and faculty members Harry Hoyt, Carrie Knopf, and Dr. David Hartman.
  • Congratulations to the members of the VTCSOM chapter of the Student National Medical Association for a successful start to #MedDOCS, an outreach program for local high school students. Our M1 and M2 students volunteer their time to teach the sessions.
  • RIMA, the Refugee and Immigrant Medical Association, held a successful fundraiser to aid the Afghan refugees settling in the area
  • Kudos to the communication team for the production of the VTCSOM Overview Brochure and Strategic Plan. “The success of this project was due to a splendid team effort—a team that included Ryan Anderson, Catherine Doss, Vianne Greek, Michael Stowe, designer David Stanley, and a fantastic job by Progress Printing.” Copies are available in the Dean's Office.
  • VTCSOM Group on Women in Medicine and Science hosted a panel discussion last month entitled Women in Medicine: Multidimensional and Multifaceted. Panelists included VTCSOM alum Ashley Gerrish, Inna Massaro, Richard Massaro, and Kallie Metz. The panel was moderated by Alice Ackerman, founding chair of the VTCSOM pediatrics department.
  • 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: Hajra Ahmad, Michael Brooks, James Casey, James Franko, Ashley Gerrish, Hank Ivey, Guy Katz, Eileen Kenny, Jeremy Llavore, Shian McLeish, Selina Pahlavanzadeh, Kyle Pfaff, Xavier Preud’homme, Jill Price, Christina Warwick-Hulgan, and Della Williams.


head shots. details below

Welcome to New Staff

A warm welcome to these folks who joined the VTCSOM family in October:

  • Arian Abdulla – Director of Libraries
  • Alicia Besenyei – Assistant Dean for Advancement
  • Erin Worthington – Director of Research Education

Welcome to New Faculty

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

  • Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine: Ramón Piñeyro-Poueriet
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology: Anita Register
  • Orthopaedic Surgery: Bradley McCrady
  • Internal Medicine: Molly Rutherford and Thomas Kodankandath
  • Surgery: Joanne Tuohy

Diversity and Inclusion Notes

  • The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine has been awarded the 2021 Health Professions Heed Award from Insight into Diversity magazine - for the fourth consecutive year!
  • As part of our commitment to building an inclusive environment that values every member, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team will be hosting a Riverside Chat series for applicants who are members of groups that are underrepresented in medicine. These chats serve as an informal venue for applicants to ask questions about the school, life as a medical student, and life as a resident of the Roanoke Valley. For more information or to assist with the monthly chats, contact Karyna Nevarez.
  • Karyna had this to say about the first Riverside Chat that took place last week: “We had an excellent response from prospective students. They were all very engaged and had great questions such as the diverse population in our city, engagement opportunities for them to connect with the diverse community, resources for our diverse students, and our city offerings in diverse culture. Looking forward to the November edition of the series.”
  • 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.
  • Holidays and celebrations in the month of November:
    • National Native American Heritage Month
    • National Family Caregivers Month
    • 1: All Saints’ Day
    • 1-2: Dia de los Muertos
    • 2: All Souls’ Day
    • 4: Diwali
    • 5-6 (sundown to sundown): Birth of Báb, a Bahá’í holiday
    • 6-7 (sundown to sundown): Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í religion
    • 11: Veterans Day
    • 19: International Men’s Day
    • 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance
    • 21: Feast of Christ the King
    • 25: Thanksgiving
    • 26: Native American Heritage Day
    • November 28-December 6: Hanukkah
    • November 28-January 6: Nativity Fast
    • November 28-December 24: Advent
a doodle with a fundraising sign with a VT flag in the background
A doodle of the CVC fundraising board by Steve White

Community Corner

  • This year’s Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC) runs through December 10. VTCSOM is off to a great start. Employees gave 19% of our goal of $3,933 in just the first week. Every dollar counts and makes a difference. It’s not about how much you give — participation is our goal. It’s the act of giving itself that makes this campaign so special. There are multiple ways to give and more than 900 charities to which you can direct your donation. The university’s CVC webpage is filled with information on the campaign, the organizations it serves, and ways to give. If you have any questions, please direct them to co-chairs Pam Adams or Courtney Powell.
    Read Dean Learman’s campaign message to Virginia Tech.
  • The VTCSOM Creativity in Health Education program’s current exhibit explores how some folks got creative with art during the COVID 19 lockdown. The exhibit will be on display on the first and second floors of Riverside 2 through December 17. If you know someone who would like to come by and see the exhibit, have them contact Courtney Powell for an appointment.
  • Virginia Tech is hosting its 8th annual little hokie hand-me-down program. This program is designed to benefit Virginia Tech graduate students and families. We will be collecting donations of unused/gently used children's items for parents and children ages 0 to 10 at the Riverside 2 Library until November 7th.
Kory Cablay
Kory Cablay

Spotlight on Giving

Fourth-year student Kory Cablay was the first recipient of the VTC Excellence in Medicine Scholarship in 2019. Kory became interested in medicine as a patient after he had some injuries that required orthopedic consultation and also had eight concussions over his athletic career as a football player. “I played in high school and the start of college. I got my eighth concussion my freshman year and decided to stop playing,” he said.

Humanism Notes

To flee one’s home, village, community, workplace, social network and country can be traumatic for families. Refugees leaving violence and persecution face new languages, customs and uncertainties in the distant lands that welcome them. Here in Roanoke we have recently welcomed refugees from Afghanistan. Organizations such as the Roanoke Refugee Partnership are working with the Refugee and Immigrant Medical Association at VTCSOM and other community groups to assure our new neighbors feel welcomed and supported in their first American homes. The memories of life in Roanoke will follow these families to the cities and towns where they eventually settle. At such a delicate time in their lives, what a privilege it is for us to provide refugee families their first glimpse of our generosity and humanism.

Take Note

Take Note

Upcoming Events

Collage of students donning their white coats with the help of Dean Lee Learman and Vice Dean Dan Harrington

The Last Note

The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage for first-year students. We are so glad that this year our students could openly celebrate with their family and friends. Check out the photo gallery for this event

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.