Progress Notes | December 2022

Each month this year, I have used my Dean’s Message in Progress Notes to take a deeper dive into the core values and goals in our Strategic Plan. This month is no exception as we focus on our learning culture.

A key component in our overall strategic plan addresses the issue of “learning culture.” VTCSOM has established two related and important goals in this area: to enhance the overall learning culture and environment of our school; and to promote success and retention through our organizational culture. These goals are broad in nature and include attention to the learning environment for our students and resident physicians, as well as the work environment for our faculty and staff. Our strategic plan includes measurable outcomes pertaining to how various groups view our educational and work climates, including such things as the effectiveness of communications, use of technology, and collaborative opportunities. And, an important consideration is how we will maintain the strengths of our learning culture as we look toward future expansion of our class size.

Within the framework of medical education, much has been written about the medical school learning environment and culture. For example, this topic is so important that our external accrediting body has developed specific standards that require us to demonstrate that we provide a positive learning environment for our students. But beyond this baseline requirement, what are the factors that contribute to a great organizational culture? There are many, and space limitations prevent a thorough discussion. However, an interesting study published in 2010 sought to determine what specific types of experiences or events were most impactful for students during their medical education. Three weeks prior to graduation, researchers surveyed two consecutive graduating classes at a prominent medical school. Students reported that two events had very significant impacts on them: “encountering a truly exceptional role model in medicine” and “working well with a team.” I believe that our school provides both of these important experiences for our learners.

I am proud of the many efforts being made by our staff and faculty to provide a high quality, diverse and positive learning and work culture for our students, and for each other. “Moving the needle” in a positive direction for organizational culture takes all of us! While our strategic plan metrics reveal that we are doing well, there is always room for improvement. If you have ideas on this topic, I would love to hear from you!

In the meantime, here is my sincere wish for health and happiness to each one of you during this season of celebrations.

Lee A. Learman

Participants in the Fall 2022 MedDOCS program pose for a group graduation photo along with program mentors.


  • The third cohort of MedDOCS, a student-led program for high school students, concluded last month. Thanks to our students who are keenly involved in this highly successful program to help stimulate an interest in careers in medicine among underrepresented youth. VTCSOM student volunteers are: Alexander In and Devon Pleasants (directors); Evan Sandefur, Nancy Wu, Brian Hansen, Christine Marlow, and Ethan Nethery (M2 mentors); and Roger Luong, Lucy Honeycutt, Brianna Chang, Shruthi Prabhakar, and Dana Wang (M1 mentors). MedDOCS is offered twice a year. In the fall, participants study the heart; in the spring, they study the brain.  MedDOCS is an initiative of the VTC Chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA).
  • Renowned bioethicist Arthur Caplan, PhD, founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine, spoke to both students and physicians on the challenging new landscape of abortion ethics in a post-Roe world.
    This program was organized and hosted by VTCSOM's Humanism in Medicine Club, in partnership with the Group on Women in Medical Science (GWIMS), the OB-GYN Special Interest Group, and the Medical Students for Choice at VTC Club.
  • The Humanism in Medicine Club also hosted an informative program by Joshua Earle, PhD, assistant professor of science, technology, and society at the University of Virginia. Dr. Earle discussed the uncomfortable history of medicine and eugenics in Virginia.
  • Congratulations to all the recipients of the 2022 TEACH Awards.
  • Congratulations to Dustin Womack on his new role as VTCSOM Director of Information Technology.
  • Thomas Miles, class of 2024, presented “Characterizing use and distribution of crizanlizumab among patients with sickle cell disease: A retrospective descriptive comparison” at the American Public Health Association 2022 Conference.
  • Members of the class of 2024 had a strong showing at the Annual Virginia Dermatology Society meeting. Douglas Murray III gave an outstanding platform presentation titled “Cutaneous Eosinophilic Thrombosis in Association with the Noval COVID-19 Oral Antiviral Molnupiravir.”
  • Meanwhile, the students SWEPT the poster session awards - Riya Patel won best in-person poster with her presentation of “Perineural Squamous Cell Carcinoma Diagnosed After Facial Palsy and Pain,” and Casey Engel won best virtual poster with her case of “An Unexpected Post Egg-Free Influenza Vaccine Granulomatous Reaction.” They were joined by new faculty member Zachary Holcomb.
  • Sarah Harendt, Natalie Karp, Mariah Rudd, and Shari Whicker presented their poster “Intentionally Designing Clinical Faculty Professional Development to Support Health Systems Science Integration within Medical Education” at the AMA Health Systems Science Summit in Chicago, IL. Harendt, Rudd, and Whicker are with TEACH, Karp is phase II domain co-leader for Health Systems Science and Interprofessional Practice and assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology.
  • Vemmy Metsutnan, class of 2024, presented “A comparison of mortality following vertebral compression fractures in patients with or without vertebral augmentation” at the North American Spine Society annual meeting in October.


Glenda Dalton headshot

A warm welcome to Glenda Dalton, assistant director of finance, who joined the VTCSOM family in November. 


