The International Association of Medical Science Educators (IAMSE) recently awarded Richard “Rick” Vari, senior dean for academic affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM), its Edward Patrick Finnerty Lifetime Achievement Award.

The association’s highest honor, the award is “bestowed upon an individual member who has demonstrated a sustained involvement in and commitment to the advancement of IAMSE through their many types of service to the organization at the maximal level of performance.” The honoree is selected by the organization’s board of directors.

“The special nature of this award makes it one for which a member may not apply,” said IAMSE President Bonny Dickinson. “Rather, it represents the superlative level of recognition IAMSE can provide to a most worthy individual, like Rick Vari, who has shown a consistent history of distinguished accomplishments.”

“IAMSE is the premier medical education faculty development association in the world and has been my home for more than 20 years,” Vari said.

Vari, who was integral in the development VTCSOM’s innovative four-domain, problem-based learning curriculum, took leave from the school in October 2021 ahead of his planned retirement on June 1, 2022. Vari was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neuromuscular disease. The lifetime achievement award holds special meaning to him after so many years of significant involvement with the organization.

Vari has been a member of IAMSE for 21 years, serving on the program committee for seven years, during which he brought the IAMSE international meeting to Roanoke in 2019.

“Our local planning team and members of the Roanoke business community worked very hard to make the meeting a tremendous success,” he said. “Some members have told me that the Roanoke meeting was one of the best, if not the best ever.”

Vari has served in numerous roles within the organization, including president from 2018-20. Over the years, he delivered two plenary addresses at IAMSE annual meetings, several workshops and focus sessions, and was awarded Outstanding Reviewer for his contributions to Medical Science Educator, the journal of the association.

Vari received his bachelor’s degree in biology and his master’s degree and doctorate in physiology from the University of Kentucky. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the university of Missouri School of Medicine.

In 2008, Vari was recruited to serve as the chief academician in charge of developing VTCSOM’s curriculum as the school was being formed. Throughout his nearly 35 years in medical education, Vari has earned numerous awards and honors and contributed abundantly to research, scholarship, and educational activities. He has been an instrumental leader in the formation of medical schools across the country and has taught thousands of students.

“I am deeply honored by this award,” Vari said. “Not only has it brought honor and recognition to me, but it has brought VTCSOM to the forefront of medical education in the country.”

A fund has been established at the school to support an annual lectureship in Vari’s name.


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