Archives for November 2016

Traveling Reminds Us of Home

On a recent trip to China, I was unable to receive email and internet access was severely restricted.  A former student, now a group leader of one of the largest contract research organizations in China, told me that performing research-related searches in Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, returns significantly fewer results. This makes complex research even harder; trips outside China always include lots of internet “discovery.” I found China to be a paradox where plenty and scarcity co-exist, where freedom to innovate sits beside restrictions on the tools to create, and where opportunity is both limitless and just out of reach.

China is a beautiful country, my hosts were gracious, and I look forward to a return trip someday. However, meeting our Chinese colleagues made me think about my co-workers and friends back in Charlottesville. The long flight home gave me plenty of time to think (and catch up on those emails that eventually came through) and I wondered how the dean’s office can better serve our faculty and provide the critical resources they need to innovate, create, and seize opportunities.

I am always looking for novel ways to help faculty maintain their connection to the school’s missions. What is most important? Financial resources? Professional connections? Collaborative opportunities? Perhaps there is a missing social aspect for faculty to connect with each other?

During the past few weeks, you have received e-mails about new tools to discover funding (Pivot and GrantForward), recognition for mid-career faculty (Pinn Scholars) and the SOM Research Retreat (Feb. 3 and 4, 2017). I hope you can take advantage of some or all of these initiatives to help make your work better. I do not think that we have found every way, or even all the best ways, to improve our research enterprise that we can.

It is my hope that you can help me discover more ways to make the UVA School of Medicine — and your time working on research projects and with our students, and our patients — even better. My door is always open. Please email me your thoughts at


Peggy Shupnik, PhD
Senior Associate Dean for Research

Drawing a Roadmap for Student Evaluation

While they say knowledge is power, they also say that actions speak louder than words. When it comes to medical education, knowledge is definitely important — however being able to do is equally important.

HealthcareStarting in March 2017, the School of Medicine will be piloting a program that will change the way we measure the competencies of medical students’ entrustable professional activities (EPA). EPAs cover basic skills a physician should have, such as taking a patient history, documenting an encounter, performing basic procedures (e.g., starting an IV), collaborating as part of an interprofessional team, and interpreting lab values. As it stands today, we assume that new residents have these skills because … well, they graduated from medical school!

But this may not always be the case.

We want to not only observe students doing EPAs, but observe them enough that we feel confident that they have the skills to perform competently as they care for patients on their first day as a resident. As such, we are incorporating EPA assessment changes into the curriculum, predominantly in the clerkship year, and ultimately rolling them out to all four years of medical school. This longitudinal education will provide the foundation for students to practice these skills in simulated settings and then in clinical settings while being observed and given real-time performance feedback. We want our graduates to be residents who can perform all 13 EPAs with limited supervision.

I realize that this is a shift from tradition. But it’s an important shift. We are moving from a focus on “what do you know?” to one that includes “what can you do?” If we want residents to be ready to function at a higher level, we need to get students actively involved in clinical roles prior to graduation.

While this is a wonderful change for the student, it is even better for the patient. It highlights patient safety and keeps those we serve at the forefront of our education. No longer will we presume residents are skilled; we will know they are competent because we have data from directly observing them.

How will this affect our faculty?
The new system will be more transparent. Faculty will have more knowledge about their students, what skills they possess, and, more importantly, the skills they have yet to learn. We are building an electronic portfolio to provide information about the types of tasks the students have been observed doing, enabling our teachers to hit the ground running and engage students with a more complex conversation about what they still need to learn how to do. The advantage here: When observations and feedback are performed immediately, it is off the physician’s to-do list and the students learn in real time, which can be applied immediately to the next patient. The fact is that faculty already are evaluating EPAs implicitly; this shift merely makes those efforts explicit.

Faculty are not the only ones affected by this new modality of evaluating EPAs. We want staff to assist, too, because the best care comes from an interprofessional team. We want to incorporate evaluations from others in the clinical setting — nurses, IV team, or pharmacy, as just a few examples.

This is the beginning of something great. But it is a beginning with a roadmap of our own design. While this sort of shift in education is being talked about at the national and international level, no institution has yet created an ideal model. Part of the plan forward is to learn as we go and to improve continuously the systems we’re creating. We all need to be adaptable and engaged with our students as this rolls out.

Many thanks to Drs. Megan Bray and Maryellen Gusic for leading the charge in rolling out the spring 2017 pilot and the four-year curriculum changes. I look forward to seeing the fruits of their efforts.

Dr. Gusic has recently been appointed Professor of Medical Education and Senior Advisor for Educational Affairs. In this role, she will continue the work she began as our consultant around the teaching and assessment of EPAs. In addition, she will be the clinical director of the Clinical Skills Center and will engage in and mentor medical education research.


R.J. Canterbury, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Education

Highlights: November MAC Meeting

Introduction of Anne Watkins

  • Dean Wilkes introduced Anne Watkins, Assistant Vice President and Chief Development Officer, School of Medicine. Anne will be meeting with the chairs in the coming weeks to discuss fundraising efforts.


  • Dean David Wilkes discussed Inova Health System and UVA’s agreement to form a comprehensive research and education partnership.
  • The full press release can be read on the Dean’s Office Blog, linked here.
  • Please direct colleagues to the FAQ, linked here. Many questions are answered here.

