The week kicked off April 5 with the Dean’s Grand Rounds, featuring a presentation by David A. Acosta, M.D., who leads the Diversity Policy and Programs unit as chief diversity and inclusion officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges. In his talk, titled “Emerging as Equity-Minded Academic Health Centers: The Third Dimension to Achieve Excellence,” Acosta urged academic institutions to hold themselves responsible for the success of each of their students and to provide additional resources to students based on personal need and systemic shortcomings.
“We are facing a cultural divide in academic medicine, and it is time to cross that divide with a willingness to face our vulnerabilities and expand our thinking to re-imagine what’s possible,” Acosta said. “Focus more on the importance of achieving inclusion excellence in your environment to overcome the challenges and exclusionary practices that inhibit you from achieving diversity.”
On April 6, six medical students who are the first generation of their families to receive bachelor’s degrees participated in a “First Generation in Medicine” panel discussion.
“I grew up in rural Jamaica among a lot of poverty and violence,” said panelist Akeem Bartley, who attended high school in Fort Lauderdale and just matched into a vascular surgery residency at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine. “I wanted to break the cycle of poverty I saw, and that was one of my biggest motivators from an early age to pursue higher education. I want my legacy to be one of giving back. I talk a lot about mentorship, education and empowerment of underserved populations, and that’s something I want to do in my career.”
A panel held April 7, “Honoring LGBTQIA+ Health Stories,” aimed to educate future health care providers on the health needs of the LGBTQIA+ community and provided an opportunity for panelists to share their experiences as LGBTQIA+ health care providers. Oliver Grundmann, Ph.D., F.C.P., a clinical associate professor in the UF College of Pharmacy and UF College of Nursing, asked future health care providers to be mindful of their biases and to never enter into a patient interaction with assumptions.
“Health care providers should try to meet patients on their level as they talk about their particular situation,” Grundmann said. “If you make a mistake with someone’s pronouns, there’s nothing wrong with apologizing for your assumption and asking what pronouns they would like you to use. We should humble ourselves and understand we are here to learn and get it right.”
On April 7, UF College of Medicine minority graduate students hosted an interdisciplinary virtual research symposium that included oral and poster presentations. The symposium’s keynote address was given that afternoon by Reuben Brigety II, Ph.D., vice chancellor and president of The University of the South and son of Reuben Brigety, M.D., one of the first African American graduates of the UF College of Medicine. Brigety spoke to students, faculty, staff and alumni, including his father, about the power of courage.
“As you are going through the rigors of your training and asking yourself, ‘Why?’ I would encourage you to draw from the strength of the ancestors who have endured challenges and setbacks over generations that were arguably much harder than whatever you’re facing today,” said Brigety, who showed his favorite T-shirt, reading “I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams” to viewers. “Summon that strength into your present to help you to live a life with consequence. There is a reservoir of power waiting to be tapped and channeled into your part of this destiny and this common task that lies ahead of us as a country to build a level of community.”
Other events during the 2021 Celebration of Diversity Week included the Women’s Celebration of Accomplishments hosted by Women in Medicine and Science, a UF Department of Emergency Medicine panel titled “Diversity in Emergency Medicine & COVID-19” and a keynote address by noted pediatrician and disparities researcher Tina Cheng, M.D., M.P.H., in conjunction with the UF Institute for Child Health Policy-Pediatrics Research Day and UF Department of Pediatrics Grand Rounds.
The week culminated with the Emerald Ball, a virtual celebration that welcomed faculty, staff, alumni, current students and newly accepted medical students from identities underrepresented in medicine and disadvantaged backgrounds. Colleen Koch, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine, gave a welcome address to accepted students, encouraging them to join the UF College of Medicine family. Yolanda Hendley, M.D. ’05, MSc., FACC, director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory and director of echocardiography at Partners in Cardiovascular Health in Wilmington, Delaware, gave the keynote address, during which she implored medical students and physicians of backgrounds underrepresented in medicine to practice mentorship and modeling. She spoke about meeting a young woman who told her, “I never met a Black girl doctor before.”
“There are children and adolescents who don’t know we as physicians of color exist,” Hendley said. “That potential seed I planted in that young person told her that even if she didn’t want to enter a career in medicine, she can go on to a higher level of education and be the first in her family. I’m the only Black female interventional cardiologist in Delaware. Representation is highly important. Minority kids needs to see they can achieve and become anything they want.”
Missed the events? Tune in to the recordings