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Assistant professors Ayiti-Carmel Maharaj-Best (left) and Renée Betancourt (right) have led the Anti-Racism Task Force since May 2019. 

Penn Medicine has named its Anti-Racism Task Force a recipient of the Champion in Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Award: An Award of Excellence.

The inaugural recipient of the award was announced on Feb. 3 at the 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Health Equity Symposium, Penn Medicine News reported. The task force—housed in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health—received the award for developing interventions to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in resident positions and creating educational forums to facilitate discussions on racism, equity, and inclusion. 

Assistant professors of family medicine and community health Ayiti-Carmel Maharaj-Best and Renée Betancourt led the task force, which was founded in May 2019. 

The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health founded the task force to increase representation in their residency recruitment, Betancourt told Penn Medicine News. 

Betancourt and other Penn Medicine residents and faculty attended the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine conference in 2019 to understand how institutions could be antiracist and multicultural. The conference inspired them to adjust their existing initiatives and form an organization with a clear mission. 

Over the years, the Anti-Racism Task Force has expanded beyond faculty and residents, and now includes clinical providers, clinical staff, research faculty, research staff, and administrative staff, Penn Medicine News reported. 

Maharaj-Best told Penn Medicine News that the task force implemented a social justice curriculum into the Community Medicine rotation, which will teach department members about structural racism, white privilege, housing discrimination, disparities in education, and the criminal justice system. 

“The curriculum helps residents apply this content to the Philadelphia community and Penn so they can better understand how historical factors still play out today,” Maharaj-Best told Penn Medicine News. 

The task force has successfully advocated for the removal of race-based anemia guidelines for pregnant women, which recommended different treatments for pregnant Black women, Penn Medicine News reported. The team also lobbied for equitable COVID-19 testing at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. 

Eight Penn Medicine researchers recently created a new initiative call Bold Solutions: Dismantle Racism. Advance Healthcare. The group was founded in September of 2020 to promote antiracist health care delivery models. 

"Through this work, we are able to recognize this is not something that happens by accident — it is an impact of systemic racism, that can only be undone by creating counter-structures to reverse the harm the medical field has perpetuated for generations," Maharaj-Best told Penn Medicine News.