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School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

February 12, 2018

Appointment of Tom Yackel, M.D., as president of MCV Physicians

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

Tom Yackel, M.D.

Tom Yackel, M.D.

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Tom Yackel, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., as president of MCV Physicians, the faculty practice plan of VCU Health. He will also serve as senior associate dean for clinical affairs in the VCU School of Medicine.
Dr. Yackel will serve collaboratively in our well-integrated and matrixed team as a member of our senior leadership. In this role as a strategic and collaborative physician executive, he will lead MCVP in managing and growing our clinical enterprise, while embracing and supporting the entirety of our academic mission.

He comes to us from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland where he most recently served as vice president and chief clinical integration officer for OHSU Healthcare and associate dean for the clinical practice in the OHSU School of Medicine.
“Dr. Yackel’s recruitment is the result of a highly competitive national search,” said Marsha Rappley, M.D., chief executive officer of the VCU Health System and VCU vice president for health sciences. “He is the first-ever external recruitment to this position, and he follows in the steps of physicians who have come up through the ranks and done exceptional jobs leading MCVP.”

Deborah Davis, CEO of VCU Health System Hospitals and Clinics, noted “Dr. Yackel’s long tenure at Oregon and the breadth of his experience in several leadership positions contributed to an exceptionally well-run health system and have well equipped him for this role.”

Dr. Yackel brings a passion for mentoring junior colleagues, and he is a strong advocate for the role of evidence-based practice. His published academic contributions chronicle OHSU’s clinical innovations, and we look forward to his partnership to similarly raise the profile of our efforts at VCU Health.

Dr. Yackel joined OHSU in 2000 and was named chief health information officer in 2008. He built the department of clinical informatics, successfully deploying the Epic electronic health record in the hospital and 65 ambulatory clinics. Under his leadership, OHSU was the first hospital in Oregon to qualify for the Meaningful Use program and the OHSU Faculty Practice was the top UHC hospital for Meaningful Use. In 2015, he created the department of clinical integration and evidence-based practice to leverage the academic center’s unique contributions to medicine across OHSU’s clinical partners. He has participated in numerous payor-partnerships and led his institution’s accountable care organization.

Dr. Yackel graduated from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 1996, earning both a medical degree and a Master of Public Health focusing on healthcare administration and management. He continued his training as a primary care internal medicine resident at GW and served as chief resident. In 2002 he completed a fellowship and Master of Science in medical informatics at OHSU. He is a practicing primary care internist and is board certified in internal medicine and clinical informatics. In June 2018, he will graduate from the OHSU Healthcare MBA program.

He will succeed John Ward, M.D., M.S.H.A., who has provided stellar leadership of MCVP for two four-year terms in an era that has seen unprecedented growth in our health system. His breadth of knowledge, wisdom and willingness to be a great partner to all of us has been a vital part of that growth. We are fortunate that Dr. Ward will remain on the clinical faculty where he will continue to lead by example – as he has done throughout his tenure as MCVP president – and will maintain an active practice in neurosurgery. We are also grateful that we all can continue to benefit from his mentorship and senior leadership.

We thank Laurence J. DiNardo, M.D., chair of the Department of Otolaryngology, and David P. Chelmow, M.D., chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, along with the other members of the search committee for their service in this process. In addition, the administrative leadership of Ms. Maria Carlton, VCU Health’s director of human resources, and MCVP’s Ms. Anne Bonnevie was invaluable. We also appreciate the contributions of the MCVP board members who were involved in Dr. Yackel’s recruitment and selection. His appointment was ratified by the MCVP board at their meeting on February 7, and Dr. Rappley will seek approval of the VCU Health System Board of Directors this coming March. Dr. Yackel will begin his new role on April 2.

Warm regards,

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

January 19, 2018

Appointment of Gordon Smith, M.D. as Chair of Neurology

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

Gordon Smith, M.D.

Gordon Smith, M.D.

