Say Goodbye to GREs

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test that most graduate schools across the nation require to accompany student applications. It certainly was required here at UVA’s School of Medicine.

But not anymore.

As of this fall, the School of Medicine’s Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) graduate program has eliminated the GRE requirement as a component of the application.

Why the change?
The GRE has been used as an indicator of a student’s likelihood of success in graduate school. However, over the past few years, reports from Vanderbilt and the University of Carolina Chapel Hill have illustrated that the GRE is actually a poor predictor of success in biomedical sciences graduate programs. Additionally, there are other studies that show the GRE has strong biases against racial and ethnic minorities, females, and those from socioeconomically challenged groups.

Dropping the GRE is a growing trend. In fact, several institutions have already removed it as a requirement, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Alabama at Birmingham; the University of California, San Francisco; the Rockefeller University; the University of Colorado, Denver (Anschutz), and the University of Michigan. Members of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) Group on Graduate Research, Education, and Training (GREAT) recently performed a survey and found many more schools are in discussions to follow suit, including those to whom we perennially lose strong BIMS applicants, such as University of Pennsylvania; Washington University in St. Louis; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Emory University; University of Chicago; Vanderbilt University; and others. Of the 90 schools/programs that responded to the survey, 50 percent have either already discarded the requirement (10) or are in discussions about doing so in the near future (35).

It was only three years ago when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) expressed little faith in the exam, too. They ceased requiring the reporting of GRE scores for appointees to T32 training grants and for applicants for individual fellowship awards.

At UVA, we are not the only ones evaluating the GRE as an application requirement. There has been discussion across Grounds, among the Graduate Affairs Network (GAN), and with Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas Katsouleas and the graduate deans about eliminating this test.

In short: The GRE is an obstacle that provides little to no value for us or our students. As such, we are eliminating it.

How will we evaluate potential students?
Going forward, we will be taking a holistic approach to the application review process and look at students’ transcripts, grade point average, research experience, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. We will search for students who are passionate about research. We want them to be creative. We want them to have grit. We want them to have a deep appreciation for why they want to pursue graduate school in the biomedical sciences. We want to evaluate applicants on their abilities and their promise, not on a test score that has inherent biases. As always, we want the best and the brightest students.

It is my hope that strong applicants who were previously concerned about a low GRE score will now consider applying. I am very proud of our decision and look forward to seeing how this positively affects our BIMS graduate program.

R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education

A Special Message from Dean Wilkes

The July 4 holiday begins the most popular time for summer vacations for many of us. I wish for each of you a well-deserved rest. Prior to vacation season, I’d like to share some good news about our School.

Even though we’ve not reached the June 30 end of the current fiscal year, it’s clear that you have knocked it out of park in all areas of our School’s mission.

In education

  • The incoming class of 156 medical students has a mean GPA of 3.86 and a mean MCAT of 518.27 (the 97th percentile!). This year the class is 57% out-of-state and continues to have good diversity. The BIMS PhD programs have recruited a strong new class of graduate students.
  • 99% of our class matched in outstanding post-graduate programs.
  • Richard Baylis, MD/PhD student in the lab of Gary Owens, attended the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in June, where he and other young investigators from around the world had the opportunity to mingle with and get feedback from 43 Nobel Laureates.
  • All of the accrediting bodies that were required to approve the establishment of the School of Medicine-Inova Campus did so without stipulation. Our admissions team is getting ready to start recruiting the class of 2023, which will be the first class to have the option to do their clerkships at the Inova Campus.

In the clinical realm

  • Over 25% of our physicians are included on the 2017-18 Best Doctors in America list. This is phenomenal!
  • Becker’s Hospital Review recognized our hospital as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America in 2018.
  • Our hospital continues to be #1 in Virginia.

And in research

  • SOM funding is poised to exceed last year’s totals, thanks to the continued outstanding efforts of all of our faculty and new strategic hires.
  • We scored a 21 on our CTSA application! Although we’ll know more in August, a number of people outside of UVA have confirmed that this is an extraordinary score.
  • The Hartwell Foundation again named UVA as one of its Top Ten Centers of Biomedical Research.
  • The UVA IRBs received accreditation from the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc. (AAHRPP).
  • The U.S. News & World Report rankings were further evidence of the extraordinary work you do. Primary Care rose to 21 (from 24) and Research went to 26 (from 27).

