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School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

November 20, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”     –John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

As we pause in our busy schedules to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives, let us include and be thankful for our medical students, residents, faculty, staff and our leadership.

Many thanks to all of you for your commitment, leadership and support of our School of Medicine.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Warm regards,

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

November 9, 2017

Pride in our accomplishments: our faculty highlighted at national conference

This past weekend, the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges brought together 4,500 attendees from medical schools and teaching hospitals all across the country to discuss the transformation of our nation’s health care through education, research and patient care. I was extremely proud that colleagues from our medical school and from VCU Health had prominent leadership roles and key presentations at this AAMC meeting. Our colleagues represented with distinction and pride the high quality medical education that you all deliver on the MCV Campus.

Chief among our presenters was Marsha Rappley, M.D. In addition to serving as our vice president for health sciences and CEO of the VCU Health System, Dr. Rappley served this year as chair of the AAMC board of directors. In that distinguished role, Dr. Rappley shared the stage with AAMC president and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., and she gave an outstanding Nov. 5 keynote address.

Dr. Rappley challenged an audience of academic leaders across U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals to ensure access to medical education, research and care for all by addressing the issue of cost – cost both for our students and for our patients. You can read or watch her presentation online.

Other colleagues were also recognized at AAMC for their leadership and contributions. Craig Cheifetz, M.D., was honored by the AAMC for his exemplary service in fostering information sharing, communication and discussion of key issues relating to regional medical campuses. Alan Dow, M.D., serves on the advisory board of the Council on Faculty and Academic Societies, and was active on two of its subcommittees. Teresa Knott, M.L.S., director of the Tompkins-McCaw Library, represented us as one of five mentors in a leadership fellows program affiliated with the AAMC, and Amy Grover, M.D., who is associate director for the general surgery residency program, was active in the Group on Women in Medicine and Science. We also had representation on the Council of Deans administrative board, where I lead the Council of Deans fellowship program.

In addition to this presence, our faculty gave important presentations. As an example, Chris Woleben, M.D., who serves as board chair of the Electronic Residency Application Service, shared data on the current ERAS application cycle. He also presented preliminary findings from a working group that’s conducting research on the use of standardized video interviews for applicants to emergency medicine residency programs showing the SVI does not discriminate amongst applicants based on gender, race or ethnicity. It was also gratifying that Sally Santen, M.D., Ph.D., our newly arrived senior associate dean, had nearly a dozen meeting contributions to her credit. The topics reflected her broad interests, ranging from USMLE Step 1 performance to a competency-based fourth year. We also had the opportunity to highlight VCU Health’s selection as a 2017 Baldwin Awardee and our research work investigating vitamin C as a treatment for sepsis.

These collective contributions were also recognized at a VCU School of Medicine reception on Nov. 4. There, our alumni gathered with peers from the AAMC and other medical schools. Dr. Rappley and Ms. Deborah Davis, CEO of VCU Health System Hospitals and Clinics, both spoke to the impressive culture of innovation at VCU. Our distinguished alumnus Dr. Chris Colenda, of the Class of 1977 who also currently serves as a special AAMC liaison with the VA, spoke on behalf of our alumni and he expressed his pride in our accomplishments and in the prominence of our School of Medicine. I’m grateful to Ms. Priscilla Wiggin for providing this special opportunity to interact with our alumni.

As you know from your own activities and presentations at national organizations and conferences, opportunities like these are immeasurably important in raising the profile of our School of Medicine.

My compliments to all on such a great showing for our school!

Warm regards,

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

October 25, 2017

Appointment of Sally Santen, M.D., Ph.D.

Dear Colleagues,

Sally Santeen

Sally Santen, M.D., Ph.D.

I am delighted to announce the appointment of Sally Santen, M.D., Ph.D., who will serve as the medical school’s senior associate dean for evaluation, assessment and scholarship of learning.

She has an enthusiasm for helping other faculty advance their skills as well as for the use of evaluation and assessment in the area of medical education and health. This will be a great benefit to the medical school, and we are looking forward to her energy and new ideas.

Leading the Office of Evaluation, Assessment and Scholarship of Learning in Health Care, Dr. Santen will advance and improve our commitment to lifelong learning, which is a core tenet in the medical field. In her role, she will provide leadership and support to our faculty and programs by bringing creative assessment, evaluation and new approaches to medical education, research development and health care across the continuum – from medical students to practicing physicians.

Dr. Santen brings a wealth of experience, having most recently served as the University of Michigan’s assistant dean for educational research and quality improvement since 2011. With the support of a five-year $1.1 million grant from the American Medical Association, she was co-principal investigator on an initiative to transform the medical school curriculum.

She has published extensively on medical education innovations and research. Her publications include responsible and trustworthy trainee handovers from medical school to residency, moving the national Step 1 medical licensing exam to after clerkships, and the assessment of medical students and residents.

An emergency medicine physician by training, Dr. Santen also was associate chair of education in the Department of Emergency Medicine at U-M. In 2016, she was nationally recognized with the Hal Jayne Excellence in Education Award from the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine for her outstanding contributions to emergency medicine through the teaching of others and the improvement of pedagogy.

Prior to joining U-M, Dr. Santen was on faculty at Emory University and at Vanderbilt University. She earned her M.D. from the George Washington University School of Medicine, her Ph.D. from the Vanderbilt Peabody School of Education and completed a residency in emergency medicine at the George Washington/Georgetown hospitals.

A special thank you to School of Medicine academic leaders Susan Digiovanni, M.D., Betsy Ripley, M.D., and Paul Mazmanian, Ph.D., for their good work in recruiting Dr. Santen onto our team.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Santen to our medical school!

Warm regards,

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

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

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