We are pleased to announce the appointment of A. Gordon Smith, M.D., F.A.A.N., who will serve as the chairman of the Department of Neurology.

With distinguished accomplishments in the missions of teaching, research and clinical care, Dr. Smith’s breadth of experience and national stature will serve him well in his new role. We look forward to his contributions as a leader in the department as well as in support of our broader neuroscience program and in our community.

Dr. Smith has most recently served as professor of neurology and vice chair for research at the University of Utah, where he also is chief of the division of neuromuscular medicine and director of the Jack H. Petajan EMG Laboratory.

Dr. Smith’s research team focuses on peripheral neuropathy in diabetes and obesity. He has a particular interest in biomarker development and novel clinical trial design in peripheral neuropathy, a condition resulting from damage to the peripheral nervous system and causing weakness, numbness and pain.

He has led and participated in numerous clinical trials in neuromuscular disorders as well as in NeuroNEXT, the Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials that is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Serving on the network’s executive committee, Dr. Smith is principal investigator of the TopCSPN trial, the first large scale randomized trial of a treatment to alter the natural history of cryptogenic sensory peripheral neuropathy, one of the most common neurological disorders.

Dr. Smith serves on the board of directors of the American Academy of Neurology and is chair of its education committee. He is active in the Peripheral Nerve Society, where he is a former member of the board of directors, and currently serves as the secretary on the American Brain Foundation’s board of trustees.

A native of Richmond, Dr. Smith earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and his medical degree from the Mayo Medical School. He completed his neurology residency and a neuromuscular fellowship at the University of Michigan.

Our thanks go to the committee, led by Alex Valadka, M.D., to our community partners and leaders, our Neurology team, and to Jean Baumgartner, M.A., in the medical school’s Office of Faculty Affairs, for all their collective work and support in this successful national search.

This was an institutional search, with full support of our university and our health system.

“We are committed to building on our academic strengths, with neurosciences, addictions and mental health being a prominent strategic focus for us,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and VCU Health System. It is anticipated that Dr. Smith, in collaboration with other leaders on campus, will recruit new talent to advance our neurosciences, both in research and in clinical specialty services.

“I’m excited by the excellent outcome of this collaborative search for this stellar clinical and academic leader,” said Deborah Davis, CEO of VCU Health System Hospitals and Clinics. “And I deeply appreciate Scott A. Vota, D.O., who dedicatedly served as interim chair of the department over the past four years.”

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Smith to our medical school and “back home” to Richmond with his wife, Emily, and boys, Sam and Ben. Gordon will join our medical school this spring.

Warm regards,

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

January 9, 2018

New Year’s greeting and message from SOM Dean

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better person.” –Benjamin Franklin

Dear Colleagues-Friends,

I hope that you and your families enjoyed the holidays and that you were not unduly disrupted by the exceptionally inclement weather that has brought us into 2018.

As I mentioned in my pre-holiday note, we have much to be pleased about from 2017 and to be grateful for. As we begin 2018, it is noteworthy that for the first time ever, the number of women enrolling in U.S. medical schools has exceeded the number of men in 2017, with females accounting for 50.7% of matriculants. We should truly celebrate how diverse we have become, not just in gender, but importantly also in race, creed, sexual orientation and ever-more-important in the greater representation of the diversity of our opinions. Diversity without inclusion is a missed opportunity and represents a flawed environment. To that end, we must strive in 2018 for a more diverse and inclusive environment. As 2017 drew to a close, I was heartened by a compelling NYT article by Tom Brokaw, celebrating how diverse and inclusive our healthcare and training environment really is. You can read this powerful article online.

I also read a not-so-flattering article about sexual harassment and intolerance in higher education. You can read this disturbing article online.

On reflection, 2017 was noteworthy for much social turmoil, intolerance of differences, and, more accordingly, for the acknowledgement and disavowment of sexual harassment. As we begin 2018, we must affirm our commitment to respect, to human dignity, and to intolerance of any forms of discrimination and/or harassment. Our work in academic medicine is noble and it is vital. We have much to accomplish in 2018, including that we ensure respect for each other, our patients, and our community.

It is a time of great promise for our medical school. In 2018, new trainees will come here. Also, our graduates of the class of 2018 will go forth to give great care all across America. New faculty will also join us to advance our research, aid in our discoveries, train our students and residents and alongside us they will care for our patients. You will help bring new babies into the world, you will save lives, and you will cure some patients’ cancer. Collectively, we will practice quality and safe medicine with a degree of team cohesion and skills that are truly awesome. Our great faculty will undoubtedly receive many national accolades for their/your work. (P.S. we know that already – we are embargoed from mentioning several wonderful recognitions that are “in the works for 2018” – more to follow!) The promise of your work will also bring new competitive grants and new philanthropic donations to advance all our missions. And we will do just that… and we will be an even better school in 2018.

I thank each and every one of you for your commitment to our school in 2018 and I also thank you for your commitment to be exemplary role models for all of us. I pledge the same to you.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not remind us all of a simple, yet glorious historical fact: Our medical school, the founding school of VCU, celebrates 180 years in 2018!

What a great legacy and what a compelling future.

Let’s make it a year to remember.

With best wishes for 2018,

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

December 18, 2017

End of Year Message from SOM Dean — Happy Holidays to you and yours

“To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” – gift suggestions from Oren Arnold

Dear Colleagues-Friends:

The closing of one year and beginning of another is always a time for reflection. At our medical school, we have much to be grateful for and much to celebrate over a year of impressive accomplishments. As I close out what is almost my first full year of serving as your dean, I would like to reflect on some of your impressive contributions.

The school’s long legacy is the foundation for today’s momentum. We can point to some well-known firsts that continue to give us reason to celebrate. The Massey Cancer Center was the state’s first center to earn National Cancer Institute designation. It was renewed for the 42nd year in July 2017 because Massey continues to make important advances – like being the first in the world to successfully implant a bio-absorbable, internal radiation device known as CivaSheet to treat early stage pancreatic cancer.

This month, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the first organ transplant in Virginia, a kidney transplant conducted by Dr. David Hume from one identical twin to another. Today, the VCU Hume-Lee Transplant Center is the longest-running clinical transplant center in the country and performed its 5,000th surgery in May. They’re still “first in second chances”!

In 1918, MCV opened its doors to women, and Mary Baughman was among the first to walk through. She became widely known for her advocacy for women’s rights and paved the way for other women – like the 372 who are on faculty in the medical school today and like Marsha Rappley, M.D., who set a first for VCU in serving as chair of the board of directors for the Association of American Medical Colleges over this past year. Also this year, we marked 25 years for WISDM, the faculty organization that seeks to further the professional goals of women physicians, scientists and dentists, including alumnae Susan DiGiovanni, M’84, H’87, F’89, and Betsy Ripley, M’86, H’89, F’92, who was the latest in many peers to be selected for a national fellowship for leaders in academic medicine.

Our Class of 2017 was the first to graduate under our team-based patient-centered curriculum and was the first to complete all four years in the new McGlothlin Medical Education Center. On the national medical licensing exams, they delivered remarkable scores and produced outstanding results on Match Day: 99 percent matched to a residency training program – many to one of their top choices – in the largest and most competitive residency match ever. I was especially pleased to see nearly three dozen students match to VCU Health for all or part of their residency. They are training in an environment recognized as exemplary earlier this year with the Baldwin award – a highly coveted national honor that we received in recognition of the professionalism of our residents and our health system’s excellence in care, quality and training.

