The core strength of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) has been its ability to attract, embrace and retain a diverse student, faculty and colleague population. Our continued success hinges on expanding our efforts and programs to ensure we are uprooting barriers within our institution toward achieving health equity. Leading the most recent charge are two faculty members — Karie Gaska, PhD, MSW and Katrina Parker, MD — who will establish a search committee to hire the leader of our new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office.
Effective today, Drs. Gaska and Parker will begin soliciting committee members who will lead the search process. The committee will comprise of members from each RUSM community segment — medical sciences and clinical sciences staff and students, alumni and faculty members from affiliated hospitals.
RUSM internal teams have reviewed, updated and enhanced policies and curriculum to ensure diversity and inclusivity throughout the community. Efforts expanded last June when we shared our Social Justice Commitments and formalized a Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, which culminated last month after our strategic plan was approved by the Board of Trustees. Among many recommendations, the Taskforce highly encouraged RUSM leaders to develop a DEI office.
“I truly appreciate the collaboration and tireless efforts of our Taskforce and applaud them for the depth and breadth of their recommendations,” said Dr. James M. Record, RUSM provost and chief academic officer. “Now we must continue the momentum by following through on their suggestions. Creating a DEI office will be the fundamental cornerstone of our success as a diverse and inclusive institution that supports a well-rounded community. I am thrilled to have Drs. Gaska and Parker co-chair such an integral part of our future. But make no mistake, while we believe that the DEI office is necessary, it is not sufficient for our success, which needs to be grounded in a fundamental culture that extends through every part of the institution. To that end, it is the responsibility of all members of our diverse community to ensure inclusivity and equity.”
Dr. Gaska, assistant professor of behavioral sciences and a licensed psychologist, is encouraged that RUSM has committed to embedding principles of equity and inclusion throughout the organization including training for faculty and staff, reviewing existing organizational policy and expanding its curriculum offerings like the recent anti-racism reading program developed for first-semester students. “We need an expert in organizational DEI efforts who understands how race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, and other social identities shape our individual, organizational and collective experiences and play out in our interactions with others.”
Dr. Parker, associate professor in Clinical Foundations and a pediatric endocrinologist, said she looks forward to RUSM providing a safe place for students and staff to voice concerns and to connect with others who may have similar life experiences and backgrounds. “Students are championing what they want to see and now we’ll be able to turn that into a reality.”
In addition to training, policies and procedures, the co-chairs also hope to create a program that celebrates multi-cultural student achievement. “We have an extremely diverse medical student body and a wealth of opportunity for meaningful cross-cultural interaction but need to focus more on how current and historical oppression impacts our lived experiences and in turn our interactions with patients,” Dr. Gaska said. “Let’s highlight the needs and capitalize on our strengths to achieve success.”
For more information about the search committee and next steps, please email Dr. Karie Gaska or Dr. Katrina Parker. To provide feedback, please email us.
Achievements of the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce
In less than one year, the 16-member Taskforce, facilitated by Dexter Francis, MBA, MPM achieved many milestones including:
Collaborated with and supported RUSM’s Ignite and Innovate multiyear Strategic Initiative development process to ensure DEI remained integral to the three pillars of the plan — educational excellence, academic learning environment and sustainability
Incorporated recommended DEI components to be embedded into the curriculum
Supported the curriculum committee, which established a standing DEI subcommittee to work on an activation plan
Raised awareness of disparities and inequities in healthcare through colleague and student development seminars, as recommended by many RUSM student and faculty groups as well as Adtalem Medical colleagues
Established a student DEI working group to advise and provide recommendations for student inclusion activities
Student / Faculty Milestones
The student Diversity and Inclusion working group, student clubs, Student Government Association (SGA), faculty and student affairs leaders, collaborated to:
Implement an Anti-Racism Reading Program for incoming first semester students
Introduce an orientation event, Cross-Cultural Conversations — a safe space for students to discuss and inquire about culture
Establish a diversity and inclusion chair position for an SGA representative to advocate for DEI issues from a student perspective
Launch a safe conversation platform to discuss race in medicine, with presentations from invited speakers including alumni and faculty
Continue RUSM university programs including the town hall conversation series, orientation modules and activities, the Access and Inclusion in Medicine Scholars program and expansion of partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions