Community advisory board holds town hall meeting to get feedback about current EVMS culture


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Quite a few people showed up at a town hall meeting in Norfolk on Tuesday night.

It was put on by a community advisory board tasked with looking into diversity and culture at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

It was launched in the wake of the yearbook scandal involving Governor Ralph Northam back in February.

The board welcomed feedback from the community and said it wants to ensure that EVMS is a leader in race relations now and in the future.

“We want this to be inviting,” board chairman Gil Bland said. “We welcome the input of the community and we need their thoughts.”

It’s been four months since a photo surfaced showing someone in blackface and dressed in KKK robes on Governor Ralph Northam’s 1984 EVMS yearbook page. Although an investigation couldn’t determine who was in the photo, the school’s work to move forward isn’t done yet.

“As a committee, our number one goal is transparency and to go wherever the facts lead us,” Bland said.

The meeting is the first in a series of town halls to learn how EVMS can improve its relationship with the community it serves.

The meeting included interactive polls with real time results and attendees also spoke of their experiences at EVMS clinics.

“They just wouldn’t listen to me as a patient and I really believe as an African-American patient,” said one woman.

“She’s talking to the resident about what’s going on with my body and not talking to me,” said another woman.

Bland said they’re listening and taking notes.

“We are embracing the notion of having a world-class medical college in this community,” Bland said. “We want to make sure that those providers are well prepared.”

Bland said they hope to complete their work by the fall, and he wants to assure the public they’re on the right track.

“We are completely independent, have no ties or expectations to say or not say anything. We simply will go where the truth leads us and hopefully in the process, help build a better medical school,” Bland said.

The advisory board said it plans to do a survey on paper and online to get more input from the community in the next couple of months.

We’ll let you know when that’s available.

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