Members of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s Class of 2019 will soon graduate and head off to competitive residency programs around the country, but they are leaving behind a gift of thanks.

All 37 members of the class contributed to their class gift, which raised funds for the Founding Dean Cynda Ann Johnson Vision Fund. The fund was established soon after Johnson announced plans to retire last year as the medical school’s founding dean. The fund will provide resources to continue evolving the school’s innovative curriculum and entrepreneurial program that Johnson pioneered for VTC School of Medicine.

“We began brainstorming ideas for a class gift soon after Dr. Johnson announced her plans to retire,” said Andrew Barr, president of the VTCSOM Class of 2019. “After conversations and a class-wide survey, it became clear pretty quickly that our class wanted to honor Dr. Johnson's unique contributions to our school and the values she has instilled in all of us with a gift to the Vision Fund.”

Barr set a goal for each person to give a gift prior to Match Day, when the class learned where each person is headed for residency. The Match Day planning committee had secretly invited Johnson as a speaker to surprise the class. Then the class had the opportunity to surprise Johnson with the news that 100 percent of the class contributed to her vision fund.

“The school gave us the incredible gift of not only outstanding medical education, but also a gift that some may argue is equally valuable, and that would be continuous support and undoubtable lifelong mentorship,” said Amie Calimlim, member of the Class of 2019. “As Dean Cynda Johnson went into retirement, we felt it was only necessary to honor her for her dedication and passion toward making us incredible physicians, and I feel the 100 percent participation shows that the class is united in this thought.”

"I was so surprised and honored to be asked to be the speaker for the class’ private Match Day ceremony. After my speech, they called me up again to announce the class gift. I was touched beyond belief,” said Johnson, who retired at the end of 2018. “One of the things I loved most about VTCSOM is the small class size, which allowed me to get to know the students on a personal level. I think that was evident through the Class of 2019 gift. Rather than a physical retirement gift, this is much more meaningful and lasting. The fund will live on for years to come, allowing the deans after me more flexibility to keep making this medical school better and better.”

The Class of 2019 continued a tradition started by the two classes before them. Both the Classes of 2017 and 2018 at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine had every member of the classes contribute to a class gift. The Class of 2017 supported the school’s clinical science curriculum, while the Class of 2018 contributed a HokieBird statue to have on display in the medical school as a tribute to the school’s integration into the university soon after the class graduated.

The Class of 2019 was able to break the news about their class gift on Match Day in mid-March, while the two classes before them had to wait until graduation week.

“I believe that unique culture that Dr. Johnson built here motivated everyone in our class to donate to the Vision Fund and is why I was so honored and excited to announce to Dr. Johnson and the VTCSOM community on Match Day that we were able to achieve that goal,” Barr said.

“As we go to our respective residencies across the nation and begin practicing, we not only hope to show the physicians who came before us the remarkable things we are capable of, but also to show those who come after us what they can do too. Hopefully the founding Dean Johnson fund can help them a little along the way,” Calimlim said.