Leadership Curriculum Certificate and Other Collaborations with Darden

  • In March 2017, the School of Medicine and Darden will pilot a certificate program as part of its leadership curriculum. This pilot will be four, two-week courses covering “Medical Practice Today,” “Building Your Leadership Style,” “Leadership and Practice” and “Business Acumen for the Medical Profession.” Coursework will also be made available to residents.
  • The SOM will provide this opportunity to biomedical science students, as well. Some courses will be replaced with content more appropriate for BIMS students.
  • Darden is interested in scientific education and we have been asked to develop a course for their students in biomedical sciences.
  • There have been conversations to develop a new leadership degree program in collaboration with Darden. We could use this new degree internally to train Health System leaders of tomorrow.
  • Canterbury will send out more details as they become available.


  • Dr. Peggy Shupnik reminded chairs of the new research intelligence tools, Pivot and GrantForward. You can read about them on the Dean’s Office Blog, linked here.

Strategic Hiring Committee

  • Dr. Shupnik shared that the Strategic Hiring Committee continues to be pleased with the candidates. Please encourage faculty to recommend colleagues who they would like to work with, the kind who nucleate new efforts.

Pinn Scholars

  • The first group of Pinn Scholars will be named in December. Reminder: Applications are due Nov. 15.
  • There are many young faculty who are worthy of this. We would like to take this occasion to reward them. Please nominate your colleagues.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, December 13, 2016, in the MEB Learning Studio.

Inova and UVA Plan Comprehensive Research and Education Partnership

Rotunda 10-16Inova Health System and the University of Virginia announced today that they have agreed to form a comprehensive research and education partnership. The institutions will collaborate on research, medical education, and the recruitment of eminent researchers, scientists and investigators to the Commonwealth of Virginia to facilitate health innovations. Together, they will put Virginia at the forefront of discovery, working to advance the science of precision medicine and improve the health of the Commonwealth’s citizens.

The planned affiliation includes:

  • A research partnership to develop the Global Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute located at the Inova Center for Personalized Health (ICPH). The Institute will recruit researchers, scientists and investigators who will engage in collaborative research focused on genomics, functional biology, bioinformatics, biologically driven engineering, precision medicine, translational research, development of targeted therapeutics, and commercialization of new discoveries.
  • A cancer research partnership between the Inova Schar Cancer Institute and UVA Cancer Center, including efforts to achieve designation by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center.
  • A regional campus of the UVA School of Medicine at Inova, which would enable UVA medical students to complete their clerkship and post-clerkship education in Northern Virginia at Inova facilities, with an opportunity for a differentiated medical education experience during the post-clerkship phase.
  • UVA and Inova will explore the creation of a biomedical investment vehicle to advance discovery through to commercialization.

“With a research-intensive University and health system, we are committed to developing research breakthroughs that improve the human condition and to training the next generation of physicians and healthcare workers,” said UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan. “This affiliation can help us better accomplish our missions in education and research.”

“UVA is one of the most prestigious research universities in the country, and Inova is one of the largest, most successful healthcare systems. This partnership leverages the complementary strengths of two institutions committed to providing the most advanced treatments and prevention strategies to the communities we serve,” said Knox Singleton, CEO, Inova Health System. “We believe that this partnership with UVA, as well as with Inova’s other partners, will drive economic growth and diversification in the region and position the Commonwealth of Virginia at the forefront of healthcare, scientific and technological innovation.”

“We are grateful to the leaders in the General Assembly for their support and foresight in designating funds to incentivize this kind of research collaboration and innovation,” said Todd Stottlemyer, CEO, ICPH. “This new partnership will further expand Inova’s ground-breaking research in precision medicine and help us to realize the promise of personalized health.”

Leaders from the two institutions expect to finalize a definitive agreement later this year.

An FAQ on the partnership has been posted here.

The 31 Flavors of Research Funding

31flavors_11012016When it comes to research funding sources, there are many opportunities. Baskin-Robbins has their famous 31 flavors and, while everyone enjoys the staples like chocolate (think: National Institutes of Health), there is plenty of pleasure (read: money) to be had in discovering a new favorite, like Pralines ‘n Cream or, seasonally, Pumpkin Pie ice cream. Here’s the scoop on two tools to help you find new flavors funding sources, Pivot and GrantForward.

In the past it has been easy for us to get information from major funding sources, especially the publicly funded programs, but accessing private sources has been problematic. This will alleviate that problem. The beauty of Pivot and GrantForward is that they each cull from a wide range of public, private, and corporate sources. (I do, however, note that these programs use different data sources, so it is worthwhile to use them both.) Another nice feature of these tools is that they allow us to identify cross-cutting opportunities — funding that spans multiple areas of interest.

With these tools, you can search for funding opportunities within your field of interest; browse federal, foundation, private, and industry funders; create personalized accounts; build custom searches; save or email searches; and track deadlines. Additionally, use of these tools is not restricted to faculty. They are open to staff and trainees, as well.

If you want to get more information on how to use Pivot and GrantForward, click here for the flyer. And don’t forget to register for the training session in the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library on Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 1-2 p.m.


I look forward to our continued success in expanding the school’s research portfolio. If you know someone who’s been successful using Pivot or GrantForward, please comment below.


Steven S. Wasserman, PhD
Assistant Dean for Research