One of the best evidences of a medical school’s success is in the lives of its graduates and trainees – some of whom continue to work side by side with us here on campus. You’ll be as proud as we are to know Colleen Kraft, M’86, H’89, will soon become president of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Jack Ende, M’73, leads the American College of Physicians; Katherine Dec, H’93, is president of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine; Alex Valadka, H’93, is president of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons; and Darryl Kaelin, H’95, was elected president of the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. And we’ve got a current student following in their footsteps: M.D.-Ph.D. student Audra Iness will take the helm of the American Physician Scientist Association in the spring.

We also congratulate other award winners who include: Arun Sanyal, H’90, honored by the American Liver Foundation with its 2017 Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award; Bruce Rubin, M.D., M.Engr., M.B.A., recipient of the Prix Galien Award for Best Collaboration with Academia Leading to a Breakthrough Solution; and Aradhana Bela Sood, M.D., M.S.H.A., honored at the American India Foundation’s Virginia Chapter for her service with the juvenile justice system and career in child and adolescent mental health. We also salute neurosurgeon Harold F. Young, M.D., who was honored by the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award presented by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation for serving as an example to us all in his care of patients and their families.

While these are just a few of high-profile positions that made the headlines in 2017, there are so many other things that you all have achieved, and we sincerely thank each and every one of you. We take immense pride in knowing the varied and vital ways you are making a difference in your communities and fields every day. These past accomplishments and aspirations for the future are why faculty, residents, students and staff choose to join us and contribute to the powerful impact of our medical school.

My wife Leonie and I will enjoy our first holiday season among the Richmond community. We are most grateful for the warm welcome during 2017, and we look forward to a busy and productive 2018.

I know you share our excitement for what’s to come.

As 2017 draws to a close, please take the opportunity in this holiday season to enjoy time with your family and friends. All your hard work and dedication throughout the year is much appreciated.

Happy holidays to you and yours,

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

December 11, 2017

Appointment of Tom Maness, M.P.A., as associate dean for development

Dear Colleagues-Friends:

I am tremendously pleased to announce the appointment of Tom Maness, M.P.A., who will serve as the medical school’s associate dean for development. He will join the medical school on January 29, 2018.

Tom Maness, M.P.A.

Tom Maness, M.P.A.

Mr. Maness brings a depth of experience to this role, having worked for 20 years in the philanthropy field and most particularly at academic medical centers including New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Most recently he has served for more than four years as associate vice president for annual, major and planned giving at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

At Children’s National, he was part of a team that led an effort to double annual philanthropy. He also has extensive experience in enhancing and expanding grateful patient and family programs through partnership with physicians and other health care providers.

Mr. Maness has a true enthusiasm for philanthropy – which he describes as a marriage of science and art that’s put to use in developing, cultivating and closing gifts that can transform an institution. He prioritizes understanding an institution’s vision, creating smooth working relationships across the organization and listening to alumni and grateful patients. A track record evidences his success in matching donors and their interests to the needs of medical schools and health systems.

The School of Medicine is currently in a campaign to raise $300 million in support of a life-changing learning experience for students, exceptional care for the sick and a curiosity for medical research and discovery. With about 70 percent raised toward our goal, Mr. Maness’s experience in planning and executing large fundraising campaigns will lead us to a strong finish that builds on the productivity of the development office’s operation, advances the generosity of its alumni base and expands our grateful patient program.

Mr. Maness succeeds Tom Holland, who retired this year from his more than 28-year tenure at VCU during which he served the School of Medicine and the VCU Health System.

I appreciate the work of the search committee, led by John E. Nestler, M.D., the William Branch Porter Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, and Samantha Marrs, senior associate vice president for development operations in the VCU Office of Development and Alumni Relations. We are also grateful for the input of Chris Ritrievi, VCU senior associate vice president for campaign leadership and constituency relations, our MCV Foundation and VCUHS leadership, our alumni and donors, departmental chairs and our development team throughout the search process.

Please join me in welcoming Mr. Maness to the medical school!

Warm regards,

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

December 5, 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

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

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:


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.
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCUHS

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