The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) was honored by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine with its Health Professions Higher Education in Diversity (HEED) award for 2022. This is the fifth consecutive year the school has received this award that recognizes U.S. health colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

INSIGHT into Diversity, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education, will feature VTCSOM along with 64 other recipients in its December 2022 issue. 

“The Health Professions HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees — and best practices for both — continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a Health Professions HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for schools where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”

VTCSOM has developed a wide array of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to support current students and employees as well as future employees. In 2022, the school cut a ceremonial ribbon on its new Center for Inclusion. The center is designed as an inviting and inclusive space where individuals can celebrate diversity and learn from one another.

The idea for the Center for Inclusion and the call to action for the InclusiveVTCSOM Task Force developed out of a town hall meeting held in 2020 to discuss national events that put a spotlight on systemic racism and looked to identify opportunities to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion at the school. Specific measures were developed related to admissions; community engagement; curriculum; the learning and working environment; recruitment, development and retention of faculty and staff; and student support.

“We are thrilled to be recognized for a fifth straight year with the HEED award. We know that our work in fostering a more inclusive medical school community is ever-evolving, though,” said Azziza Bankole, chief diversity officer at the school. “We value and rely upon the input and support of our students, employees, and community members in order to meet our goals and develop new initiatives that will support diversity.”

Undergraduate students Sydnee Harrison and Deborah Thomas pose together in a biomedical lab.
Sydnee Harrison (at left) and Deborah Thomas were participants in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine's Early Identification Program this summer. The program provides intensive medical school preparation over two summer sessions for rising undergraduate juniors who are underrepresented in medicine. Photo by Ryan Anderson for Virginia Tech.

VTCSOM’s Early Identification Program recently opened its 2023-24 application period for Virginia Tech undergraduate students who are underrepresented in medicine. The program provides intensive medical school preparation over two summer sessions for rising undergraduate juniors. It gives them the opportunity to participate in hands-on biomedical research, gain clinical exposure and have assistance when applying to medical school.  

“What’s very important when you’re growing up is to see people who look like me and [fellow 2022-23 program participant Deborah Thomas] in the fields that you want to go into,” said Sydnee Harrison a junior in neuroscience at Virginia Tech.

Also in 2022, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) named VTCSOM Dean Lee Learman to its Council of Deans Insight Circle on Leadership Accountability for Diversity. The 11-member group will inform the development of an accountability framework to guide the nation’s medical school leaders in their diversity efforts across the education continuum.

“Participating in the Insight Circle will enable us to share our approach to accountable leadership and learn from the experience of other medical schools. Together we can identify best practices that will help us and the AAMC drive systems change forward more effectively,” Learman said.

An example of community involvement with VTCSOM’s initiatives was an event called “Generational Health: An Intimate Conversation on Black Men and Health Disparities.” Hosted in partnership with Black Father Family, the talk brought together health care leaders and members of the community to discuss ways to build solutions for a more equitable health system.

In September, VTCSOM honored 13 inaugural recipients of the Dean’s Diversity Champion Awards. These awards recognize the significant achievements of students, faculty and staff toward developing a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community.

Other popular diversity initiatives that continued at VTCSOM in 2022 included the Health Professions Enrichment Program and the Achievable Dream, which help high school students explore careers in health care. In addition, the Medical Exposure for Diverse Students Experience provides Virginia Tech undergraduate students who are members of groups underrepresented in medicine experiences in medicine and research.

For more information about the 2022 Health Professions HEED Award, visit

VTCSOM Dean Lee Learman, at left, gathers with inaugural recipients of the Dean's Diversity Champion Awards.
Inaugural recipients of the Dean's Diversity Champion Awards gather at a reception with Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Dean Lee Learman (at far left). Students, faculty and staff were nominated by their peers for their work on diversity, equity, and inclusion at the school and in the community. Photo by Natalee Waters for Virginia Tech.


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