Dear Colleagues-Friends,

Spring is always a welcome time on our campus with many rituals, including commencement, Match Day, and of course, the MCV Campus Reunion Weekend for alums of all the health science schools. The COVID-19 pandemic once again made it impossible to hold an in-person event, but VCU Alumni and our Med-Health Development team hosted four days of virtual events that provided a celebration for School of Medicine alums.

From musical performances to campus tours, our first-ever virtual Reunion Weekend provided a venue for alums to express their deep appreciation of their medical school as well as for us to offer them a look at how we are moving forward.

Saturday evening class parties are always a favorite – even when those gatherings take place online – and we hosted alums from coast to coast as well as from Alaska, Hawaii and New Zealand. I had the pleasure and privilege of leading a session in which we shared updates on our school’s progress as well as a faculty panel discussing the impact of COVID-19, health disparities and physician and student wellness. Thank you to Drs. Gonzalo Bearman, Rob Winn and Aimee Grover for providing our alums with valuable insights that we hope will be helpful in their own communities and practices.

Even in this unusual year, reunion is a time when alums look to the legacy they want to leave and – to the great benefit of our students – they again chose to support scholarships with gifts made through the Reunion Class Giving program. In fact, an alum from the Class of 1971 – so pleased with how our faculty and students have managed through this pandemic – announced on Saturday (immediately after our engaging faculty panel) that he would mark the 50th anniversary of his graduation with a $50,000 gift in support of scholarships!

Support like that has had an extraordinary impact for our students. Over the course of VCU’s Make It Real campaign that ended last summer, nearly 900 alums made gifts with the goal of reducing the financial debt our stellar students bear. The campaign raised $27 million for medical student scholarships, creating 78 new endowed scholarships and increasing the size of another 50 existing funds through new gifts. As a result, the average scholarship award is $9,754 today, and 13 students now receive full-tuition scholarships, compared to just one at the start of campaign.

Scholarships are a crucial factor in helping students earn their medical degrees. Financial assistance has been the key to opening the door for students who face difficult challenges as they work toward their dream of becoming physicians. It is inspiring to see how many of our alums have given scholarship support to our students, and we so appreciate this as well as the opportunity to show them how their school is meeting and overcoming the challenges of an unprecedented time in modern medical history.

Thanks to all our alums who participated and to the Med-Health and VCU Alumni teams – particularly Jodi Smith, Laura Renaud and Lynn Meyer – for figuring out how to host an engaging reunion via Zoom!

With all good wishes,

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