Progress Notes | July 2022

On June 12 we lost a cherished member of our community. Rick Vari passed away from complications of ALS, a cruel, progressive disease that required him to retire early as senior dean for academic affairs. His presence is deeply felt in the halls of our school as we mourn his passing.

During his more than 13 years at VTCSOM, Rick made enormous contributions to our school, perhaps one of the best known was designing and overseeing our PBL curriculum. His numerous educational accomplishments made it to the world stage, and the curriculum he instituted at VTCSOM put us on the map.

There were many changes and challenges that Rick walked through during his time at VTCSOM, including leading the way for our first successful accreditation in 2014, the transition of our school’s ownership, a change in deans, a pandemic, and his own health challenges. In true Rick Vari fashion, he approached each of these changes and challenges with grace and patience.

Throughout his nearly 35 years in medical education, Rick won numerous awards and honors; contributed abundantly to research, scholarship, and educational activities; and mentored thousands of students and colleagues. He was completely devoted to our students, putting his heart and soul into their welfare. For his outstanding service to VTCSOM, Rick was honored with emeritus status by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors last month.

Rick was a man of integrity and honor with a priceless sense of humor. His fingerprints are all over this school, and he will forever be woven into our fabric. He leaves an enduring legacy.

In October, we will be hosting our first guest speaker to serve as the Richard C. Vari, Ph.D., Endowed Lectureship. The lectureship will feature an internationally renowned innovator in medical education to give the keynote address at our TEACH Education Day. As we continue to raise funds to support the endowment, we hope you will consider making a gift in Rick’s memory.

Rick’s full obituary.

Lee A. Learman


  • Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee was recognized as Modern Healthcare's 50 Most Influential Clinical Executives. Agee also has a VTCSOM faculty appointment in internal medicine.
  • Patrick Bonson, Andrew Binks, Renée LeClair, and Kristin Machac gave an invited presentation at a recent IAMSE meeting titled, “Design thinking methods identify unique themes and patterns in medical student experiences.”  Bonson graduated from VTCSOM in 2022. Binks and LeClair are faculty members in basic science education. Machac is the president of a private consulting group.
  • Michael Fox, professor of neuroscience and biological sciences and director of the School of Neuroscience in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, will hold the I.D. Wilson Chair in the College of Science. Fox has a dual faculty appointment with VTCSOM in pediatrics and basic science education.
  • Dean Lee Learman has been named to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Council of Deans (COD) Insight Circle on Leadership Accountability for Diversity.
  • Dean Lee Learman co-authored an opinion article in The Roanoke Times along with other Roanoke leaders to support community collaboration and civil discourse.
  • Brock Mutcheson, assistant dean for assessment and program evaluation, completed the 2022 IAMSE Medical Educator Fellowship program.
  • Atreyi Saha, class of 2024, is one of 17 medical students named 2022 Gold Student Summer Fellows by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.
  • David Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture, was featured in a CNET article on VTCSOM’s involvement with the Hidden in Plain Site project to tell the hidden history of race in Roanoke.
  • The following Carilion Clinic-Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine residents recently received the Dean’s Academic Excellence Award: Jessica Pelletier, emergency medicine; Luke Howell, family medicine; Vira Ayzenbart, internal medicine (Donald Steinweg Dean’s Academic Excellence Award); Nasser Mohammed, neurology; Meghan Hagedorn, obstetrics and gynecology; Andrew Hayes, pediatrics; Kristin Bubel, psychiatry and behavioral medicine; and Samantha Koenig, surgery.
  • Congratulations to these 18 VTCSOM faculty members whose promotions were approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors at its June 7, 2022 meeting. 


  • Alexander Zhang, class of 2023, and Michael Bergen, assistant professor of radiology, published “Novel Technique in Treating Portal Cavernous Transformation with Portal Biliopathy,” in the Journal of the National Medical Association.
head shots. details below


A warm welcome to Magan Marshall, senior fiscal technician and Kelsey Sellers, anatomy laboratory program assistant manager, who joined the VTCSOM family in June.


Editor's note: some of last month's incoming faculty were attributed to incorrect departments. Corrections below.

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

  • Family and Community Medicine: Elaine Renick and Katherine Walker
  • Internal Medicine: Anthony Baldoni, Vadim Dushkin, Emma Greear, and Joseph Mallory
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology: Roger Smith
  • Pediatrics: Kevin Addison
High school sophomores from Martinsville, Danville, and Roanoke had an immersive experience at the HPEP summer camp.

