Dolores Stolte freely shares her key to happiness. Honesty. Be honest with others but also with yourself. Stolte has lived a rich and meaningful life abiding by this maxim and raised her daughter, Cynda Johnson, to do the same. Johnson was the founding dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) and is a professor of family and community medicine.

It was fitting, then, when Stolte established the Cecil William Stolte & and Dolores Ann Reith Stolte Fund for Women in Medicine and Science at VTCSOM, named for herself and her late husband. The fully funded endowment was made to the school’s Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS), which consists of students, resident physicians, and faculty members who promote dialogue surrounding what it means to be a woman in medicine.

“We looked into a lot of options, but this is where I, and I’m sure my late husband, would want our money to go — to helping women,” Stolte said. “Life is an ongoing adventure, especially for women in medicine, and we want to help it along.”

GWIMS is an accredited group of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and was established to advance the success of women in academic medicine by addressing gender equity, recruitment and retention, awards, recognition, and career advancement. According to the AAMC, there has been a steady rise in the number of female department chairs in academic medicine in recent years, but they still make up only 18 percent of the total. Among full-time female faculty, women from an underrepresented-in-medicine race or ethnicity group was 12 percent in 2009 and only rose to 13 percent in 2018. In addition, since 2009, the number of female deans increased by about one each year, on average.

Johnson recalled when she told her parents she wanted to pursue medicine.

“My mother told me I could accomplish whatever I put my mind to, but that I had to want it for myself,” Johnson said.

“I didn’t want to impose my own expectations on my daughter but rather support her in accomplishing the dreams she found for herself,” Stolte said.

During a recent GWIMS celebration of Stolte and her generous gift, Johnson told of her path from a resident physician to founding dean and the lessons she learned along the way. A highlight of the event was a multimedia narrative about Stolte by Neeka Karimian, Class of 2024. Karimian spent several hours on Zoom interviews with both women, preparing the presentation as part of the tribute to Stolte.

“I noticed the importance Ms. Stolte placed on honesty,” Karimian said. “It wasn’t rooted in any sense of false humility or shame or superiority, just a plain acceptance of us all being people — our own selves included — who have flaws and strengths and space for dynamic growth.”

Fittingly, the evening ended with a speed mentoring session. GWIMS regular activities include advocacy panels, mentoring and networking events, and a women’s health screening fair.

“This endowment means that female students for years to come will have the opportunity to participate in events that are timely and relevant to their training and career development,” said Kacie Hoyt, Class of 2024 and president of the VTCSOM chapter of GWIMS. “We’ve come a long way with women in medicine, but there is still work to do, particularly in the realms of female minority representation, higher leadership advancement, and pay equity.”

Rebecca Pauly, interim senior associate dean for medical education and faculty advisor for GWIMS, echoed Hoyt’s enthusiasm for the endowment’s role.

“We are grateful to Ms. Stolte for supporting our chapter of GWIMS and especially for her attendance at our event,” she said. “Her words of wisdom she shared rang true to us all.”


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