Suffolk’s Woleben named first Hugo R. Seibel teaching teacher
Posted at 8:34 p.m. on Friday, September 23, 2022
Like his predecessor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Suffolk native Chris Woleben is dedicated to helping students succeed, including through the residency matching process.
That is why it is so fitting that he was named the first holder of the Hugo R. Seibel Professorship.
The chair is named after the perennial alumni favorite and former dean associated with student activities, known for guiding students through their four years on campus, from the anatomy lab to Match.
Upon his retirement in 2004, the generous Seibel wanted to ensure that the excellence of teaching at the medical school would be preserved and rewarded, even in the face of increasing demands from faculty to become increasingly productive in the research and clinical efforts. To this end, he made a significant commitment of $100,000 of the $250,000 needed to endow a chair. And to celebrate his more than 30-year tenure at medical school, former students and colleagues have joined him in the effort to reward and inspire outstanding teachers.
Attracting the broadest alumni base of any medical school professorship campaign, the effort has also inspired just under 100 new donors to the medical school. Designed to generate an annual award for a distinguished teacher, the chair honors teaching – that mysterious fusion of science and art – which remains a core value of our medical school.
In a press release from VCU, officials said it was particularly fitting that the school’s first ever teaching professorship was named after Seibel, who died in 2020. And equally fitting as its incumbent inaugural be Woleben – who first met Seibel during his medical school interview and later leaned on him for advice during the matchmaking process.
“He got me into med school and he got me out of it as well,” Woleben said. “It’s a huge honor.”
“A tireless champion of our learners”
Now, 25 years later, Woleben has won national accolades for his own commitment to students. In 2021, he was one of only four national recipients of the Careers in Medicine Excellence in Medical Student Career Advising Awards from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
A pediatric emergency physician who is also the associate dean of student affairs, he was honored as a “tireless champion of our learners and…for his accessibility and willingness to help, even outside of regular channels,” according to the association.
During his 15 years in the Office of Student Affairs, Woleben has helped thousands of VCU students by developing innovative programs and strategies to support them throughout their medical school journey.
He has developed a longitudinal career development program and implemented a nationally known red light program to identify and support at-risk students, which uses an algorithm to rank students based on their predicted chances of a successful residence match.
“It starts during the first year of orientation,” Woleben said in the statement. “Getting them to think a bit about their professional identity in the field, learning how they work together as a team, how their personality type can play out in the different specialties they choose, providing them with a lot of information on how the process of match .”
VCU graduates are often matched through the National Resident Matching Program at a higher rate than the national average, thanks in large part to the work of Woleben and his colleagues. Several years ago, the AAMC enlisted Woleben’s help in translating this success to other medical schools across the country. A survey he created for fourth-year students is now part of the association’s toolkit, and as chair of the national advisory committee for the e-Residency Application Service, he wants to make the process of smoother and fairer interview for students and programs.
Students described Woleben as a great role model and a lifelong friend who gets personally involved in everyone, despite nearly 200 students going through the matchmaking process each year.
“I really found a passion for helping people develop their professional identity,” says Woleben. “It’s just something that interests me personally and it’s rewarding when I see a student who may have struggled at some point, and they’re able to fit into a great program and he is satisfied with the result. These are the things that make this job truly rewarding.
Family members living in Suffolk said Woleben was a student at Nansemond Suffolk Academy and got his first job in the late 1980s as a North Suffolk reporter for the Suffolk News Herald.
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