Diversity and Inclusion Notes

  • More than 20 sophomores from Martinsville, Danville, Roanoke County and City schools visited Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus to participate in a four-day capstone experience through the Health Professions Enrichment Program (HPEP), aimed at exposing students to the variety of health careers available, whether the patients are humans or animals. “HPEP is just one of the VTSCOM and College Access Collaborative initiatives that aims to diversify the United States workforce,” says Karen Eley Sanders, associate vice provost for college access. “Research confirms that individuals who are underrepresented in the health professions are more likely to serve medically underserved communities.”
    Prior to the weeklong camp at Virginia Tech, HPEP consists of three Saturday sessions where students gained the experience of working with heart and lung simulations and had access to technology. During the weeklong on-site campus visit at Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus, the group of 21 were divided in three groups, Team Heart, Team Brain, and Team Lungs, and worked on retired medical cases during dedicated group work time each day, culminating with final presentations on the last day. The on-campus visit included DNA Extraction and a Genome Facility Tour at the Biocomplexity Institute, as well as a tour and activity at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. 
  • The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team is proud to announce the Dean’s Diversity Champions Award, which recognizes significant achievements of faculty, staff, and students toward developing a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Nominations (including self-nominations) are welcome from any member of the VTCSOM community. Up to ten awards will be given each year.
    Deadline for nominations: Friday, July 8 at 5:00 p.m.
    Submit nominations.
  • On July 14, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine is hosting Robert Winn, renowned cancer center director, for a talk on Generational Health: An Intimate Conversation on Black Men and Health Disparities.
  • The Advancing Diversity Summit is Wednesday, August 10th, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center.
  • Holidays and observances in the month of July:
    • 1: Canada Day/Fête du Canada
    • 4: Independence Day
    • 8-9 (sundown to sundown): Waqf al Arafa
    • 9: The Martyrdom of the Bab
    • 9-10 (sundown to sundown):  Eid al-Adha
    • 11: World Population Day
    • 13: Asalha Puja/Dharma Day
    • 14: International Nonbinary People’s Day
    • 14: Bastille Day
    • 15: St. Vladimir of the Great Day
    • 18: Nelson Mandela International Day
    • 23: The birthday of Haile Selassie I, former emperor of Ethiopia
    • 24: Pioneer Day
    • 26: Disability Independence Day, celebrating the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
    • 29-30:  Hijri New Year
    • 30: International Day of Friendship
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NL Bishop, Courtney Powell, Dean Learman and his wife Beverly (with JJ!), and Kemi Bankole at Eureka Park for the Juneteenth event.

Community Corner

June was a busy month for VTCSOM Community & Culture.

  • Medical students and staff manned the first aid station and provided information about FBRI and VTCSOM at the Juneteenth Family Reunion in Eureka Park.
  • VTCSOM and FBRI hosted the 2022 Huddle Up Moms Resource Summit.
  • VTCSOM was a proud sponsor of the very first Back to Black Art Show at Verses on Kirk Avenue.
  • And we were finally able to host our Experience Black Love artists and their families for a celebratory reception with a special performance by Harvest Blaque.

It was wonderful to be out and about making lots of new friends!

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Farwah Iqbal, Alexander In, Liliana Ladner, and Erin McDaid received the Charles J. Schleupner summer research fellowships for 2022.

Spotlight on Giving

Four VTCSOM students have received summer research fellowships through an endowment established by Charles J. Schleupner, professor of internal medicine at the school and infectious disease physician at Carilion Clinic. This is the second year the awards have been made. Learn more about Schleuper’s gift and the student research projects it is supporting this summer.

Humanism Notes

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Rick Vari gave so much to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. From developing our curriculum to handing out the many varieties of hot peppers from his garden, his life was a blessing to us all. For this month’s Humanism Notes, we thought it would be appropriate to look back on this tribute from Rick’s retirement celebration last fall.

We also share a poem written by Aubrey Knight in honor of Rick:

Absent yet present.

Absent yet present 
Unseen yet reminders everywhere 
Sadness yet smiles of remembrance. 

On our enduring pages, we read your words.
In every room, we sense your spirit. 
Among our conversations, we hear your voice.
With our very essence, we have your vision.

The lessons you taught us made us wiser.
The truths you stood on provided an anchor.
The courage your showed us gave us hope.
The legacy you left us promises to endure.

Absent yet present
Unseen yet reminders everywhere
Sadness yet smiles of remembrance.

Take Note

Take Note

  • Nominations for the 2022 TEACH Awards are now open! Five unique awards have been created over the years to recognize the efforts of our educators and highlight their accomplishments. Find the nomination criteria and form here. Nominations close July 15.
  • Our annual Meet and Greet with our incoming students at a Salem Red Sox game will be Saturday, July 23 at 6:05 p.m. We have the Carilion corner deck reserved. Each VTCSOM attendee that RSVPs will receive a general admission ticket and $10 for concessions. If you would like to attend, you must RSVP by July 8.
  • The Virginia Academy of Family Physicians is seeking four volunteers to serve as “patients” for an ultrasound workshop at its annual meeting to be held at The Hotel Roanoke on August 4-7. If you’re interested, contact Erika Coleman, class of 2024.
  • The Advancing Diversity Summit is Wednesday, August 10th, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center.
  • Virginia Tech's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning is hosting Welcome Back Symposium 2022: Teaching Strategies for Increased Student Engagement on August 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in 260 New Classroom Building on Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus. This is a one-day event focused on motivating and engaging students in courses to increase academic success.
  • The Self-Paced PDF Accessibility course is now available through Virginia Tech's professional development network site.
  • Part of creating a more inclusive university culture is understanding and applying principles of accessibility. To help achieve this goal, Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and graduate students are invited to register for a free International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) membership. IAAP membership benefits include free access to live and archived webinars, discounts for industry-produced webinars, a subscription to the digital Accessibility Matters newsletter, and access to subject matter expert communities.
  • Past issues of Progress Notes are available on the website.

Upcoming Events

collage of five photos of Rick Vari
Top left: Rick and Patty Vari; bottom left: Rick raising his fist in jubilation; middle: elf on the shelf; top right: Kyle Edgel caricature of Rick; bottom right: the famous mic drop at the IAMSE conference

The Last Note

For Last Note this month, we’ve compiled some of our favorite images of Rick Vari during his time at VTCSOM. We hope these instill lasting memories of a remarkable man. Thank you Rick, for your tremendous contributions to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

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