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School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

August 25, 2017

Two School of Medicine faculty honored at VCU’s 2017 Faculty Convocation

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

Earlier this week, we had the privilege and opportunity to honor faculty throughout the university for their excellence – two of whom are leaders in VCU School of Medicine.

President Michael Rao praised all these leaders for their commitment to making a real difference, for their excellence in tackling difficult human issues, and for their roles as great ambassadors for VCU. President Rao also affirmed our University’s unwavering commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Provost Hackett also thanked our leaders for their community engagement and Dr. Marsha Rappley, CEO of VCUHS, commented on how inspirational these leaders are and how uplifting their stories and accomplishments.

Michael Neale, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, human genetics and psychology VCU School of Medicine, and associate director, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, received the VCU Distinguished Scholarship Award. Dr. Neale’s work focuses on how genetic, environmental and behavioral factors interact and contribute to illnesses such as substance abuse and psychiatric disorders is no small task. In addition to his remarkable level of productivity, Dr. Neale is also an outstanding teacher and mentor. It is estimated that over 2,000 researchers in his field have been trained by Dr. Neale … significantly influencing the next generation of genetics researchers.

Harinder Dhindsa, M.D., associate professor and chief of emergency medicine in VCU’s School of Medicine, medical director for the university’s Critical Care Transport team, was the recipient of the Outstanding Term Faculty award.

Dr. Dhindsa leads the clinical operations of the Emergency Department and has worked tirelessly with all his colleagues to improve efficiencies that raise the level of care patients receive. HD has an exceptional record of teaching and service. He is equally passionate about ensuring that not only future physicians are trained well, but other hospital personnel, including EMTs and paramedics, are also trained well to create an environment of first-class support for patients at all levels of interaction with health care staff.

You can read more about each of these stellar colleagues and their accomplishments at:

http://wp.vcu.edu/somprofiles/2017/08/24/harinder-s-dhindsa-m-d/
http://wp.vcu.edu/somprofiles/2017/08/24/michael-c-neale-ph-d/

Please join me in congratulating Michael and HD.

Thank you for your leadership too.

Warm regards,

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

August 15, 2017

A letter to the incoming Class of 2021

Dear medical student colleagues:

This past week was a great one, for each of you as well as for VCU School of Medicine. On Monday, we welcomed you as our newest colleagues. Throughout the week, we told you – with great pride – about the remarkable legacy and today’s powerful presence of VCU School of Medicine, culminating on Friday with our White Coat ceremony.

On Aug. 14, Peter F. Buckley, M.D., and Susan DiGiovanni, M.D., sent a letter to the Class of 2021’s incoming M.D. students, welcoming them into the medical school.

We hope that you enjoyed the week as much as we did. The first week of medical school is very, very special.

As was echoed by all who spoke at the White Coat ceremony, we are simply delighted that you have chosen the profession of medicine. Our profession is an awesome privilege and with it great responsibility. Essential to that responsibility is being a lifelong learner, and you begin that journey in earnest now as you eagerly consume new knowledge about the body and mind, which is available today at an unprecedented pace. We hope that our training will prepare you well and that over time you will take your new knowledge, using your many gifts to not just repeat what others have done, but rather you will ultimately lead us to find better ways to treat and prevent disease.

As you take these first steps toward a career in medicine, you also will already now be viewed as a leader in any circle you find yourself; in fact, the drive and personality that brought you to medical school means you already are. Please always be mindful of this role as you represent our school in the Richmond community and beyond. As we recited together on Friday our Hippocratic Oath, lead your life and practice your art with uprightness and honor.

We know that each of you have worked so hard to get to medical school. Your family and our medical college are very proud of you. Our White Coat ceremony, with the symbolic donning of your white coats, was a formal recognition of each of you and of all your very impressive accomplishments to date. For sure, you are talented colleagues. All our faculty, staff, and other trainees stand ready to help you build upon your talents and prior accomplishments now in this exciting next stage of your careers as you diligently pursue your training to become great doctors. You know as well as we do that the hard and dedicated work – and the fulfillment – has only just begun.

We look forward to your future successes as our medical students and our entire team will be privileged to assist you during your training at VCU.

