Dear Colleagues-Friends,

Last month, Learn Serve Lead 2020, the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), virtually convened more than 4,800 attendees from medical schools and teaching hospitals all across the country to discuss the continued transformation of our nation’s health care through education, research and patient care. As with most of this year’s “gatherings,” Learn Serve Lead was a different meeting because we could not be all together in person due to the pandemic. Instead of traveling to Washington, D.C., where the meeting was supposed to be held, we participated remotely from our homes or offices. The AAMC did a tremendous job converting the meeting to this format and did not miss a beat in the quality of the meeting they convened.

Throughout the course of the meeting, there were some terrific national speakers who reflected all that 2020 has brought to our doorsteps. Drs. Francis Collins, Anne Shuchat and Anthony Fauci spoke about the pandemic, of course, and the breakthrough research on the COVID-19 virus, along with the imminent development of a vaccine. Dr. Imbrahim Kendi, the author of How to Be an Antiracist and a cancer survivor, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and writer for the 1619 Project, offered compelling perspectives on race and inequities in society and health care. Ms. Anne Curry provided her perspective on polarizing narratives and looking for humanity in the most difficult of circumstances. During the meeting, the AAMC also recognized the tragic loss of our alumna, Dr. Lorna Breen, and the non-profit her family established in her memory to combat physician suicide. In addition, our own Dr. John Bigbee was honored with a national teaching award from the AAMC – way to go, John!

Even with the very different virtual format, we had outstanding participation in the meeting. More than 30 colleagues from our medical school, VCU Health and the VCU Inova Campus were in attendance. Our Admissions team staffed a well-attended virtual career fair and fielded a great deal of interest in our medical school from prospective students. I had the privilege to moderate a session on the opioid crisis in the context of the isolation the pandemic has brought with authors Beth Macy and Travis Rieder, where we delved into the disconnected approach to dealing with addiction.

Additionally, we had quite a “presence” with our acceptances in medical education research. Many of the projects were presented online, and we congratulate our colleagues on their work. A complete list of projects accepted for Learn Serve Lead 2020 is attached.

We would also like to recognize our many colleagues who have served academic medicine through leadership roles in the AAMC over the past year:

  • Dr. Donna Jackson, Group on Student Affairs (GSA) National Committee on Student Diversity Affairs (COSDA) representative and liaison to the GSA National Committee on Student Financial Assistance (COSFA)
  • Dr. Nicole Deiorio, academic medicine reviewer and Entrustable Professional Activities (EPA) pilot member on the VCU team
  • Dr. Alan Dow, member of the Council of Faculty and Academic Societies (CFAS) Administrative Board and chair of the Communications Committee
  • Kathy Kreutzer, associate editor for the Faculty Development and the Virtual Learning Collection, MedEdPORTAL
  • Dr. Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, member of the AMCAS Admissions Advisory Committee
  • Dr. Mike Ryan, EPA pilot member and cross-continuum consultant for the AAMC
  • Dr. Jean Bailey, member of the Southern Group on Education Affairs (SGEA) and chair of its Faculty Development in Medical Education special interest group; Program Planning Committee member

Further, we were extremely proud that our very own Natalia O’Brien, administrative and program specialist in our Office of Student Outreach and accomplished violinist, played with the National Virtual Medical Orchestra as part of the opening session for one of the meeting days.

We also enjoyed other music in medicine performances, including Voices of Service, a military veterans group that helped highlight the upcoming 75th anniversary of the academic medicine–VA relationship in January, about which we are very excited.

As you know from your own activities and presentations at national organizations and conferences, opportunities like these are immeasurably important in augmenting the national reputation of our School of Medicine and of VCU and help advance our development as professionals in academic medicine. Many thanks to all who participated during what has been a most challenging year.

With every good wish for your continued good work,

Pter F. Buckley, M.D.; Dean, VCU School of Medicine; Executive vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System