Finally, the School is in a strong financial position with operating revenues exceeding expenditures. Year-to-date through May 2018, the School of Medicine had an operating net income of $8 million. The Dean’s Reserve funded $31 million in strategic investments in all mission areas in clinical and basic science departments, as well as in centers. In addition, with strong financial management at all levels, we are entering our fourth consecutive year of no tuition increase for medical students.

You, our faculty, are the reason we have had such a remarkable year and are in a strong position both academically and fiscally. I am deeply grateful to you for your commitment to our shared vision and for your hard work that has resulted in this banner year for our School.

With warm regards,

David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science

Research Integrity Matters

Dean David Wilkes

The “I” in our University of Virginia Health System ASPIRE value system, which stands for “integrity,” has been on my mind as of late. A few years ago, while at Indiana University School of Medicine, my colleagues and I published an article in Science Translation Medicine (STM), on which I was the senior investigator. I later hired a fellow to reproduce the data in my lab. He was unsuccessful. Simply stated, he was unable to match the success illustrated in the article.

I looked into why this was happening. We discovered that another post-doctorate fellow, the first author on the STM article, had manipulated data. I requested that the institution’s research compliance committee conduct an investigation into possible research fraud. During this investigation, it was discovered that handwritten data did not match the data on the hard drive of an oximeter. This confirmed our suspicion that this post-doctorate fellow had manipulated the data. Because of this incident, the STM article in question will be retracted later this year.

The point: integrity matters.

Science requires open and clean data. This is one of the reasons why our collaboration with AstraZeneca has been so successful — in the lab, our teams work side-by-side with their teams. Additionally, because data requires integrity, I’ve asked Peggy Shupnik, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Research, to explore how we can help our faculty ensure that what happened to me does not happen to you. As part of an ongoing discussion, we will be exploring options to increase openness, integrity, and reproducibility of research.

Please learn from my experience. As a biomedical enterprise, it is incumbent upon all of us to closely monitor the data we generate. Discovery is not discovery if the data is fiction. I ask all of you to be aware of what is happening in our labs.

While all of the letters in our ASPIRE acronym are important, none of them are worthwhile without the “I” of integrity.

David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science

Four Faculty Receive Development Certificate

(l-r) Angela C. Piñeros-Fernández, MD; Andrew S. Parsons, MD, MPH; Thomas R. Hartka, MD; Joesph R. Wiencek, PhD; Maryellen Gusic, MD

Last December, we shared information about an ongoing professional development opportunity offered to faculty, fellows, and residents, as well as students and staff who want to advance their skills as teachers and/or pursue scholarly work in education. On June 4, four more of our faculty completed the program and received the Certificate of Commitment to Faculty Development in Medical Education. They are:

  • Angela C. Piñeros-Fernández, MD, Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery
  • Andrew S. Parsons, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine
  • Thomas R. Hartka, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
  • Joesph R. Wiencek, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology

Faculty who attend 10 workshops over a two-year period will receive this certificate. It can be included as part of the teaching portfolio which, in turn, can be included in the application for membership to the Academy of Distinguished Educators and/or as part of the portfolio for promotion and tenure.

Since 2013, 60 faculty have earned the certificate. This commitment is outstanding. For more information on the program, click here. To see topics presented in the series, click here. A full schedule of additional opportunities to qualify for earning a certificate will be available later in the summer.

R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education


Highlights: June MAC Meeting

The School of Medicine’s Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) met on June 12, 2018, 4-5 p.m., in the Biomedical Sciences classroom. Here are highlights from that meeting:

Closed Session
The meeting began with a closed session restricted to department chairs and the dean’scabinet.

Research Integrity
David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean Wilkes discussed the importance of open, clean data that can be reproduced and the importance of monitoring the quality of work that trainees and others are doing in the lab. He underscored these points by sharing his experience about a paper of his, published in Science Translational Medicine, that will be retracted in the next few months.

Dean Wilkes described how a new fellow in his lab at Indiana University was unsuccessful in reproducing data. Dean Wilkes began a probe and discovered that a post-doctorate fellow had manipulated data. Dean Wilkes asked the institution’s research integrity committee to conduct an investigation into possible research fraud. The results confirmed his suspicion and led to the upcoming retraction.

