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Message from Dean Wilkes

Dear Alumni and Friends,

It has been a great honor to serve as dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine (SOM) for the past six years. As my term ends, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about what we have accomplished together.

During my interview for this role back in 2015, I was asked what I was passionate about. I answered simply: “Being the best. Period.” I knew then, as I know now, that there are no limits to what we can achieve, both individually and as an institution. Anything is possible. To that end, we set aggressive goals early on:

  • Rebuild the research funding portfolio
  • Continue to be innovative in undergraduate medical education
  • Strengthen graduate education
  • Support academic success
  • Increase diversity and inclusion
  • Institute standards for administrative overhead structure and expense

I am proud to say that we have achieved these goals and overcome many obstacles to get there. The list of achievements is long, so let me share a few highlights:

  • Extramural research funding grew from $178 million in FY15 to $236 million in FY20. Our Strategic Hiring Initiative has recruited some of the best and brightest researchers to UVA, resulting in great progress in our core research priorities.
  • In 2020, US News & World Report named UVA Health the #1 hospital in Virginia for the fifth consecutive year and eight specialties were recognized among the top in the nation. This is an incredible achievement, made possible by our entire team at UVA.
  • Earlier this year, our new UVA Inova regional campus opened in Northern Virginia, giving UVA medical students new opportunities to train at a high-volume healthcare center with increased patient diversity. Other innovative changes included development of a leadership curriculum with UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce and revamping clinical skills education with the rollout of Next Gen 2.0.
  • The number of SOM alumni grew with the move of graduate degrees (PhD, MPH, MS) from the College of Arts and Sciences to the School of Medicine. I am grateful to the UVA Medical Alumni Association for enhancing its partnership with us to serve these non-MD alumni, as well as to support current graduate biomedical sciences students.
  • I’m proud to say that over the past five years, we have more than doubled the number of women professors at the School of Medicine from 45 to 93, now accounting for 26.1% of our faculty. This is higher than our peer institutions average of 25%, and I know this number will only increase in the years to come.
  • Our efforts to increase diversity and inclusion have been recognized many times over the past six years, including Insight into Diversity’s recognition of the SOM for nine years in a row. Diversity among under-represented minority (URM) students, residents, fellows and faculty has seen positive growth as well, and initiatives including our climate surveys and diversity consortium will continue to identify and address challenges.
  • Careful fiscal oversight allowed us to freeze medical school tuition for six years. I am tremendously proud of this accomplishment and the impact it had on current students. I am also grateful to our many supporters whose philanthropy made it possible for so many students to receive scholarship assistance to further minimize their debt load and support their careers.

These accomplishments, as well as many more successes, would not have been possible with you and the support of your fellow alumni. I can say honestly that the support of UVA School of Medicine alumni is second to none. It has been an honor to work with you, and I will never forget those of you who I have been fortunate to meet during my time in Charlottesville.

As you may know, Melina R. Kibbe, MD, will begin her role as the 17th dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine on September 15. I am excited to watch UVA continue to grow as it trains the next generation of physicians and scientists and serves the needs of patients in Virginia and beyond.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as dean. I wish you all the best.


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

Published: July 21, 2021