Update on Immediate Implementations
Executive Vice President for Health Sciences and Executive Dean for the School of Medicine Edward Healton, MD, MPH, provided an update on some of the medical center’s actions to date in response to the open letter from School of Medicine students of June 3.
Reviewing Curriculum For Racialized Content
The SOM Office of Medical Education is actively planning a faculty development workshop focused on removing racialized content in clinical correlates. These workshops will be scheduled for the fall. This is in addition to action being taken now by the department of dermatology to diversify the curricular content for the dermatology section of the Immunology, Rheumatology and Dermatology module for this academic year. I also will ask the leaders of our other schools and programs at the medical center to take similar steps in reviewing their curricula to ensure inclusivity and that we remove any potentially offensive material.
Outreach, Recruitment and Retention of URIM Students
The SOM Committee on Admissions has formed a Subcommittee on Racial Justice and Diversity, with the first meeting occurring last month. The focus for the subcommittee is to bolster current efforts to create more robust and involved recruitment, outreach and retention strategies of URIM applicants. For the coming admissions cycle, the Office of Admissions aims to engage more faculty and student involvement in recruitment, outreach and retention of URIM applicants. The Admissions Office will also continue to require ongoing unconscious bias trainings for all admissions interviewers as well as the Committee on Admissions in assessing candidates for admission into the medical school.
Broadening the Learning Societies’ Representation
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with the leadership of the Learning Society Advisory Committee to discuss options for being more inclusive in our representation of society names. As a group, we decided to change the name of the John C. Rose, MD, Learning Society to the Earl H. Harley Jr., Learning Society. This change will take effect at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. A Navy veteran, Dr. Harley has been a pediatric otolaryngologist here at Georgetown University for nearly three decades training more than a thousand medical students and about 100 otolaryngology residents. More information will be shared soon with those students currently in the Rose Society. We look forward to a time when we can come together to celebrate the newly named Harley Society. We’re also pleased to share that Dr. Harley will administer the Hippocratic Oath during the White Coat Ceremony this August.
Diversification of Portraiture across GUMC
We will continue to diversify our portraiture of diverse physicians, celebrating both the racial/ethnic and gender diversity of our physician leaders across GUMC. After sharing your open letter with our medical center faculty and leadership, we obtained an oil painting of Cliff Leftridge Jr., MD. Dr. Leftridge was a beloved pediatric radiologist for decades at Georgetown and a legendary teacher in the radiology department, exemplified by his many Golden Apple awards. We thank Dr. Spies for reaching out to share the portrait. We look forward to displaying it in a prominent place on our campus. Building upon our collaboration with the Georgetown Women in Medicine, we look to continue to expand our efforts of the “Women on the Walls” Campaign as well. Just before COVID impacted our medical center, we were able to celebrate the portrait unveiling of Princy N. Kumar, MD. You’ll find it in the Goldberg Auditorium when we’re able to return to campus. We will continue to find additional ways to highlight the important contributions of our diverse physicians.
Responding to Unsettling National Events
You have emphasized the importance of hearing from university leadership in a timely manner following events such as the killing of George Floyd and last week’s announcement of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new policy that is using a health crisis to block international students who are not taking in-person classes from staying in the U.S. Following the death of George Floyd, I and many of our colleagues around the Georgetown campus issued letters of support for the Black community, which is deeply affected by repeated acts of police brutality. Likewise, following a legal review of the DHS guidance, we voiced our support for those impacted. We will continue to speak out in the moment against acts of racism and discrimination.
Anti-Racism Prematriculation Materials
Our School of Medicine has added a required orientation session for first year students on anti-racism, during which facilitators will lead small group discussions of excerpts from Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century by Dorothy Roberts. In the coming days, I will be sharing information about this effort with other GUMC leaders, faculty and staff, encouraging them to engage on this important issue and to incorporate anti-racism content into their curriculum.
Safety and Campus Police Relations
Early last week, my office reached out to Jay Gruber, associate vice president of public safety and leader of our Georgetown Police Department, to share with him our collective interest in engaging with him on numerous concerns. He responded favorably and looks forward to working with the subcommittee. His office is assembling helpful documents in one location that will be shared with the subcommittee so that they have a baseline of information to inform their work.
Video Statement Against Racism
I’ve asked the GUMC communications office to move forward with a planned video statement against racism and acknowledging that Black lives matter. I want to thank Jerome Murray, student co-chair of the RJCC, and the others who are leading this effort. I understand there is a working script and that plans are being made for videotaping the messages. I look forward to participating if asked.
RJCC Updates To Be Featured on the Dedicated GUMC Webpages
I’ve also asked the GUMC communications team to work in consultation with the students to create dedicated webpages that will feature regular progress updates on the work of the RJCC and to promote accountability and transparency with regard to our collaboration around the recommendations stated in the open letter. The first of these webpages will be launched after the committee meeting on Friday.
Our Work With MedStar Health
Apart from the work specific to our campus, we also are collaborating with MedStar Health as it develops a Working Group for Racial Justice. The intended audience of this working group is MedStar Health residents, fellows, and teaching faculty. You can read about the proposed scope of work and subcommittee here. I am hopeful that the interdigitation of our faculty will allow us to elevate concerns and realize potential solutions for best practices across GUMC and MedStar.
One of the more challenging of your requests is that students receive compensation for their work on the RJCC. As many of you know, our university is enduring significant financial losses because of COVID ($50 million loss in the spring; projected $100 million loss in the coming year). In addition to being unprecedented to financially compensate for participation in a committee, we are also bound by our financial situation and therefore are not able to provide compensation for committee work. I know this is a disappointing update, but I believe that full transparency with regard to our financial status as an institution is crucial to all involved in the RJCC. Despite this, I hope we can work together creatively to find other ways to support your engagement with this work as we work together and ultimately achieve our overall goal of ending systemic racism and its impact on our campus.
The immediate steps we have already taken are important, but more needs to be done. We will continue to work on the remaining recommendations in the open letter in the coming weeks, and I plan to update you through our RJCC framework. We also will continue to provide updates and where appropriate connect with racial justice work across the university.
We’ve organized our work into five RJCC subcommittees reflecting our committee’s charge to take up actions related to well-being, experience and responsiveness; safety and campus policing; recruitment, retention & success of URM students; and racial justice curriculum reform. We should be open to other areas that perhaps have not surfaced, particularly as we broaden our effort across our medical center.