Woleben appointed Suffolk inaugural Hugo R. Seibel teaching professor
Posted at 8:34 PM on Friday, September 23, 2022
Like his predecessor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Chris Woolpin, a native of Suffolk, is dedicated to helping students succeed, particularly through the Residency Match process.
Which is why it is so fitting that for the first time in Hugo R. Seibel he was appointed Professor Emeritus to teach.
The professorship bears the name of the Preferred Permanent Dean and former Associate Dean of Student Activities who has been known for taking care of students during their four years on campus, from the Anatomy Lab through Match.
Upon retiring in 2004, the generous Seibel wanted to ensure that educational excellence in the medical school was maintained and rewarded, even in the face of increasing demands for faculty to become more productive in research and clinical endeavours. To that end, he made a principal commitment of $100,000 towards the $250,000 needed to award the professorship degree. Celebrating more than 30 years in the medical school, former students and colleagues joined him in an effort to reward and inspire outstanding teachers.
By attracting the broadest base of alumni to support any of the medical school’s professorship campaigns, this effort also inspired less than 100 first-time medical school donors. Designed to generate an annual award for an outstanding teacher, the professorship honors teaching – that mysterious blend of science and art – that remains a core value of our medical school.
In a press release from Virginia Commonwealth University, officials said it is particularly fitting that Seibel, who passed away in 2020, bears the name of the first teaching professorship created at the school. He met him at medical school and later relied on him for guidance during the match process.
“He got me into medical school, and he helped me out, too,” Wolbin said. “This is a great honor.”
“A tireless champion for our learners’
Today, 25 years later, Woolpin continues to earn national honors for his commitment to students. In 2021, he was one of only four recipients of the Career Excellence in Medicine Awards in the Professional Counseling Awards for Medical Students from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
A pediatric emergency physician who also serves as the Associate Dean of Student Affairs, has been honored as a “tireless hero to our learners and … for his accessibility and willingness to help, even outside of typical 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 during their journeys to medical school.
He has developed a longitudinal approach to career development and established a nationally known pause program to identify and support at-risk students, which uses an algorithm to rank students in their expected chances of a successful stay match.
“It begins during the first general directive,” Woleben said in the statement. “It got them to start thinking a little bit about their professional identity within the field, learning how they work together in teams, how their personality type might play out in the different disciplines they choose, and giving them a lot of information about how the matching process works.”
VCU alumni match very much through the National Resident Matching Program at a rate above the national average, in large part due to the work of Woolbin and colleagues. Several years ago, the AAMC requested Woleben’s help in translating this success to other medical schools around the country. The 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 interview process smoother and fairer for both students and programs.
Students described Woleben as a wonderful role model and lifelong friend who is personally invested in everyone, even though there are approximately 200 students who cycle through the Match process each year.
“I’ve really found a passion for helping people develop their professional identity,” says Woolliben. “It is just something that is personally interesting to me and rewarding when I see a student who might struggle at some point, be able to fit into a great program and be happy with the outcome. These are the things that make this job really rewarding.”
Family members living in Suffolk said Woolliben was a student at Nansmond Academy Suffolk, and got his first job in the late 1980s as a reporter in North Suffolk for the Suffolk News Herald.