A Year in Review

September 21, 2017 by   |   Leave a Comment

Dear Colleagues:

The other day while my wife and I were having morning coffee, we realized that I’m starting my third year as dean of the School of Medicine! We talked about how quickly the first two years have passed, how much we love Charlottesville, and how happy I am at UVA – and what an incredible honor it is to serve as your dean.

In some respects, my role is like that of an orchestra conductor because I’m not the one actually making the music. I only facilitate and fully recognize that you are the ones doing the real work.

When we’re focused on the urgent tasks of each day, it’s easy to forget where we’ve been and what we’ve done. We’ve done a lot! Below are some of the highlights on my radar. Please comment and add what you remember from the past year. And give a shout out to your colleagues who helped lead positive change.


  • UVA moved from 40 to 36 in the NIH rankings of schools of medicine, as reported by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research! Congratulations to all of you who worked hard on writing grants and preparing the submissions! Our FY17 extramural funding was $221 million . . . our highest level ever, excluding ARRA. This is remarkable growth from $162 million in FY14 and is truly a cause for celebration. The data also show that we are diversifying our research portfolio to spread risk and to create opportunity for further success. Related to this, we have just contracted with The Conafay Group to help us improve our chances of success with funding from the Department of Defense and related federal agencies.
  • UVA and Inova executed an academic affiliation agreement to establish the Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute (GBRI) on the former Exxon campus in Fairfax. We’re just in the early stages of setting this up and it will be a game changer. The GBRI will focus on breakthroughs to leverage new scientific discoveries and intellectual property to develop new devices, drugs, and novel therapies; accelerate personalized medicine for a variety of diseases; attract internationally renowned research scientists to Virginia; and drive regional and statewide economic development.
  • We have many outstanding researchers at the School, and we needed tangible ways to recognize their excellence. The Pinn Scholars program, named in honor of Dr. Vivian Pinn, Class of 1967, was established to support and recognize mid-level faculty. The first class of scholars was named in December 2016. Last year we began providing programmatic support and discretionary funds for each year of a new or competitive continuation of training grants. The dean’s office continues to provide competitive gap funding awards to investigators to stimulate new research projects, with eight awards made in FY17. Since the program began in FY13, the dean’s office has invested $2.2 million in 58 awards – with 37 of these resulting in funded grants and bringing in $47.2 million to date.
  • The dean’s office also partners with the Vice President for Research to provide competitive bridge awards to support the renewal of existing research projects. Between FY12 and FY16, the school invested $647,000 (and the VPR an additional $1.2 million) in 30 awards. All of these projects were re-funded by NIH, resulting in grants totaling $56.5 million. An additional seven bridge awards have been made in FY17 and FY18.
  • In September 2016, we renamed Jordan Hall to Pinn Hall, and just recently we held the dedication ceremony. A group of SOM leaders identified Dr. Pinn as the ideal choice for representing excellence in clinical care, research, scholarship, and the character and personal qualities we value. Phased renovations on Pinn Hall have begun. In addition to providing modern, open, flexible laboratories, Pinn Hall will house a Nobel Atrium to honor the Nobel laureates who did their pioneering work at UVA – thus highlighting our future by recognizing stars who represent what is best about us.
  • Most of you are aware of the Strategic Hiring Initiative (SHI), designed to bring transformative physician-investigators here. Since implementation last year, we have recruited 16 SHI faculty. Not only are they bringing approximately $47.7 million in grant funding over five years, they have established important collaborations through the School and the University. Of course, success in attracting these extraordinary researchers requires a strong foundation of excellence, and clearly they are eager to be part of our established and vibrant research community.
  • The University established several new programs in which we were able to participate and serve as leaders. We are home to two of the four Pan-University Institutes: UVA Brain Institute and the Global Infectious Diseases Institute. We have competed successfully for Strategic Investment Fund support for the Center for Diabetes Technology, UVA BRAIN and, in collaboration with SEAS, both the Engineering in Medicine program and the Multifunctional Materials Integration Initiative. We were also successful in the cluster hire process, recruiting into Public Health Sciences and Neuroscience.


  • We are starting our third year of a tuition freeze. Nationally, medical students are completing their programs with staggering levels of debt. Thanks to the support of our alumni and the scholarship programs they fund, our students graduate with an average debt level that is much lower than the national average. Freezing tuition, while helping to reduce student debt, results from sound fiscal stewardship at the School of Medicine.
  • In a major advancement, UVA and Inova executed an MOU to establish the UVA School of Medicine – Inova Campus. This regional campus will provide opportunities for 72 students (36 per class) to complete their 3rd and 4th years in Northern Virginia, where they will be exposed to the practice of medicine in a high-volume, urban environment to begin in 2021. The School has taken a lead position in what we anticipate to be a more broad expansion of UVA into northern Virginia.
  • The McIntire School of Commerce is partnering with us to develop a leadership track for medical and graduate students and a leadership certificate for residents and faculty. The program will help the participants learn the skills and qualities needed to flourish as leaders in the field of healthcare.
  • We moved the graduate Biomedical Sciences and Public Health Sciences degrees from the College to the School of Medicine effective with the fall semester. This will allow the students to receive their degrees from the school where they have done their work.


