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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Blog

April 21, 2017
Celebrating Our Legends: Diversity Kickoff Event – Dr. Maurice Clifford Portrait Dedication Ceremony & Reception

On March 30, Drexel University College of Medicine celebrated one of our very own legends, Dr. Maurice Clifford, who joined the faculty of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1955.

Dr. Maurice Clifford Portrait Dedication Ceremony - March 2017

Dr. Clifford was honored during a portrait dedication ceremony for his contribution and exemplary achievements during his time at the College of Medicine. In 1980, after having served as vice president of clinical affairs, he was elected the 17th president of the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Dr. Clifford’s dedication transcended his tenure position; during his leadership, the College became a nationally recognized center for patient care, research and training. In 1986, Dr. Clifford went on to become the commissioner of public health for the City of Philadelphia.

Dr. Maurice Clifford’s portrait dedication ceremony attracted nearly 100 guests, including family and friends, students, staff and faculty, who reminisced and shared warm memories of his leadership, fervor for patient care, and compassion.

The ceremony began with an intimate yet pivotal message on diversity and inclusivity. Dr. Daniel Schidlow, dean of the College of Medicine, welcomed guests and focused his message on the significance of diversity in medicine: “We are committed to becoming leaders for the next generation of a diverse workforce.” Dr. Schidlow highlighted our historical contribution to inclusivity, which afforded women, African Americans, Italians and others the ability to receive a medical education at a time when most medical institutions practiced exclusion.

Dr. Ana Núñez, associate dean, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, introduced the newly minted office and outlined its current initiatives, which include addressing the prevailing challenges facing black men in medicine and building a culture of diversity, both academically and in the field of medicine. According to the AAMC report Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine, there are fewer black male applicants and matriculants to medical school now than in 1978. African Americans are the only ethnic group to show this decline.

Dr. Jay Clifford followed with a warm biography describing his father’s dedication to medicine and public health service, and his commitment to the College of Medicine. Dr. Walter Cohen, the College of Medicine’s chancellor emeritus, shared his own memories, recollecting Dr. Clifford’s relationship with fellow colleagues and students, recognizing him as a “‘humane and compassionate caregiver.” One of the most memorable moments of the ceremony was the unveiling of Dr. Maurice Clifford’s portrait, orchestrated by his sons, Dr. Jay Clifford and Maurice Clifford III, while accompanied by their wives and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Dr. Clifford.

This event underlined the historical and fundamental values of Drexel University College of Medicine; equally significantly, it served to reinvigorate among various departments and affiliates one of the essential components of our mission: our commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Philadelphia Sun:

Written by:
Lidyvez Sawyer, MPH
Director, Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Drexel University College of Medicine

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Day Without a Woman

March 8, 2017
Day Without a Woman & Why Does It Matter?

Today we celebrate ourselves, women and all gender-oppressed people of every background, race, nationality, immigration status, age or disability, religion, sexual identity, gender expression and economic status.

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On January 21st over 5 million U.S. demonstrators joined the Women's March worldwide (with over 1 million in D.C.) to make our voices heard. But it's not over. We stand united today in solidarity, marking March 8th, A Day Without a Woman, to speak against inequity and injustice, and for the human rights of women.

The first International Women's Day took place in 1911 in Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and Austria (according to the International Women's Day website). On March 8th we reflect on the courageous acts of ordinary women, who have played and continue to play an extraordinary role to eradicate the inequities that continue to plague women today: receiving lower wages, discrimination, sexual harassment and job insecurity (to name a few).

Why does it matter? The Economist's Glass Ceiling Index, a metric that demonstrates where women have the best chance of equal treatment at work, categorized the U.S. as below average in significant areas, when compared to 28 other countries. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) performs an international biannual analysis of the economic trend to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people. The U.S., when compared to other countries, was below the OECD average on wage gap equity, child care cost, paid maternity leave and women employed in parliament and government; and barely above average on gender equality for higher education. Although the OECD has shown improvements in gender equity on an international scale, Finland scoring the highest among 28 countries, the wage gap continues to widen, furthering the notion that there is much work to be done. This is among other women's rights issues that have stemmed from the current administration, further jeopardizing our reproductive rights: the defunding of Planned Parenthood and overturning Roe v. Wade.

Join us today, united in love and in the spirit of liberation by doing one or all of the following:

  • Women take the day off from (un)paid labor
  • Avoid shopping for one day (unless from women- or minority-owned businesses)
  • Wear red in solidarity with A Day Without a Woman

Today, we close the doors to discrimination, gender injustice and all acts of oppression. Women's rights are human rights.

For more information:

Written by:
Lidyvez Sawyer, MPH, Director
Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Drexel University College of Medicine

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Black History Heading

February 24, 2017
Celebrating Our Heritage in Black History Month: Legends of Today and Pioneers of Our Past

February is Black History Month. This year, we welcome Black History Month during a time of divisiveness and for most of us confusion, driven by the shift in political power and differences in societal views. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the long line of historical events that continue to shape us all today: the resilience and determination of our ancestors and the diversity and richness of our culture. Not only who we are, but where we came from. In the midst of our uncertainty, let's take a moment to reflect on the legends of our time and the great pioneers of the past.

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Many would agree that one of the greatest African American legends of our time would be our esteemed former and first African American President of the United States, Barack Obama. Serena Williams, often called the greatest tennis player of all time. Entertainer and musical artist, Beyoncé, known for her massively successful career, winner of 21 Grammy Awards. African American writer and journalist, winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the James Baldwin of our generation. The number of legendary figures is abundant: Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Rep. John Lewis, Marcus Garvey, the list continues.

What about the legends of our past, the pioneers before our time? Some firsts:

Dorothy Dandridge, first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award, during the 1950s, a time of great segregation.

Jesse Owens, a four-time Olympic gold medalist at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; today the Jesse Owens Award is regarded as USA Track and Field's highest honor.

Adventurists, such as Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to earn an international pilot's license, in 1921. She was recognized for her daring stunts in air shows performed around the world, while refusing to be slowed down by racism.

Mae Jemison, an American physician and NASA astronaut known for being the first black woman to travel in space.

First African American surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, MD.

Thomas Creigh Imes, MD, Class of 1884

Vivian Pinn, first African American woman chair of an academic pathology department, at Howard University College of Medicine, and the first full-time director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health.

Novelist, essayist and playwright James Baldwin. A Harlem native who remains the best of his time, capturing with truth and unique articulation the social injustice and inequality that remains tangible today, more than a decade preceding the Civil Rights Act, publishing "Go Tell It on the Mountain" in 1953.

The civil rights activists who refused to accept the cruel act of inhumanity, slavery and injustice: Dred Scott (1795-1858); Nat Turner (1800-1831); Harriet Tubman (1822-1913); Frederick Douglass (1818-1895).

The history of our African American pioneers encompasses great intellects of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute, and Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, influential historian, writer and scholar, the first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard, in 1909.

In medicine, we have Drs. James McCune Smith, the first African American to earn a medical degree, and Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman physician. And what about our own pioneers in medicine, graduates of our legacy school Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania: Drs. Rebecca J. Cole (1846 - 1922), the second African American woman to receive an MD; Matilda Arabella Evans (1872 - 1935), the first African American woman licensed to practice in South Carolina; and Virginia M. Alexander (1900 - 1949), who founded a community health clinic in her home.

Always keep in mind: We cannot fully understand who we are, and in its entirety where we are going, unless we understand the richness of our history.

Written by:
Lidyvez Sawyer, MPH
Director, Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Drexel University College of Medicine

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