Further stressing the need for open and clean data, Dean Wilkes said one reason the AstraZeneca collaboration is successful is because the AZ investigators are in the lab, side-by-side with our investigators. Everyone is aware of what is happening. He shared that Dr. Shupnik will explore a partnership with the Center for Open Science, based here at UVA.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in the BIMS Classroom.

Coming This Fall: Patient Student Partnership

The Patient Student Partnership will pair our students with a chronically ill adult or pediatric patient to follow for all four years of medical school.

With the success of the Phronesis Project (which we wrote about here), the School of Medicine has expanded this longitudinal patient experience and made it part of the curriculum for this year’s incoming class. This program, known as Patient Student Partnership (PSP), will pair each of the 160 students in SMD22 with a chronically ill adult or pediatric patient to follow for all four years of medical school.

Students will attend clinic visits, be present as the patient’s advocate, and help the patient navigate the Health System. This partnership will give students the opportunity to learn about healthcare through the eyes of a patient and to witness the trajectory of chronic illness.

This first patient relationship will give students context to their medical education and will provide them with a real-world touchpoint, something in which to ground their newly acquired knowledge.

A few things to note:

  • Clinicians: Please be aware that, starting in October 2018, first-year students will accompany patients to clinic visits in the role of patient advocate.
  • Pre-clerkship faculty who teach students: Students now will have real patients and thus real exposure to health problems to complement classroom learning.

This is a notable moment in the continuous improvement of our curriculum. Students will receive unique patient exposure during their first semester of medical school. This relationship promises to be an enriching and rewarding (and educational!) experience. It is my hope that the early formation of a special doctor-patient relationship will remind our students exactly why they chose to study medicine at the University of Virginia in the first place.

As students enter their fourth year of study, they will begin the process of handing off their patients to the newly arriving first years — and the cycle will begin anew for many of our patients.

Everything we do at the School is in service to our patients, and the feedback from previous years’ participants has been very enthusiastic. Patients loved the same thing I love, namely, watching our students grow and evolve into young physicians.  And the students have recognized that our patients are our best teachers — something most doctors always have known.

Thank you to all of the faculty who worked on the Phronesis Project. That pilot set the groundwork for this amazing next step. Also, thank you to all the primary care clinics and specialty practices across Grounds who aided in recruiting patients and provided this opportunity for our students. And most importantly, I thank our patients. Without their generosity this initiative would be impossible.

For more information on PSP, visit the website. If you have questions, contact Colleen Kiernan.

R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education

Highlights: May MAC Meeting

The School of Medicine’s Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) met on May 8, 2018, 4-5 p.m., in the Biomedical Sciences classroom. Here are highlights from that meeting:

StandPoint Survey
Susan Pollart, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development

  • In 2015, the SOM had an outstanding 74% response rate to the AAMC Faculty Forward survey. (The survey is now known as StandPoint.) The survey indicated a number of things the faculty wanted from the Dean’s office:
    • more transparency regarding SOM finances;
    • more communication from the dean’s office about the medical school;
    • more opportunity for participation in SOM governance; and
    • improvement in retaining high quality faculty members.
  • Actions were taken at the dean’s office in follow up to these data.
    • In the areas of communication and governance, Dean Wilkes engaged the SOM faculty senators in regular governance discussions, a department annual review programs was implemented, the Junior Faculty Development Program was launched, and new channels of communication were established (e.g., Dean’s Office Blog, social media, senior leadership attendance at department faculty meetings.).
    • Among the actions in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion were the appointments of diversity facilitators and development of diversity plans in every department, sharing of best practices, and system-wide unconscious bias training.
    • To help bring transparency to SOM finances, the Financial Advisory Committee was created, the dean and CMO discussed finances in department faculty meetings, and departments received monthly consolidated financial reports.

3 Cavaliers Program
Melur Ramasubramanian, PhD, Vice President for Research

Ram gave an overview of the “3 Cavs,” a pilot program to stimulate new ideas and cross-discipline and cross-school collaborations. It is designed to minimize bureaucracy and maximize flexibility.

