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Pulse - Fall 2020 We Grow Closer Together

Charles B. Cairns, MD, Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Dean, Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs

Charles B. Cairns, MD
Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Dean
Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs

As this summer draws to a close, I am happy to share some good news with you. In spite of our physical distances, the College of Medicine has maintained, and even strengthened, our sense of community by holding a series of virtual Town Halls focused on faculty, research, COVID-19, health disparities, social justice and the return to campus. Each interactive meeting has brought together people from different constituencies (faculty, staff, students) and geographies (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and California campuses and affiliates) who otherwise might never have met each other.

And now we have more constituents: In August, the College of Medicine welcomed 271 first-year students into the MD program and 346 new students into the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies MS and PhD programs.

Most of the welcome and orientation activities took place online, including the iconic White Coat Ceremony for first-year medical students. The extraordinary members of our faculty and professional staff rose to the occasion, applying their ingenuity and technical skill to create events that were meaningful. I also commend the students — both new arrivals and advanced students who contributed to orientation — on their adaptability and good cheer. Thanks to Zoom, YouTube and all of the above, the academic year has officially begun.

This is an unprecedented time. The COVID-19 pandemic has called on physicians and scientists to use all the knowledge, insight and perseverance they can muster. Many of our faculty members are investigating potential new diagnostic and management approaches to the disease, as well as new vaccines and treatments. We are playing a leading role in the key NIH clinical and laboratory study to define the immune response to COVID-19 (NIAID IMPACC Study) and have recently received large-scale grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for our COVID-19 research. This is important work, and it is truly inspiring.

It is fitting, in light of our history, that we break new ground in diversity, equity and inclusion. The College of Medicine is the proud successor to two historic medical schools, Hahnemann Medical College, founded in 1848, and the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, founded in 1850, the first medical school in the world for women. A desire to provide educational opportunity was also the foundation for Drexel, born in 1891 as the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, and today a vibrant national research university — globally engaged, yet integral to the fiber of Philadelphia and its diverse community.

Thus, it is our obligation to take on the great challenges of our communities, including systemic racism and health inequity, and to address the impact of these inequities across our missions of education, research, community service and clinical care.

Accordingly, I have committed additional resources to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The office has been reorganized and expanded to amplify its voice and influence. Leon McCrea II, MD, MPH, now leads the office as senior associate dean. He is supported by two new assistant deans, with their own areas of responsibility. Annette Gadegbeku, MD, is assistant dean for community health and Rita Guevara, MD ’12, is assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. Each of these very talented faculty members has demonstrated experience, dedication and success in addressing the issues that affect the health of our communities. Together, they will make a remarkable team.

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