Welcome to the new faculty who joined us in November:

  • Internal Medicine: Bradley Allen and Jed Gonzalo
  • Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine: Harrison Galicki

Diversity and Inclusion Notes

  • VTCSOM’s commitment to diversity earns INSIGHT into Diversity Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for the fifth consecutive year. “We are thrilled to be recognized for a fifth straight year with the HEED award. We know that our work in fostering a more inclusive medical school community is ever-evolving, though,” said Azziza “Kemi” Bankole, chief diversity officer at the school. “We value and rely upon the input and support of our students, employees, and community members in order to meet our goals and develop new initiatives that will support diversity.”
  • Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Black Family Father Initiative, and United Way of Roanoke Valley are hosting a conversation entitled Black Mothers, Black Babies, Black Fathers, on December 12, where Mr. Lewis Townsend and Dr. Alyssa Watkins will discuss Black maternal, child health crisis and how Black fathers can serve as advocates. Mr. Johnathan Webb will moderate. 
  • Join Virginia Tech’s Office for Inclusion & Diversity for the annual Advancing Diversity Gathering on January 12, 2023 with keynote speaker Tara J. Yosso, a professor in the graduate school of education at the University of California, Riverside, for a discussion on issues facing our community. The gathering is also an opportunity to celebrate exemplary diversity, equity, and inclusion practices occurring across campus.
  • The Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials Award Program is seeking applicants for its program created to increase diversity in clinical trials and transform the clinical research landscape. Sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University through a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, the program is seeking URM students and early career physicians who are African American or Black/Hispanic or Latino/American Indian or Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander/Southeast Asian (Bhutanese, Cambodian, Cham, Hmong, Indonesian, Lao, Malaysian, Mien, Myanma, Thai, and Vietnamese). Applications for early decision close January 8, 2023.
  • Holidays and observances in the month of December:
    • 1: World AIDS Day
    • 3: International Day of Persons with Disabilities
    • 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
    • 18–26: Hanukkah
    • 21: Yule Winter Solstice
    • 25: Christmas Day
    • 26: Boxing Day
    • 26–January 1: Kwanzaa
    • 26: Zartosht No-Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra)
    • 26: St. Stephen’s Day
    • 27: St. John’s Apostle and Evangelist Day
    • 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents
    • 30: Feast of the Holy Family  
    • 31: Watch Night
ARTiculation - Creativity in Medicine

Preparations for our 2022-2023 issue of ARTiculation, VTCSOM's online creative journal, have begun. For this issue, we are opening submissions to all VTCSOM and FBRI students and faculty. The deadline for entries is December 19.

medical students and faculty members, and some furry friends, pose for a photo from the lung run

Community Corner

  • Special thanks to our VTCSOM students, faculty, and staff (pictured above) who organized and participated in the Lung Cancer Walk/Run/Roll 5K last month.
  • Save the date for a Global Health International Experience Forum on May 3, 2023. Hear student stories from Peru, Korea, Taiwan, and Pakistan. 
  • Looking for that perfect gift for the holidays? Well, look no further than the VTC Giftshop on the first floor of 2 Riverside! We have a great selection of gift items, and are expecting the new apparel to arrive in early December. Don’t want to leave the office? The VTC online store has over 40 different items that can be shipped right to your door!
  • Students from VTCSOM’s Refugee and Immigrant Medical Association provided education on mental health, dental hygiene and practices, differences between the ER and PCP, common over-the-counter medications, Hep B and Hep C, and nutrition at the Roanoke City Schools EL and World Language Programs night.
  • The VTCSOM Office for Community and Culture will be supporting Roanoke nonprofit Building Bridges over Barriers’ annual sock drive by placing a donation box in the 2 Riverside Atrium. New pairs of children’s socks will be collected through Friday, December 16.
two photos of Rick Vari. left - in his element as a teacher. right - headshot in front of the medical school

Spotlight on Giving

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM), in partnership with Teaching Excellence Academy for Collaborative Healthcare (TEACH), hosted the inaugural Richard C. Vari Endowed Lecture last month. Thanks to the generosity of those who knew and loved Vari, VTCSOM is proud to continue the endowed lectureship for years to come. Donations in support of the lectureship are greatly appreciated. View photos and videos from the event.

Humanism Notes

The bounty of the Thanksgiving table leaves a legacy of appreciation for what remains in this poem Everybody Made Soups by Lisa Coffman.

Take Note

Take Note

  • Looking for ways to engage? Already have an engagement event or project in the works and want to get the word out? Current projects, past projects, VTCSOM Engage information, that very handy link to register an activity or event - it's all at The Hub! (requires VT login credentials to access)  
  • The Assistive Technologies Group at Virginia Tech has been working hard to get university wide access to a PDF remediation tool. This tool will allow you to fix PDFs and make them more accessible. Sign up to obtain a license for the PDF remediation tool
  • It’s that time of the year again! Sign up as a team or as an individual for the 2023 HS&T Campus Fitness Challenge! Sign-up deadline December 12. The Challenge runs January 9, 2023 to March 10, 2023. Contact Elvir Berbic for details.
  • Interested in reserving a room in the HS&T campus Center for Inclusion? Follow these simple steps:
    • Login to your personal Google calendar
    • Click create button, add event (choosing date, time, and title)
    • Paste the following email address into the "add guests" line, then save and send.
  • Past issues of Progress Notes are available on the website.

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

There are just a few days remaining in the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign, but there's still time to give. As in past years, VTCSOM faculty and staff are making us proud by giving generously to those in our community who need it the most. We are on target to meet or exceed our goal by the time the campaign closes on December 9. 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 Courtney Powell.

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.