Concerns remain over Med School's new diversity outreach program
The school eliminated the Office for Diversity and Community Outreach last summer
January 29, 2013, 10:27 pm·
Since the Perelman School of Medicine eliminated its Office for Diversity and Community Outreach in June 2012, the school has been working to restructure its diversity and inclusion programs.
The new program, which was implemented this school year, consists of a Program for Diversity and Inclusion and a Council for Diversity and Inclusion, which is being headed by three professors who also work as clinicians. The goal is to ultimately have five physicians working on this council.
In addition, the program includes the Diversity and Inclusion Student Advisory Committee which serves as a conduit between faculty and students. It consists of nine students chosen for the position and two existing chairs.
The program is staffed with faculty who are committed to advancing and working on all issues that may arise with minorities in the Medical School. The program also works to facilitate and enhance efforts with respect to development of future careers. Their goals focus on recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty as well as on implementation of community service and outreach programs.
However, despite the changes that have been made, there are lingering concerns from students over the availability of those in charge of the new program. Whereas in the past, the administrator in charge of ODCO did not serve an additional role within the school, those in charge of the new program are both professors and clinicians.
“I think a priority of both our groups as students and the faculty is getting staff hired to take on the needs of students around diversity,” said Kimon Ioannides, a first-year Medical School student and member of the Diversity and Inclusion Student Advisory Committee.
The Office for Diversity and Community Outreach was founded in 1968 and focused on retention and recruitment of minority faculty and students, as well as addressing issues pertaining to minorities in the Medical School.
At the time the office closed, Senior Vice Dean for Education Gail Morrison issued a letter to the medical students that outlined the school’s plans to reorganize its diversity and inclusion programs.
“This was done with the deliberate intention to preserve and capture all that was good with the previous office but build on their strength and success to go to an even more inclusive version of diversity,” said Horace Delisser, associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the Academic Programs office.
When the changes were initially announced, students felt uneasy about how the restructuring would work. They created a petition voicing their concerns to the Medical School for eliminating the office. The petition has received over 1000 signatures since its inception.
Many worried that there would be a lack of communication between the PDI and students about their individual needs.
“When the ODCO closed, there was a lot of student concern that there wouldn’t be a lot of support in the transition, and it was going to be more difficult for student groups to accomplish their goals,” said Samantha Lee, a second-year student at the Medical School and member of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
The Diversity and Inclusion Student Advisory Committee held a town meeting Dec. 6 for the purpose of gathering student input and relaying it back to the CDI.
Students expressed some skepticism about the access to administration during the meeting, Ioannides said. He added that they felt that it was very important to have a physical and centralized location where they could get support around their particular backgrounds.
They also discussed the need for trust between the students and the administration.
“Anytime that you have a transition and restructure the way an effort is organized, it’s natural to have certain difficulties and challenges,” said Roy Hamilton, director of Pipeline Initiatives for the PDI.
He believes that they’re meeting a lot of those challenges; however, he notes that it will take some time for everyone to get used to the restructuring and for the restructuring to take its form.
“Success is going to be measured in terms of year one, year three, year five. We’re looking to do a whole restructuring that is going to take time,” Delisser said. “One of our first goals was to preserve core and essential elements of what was in place, and in that sense, I believe we have been successful.”