Our very best to you always,

Susan DiGiovanni, M.D.
Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education
and Student Affairs
Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCUHS

June 21, 2017

You’re only as good as your team

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

Today, we welcome 142 new physician-colleagues to our VCU family. We are joined by our PGY1 residents, 29 of whom are VCU SOM graduates and many of whom come from all across the U.S. – and beyond, even this year from Australia! These vital and talented new colleagues will be the “front line physicians” for our health system, often being the first contact with patients and their relatives. How they practice will reflect on all of us.

Please welcome and support these great new doctors. They will need – and deserve – our attention and support during this formative transition of their early careers. Your wisdom, experience, mentorship and support will be invaluable to them. Please also watch out for future leadership, educational, research and quality science opportunities for them so that they can maximize their learning experiences with us.

Our thanks also to Drs. Aboff and Call, each departmental program director and GME program leaders and their staff for bringing such fine doctors to VCU.

I’m ever grateful to you for the warm welcome to my wife Leonie and I over the last few months as we have transitioned to this terrific community. Similarly, please let’s welcome and support our newest team members. They will make us proud.

Thank you for your leadership.

Warm regards,

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

May 25, 2017

The work that we do at academic medical centers… a (too) well kept secret?!

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

These past few days we’ve had the opportunity and privilege to participate in the VCUHS Community Internship Program. Our group included senior leaders in our community, all of whom voluntarily took two days away from their busy schedules to learn more about our Health System.

We had the opportunity to learn from and experience first-hand as we toured various units throughout our hospital – a great many of our VCU team members – each of whom displayed impressive knowledge, commitment and joy in serving our academic healthcare mission. We toured the operating rooms, SOM Simulation Center, the children’s in-patient units and CHoR Pavilion, the molecular laboratory, the NICU, the emergency department, morning safety call, the cardiac cath lab, radiology department, the Massey Cancer Center, Department of Corrections secure unit, epilepsy monitoring unit and in-patient rehabilitation. Excellence, compassion, and commitment was evident everywhere we visited. During the community internship, our distinguished guests also learned about the safe and successful delivery of sextuplets – a remarkable accomplishment that can only happen so successfully at a high functioning, quality driven health system with great clinical teams. With all that our guests observed, they were glowing in their praise of all their experiences and uniformly said “We had no idea about all the great things going on here!”

The appreciation of community leaders for what we do – when they can then be powerful ambassadors for VCU – is priceless.

Thanks to all of you who supported and participated in this Community Internship. Please also extend thanks for Lauren Moore and her development team for putting together such a professional and powerful program.

As a complementary accompaniment to this “note of thanks,” we thought you might be interested in this “hot off the press” article from JAMA that demonstrates superior patient outcomes in academic medical centers. This is an important article. Hopefully, this will stimulate discussion in our academic and broader healthcare communities about the unique, vital, and complementary role that academic health centers – like ours – play in U.S. healthcare.

Thank you for your leadership and contributions to the remarkable quality of care given every day to people who seek treatment with us.

With every good wish,
Peter

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

May 17, 2017

PM&R Chair Cifu appointed Associate Dean for Innovation and Systems Integration

It is a pleasure and a privilege to announce that David X. Cifu, M.D, Herman J. Flax, MD Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has been appointed as Associate Dean for Innovation and Systems Integration for the School of Medicine.

Dr. Cifu received his undergraduate and M.D. degree from Boston University. He then completed his Internship and Residency at Baylor College of Medicine in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R). Dr. Cifu joined the staff at VCU as an Assistant Professor in 1991 and with an appointment at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital, rising through the ranks to his current position (held since 1997) as Chair of the Department. He is the Chief of PM&R Services for the VCU Health System and the founding Director of the VCU-Center for Rehabilitation Sciences and Engineering (CERSE). He has dedicated much of his work to serving our veterans and active duty personnel and serves as the Senior TBI Specialist for the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

He has been funded on 42 research grants for over $135 million including currently serving as Principal Investigator of the VA/DoD $62.2 Million Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC). He is well known and an invited lecturer regionally, nationally, and internationally and has published more than 215 scientific articles.

Dr. Cifu is uniquely skilled to fill this new role as Associate Dean for Innovation and Systems Integration. In addition to continuing to lead as PM&R departmental chair, in this expanded role he will now also advance the strategic goal of integrating across systems our scientific, clinical and educational developments in artificial intelligence
and biomarkers for traumatic and cognitive neuroscience. He will work collaboratively to support the physician workforce and leadership of the formative Sheltering Arms- VCU Health initiative. He will also advance our vital VA and DoD partnerships, both locally and nationally.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Cifu on this strategic promotion.

