Dear colleagues,

As we end another challenging year, I want to thank everyone for all that you do every day and commend the professional way in which you take care of our patients, our learners and each other. While most of us conduct ourselves in ways that promote a positive learning and working environment, we have had some recent issues in our labs, clinical spaces and classrooms that warrant a reminder about the expectations for professional behavior.

A positive learning environment creates a safe space where learners are comfortable asking questions, thereby gaining the knowledge and skills needed to maximize patient outcomes and achieve excellence in every aspect of our mission.

Behaving in a professional manner is fundamentally important to our tripartite missions of education and training, research and patient care of the School of Medicine. To cultivate and maintain a positive, inclusive learning and working environment, professionalism needs to be consistently modeled throughout all School of Medicine and VCU Health spaces. It is imperative that respect for all learners, faculty, staff and other members of our community is demonstrated in all that we do. This is not just an important LCME accreditation standard to meet, it is a central part of our mission that frames our work and defines who we are.

Some examples of professional behaviors include when individuals

  • Recognize their positions as role models for others in all settings.
  • Carry out educational, clinical and research responsibilities in a conscientious manner.
  • Treat everyone in the SOM community with sensitivity to diversity in culture, age, gender, ability, social and economic status, sexual orientation and other personal characteristics without discrimination, bias or harassment.
  • Maintain patient, research subject and student confidentiality.
  • Be mindful of the limits of one’s knowledge and abilities as well as seek and accept help from others whenever appropriate.
  • Abide by accepted ethical standards in teaching, scholarship, research and patient care.
  • Abide by the guidelines of the VCU Honor System.

Recently, a group of faculty, students, trainees, administrators, and staff across the SOM and VCUHS convened to share what we are doing to promote, monitor and address professionalism in the SOM and SOM learning environment, identify key areas for improvement and discuss how the SOM Professionalism Committee can support these efforts. In addition, the medical education team has developed a new process for recognizing professionalism exemplars, and reporting concerns within the learning environment, ensuring a timely response to reported concerns. While the Office of Medical Education is working diligently to ensure our school has clear processes for feedback on the learning environments, creating a positive learning environment requires positive engagement by every person with whom we interact every day.

We are excited that the 2023 Health Sciences Education Symposium will focus on the theme of Redefining Professionalism to Foster Positive Learning Environments. The conference will be held be held Thursday, March 23 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and proposals are being accepted through January 9, 2023 at 11:59pm.

Your participation in events like this one is critical to fostering a culture of professionalism and a positive learning and working environment for the entire School of Medicine community and to our long-term success as an institution. Thank you for all you do as we continue to strive for excellence and professionalism in all facets of our medical school.


David P. Chelmow, M.D. - Interim Dean, VCU School of Medicine; Interim Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health