Happy New Year, everyone!
A new year is a time for resolutions, and as we consider the year ahead, one of mine is to be better at acknowledging people who are working hard and accomplishing tremendous things. First, I’m very grateful for all the kind emails, texts and phone calls welcoming me, and am looking forward to working with all of you. Thank you all for your support and offers of help as I start in this new role and we work together to keep the School of Medicine moving forward during the upcoming leadership transitions. Those of you who have worked with me before know that I will take you up on your offers.
Next, on behalf of the School of Medicine, I thank Dr. Peter Buckley, whose leadership as dean over the last five years is deeply appreciated. Dr. Buckley not only led the school of medicine through the pandemic, but also served as the interim chief executive officer for VCU Health and senior vice president for health sciences. We offer our gratitude to him and wish him the best as he steps into his new role as chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. We also need to thank Dr. Betsy Ripley, who will inaugurate the role of vice dean for the School of Medicine. In this new role, she will help expand the capabilities of the dean’s office in executing new initiatives and have a key role in this current time of transition. Our appreciation also goes to Dr. Christine Isaacs, who is stepping in as interim chair of the Department of OB/GYN. The department was just recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a best hospital for maternity care. I’m looking forward to seeing how much further it advances under her leadership.
The new year is also a time of beginning and reflection. However, in the academic calendar it is the middle of the year, and our activities have been in progress for at least six months. The priority for my interim role will be to keep these many projects and initiatives moving:
- Under Dr. Buckley’s leadership and with your help, the strategic plan has been developed and now needs to be finalized and implemented.
- Diversity and inclusive excellence have been front and center over the past two years, drawing energy from events locally and across the country. Our work together here will continue as a key priority.
- Basic health sciences research and education are essential to the mission of the medical school. We will continue to work on a long-term solution to the Sanger Hall infrastructure problems and to strengthen our BHS departments.
- Our next LCME accreditation study year starts this year, with the site visit in 2024. Doing well at our next accreditation is enormously important, and preparation will be a focus for all of us this year.
- Working and learning during the pandemic has been tremendously difficult. We will continue to enhance our supports for addressing stress and ensuring wellness.
All of these things are too important to be slowed by a single leadership transition, and as interim dean I will work to ensure continued progress on these endeavors. We want to make sure our focus does not wane, and we continue our work to make VCU the best place to learn, research, work and obtain medical care for all of us.
Another priority is to ensure the medical school continues to thrive in order to attract top dean candidates. The School of Medicine has successfully recruited many deans since its founding in 1838. It is going to do so again. Sometime in the not distant future, I expect to hand over the office to a gifted, energetic, national-caliber permanent dean for whom we will all be excited to work.
Please join me in welcoming this new year as a time when we succeed in learning, educating and advancing medicine, science and health together.