The law firm McGuireWoods has completed its four-month, independent investigation of an offensive photo in the 1984 EVMS student yearbook posted May 22, 2019 at 10:30 AM

An independent investigation of an offensive photo in the 1984 EVMS student yearbook was unable to determine the identity of the individuals in the photo. The photo pictures two individuals, one dressed in blackface and the other in a white robe and hood. The image appeared on the yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam, who has denied appearing in the photo or having any knowledge of how it ended up on his yearbook page.

The report found no one “with first-hand knowledge of an actual mistake on any page, including any personal page, within the 1984 yearbook” and no evidence that the photo was placed in error. The report also identified 10 photographs depicting individuals in blackface based on the law firm’s review of all EVMS yearbooks.

Richard V. Homan, MD, President and Provost of EVMS and Dean of the School of Medicine, underscored the importance of the investigation. “To maintain the public’s trust and ensure an independent and objective assessment of the past,” he said, “we knew we needed outside assistance.”

Within 48 hours of the offensive photo appearing online on Feb. 1, EVMS hired McGuireWoods to conduct the investigation. The law firm’s charge was to examine the past culture and yearbook production processes. The results of the independent and objective four-month probe — conducted by the law firm McGuireWoods at the request of EVMS — were announced at a news conference held May 22, 2019, at EVMS.

“We thank EVMS for its cooperation and responsiveness during the investigation,” said Richard Cullen, who led the investigation. “EVMS ensured McGuireWoods had unfettered access to EVMS documents and members of the EVMS community. At no time was our inquiry restricted by EVMS, and the findings and conclusions contained in the report are our own.”

Dr. Homan acknowledged that publication of the photos was a “failure of administrative oversight on the part of EVMS.

“Their publication was hurtful, particularly to the African-American community and to our campus community,” Dr. Homan said. “It should never have happened.”

News of the photo on the governor’s page triggered a review of yearbooks at other schools across the country that turned up hundreds of offensive photos. The scope of the problem is indicative of the unconscious and conscious bias and racism that continue to exist, Dr. Homan said

“Unless we face this fact head on, this bias and racism will not abate,” he said. “Uncomfortable silence only perpetuates these problems. We must engage in direct conversations, even if they are uncomfortable, even if they are difficult. Notwithstanding, talking is not enough.”

Dr. Homan has apologized publicly for the photo and other inappropriate images in the yearbook, but he emphasized that the photos do not reflect the school’s culture.

“Our work toward a more equitable and inclusive campus is not, and has not been, reactionary,” Dr. Homan said. “It has been a focus since 2013 and will continue to be an area of high priority for us for years to come. Our faculty, staff, residents and students have been working diligently to enhance diversity in all we do, and I applaud them for their efforts.”

Similar recognition of the school’s diversity strides came earlier this year when the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education selected EVMS to receive the organization’s Institutional Excellence Award. The award is given annually to a single institution to celebrate the school’s progress in sustaining innovative diversity efforts on campus.

Immediately after the disclosure of the offensive photos, Dr. Homan engaged local businessman Gilbert Bland to form a Community Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion (CABDI). The advisory board will focus on the current culture at EVMS and make recommendations for the future. The CABDI has engaged an outside consultant to assist the group and expects to complete its report this fall. Dr. Homan has committed to make that report public, too.

Dr. Homan also has launched a focused planning process that includes nearly 100 representatives from across campus. The goal is to develop strategies for improving diversity, equity and inclusion across campus. The plan will be completed by June 30.

“We can’t change the past but we can refuse to be defined by it,” Dr. Homan added. “We can reflect critically on our past and commit to learning everything we can from it. Today we take another step in learning those lessons.”

View full report.

Statement on behalf of the Community Advisory Board on Diversity and Inclusion posted Feb. 7, 2019 at 4:34 PM

Gilbert Bland, MBA, Chair of the newly established external Community Advisory Board on Diversity and Inclusion, has announced the appointment of the final members to join the independent volunteer board that will closely examine the past and present culture of Eastern Virginia Medical School and provide recommendations for improving the school’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Mr. Bland is the former national President of the Minority Franchise Association of Burger King Corporation and charter member of its Inclusion Advisory Council. Mr. Bland currently serves as President and CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads and as a board member for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Sentara Healthcare and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. Mr. Bland’s past leadership roles include service on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia as Chair, the Old Dominion University Board of Visitors and James Madison University Foundation. For the past five years, Mr. Bland has been recognized by Virginia Business Magazine as one of the 50 Most Influential Virginians.

Mr. Bland has engaged the following business and community leaders to join the advisory board:

Edward L. Ayers, PhD, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and President Emeritus of the University of Richmond, is a prominent historian of the American South, author and co-host of a nationally syndicated radio show on American history. He previously was the Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, where he began his teaching career. He has received a presidential appointment to the National Council on the Humanities, served as a Fulbright Professor in the Netherlands, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

L.D. Britt, MD, MPH, the Edward J. Brickhouse Chair in Surgery and the Henry Ford Professor of Surgery, is Professor and Chair of Surgery at EVMS. Dr. Britt is a past President of the American College of Surgeons, the Society of Surgical Chairs and the ACGME Residency Review Committee for Surgery; past Chairman of the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons; the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma and the American Surgical Association. He is the first EVMS faculty member elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. Dr. Britt is principal investigator on a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop strategies to address healthcare disparities in various health care specialties.