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

May 15, 2017

A great day in the life of our medical school

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

Late last week our class of 2017 celebrated their successful training and on Saturday, 204 of these outstanding junior colleagues became doctors!

On Friday morning, we honored our military colleagues who in addition to becoming doctors, also received a promotion in rank. Dr. Chris Woleben gave excellent remarks on behalf of our school. Dr. Walter Lawrence was the keynote speaker and he reminded us that while much has changed over the 70 years since he graduated, the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship has not changed.

Drs. Susan DiGiovanni, Chris Woleben and the entire student affairs office then outdid themselves in hosting an outstanding hooding ceremony on Friday afternoon. Traditions were intermingled with reflections on the accomplishments of the class of 2017. There was a moving recollection of Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim, a student who tragically passed away in the first few weeks of the class of 2017. Dr. Jerry Strauss gave an excellent keynote address, highlighting how we continue to grow and develop as physicians throughout our careers.

On Saturday morning, the class of 2017 reassembled with those from the other VCU schools for the conferring of degrees and honors recognition. Honorary degrees were conferred to Mr. Bill and Mrs. Pam Royall, whose selfless giving to society and to VCU has been remarkable. Our graduates were well wished onto their next stage by Senator Tim Kaine, whose commencement speech echoed that of our faculty mentors to our students over the four years of their training: be great listeners.

All in all, it was a joyous time of reflection, of tradition and legacy, and of celebrating the great work of each and every one of you in turning out physicians who we can be proud of. To view the SOM 2017 convocation and hooding ceremony, you can watch it here: http://www.medschool.vcu.edu/gradweek2017/

Congratulations and thank you for your leadership and support in training the class of 2017 to now be today’s and tomorrow’s best doctors.

With best wishes,
Peter

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

May 15, 2017

A letter to the graduating Class of 2017

Dear Colleagues-Friends:

Today is a glorious day. Today, you wear the storied academic hood, with the proud VCU colors and the herbal green of medicine. Tomorrow, you become a physician.

You have worked so hard to get to this day. You have listened and learned, not only in Richmond, but also at the side of many of the best physicians across the Commonwealth, many of whom are your fellow VCU School of Medicine alumni. Your family and your medical school are very proud of you. Please take a few moments to be proud of yourself, and then look forward. You know as well as we do that the work – and the fulfillment – has only just begun.

On Friday May 12, Susan D. DiGiovanni, M.D., and Peter F. Buckley, M.D., sent a letter to the Class of 2017’s graduating M.D. students, congratulating them on their accomplishments.

You have chosen a profession that has great privilege but also great responsibility. You are privileged to become an important part of the lives of your patients and their families. In fact, the best doctors are like family members to their patients: each learns from and supports the other. This is true whether you are a family medicine physician who cares for patients over their lifetime or a pediatric heart surgeon who helps them through the worst possible days with great skill and compassion.

Essential to that responsibility is being a lifelong learner, eager to consume new knowledge about the body and mind, which is available today at an unprecedented pace. We sincerely hope that you will be a lifelong contributor to that knowledge as well, using your many gifts to not just repeat what others have done, but to find better ways to treat and prevent disease.

You also will be viewed as a leader in any circle you find yourself; in fact, the drive and personality that brought you to this day means you already are. Please always be mindful of this role as you work and live in your community. Show up for life and work to make a difference every day. As our Hippocratic Oath says, lead your life and practice your art with uprightness and honor.

Let part of making a difference include staying connected to your medical college to help ensure that we, like you, continue to learn, teach and lead. We are confident that, like so many alumni before you, VCU School of Medicine has given you stellar training that will stand the test of time. We anticipate, with pride, your future accomplishments, and we ask that you remain engaged with your alma mater.

Today and tomorrow, our entire community and the Commonwealth of Virginia celebrates your successes and our expectations of your great future as a physician leader.

Our best to you always,

Susan D DiGiovanni, M.D.
Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education
and Student Affairs
Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCUHS

April 13, 2017

Susan DiGiovanni, M.D., appointed Senior Associate Dean of Medical Education and Student Affairs

It is a pleasure and a privilege to announce that Susan DiGiovanni, M.D., Interim Senior Associate Dean of Medical Education and Student Affairs, will now assume the permanent role of Senior Associate Dean of Medical Education and Student Affairs. Dr. DiGiovanni has served in an interim capacity since 2015 and, among other accomplishments, she led the SOM to a highly successful, 8 year LCME reaccreditation in 2016. Dr DiGiovanni’s appointment is effective immediately.

