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Concluding VisionForward While Expanding Its Legacy at Drexel

A Message From Dean Charles B. Cairns, MD

Posted on November 15, 2022

Dear VisionForward community members:

Since you are a valued partner and supporter of VisionForward, I’m writing to make you aware of Drexel University’s decision to conclude the program effective December 2022. We very much appreciate your partnership throughout the years. Your support has helped to advance gender equity through women's leadership and to mobilize thousands to strive for equality.

The University is integrating the program’s efforts as a strategic priority across the organization, and will continue to work to broaden the scope of its support of gender equity through many existing outreach and community engagement activities, including the work of the Lynn Yeakel Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership.

We are honoring the profound legacy of Lynn Yeakel at Drexel with the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, which has been renamed in her honor. What began as an initiative by Lynn in the College of Medicine is now a strategic initiative for us, as one of the imperatives of Drexel’s 2030 Strategic Plan is to foster and strengthen an inclusive and equity-driven culture at the University. We strive to do this by establishing a diverse and antiracist learning community that provides opportunities for excellence and achievement for all faculty, students, professional staff and partners.

Additionally, Nancy Spector, MD, has been named the Betty A. Cohen Chair in Women’s Health and will lead the Lynn Yeakel Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership as executive director.

Dr. Spector is a leading authority for the advancement of women in academic medicine in the United States. The Institute continues the legacy of advancing women in medicine that began in 1850 with the founding of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, later named Woman’s Medical College, the first degree-granting medical school in the world for women, and a predecessor of today's Drexel University College of Medicine.

In addition to her new role, Dr. Spector will continue to serve as senior vice dean for faculty, professor of pediatrics, and executive director of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) program and the new Executive Leadership in Health Care (ELH) program at Drexel. ELAM is the only national longitudinal leadership program for women faculty in schools of medicine, dentistry, public health and pharmacy. Its nearly 1,300 graduates hold positions at 300 institutions around the country, and 75% of women deans of medical schools are alumnae of ELAM. This synergistic connection between ELAM, ELH and the Office of Faculty will help to foster the growth and evolution of IWHL.

The University is strongly committed to developing solid partnerships that support the evolving needs of its surrounding communities.

Through Drexel Votes, a broad-based coalition of student organizations, schools, colleges and administrative offices, Drexel is committed to encouraging the entire University community — and particularly its undergraduates — to become registered voters, as well as educated and engaged citizens. The University has also provided civic engagement hours that allow employees to take time to fulfill civic duties in their communities.

Many programs across Drexel’s colleges and schools support underrepresented or marginalized populations. These include initiatives within the West Philadelphia Promise Zone, STEM and STEAM camps for girls and youth within the boundaries of the Promise Zone, the Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements and Population Health Equity, Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Stern Community Lawyering Clinic and community-driven events and offerings at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships. Additionally, Drexel Writers Room is a University-community literary arts program engaged in creative placemaking and art for social justice.

In closing, I want to assure you that the legacy of VisionForward and Lynn Yeakel’s work will continue to fuel Drexel’s initiatives in gender equity, social justice and civic engagement. To preserve the history and ensure the integrity of VisionForward, the program will not be transferred to another institution. Most of the financial gifts received in support of the VisionForward program have already been applied to the Vision 2020 program. The Lynn Yeakel Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership plans to use any remaining funds for its Conversations programing.

We know that VisionForward created a strong, vital network of partners connected in a common goal. To continue these relationships, VisionForward will facilitate introductions and connections among coalition members. A directory will also be created and shared with all members in the coming months.

The work is not finished; we know that progress toward economic, political and social equality, and the support and growth of women’s leadership needs to continue forward. We hope you are assured that Drexel University is committed to these missions. It has been a rewarding experience to work with you and we are grateful for your support through these many years.  All that has been accomplished would not have been possible without your commitment.  Please join us in supporting the ongoing work of the Lynn Yeakel Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership.

Sincerely,

Charles Cairns, MD
Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Dean
Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs
Drexel University College of Medicine