Susan R. Colpitts is a Founder of Signature Family Wealth Advisors and leads the Client Services Team. Ms. Colpitts has received various national recognitions for her accomplishments, including Research Magazine’s Advisor Hall of Fame and the United Way of South Hampton Roads Volunteer of the Year. She is currently a Director of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and Vice Chair of Virginia Humanities. Previously, she served as Trustee of the Eastern Virginia Medical School Foundation, Director of Building Goodness Foundation, Chair of the United Way of South Hampton Roads and Chair of the Virginia Symphony.

Delceno C. Miles is President/CEO of The Miles Agency, a Virginia Beach-based niche marketing and public relations firm. She currently serves on the boards of the regional Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber’s Virginia Beach division. Her prior community service includes being appointed to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and being elected to the Virginia Beach School Board, serving as its vice chair for two years. In 2009, she was honored by Inside Business with its Women in Business Achievement Award. In 2011, the YWCA of South Hampton Roads named her its Woman of Distinction in Communications, and from 2011 through 2016, Inside Business named her one of the top 75 most powerful leaders in Hampton Roads. In 2013, she was inducted into the Inaugural Hall of Fame by the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals.

Xavier R. Richardson, MBA, is Senior Vice President & Chief Corporate Development Officer for Mary Washington Healthcare. In this capacity, he also serves as president of Mary Washington Hospital and Stafford Hospital Foundations. Prior to joining Mary Washington Healthcare, Mr. Richardson served as an assistant director of the U.S. General Accounting Office in Washington, D.C. His responsibilities there included identifying issues, events and trends to be evaluated for financial markets and federal human-resource management. He also served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to examine campaign finance reform issues and managed the Combined Federal Campaign for three federal agencies, a fundraising project that raised more than $1 million in contributions.

James “Jim” Wood Jr., MDiv, has been Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, the oldest and largest Presbyterian church in Norfolk, for 20 years. Rev. Wood is graduate of the University of South Carolina, Princeton Theological Seminary and Drew University. He is currently a PhD candidate in Global Leadership at Regent University. His passion is lived out through his preaching and teaching, pastoral care and love for outreach. Having led dozens of mission teams — in Russia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Kenya, and Sudan, among others — his commitment is deeply felt and long-term.

Jonathan C. Zur is President & CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, an organization that works with schools, businesses and communities to achieve success through inclusion. Under Mr. Zur’s leadership, the center increased the number of programs delivered annually by nearly 1,000 percent. In 2017, Mr. Zur was appointed to the Commonwealth Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, formed in the aftermath of the tragedy in Charlottesville. In 2016, he was a speaker at the inaugural White House Summit on Diversity and Inclusion in Government. He has received a Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award, FBI Director's Community Leadership Award, Leadership Metro Richmond Ukrop Community Vision Award, and Stettinius Award for Nonprofit Leadership, among other recognitions.

Mark R. Warden, Vice Rector of the EVMS Board of Visitors, said the Board is pleased with how quickly the president has moved to appoint an independent advisory group.

“The Board of Visitors fully supports Dr. Homan’s actions to establish an independent review of our culture that is not limited in scope and affirms the commitment to transparency in making the results available to the public,” Mr. Warden said. “On behalf of the Board, I offer our heartfelt thanks to the community members who have volunteered for this important service. Their work will be critical in helping EVMS heal.”

Richard V. Homan, MD, President and Provost of EVMS and Dean of the School of Medicine, also thanked Mr. Bland and the other volunteers for their willingness to participate in the advisory board.

“I am grateful that these community and business leaders have volunteered to broker what could be difficult conversations,” Dr. Homan said. “We must now step back and let this independent body do its challenging work. We have confidence that their work will be thorough, thoughtful and powerful. Any recommendations for advancing a culture of diversity and inclusion will only make EVMS stronger than we were before.”

The Community Advisory Board will complete its work in conjunction with the independent investigation of circumstances surrounding the yearbook publication currently being conducted by George Martin, Esq.; Richard Cullen, Esq.; and the legal team at McGuireWoods.

Statement from the Eastern Virginia Medical School Board of Visitors on Feb. 3, 2019, at 5:15 PM

“The Eastern Virginia Medical School Board of Visitors, like the administration, faculty, staff and students of EVMS, are committed to our core values of integrity, collegiality and excellence,” said Rector David A. Arias, Founder of SwimWays. “The Board, like our senior management team, is committed to discovering quickly how unacceptable photos such as these came to be published in the past. Further, we are committed to ensuring that our existing culture is one that would never tolerate such actions today.”