An alumna of the VCU School of Medicine, Dr. DiGiovanni earned her medical degree in 1984 and went on to do her internal medicine and clinical nephrology training on the MCV Campus. She then joined a private practice in Harrisburg, PA, where she won teaching awards from the internal medicine training program.

Searching for larger challenges, she applied for and received an Intramural Research Training Award from the National Institutes of Health. She remained at the NIH for the next four years, publishing her work on the AQP-2 water channel in multiple journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and the American Journal of Physiology. She returned to VCU in 1995 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine. She continued to do research on the regulation of sodium and water by the kidney while developing a particular interest in teaching medical students, residents and fellows. It is in this role that she has felt the most satisfaction, gradually shifting her role from physician-scientist to physician-educator. In 1999, she became the director of the second-year Renal Course, where she has been recognized as an outstanding educator. Five years later, DiGiovanni became the program director of the Nephrology Fellowship program.

Dr. DiGiovanni has served as a mentor in the HEART program since its inception. She has served as the chair of the Admissions Committee for the School of Medicine. In 2010, she joined the Dean’s office as Assistant Dean for the Preclinical curriculum. She was actively involved in the design and implementation of the new curriculum. Dr DiGiovanni is a tireless advocate for medical education who is committed to continued innovations in our medical training.

I’m grateful to Dr. Clive Baumgarten and the other colleagues on the search committee as well as the many other colleagues on the interview panel who strongly endorsed Dr. DiGiovanni for this position.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. DiGiovanni on this well-deserved promotion.

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

March 15, 2017

Pride in our accomplishments

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

In the short few weeks that I’ve been privileged to serve as your Dean, I’m constantly reminded of the talent at VCU and of the pride we share in the many accomplishments of our colleagues.

Last week, Dr. Stephanie Call and Ms. Deborah Davis formally accepted the Baldwin Award, on behalf of all of you. As Stephanie reminded us, the concepts that the Baldwin Award stand for – humanism, excellence in care, quality, leadership as a cohesive team, life-long learning – are the same concepts that inspire us in our daily work. This pride in our caring for others is also very much in evidence among the colleagues I meet as I round on units, the operating rooms, and in the ER.

It is noteworthy that this prestigious recognition of the Baldwin Award builds upon prior and more recent accomplishments in our continued quest in delivering excellent care: the 2014 McKesson Award, more Beacon awards than any academic medical center for nursing excellence in acute care, and the 2017 VCU “Top Docs” impressive listing.

Also, last week I heard the scientific presentations of our first year graduate students. The quality of their work and appreciation of the mentorship at VCU was inspirational. Additionally, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to meet with our scientists and to read an array of published work and stellar research.

I’ve also been reaching out to our major donors and community partners. These leaders repeatedly express their gratitude for the innovative research and quality of care at VCU. Their continued support shows: Through the efforts of many, the endowment at MCV Foundation is up 8% over prior year and 70% of the total fundraising comes to the MCV campus.

This week is a special week in the life of any medical school: on Friday, approximately 216 of our talented medical students find out their fate in the 2017 Resident Match. Whether they stay here or go to another top institution for the next phase of their medical training, rest assured that they will – always – be great ambassadors for our venerable medical school. Stay tuned for the match results on Friday and/or if you have a chance, swing by the Hippodrome at 11:00 am…it will be exhilarating.

Please note that “one of our own” – Dr. Sheldon Retchin, former VP for Health Sciences at VCU Health – will be on campus next week (3/22/17 at 4:30 pm, Kontos) to deliver the inaugural Jim & Sally Warden Parrott Lecture.

I have met many of you and have enjoyed learning of your research, teaching, and/or clinical activities. I’ve also received emails from many of you too, thank you. I appreciate your insights and all that each of you do for our school.

With best wishes,
Peter

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

January 18, 2017

On Jan. 17, Peter F. Buckley, M.D., assumed his post as the 24th dean of the medical school

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

It is an immense pleasure and a privilege to serve as Dean of this great medical school.
I look forward to working closely with you and with our community to advance our missions of discovery, education, clinical care and service.  I welcome your input – now and always – and I can be reached directly at: peter.buckley@vcuhealth.org

Thank you,
Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System

Read more about Dr. Buckley’s appointment as the 24th dean of the medical school.

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