For the fourth time, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine received INSIGHT into Diversity magazine’s Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will be featured, along with 45 other recipients, in the December 2020 issue of the magazine, which is the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

In September, Virginia Tech received a HEED award from the magazine. This second distinction for the medical school is specific for health profession colleges.

“We are thankful to be recognized for the work we do every day to actively promote an environment of inclusiveness and mutual respect within the school and our broader community,” said Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

Over the last decade, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine has heightened its focus on diversity, particularly among the student body. About 22 percent of students are from ethnic or racial minorities; another 22 percent are considered low-income; and 18 percent are first-generation college students.

This summer, Learman formed the InclusiveVTCSOM task force to further the medical school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. The task force has seven working groups – composed of students, faculty, staff, and community members – focused on both phases of the curriculum; student support; community engagement; admissions; faculty and staff recruitment, development, and retention; and the learning and working environment. This fall, each group will provide feedback and ideas to the task force’s co-chairs for a final report and recommendations in December.

In addition, a group of students asked the medical school to financially support a project or initiative in the community that was antiracist in nature. The medical school partnered with Carilion Clinic to provide funds for an urban arts project end racism now mural.

In addition to ongoing pathway programs to recruit diverse students, such as an Early Identification Program, Health Professions Enrichment Program, and Within Reach, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine began a new program for Virginia Tech undergraduates in 2020. The MEDS Experience (Medical Exposure for Diverse Students) recruits first-year Virginia Tech students who are members of groups that are underrepresented in medicine who are planning to pursue careers in medicine and research. The weekend experience aims to expand the students’ networks and increase their awareness of opportunities in health professions, particularly the path to become a physician.

VTCSOM MEDS experience program participants use anatomage table
Andre Dean (top left), media specialist for VTCSOM, and Angelica Witcher, director of student affairs, show MEDS Experience participants how to use the medical school's anatomage table. (Photo taken in February 2020, prior to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.)

“This program allows us to give young undergraduates a deep dive into the medical profession and also showcase our wonderful school and health system partner,” said Karen Eley Sanders, chief diversity officer for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “We hope our participants will leave the weekend energized to pursue a healthcare or research career and that they may consider us as a place to achieve that goal.”

The medical school also hosts regular diversity programs and lunch-and-learn sessions open to all faculty, staff, and students. Often, the community is invited to engage in the sessions as well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the programming switched to virtual offerings.