UF department of emergency medicine chair J. Adrian Tyndall, MD, leads the college’s diversity committee, which organized the Celebration of Diversity program. Tyndall said the intention was to stimulate conversation and action across the college.
“How does our institution truly value diversity? It was a week to start crucial conversations,” Tyndall said. “We know disparities in health care persist, regardless of our best efforts. When we look at the workforce in academic medicine, there has been progress, but it’s still lacking in terms of numbers of unrepresented faculty. It’s important to make people aware of how diversity, or the lack thereof, impacts equity and outcomes.”
Lofton said the week’s events brought back memories of her own time at the UF College of Medicine in the mid- to late-1970s. As members of the Black Students Health Professions Coalition, Lofton and classmates connected across disciplines to create summer programs for incoming students of color as well as celebrate each other’s achievements.
“There were 14 black students out of 120 in my class. We created our own network within the larger system,” she said. “And today, what we did independently is now included in the curriculum at the college.”
Lofton believes the UF College of Medicine has made “tremendous progress” in establishing a path looking forward, but there is work yet to be done.
“The fact that the university openly promotes diversity means it’s on the right track,” she said. “They’ve set up the structure for the work that needs to be done. Now there needs to be more community outreach — not just setting up clinics, but interacting and being a present part of the community.”
Marcus Martin, MD, senior vice president and chief diversity officer for the University of Virginia, presented to students, faculty and staff during the UF emergency department’s grand rounds on diversity.
Martin was named the first African-American chair of an academic emergency department in the nation. For decades, he’s worked to make the University of Virginia an inclusive environment. He’s accomplished this through improving practices in the admissions process, starting an alumni fund centered on equity and access, and co-authoring works like “Diversity and Inclusion in Quality Patient Care,” published by Springer last year.
“Medical education must address the attitudes and knowledge gaps that perpetuate cultural barriers,” he said. “We found diversity equals excellence.”
Lofton said her medical school experiences were shaped by time spent with Dr. Cullen Banks, the first black physician to have full privileges at Alachua County General Hospital, and Willie J. Sanders, the first black faculty member at the UF College of Medicine. Today, UF College of Medicine students receive scholarships from funds established in memory of the two men.