Progress Notes | December 2021

As we enter a season of holidays steeped in rich religious and cultural traditions, we begin our annual process of reflecting on the past year. Here at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, 2021 was marked by impressive successes, unexpected farewells, and exciting conversations about the future.

Throughout the pandemic we have affirmed our strength as a caring community. Our shared sense of mission connects us with each other and our partners at Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech who support our work as innovators in medical education who are united to improve the health of our communities and transform health care.

I wish to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to each of you for joining together as a community and contributing to our success. Your professionalism in the face of uncertainty and the impact of the pandemic has been awe-inspiring!

As human beings who feel the pain of others, even the most optimistic among us may have difficulty seeing the cup as half full. In keeping with the messages of hope during the month of December, I invite you to watch this short video by Life is Good on the remarkable power of optimism. In less than two minutes the video shows a unique type of biofeedback that links positive thoughts to immediate and tangible outcomes. I’ll be looking for an opportunity to give it a try.

With that, I send each of you a warm and grateful message of thanks and best wishes for a happy New Year. May peace, prosperity, and optimism follow each of you into 2022!

Lee A. Learman

Alicia Besenyei and Rebecca Pauly


  • Congratulations to second-year student Andrew Strohman who tied the knot in October! His wife Nicole is an ER nurse at Carilion.
  • Kudos to Kristen Eden, Basic Science Education; Mahtab Foroozesh, Internal Medicine; and Vydia Permashwar, Pediatrics, for being recognized in the TEACH Educator Appreciation (TEA) program.
  • Casey Engel, class of 2024, along with physicians Kiley Fagan, Douglas Grider, and Philip Wakefield, presented a case report at the American Society of Dermatopathology’s 58th annual meeting on “Atypical case of lichen planus pigmentosus in a Christmas tree pattern.”
  • A shout out goes out to Vianne Greek who created pages for each of our student clubs, organizations, and special interest groups. Now all can get an idea of the wide-ranging activities available to our students. We appreciate your hard work on this!
  • Natalie Karp was featured in an article in Virginia Tech’s engineering magazine on the miraculous imperfect mechanics of pregnancy
  • Brittany Stopa, class of 2023, recently presented not one but two posters at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons Conference in October. Her presentations were on “Cranioplasty Outcomes After Decompressive Craniectomy for TBI: A 20-Year Institutional Review” and “Infratentorial High-Grade Gliomas: Neurosurgical Case Series with Molecular Analysis.”
  • Congratulations to faculty members who were acknowledged in Carilion Clinic’s Cheers for Peers publication.


Dale Worrell

Welcome to New Staff

A warm welcome to Dale Worrell, IT Media Specialist, who joined the VTCSOM family in November.


Welcome to New Faculty

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

  • Family and Community Medicine: Chelsea Ambroz and Allison Thornton
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology: Arthur Ollendorff and Alyssa Watkins
  • Pediatrics: Maria Rosario Soriano and Erin Worthington

Diversity and Inclusion Notes

  • The DEI team is excited to announce that our previous Lunch and Learn sessions will be rebranded as Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging series (DIBs). The first one of these series will be a interactive workshop titled Diversity Dimensions and Filters on December 14, 2021 from 1 to 3 p.m., delivered by Prof. Alexander Scott, MBA, MA.
  • 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.
  • 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 December:
    • November 28-December 6: Hanukkah
    • November 28-January 6: Nativity Fast
    • November 28- December 24: Advent
    • 1: World AIDS Day
    • 3: International Day of Persons with Disability
    • 8: Immaculate Conception of Mary
    • 8: Bodhi day
    • 10: International Human Rights Day
    • 12: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
    • 13: St Lucia's Day
    • 16-24: Las Posadas
    • 21: Yule Winter Solstice
    • 25: Christmas Day
    • 26: Boxing Day
    • December 26 - January 1: Kwanzaa
    • 31: New Year's Eve
Group of Lungevity 5K participants dressed warmly. Participants included faculty staff students children and canines
Medical students, along with VTCSOM faculty and staff held a local LUNGevity Breathe Deep Together 5K walk, run, and roll on the Roanoke Greenway. LUNGevity is a national organization that funds research and education about lung cancer.

Community Corner

  • The VTCSOM Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, in collaboration with the Virginia Tech College Access Collaborative, hosted more than 40 underrepresented minority high school members of the Future Doctors Society from various high schools in Northern Virginia last month. The students had the opportunity to engage with various departments at VTC and learn about what makes us unique. Not only did they get to ask medical students all about their experience getting into medical school, but they also received a presentation from the admissions department to provide guidance on what they can begin doing while in high school to prepare for applying to medical school. Afternoon activities included a handwashing activity where the students learned the importance of proper handwashing using glow lotion and blacklights, a medical school tour, as well as a vital sign activity. Students were provided the gift of a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer kit and practiced taking blood pressures. The students were all interested in the healthcare field and remained engaged during the visit to VTCSOM.
  • There’s still time to bring friends and family to the VTCSOM Creativity in Health Education program’s current exhibit, which 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.
Dr. Sue Nussbaum, student Julia Deluca, Dr. Michael Nussbaum in front of the medical school

Spotlight on Giving

First-year student Julia De Luca (center) is the first recipient of a scholarship created by Michael and Sue Nussbaum. “The Nussbaum Scholarship made it possible for me to attend Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine,” De Luca said. “I am grateful to learn from the Roanoke community and hope to be able to give back with my own experiences as a minority in medicine. I am humbled that I was given the opportunity to bring my own perspectives and experiences to VTC.”

Humanism Notes

What do Dolly Parton, a Vanderbilt surgeon, and MacArthur genius award-winner Rhiannon Giddens have in common? The story begins at the Tennessee mountain home where Dolly grew up, and the song it inspired that creates a thread of human connection across time and place.

Take Note

Take Note

Upcoming Events

Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign "Virginia is for Givers" A word cloud inside a heart with the most prominent words being Love, Community, Help, Friends, Encourage,

The Last Note

With just a few days remaining in the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign, VTCSOM faculty and staff have raised 179% of our annual goal! The campaign runs through December 10, so there’s still time to give. 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.

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