  • For the second year in a row, the University of Virginia Medical Center was recognized as the number one hospital in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Six specialties (Cancer, Ear, Nose & Throat, Orthopedics, Urology, Diabetes & Endocrinology, and Cardiology & Heart Surgery) were ranked in the top 50. And Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, and Pulmonology were called out as being “high performing” specialties. Congratulations to our caregivers, researchers, and staff for this recognition of your work!
  • The Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) was formed, consisting of all clinical department chairs. In a major move forward, and recognizing our interdependence, the FAC has developed draft productivity, effort, and compensation standards as well as a deficit coverage model. UPG provided helpful input during the planning process.
  • The Epic Phase 2 roll-out went live and is now operational. Following the lead of the Medical Center, this was a huge lift on the part of everyone involved in patient care, and all caregivers and staff have my deep thanks for their excellent care for our patients during a stressful period of transition.


  • The LCME is monitoring our success in increasing diversity among our faculty. We have taken a number of steps to improve the inclusion of underrepresented minorities (URM) in medicine on our faculty.
    • A search for a Health System Chief Diversity and Wellness Officer is underway.
    • While our URM faculty increased from 4.8% to 5.3% we still have much work left to achieve the AAMC 50th percentile of 6.7%. Each department has a diversity plan that maps out a strategy and tactics to increase diversity among faculty and trainees.
    • We are now at the national average for women who are full professors, after a 42% increase over a two-year period.
  • Our medical school class is among the most diverse in the nation with 24.3% of our students underrepresented in medicine.
  • The 2017 resident match included 15% URMs, an all-time high, as compared to 7% or less in prior years.
  • For the 4th year in a row, the SOM received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity
  • The SOM had a major role in developing and hosting the two-day University symposium, “The True Impact of Bias on Health & Wellness in America,” which brought scholars to UVA from throughout the nation.

Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development

  • We implemented the Junior Faculty Development Program. This cohort program promotes professional development and academic success through mentoring, skill development, networking, and collaborating.
  • In consultation with the Darden School of Business, we have instituted a formal department chair onboarding program that is held over the first year of the chair’s appointment.
  • As of October 1, we will have new department chairs in Dentistry, Dermatology, Family Medicine (interim), Otolaryngology, Plastic Surgery, and Surgery, and a new Director for the Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center.
  • With input from a diverse task force, revisions to the School of Medicine Promotion and Tenure policy are in their final stages. The new guidelines will be used in the 2018-2019 promotion and tenure cycle.


  • We implemented the department (and center) annual review (DAR) process for a joint assessment of all missions by both department leadership and the dean’s cabinet. During the DAR process last year we learned about some exemplary work occurring in many of our departments that will serve as models across the institution. In addition, we received much appreciated feedback on where departments needed help.
  • In alignment with the Medical Center and UPG, financial reporting was enhanced through consolidated financial reporting and budgeting and by the provision of monthly reports.
  • Recognizing the need for greater efficiency and cost savings, lean training and processes were adopted throughout the dean’s office. Efforts to streamline, cut waste, and improve customer service to our faculty and staff are constantly underway.

I also want to share some information that makes a strong statement about our organization. As we continue to move as one Health System, it’s important to note that our partners in the Medical Center contributed $70.1 million in FY17 to the SOM for academic support. This is a significant and tangible statement of our partnership and of the shared trust between the individual entities of the Health System.

As I said, these are just some of the highlights. Clearly, we – that’s all of you! – have been doing a lot and accomplishing great things.

The events of August 11-12 created a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. We can get mired in the confusion or we can recognize something crucial – we are defined by who we are and what our values are, and not by the events of August. The importance of our work hasn’t changed. Let’s focus on our mission and our excellence. When someone asks where you’re from, you can stand a little taller and say, “I’m from the University of Virginia. I’m from Charlottesville.” And say it with pride, because you know who you are.

I’m very excited about what we are going to do together in the coming years. Although I’ve shared my priorities with you before, this is a good time to share them again.

  • Execute the development of the UVA-Inova Genomics Institute.
  • Operationalize the regional medical school campus for UVA 3rd and 4th year medical students at Inova.
  • Continue an aggressive investment in research and faculty recruitment.
  • Increase our NIH portfolio to $150 million by 2020.

This will take a lot of heavy lifting, but based on what we’ve already accomplished, I know we can do it. Every day we have the opportunity to do our best and every day I see the results of our efforts. My thanks to each one of you.



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

Filed Under: Media Highlights



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