  • Research trios are formed by three faculty members who wish to collaborate on a new idea. The trio must cross at least two disparate disciplines located in different units or schools. A faculty expertise database will help researchers find collaborators.
  • Each member of the trio receives a “token” for $20,000, which provides the trio with a total of $60,000 in seed funds. At least 50% of each project must support a trainee who works with the researcher. The remaining funds may be used for non-salary items to support the project. The funds may not be used to pay faculty salaries. Mini-trios, with $5,000 tokens (total of $15,000) are also possible.
  • Projects are for one year. They are semi-randomly selected without peer review, and funding is provided immediately.
  • SOM full-time tenured and tenure-eligible faculty will be eligible to receive a token. The SOM funds one-third of the expense for each token and the VPR funds two-thirds.
  • The VPR’s office is still building the website with an anticipated go-live date in early July and a submission deadline in September. The SOM will send additional details at go-live.
  • Additional information, a brochure, and FAQs are on the VPR website.

2018 General Assembly Session
Federal Legislative and Regulatory Issues
Carol Craig, Government Relations Specialist
Lynne Boyle, Federal Relations Professional

  • The Health System Office of State and Federal Government Relations (“Government Relations”), headed by Sally Barber, works with Health System leadership to establish legislative and regulatory priorities. It coordinates with the academic division on state and federal issues, maintains relations with government officials, and serves as a resource to leadership, faculty, and staff for state and federal governmental matters.
  • Karen Rheuban, MD, is the SOM liaison to Government Relations.
  • Key legislation of the 2018 General Assembly session included:
    • Nurse Practitioner Pathway to Independent Practice (HB 793)
    • Medicaid expansion
    • Certificate of Public Need
    • Opioid/substance abuse
    • Termination of Medically/Ethically Inappropriate Care (HB 226/SB 222)
  • Health System priorities at the federal level include:
    • Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) 340B drug discount program
    • Medicare and Medicaid hospital and physician payments
    • Funding for the National Institutes of Health
    • Student loan programs
    • Regulatory relief for hospitals
    • Opioid abuse
  • State and Federal Dashboards of laws, regulations, and other activities being tracked are posted on the website,

Strategic Hiring Initiative: New Recruits and Exciting Collaborations

At the April 19 General Faculty Meeting, Dean David Wilkes provided updates on a range of topics, one of which was the Strategic Hiring Initiative (SHI). We are over two years into the 5-year plan where we are investing $60 million dollars to hire faculty who will help to strengthen our already outstanding research groups and to catalyze new initiatives and collaborations.

Through SHI and other strategic recruitment efforts, we’re hiring the best scientists and physician-scientists into thematic areas of organ transplant, metabolic disorders, precision medicine, and regenerative medicine. These themes build on the strengths of the previously identified areas of cancer, cardiovascular, and neurosciences, and intersect with areas of excellence in imaging, immunology, infectious diseases and genomics/epigenetics.  We have been particularly interested in hiring on the intersections of excellence, to seed future collaborations and interactions between our themes.

Our two most recent SHI hires are:

Imre Noth, MD

Imre Noth, MD

  • Pulmonary & Critical Care Division Chief
  • Has collaborations with Center for Public Health Genomics
  • Is an expert in clinical trial design, genomics, transcriptomics, pharmacogenomics
  • Comes to UVA from the University of Chicago



Ken Walsh, PhD

Ken Walsh, PhD

  • Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Studying the contribution of cumulative mutations in hematopoietic stem cells to a wide range of major chronic diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, fibrotic diseases
  • Comes to UVA from Boston University


Recent SHI Collaboration in Action
The effect of SHI is not limited to the funding brought by the new hires. They are making an impact through collaborations across departments and across schools. A few highlights include:

