A long-anticipated day arrived with much fanfare on May 10, when the 40 students of the inaugural class of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine became the nation’s newest doctors. And a packed house at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke was there to witness the historic event.

“Every graduating class from every school is special, but a medical school’s charter class is truly distinctive,” said Dr. Cynda Johnson, founding dean of the school. “Succeeding at a new school demands bright, entrepreneurial students – confident self-starters. We needed their student perspective and active participation to develop and refine the cutting-edge curriculum that would make the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine a premier medical school for the 21st century.”

In delivering the keynote address, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine told the graduates, “You have volunteered to take other people’s cares on your shoulders, cares in the most intimate and challenging vein.…And I thank you for that.”

Kaine, a key player in the history of Virginia Tech Carilion, had been serving as governor of Virginia when he joined Charles W. Steger, president of Virginia Tech, and Edward G. Murphy, then president and chief executive officer of Carilion Clinic, in announcing the creation of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute in 2007. 

The school’s first class entered in the fall of 2010, literally days after the building’s construction was completed. One of those students was Matthew Joy, from Los Altos, Ca., who has chosen to stay in Roanoke for his surgery residency with Carilion Clinic.

“It has been an incredible experience,” Joy, who served as class president, said during the ceremony. “It has also been a very unique experience, due in part to our being the first class, but even more so, I believe, due to the focus and value that Virginia Tech Carilion places on patient-centered learning and patient-centered medical care.”

Dr. Tarin Schmidt-Dalton, selected by the class to give the faculty address, told the graduates, “Just as your arrival four years ago brought forth much anticipation and joy, so does your departure as you go forth to lead in communities all across this country.”

Schmidt-Dalton, the school’s assistant dean for clinical science years 1 and 2, wished for the class strength, compassion, an unquenchable thirst for learning, and a humble spirit.

The new doctors will now disperse across the country for their residency training.

“At Virginia Tech Carilion,” Joy said, “we have been educated, guided, molded, and – most importantly – inspired to be better physicians.”

Written by Catherine Doss.
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