Following yesterday’s announcement of the creation of the external Community Advisory Board, President Richard V. Homan, MD, appointed Gilbert Bland, as Chair of the Community Advisory Group. Mr. Bland is the former national President of the Minority Franchise Association of Burger King Corporation and charter member of its Inclusion Advisory Council. Mr. Bland currently serves as President and CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads and as a board member for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Sentara Healthcare, and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. Mr. Bland’s past leadership roles include service on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia as Chair, the Old Dominion University Board of Visitors, and James Madison University Foundation.

President Homan also appointed L.D. Britt, MD, MPH, the Edward J. Brickhouse Chair in Surgery and the Henry Ford Professor of Surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School, as a member of the Community Advisory Board. Dr. Britt is a past President of the Society of Surgical Chairs and the past Chairman of the ACGME Residency Review Committee for Surgery. Dr. Britt is the past Chairman of the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons and also is past President of the American College of Surgeons, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, and the American Surgical Association.

Other members will be announced as appointed over the next few days.

Additionally, Rector Arias said that he and Vice Rector Mark Warden directed President Homan to engage an outside firm to conduct an objective third-party investigation. President Homan has engaged Richard Cullen, Esq., Senior Partner at McGuireWoods to lead the investigation. Mr. Cullen served as Attorney General of Virginia from 1997 to 1998. In 1991, George H.W. Bush appointed Mr. Cullen U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia where he directed investigations and prosecution of financial institutions and defense contractors.

Rector Arias said, “It is our responsibility to provide the resources and support necessary to thoroughly and quickly investigate these shocking findings. Such support will allow the Community Advisory Board to create concrete and actionable recommendations for ensuring a culture that values and fosters diversity and inclusion.”

Board Treasurer Derwin P. Gray, MD, a member of the EVMS Board of Visitors since 2008 who has served as an officer for the past three years, said, “Since I joined the institution, EVMS has shown vast improvement with respect to diversity and mentoring students of all backgrounds. In the last few years, EVMS has also taken measures to improve professionalism by reestablishing decorum for Match Day activities, eliminating the yearbook, and standardizing mentoring across the student body. The growth at EVMS coupled with its supportive and inclusive culture inspired me to encourage my son to pursue his medical education. He graduated from EVMS in 2016 and has developed into an excellent surgeon and clinician.”

Board Member and Class of 1976 alum Marcus Martin, MD, Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity at the University of Virginia, was the first African American graduate of Eastern Virginia Medical School. “I did not personally experience overt racism while a medical student. I am distraught to see the black face and KKK photo. It does not reflect the culture of the medical school.

“Under Dr. Homan’s leadership, EVMS created an Office of Diversity and Inclusion and recruited the first Vice President for Diversity to focus on this critical work — including providing implicit bias and diversity training across campus. President Homan appointed Dr. Thomas Kimble, MD, as Associate Dean of Admissions and Enrollment and empowered his staff to implement holistic review for our admissions process resulting in increased diversity for the medical school.”

Statement from President Richard V. Homan, MD, on Feb. 2, 2019, at 8:15 PM

In concert with our Board of Visitors' leadership, I will direct that an external investigation be conducted as soon as possible to review all of our past yearbooks, determine the processes for publishing those yearbooks; discover what, if any, administrative oversight was exercised; examine our campus culture; and provide recommendations for future actions.

We will move quickly to assemble an appropriate panel to conduct this investigation — a panel of advocates for diversity and inclusion representative of our greater community, including African Americans and other people of color; a diverse panel that can apply a critical eye to this issue.

We commit to transparency and moving the investigation forward as quickly as possible.

Statement from President Richard V. Homan, MD, Feb. 2, 2019, at 11:36 AM

We share the outrage, alarm and sadness voiced by our alumni, the press and many on social media regarding the picture published in the 1984 student yearbook. The picture is shockingly abhorrent and absolutely antithetical to the principles, morals and values we hold and espouse of our educational and research institution and our professions. Racism and discrimination in any form is not acceptable.

We cannot change the events of the past, but we can use these events as reminders of the importance of our ongoing work toward diversity and inclusion. This is a time for self-reflection and humility. On behalf of our beloved EVMS, I sincerely apologize for the past transgressions of your trust. We recognize the need to address and rectify any issues of racism and discrimination that arise, at any point — and will continue a long tradition of action to build a strong culture of diversity and inclusion.

Therefore, I shall convene an urgent meeting of members of our senior leadership and members of our Boards to address this issue holistically for EVMS. We will, of course, include students, residents, faculty, staff, and alumni in this work.

It has been said that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. We must learn from this and will come together to support and live the values and principles we hold so dear. We remain steadfast in reassuring our community that EVMS is absolutely committed to supporting and creating a culture of diversity, inclusion and social equality. We continue to affirm the tenets of our professions and our mission to recruit, educate and train a culturally competent healthcare workforce that reflects the demography of our nation and the patients we serve.

Thank you for your tireless work to make EVMS and the communities we serve a better and healthier place. In my seven years at EVMS, I have witnessed the efforts of our outstanding faculty, students and staff to advance our missions. We have much more work to do and must now vow to do more to forge a better future together. I am confident that together, we shall.