  • Two SHI hires in transplant and adaptive cell therapy (Jose Oberholzer and Larry Lum) are part of a successful SIF application with Boris Kovatchev and Stephen Rich to treat and cure Type 1 diabetes.  Two additional SHI hires in Endocrinology (Andy Basu and Rita Basu) have joined this SIF effort, and have begun educational and research collaborations with the Cardiovascular Research Center and the Data Science Institute.
    • This larger diabetes group is mounting an effort to submit ten multi-Principle Investigator grants in response to a special NIH opportunity, which involves four SOM departments and two Engineering departments.
  • In Pediatrics (Sean Moore), is working with colleagues in Medicine (Bill Petri), the Global Infectious Diseases Institute and Alison Criss, and the Gates Foundation to develop a research facility and projects to study the influence of the microbiome on numerous diseases.
  • In Medicine and Biochemistry, Francine Garrett-Bakelman is part of a multiple PI consortium with Mazur Adli and colleagues in Biochemistry between the SOM, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Signature Sciences that is proposing to do research on the human epigenome in response to environmental toxins.
  • In Public Health Science, SHI hire Bob Klesges and colleagues in Psychiatry (Nassima Ait-Daoud Tiouririne, Lee Ritterband, Karen Ingersoll), Emergency Medicine (Chris Hostege), Medicine (L. Blackhall), Nursing (V. LeBaron) and Engineering (Laura Barnes and John Lach) are working together on a SIF project to reduce the burden of addiction, including a project to reduce binge drinking in college students.

The SHI committee, co-chaired by Dr. Coleen McNamara and me, review the nominations from chairs/directors. If you have questions regarding the Strategic Hiring Initiative, please contact Dr. McNamara ( or me (

Margaret A. Shupnik, PhD
Gerald D. Aurbach Professor of Endocrinology
Professor of Medicine
Senior Associate Dean for Research

Second Cohort of JFDP Deliver Scholarly Projects


Top row, left to right: Andrew Schomer, David Hamilton, John McNeil, Dushant Uppal. Second row: Angie Nishio-Lucar, Elizabeth Gaughan, Andrea Garrod, Scott Sperling. Third row: Brent DeGeorge, Katherine Fedder, Thomas Hartka, Chantal Scott, Gina Andersen, Patrick Cottler. Front: Troy Buer and Susan Pollart

Last year, we wrote about the Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP), which can be read here and here. This is a program that provides networking, social opportunities, and peer mentoring among colleagues who are at a similar stage in their career; promotes the development and advancement of junior faculty through seminars and mentored scholarly projects; and facilitates mentoring relationships between senior and junior faculty.

On April 11 and 25, the second cohort of 17 junior faculty members presented their scholarly projects, which explored a range of topics including an evaluation of machine learning for assignment of triage severity level in the emergency department, predicting cardiac instability following seizures, contraception and the medically complex woman, and improving access to kidney transplant for Hispanic minorities in the state of Virginia. The list of 2018 JFDP projects can be found here.

Congratulations to the 2017-2018 JFDP participants who graduated from the program!

Susan M. Pollart, MD, MS
Ruth E. Murdaugh Professor and Chair (interim) of Family Medicine
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development

Regional Campus: New Informational Video and Accreditation Updates

Last year we announced that we were entering into an academic affiliation with Inova Health System Foundation to establish a UVA School of Medicine – Inova Campus in Northern Virginia. This regional campus will provide opportunities for 72 students (36 per class) to complete their 3rd and 4th years in Northern Virginia. Beginning in February 2021, our students will be exposed to the practice of medicine in a high-volume, urban environment.

I am pleased to announce that we have now been approved by all of our accreditors:

  • State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV):The Commonwealth’s coordinating body for higher education. Its job is to “advocate for and promote the development and operation of an educationally and economically sound, vigorous, progressive, and coordinated system of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and to lead state-level strategic planning and policy development and implementation based on research and analysis …. The Council shall also seek to facilitate collaboration among institutions of higher education that will enhance quality and create operational efficiencies ….”
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC):This is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices among the diverse institutions of the region.
  • Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME):This is a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting body for programs leading to the MD degree in the United States.

Take a look at our new informational video for prospective applicants to see the outstanding offerings on this campus.

Highlights include the 12,000 square-foot Claude Moore Education and Research Center, a 12,000 square-foot medical simulation center, surgical simulation and advanced practice training space, newly renovated areas to provide inter-professional collaborative training and educational experiences, 24/7 access to a health sciences library supported by an outstanding team of librarians, and more. Campus details can be found on our admissions website.

This is an exciting time for the School of Medicine, our faculty and staff, and our students. I look forward to the opportunities this affiliation will present.

R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education