Dear colleagues,

Today, we have the pleasure of welcoming our newest graduate students into our classrooms and labs. We are thrilled to have them join our learning and research community, and we look forward to the influx of energy and new ideas they bring.

With the start of our new graduate students, our academic year is now in full swing. As you know, we have a year-round academic calendar, with different classes advancing at different times. Earlier this month, we welcomed back our M4 students and watched as our newest medical students donned their white coats. Our M3 students started in April, our M2 students followed in May and our new residents and fellows joined us on July 1.

Next week on August 30, we will officially launch the academic year for faculty with the annual Faculty Convocation ceremony. Among those being recognized are our own M. Imad Damaj, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, who will receive the University Award of Excellence and Caitlin E. Martin, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who will be honored with the Outstanding Early Career Faculty Award. The event will be live streamed at, and I encourage you to attend.

As a state institution, we train physicians and scientists who help improve the health of individuals within the commonwealth and across the country. As we begin this academic year, it is a good time to reflect on how we conduct our education mission. Our ability to train the next generation of superb physicians, scientists and health care leaders relies on maintaining a respectful learning and work environment that addresses our learners’ needs, modeling positive behaviors and fostering an equitable, inclusive environment. Our environment needs to be free from bias, discrimination and harassment, and be a place where our learners can grow and thrive. We hold our students, trainees and faculty to the highest standards of professionalism and mutual respect in all of our interactions.

Our education mission is the reason we became faculty – we love learning ourselves, and we are committed to positively influencing the next generation of physicians and scientists. I want to express my gratitude to each and every one of you. To our learners, we appreciate you being part of our community and the legacy of our institution. To our faculty and staff, thank you for all you do every day to support and train this next generation.

Best wishes for a productive academic year,

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