August 15, 2017

A message from the President and CEO about Charlottesville

Balser preferred portrait
Jeff Balser, president and CEO for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and dean of Vanderbilt School of Medicine

Dear Colleagues,

The horrific acts that took place over the weekend during protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, are another tragic reminder of how much work continues to lie ahead for our nation regarding matters of race, religion and sexual orientation.

The bigotry and hatred that fueled these events—promulgated by skinheads and white supremacists—has no place in America. The beliefs espoused by these groups are the antithesis of what our medical center and our nation are about. It is in our individual differences that our country and its institutions find character, strength and resilience.

Through news coverage we learned of the senseless deaths of a young paralegal and two law enforcement officers, individuals who aspired in their own ways to make our country a better place. At the same time our colleagues at the University of Virginia Medical Center cared for another 19 individuals who were seriously injured.

Over the past two years we have been engaged in a serious dialogue about how to increase diversity and inclusion throughout the Medical Center. The initiative to Make Diversity and Inclusion Intentional is one of our four Strategic Directions. To quote Dr. Andre Churchwell, our Chief Diversity Officer, a strong foundation for diversity must be “built brick by brick” in a way that is intentional and permanent.

Already, we have taken steps—large and small—to help build this foundation. An Executive Diversity Council is in place and is constantly evaluating and executing on new initiatives and programs that will strengthen the culture of our organization. Yet we have much work ahead.

Events such as the Charlottesville tragedy can affect each of us, even if we haven’t been directly involved. Please know that anyone who feels that they may benefit from conversation or counseling to help process their feelings about these traumatic events can contact Work/Life Connections at

What happened in Charlottesville, and unfortunately what happens in many other ways each day in America, should only increase our resolve to do what is right for each other and the community we serve. Please keep the families of those affected by the events in Charlottesville in your thoughts and prayers, and please join me in continuing to make the Medical Center a place of welcome for all people.


Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D.                                                                                                            President and CEO, VUMC                                                                                                    Dean, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine