Dear Colleagues-Friends,

Last Friday, we sent off our Class of 2021, graduating our M.D., Ph.D., master’s and certificate students. It was a day of untraditional traditions as we hosted both our Advanced Degree Recognition and M.D. Hooding ceremonies both in person and online. After more than a year of necessary distance, it was heartening to be able to congratulate many of our graduates face to face on their achievements and perseverance during this time of great disruption while their friends, family, colleagues and mentors celebrated virtually.

The ups and downs, triumphs and tribulations of the last year are a defining chapter in the stories of our recent graduates. And as our hooding speaker, Dr. Jonathan Perlin, told our newest physicians, “As a class, you now have a shared and indelible narrative that will bind you forever.”

During his compelling remarks, Dr. Perlin, who is a nationally regarded health care leader and distinguished VCU alum, emphasized the importance of narrative, empathy and presence in connecting “the science of medicine with the art of healing.”

“The best clinicians are armed not only with scientific fact but are fully present with their patients to really hear the patient’s story,” Perlin said. “And, similarly, the best clinicians cultivate empathy, not just as a humanistic trait, but also as a resource for effectively communicating the patient’s narrative to others.”

Our graduates go out into the world as new physicians and scientists ready to leverage both their skills and humanity to tackle our communities’ biggest problems. They are undertaking some of the most challenging roles in our society during extremely difficult times. However, they are ready to make their mark, ready to take excellent care of patients and ready to solve the most vexing problems. This is something M.D. Class President Dhruv Sethi confirmed during his farewell address when he said, “As our society continues to change and adapt, our role remains firm, and I have no doubt that we have been prepared to do so – to treat those around us fairly, equally and kindly, regardless of background, race, religion or gender.”

We are so proud of and grateful for all our faculty and staff who have helped prepare these students for their new roles through teaching, mentoring and other myriad ways. You have supported these students throughout their education from when they were applying to our programs and first arrived on our campus, through the ups and downs of being a student, to now when we recognize their accomplishments. We thank you for all you have done for these graduates and continue to do for our current and future students.

We offer our heartfelt congratulations to our newest alumni and look forward to celebrating all they will accomplish in their careers as medical doctors and scientists.

With all good wishes,

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