VCOM reviewing professor’s public response over blackface yearbook photo

Local News

Officials at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine are now reviewing controversial yearbook photos from a medical school in Norfolk and the response from the VCOM professor who apologized for his appearance in blackface as a medical student.

WFXR News first interviewed Dr. Michael Breiner on Monday after our sister station discovered blackface photos on Breiner’s page in the 1985 Eastern Virginia Medical School.

“They gave me their blessing that this would not offend them,” Breiner told WFXR News on Monday. “It was a Halloween party. I meant no disrespect to the African-American community.”

Breiner is listed as the Discipline Chair for Surgery and Associate Professor for Anatomical Sciences and Surgery at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg.

A statement released by VCOM Thursday afternoon said the administration “plans to use this unfortunate situation, including the professor’s disappointing response as an opportunity to engage open and respectful dialogue and to provide education.”

The VCOM administration is disappointed by this most recent news.  The College is actively reviewing the photos from the 1985 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, as well as the professor’s public response. Whilea culture thirtyfive years ago may have led individuals to engage in such behaviors, it is not difficult in today’s environment to understand that it was inappropriate then and inappropriate now.  

VCOM takes pride in being a leader in recruiting minority students (being ranked by US News and World Report as # 2 in the country for African American medical students enrolled in 2017)reversing a sad history of black medical students being recognized nationally as under-represented in medicine.  This behavior in no way reflects our proud history of inclusion and diversity.

As an educational institution, the College plans to use this unfortunate situation, including the professor’s disappointing response as an opportunity to engage open and respectful dialogue and to provide education. Engaging the respectful dialogue between faculty, students, and staff is key to awareness and understanding. We were made aware of the regrettable picture and interview on Tuesday morning and we have already begun the processof engaging our minority faculty and our minority student leadership to lead us in this educational process. While we cannot change behaviors of the past, we can increase our awareness and understanding today.  The events over the past few weeks in Virginiahave shown everyone there remains a need to foster an inclusive, diverse and equitable society.  These are teachable moments for everyone.

Dixie Tooke-Rawlins D.O., President,

Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine

Stay with WFXR News and VirginiaFirst.com for the latest on this developing story

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