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The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Blog An Interview with Dr. Ana Núñez, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Dr. Ana Núñez, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

February 5, 2019

The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion addresses pressing challenges, and fulfills the College of Medicine's goal of becoming a leader in developing the next generation of a diverse workforce. Dr. Ana Núñez, associate dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, has focused her efforts on enhancing the core missions of educational excellence, research innovation and outstanding clinical care. Recently she took the time to answer some questions about the office.

What did the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) look like when you first took over as associate dean?

There wasn't an Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion before Dean Schidlow created it and appointed me to oversee it. Prior to that, there were individuals in the Student Affairs office who worked on issues for underrepresented students. The new office would be dedicated to the broader vision of our College's diversity and be a space for everyone—students, faculty, trainees and staff.

What were your goals for the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion when created the office? Have you achieved them? How?

My perspective is that we are all here to focus on mission. Our mission includes: great educational experiences, awesome clinical care and outcomes, innovative research, and a productive and inclusive environment. By addressing the three things in the office's title—who is here (diversity), how we are treated (equitably) and how do we best work as a team to achieve our goals (inclusion)—we achieve and even exceed our mission.

To accomplish this, I began with a four-pronged approach. First, I felt that there were a lot of wonderful things happening that no one other than those directly involved knew about, so the Office needed to find out about and help share the great work that was already happening. Second, there were good things, that with collaboration and help from the office, could become great, so we aided in those initiatives. Third, there were things that needed to happen that weren't. Aiding people to address those things was part of our initial efforts. Finally, we firmly adhere to our University's statement about diversity and aversion to discrimination, so addressing challenges and troubleshooting issues, in collaboration with our University colleagues, was the fourth element of my approach.

Looking back at the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team and accomplishments for 2018, what are you most proud of?

2018 brought a wonderful revitalization of our faculty diversity committee with Dr. Annette Gadegbeku as our new Chair. New initiatives like monthly/bimonthly faculty get togethers have started to address the geographic distance many of us work within. Our students are fabulous and continue to bring wonderful ideas. There are so many to give a shout out to that I'd run out of space, but you know who you are! Their ideas have created new affinity groups, such as one for first generation students; promoted curricular change through the LGBTQ curricular task force; and demonstrated leadership city wide, through events such as the Racism in Medicine conference and through organizations such as the Black Doctors Network.

I'm particularly proud of the collaboration and effort from students during Diversity Week (see photos), which had no less than 65 attendees per session, and more than 100 attendees in our Around the World event. Our students were amazing at conveying that here at DUCOM, diversity is all of us. Gay, straight, gender fluid, black, white, Asian, Latinx, Asian, Indian, multicultural, rural, urban, military, first generation, immigrant and more: we all bring the richness of experiences, attitudes and openness to each other and to future patients by learning more about one another. Our admissions office continues to do wonderful and hard work screening tens of thousands of applications and ensuring that we continue to have a diverse learning community. Additionally, we've worked to re-envision our Drexel Pathway to Medical School track to become more supportive of our students and help promote their success.

What do you hope to accomplish in 2019?

We have plans to work with our biomedical trainees about important issues in diversity, equity and inclusion in the research space. Although people hear about how stress affects medical students, less attention has been given to biomedical science students and trainees who face similar challenges. We're going to deliver some workshops and help them develop work groups to address these challenges. Additionally, we're excited to develop training for clinical and basic science educator faculty who work within our new medical student curriculum to help them address and attend to issues of cultural effectiveness, avoidance of stereotyping and inclusive team processes.

Further, I'll be working with our Graduate Medical Education folks to develop an orientation training for all new house staff of American Academic Health System (AAHS). With our faculty and our new Faculty Launch program, we are looking forward mentoring them and helping them address unconscious bias and cultural awareness as they work on their institutional action projects.

The Faculty Diversity Committee has some terrific plans developing a networking survey in order to find out about all members of our community. It began with a simple question: "Who all is here?" That simple question is actually pretty difficult to answer as the information from most standard onboarding forms is not very granular. To address this, we're asking how you would like to be known, what things you would like to engage in, what type of development opportunities you're interested in, and who you might want to mentor, which is all important to help us connect students, residents, faculty and staff. This project is particularly exciting since we know a fair amount about our students, but we know much less about our faculty.

When students came to me and asked if I could recommend a faculty advisor for a Filipino student group, I had to pause. We don't actually know that much about each other—how we want to be known, who we want to mentor, causes we care to hear about, and so on. We really need that information so the ODEI can help in making those connections and create a more inclusive environment.

Additionally, we will continue our work in the Black Men in Medicine Initiative as well as work to encourage alumni support for scholarships to overcome the educational debt challenges of medical education training.

Do you have any closing thoughts about the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion?

The vibrancy and impact of our work is a direct result of all the talented faculty, students and staff. Their ideas and energy are exciting to harness into impactful opportunities and events. I'm excited to see our collective impact and am sure it will be terrific.

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