Dear colleagues,

After a lifetime of service and a distinguished tenure in leadership at the School of Medicine, Michelle Y. Whitehurst-Cook M.D., has announced her intention to step down as senior associate dean for admissions on Aug. 1, 2023 and to retire at the end of the year. In the interim, Dr. Whitehurst-Cook will serve as a special adviser to the School of Medicine, and Donna Jackson, Ed.D., will assume the role of associate dean for admissions as a national search is conducted for Dr. Whitehurst-Cook’s permanent replacement.

During her 30 years at the School of Medicine, Dr. Whitehurst-Cook has had a profound effect on shaping generations of compassionate caregivers. A graduate of the School of Medicine herself (’79), and a family medicine resident (’82), she has kept our school focused on its mission to produce “smart and nice” physicians with a steadfast commitment to their patients and the communities in which they practice. In 2017, she instituted the multiple mini interview (MMI) process, which was designed to increase objectivity and assess the skills of potential medical school candidates, an approach now widely used by peer medical institutions.

Dr. Whitehurst-Cook has been a physician servant-leader at VCU and in the Commonwealth of Virginia throughout her career, devoting her time and talent to underserved communities. For 15 years, she’s led a group of students to deliver much-needed care at the annual Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic in Wise County, the nation’s largest free pop-up clinic. The RAM clinic in Emporia, Va., has been established over the last five years. Closer to home, she has introduced premedical students to the Richmond community with the Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP), providing free health screenings to the city’s homeless population. Dr. Whitehurst-Cook’s legacy is further distinguished by the 1998 founding of the International/Inner-City/Rural Preceptorship (I2CRP), which is now led by Mark Ryan, M.D., one of the first participating medical students. The mission of this preceptorship, helping physicians build a toolbox through experiential learning for the care of the underserved, is a great recruiter for the School of Medicine.

The beating heart of medicine is meeting patients where they are, learning who they are and translating training into practice to deliver the highest quality of care possible to a community. Dr. Whitehurst-Cook has dedicated her professional life to our school and to recruiting and mentoring generations of compassionate community caregivers. Please join me in expressing our profound thanks and gratitude to Michelle from the School of Medicine and in congratulating her on a distinguished career and well-earned retirement.

Kind regards,

Arturo P. Saavedra, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System