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Diversity Summit highlights blueprint for diversity, equity and inclusion action

By Susan E.W. Spencer

UMass Medical School Communications

November 17, 2020
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At the summit, Chancellor Collins announced that Marlina Duncan, EdD, (above) has been named the new vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion.

Dozens of UMass Medical School administration, faculty, staff and student leaders came together Thursday, Nov. 12, for Diversity Summit V, a two-hour virtual conference assessing the state of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at UMMS and outlining plans for future work.

While participants identified improvement targets, the summit included an extensive report of progress.

Chancellor Michael F. Collins called for concrete recommendations and requested resources to be compiled by early December in preparation for a final report.

Since July, the Diversity Task Force working groups, including students, faculty and UMMS leadership, have developed recommendations for increasing transparency and communication; addressing bias and racism in the learning environment, curriculum and culture; increasing recruitment and retention of diverse learners; improving faculty education and training around bias/racism; increasing curricular focus on health inequities and racism; defining diversity goals, metrics and accountability; and increasing recruitment and retention of diverse faculty.

There have been campus-wide faculty and student-centered antibias workshops, new diversity leaders, and a series of campus conversations and a discussion of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist.

Summit participants were invited to help shape what comes next.

“These conversations have been an opportunity for all of us to reflect and think deeply about where we are now, where we want to go as an institution and where do we want to go as individuals,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “And while coming together in conversation is important, so is collective action.”

Highlighting the Medical School’s commitment to strengthening diversity and inclusion, Chancellor Collins announced that Marlina Duncan, EdD, has been recruited to join UMMS as the vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, beginning Dec. 28. As a member of the senior leadership team, Dr. Duncan will oversee the Diversity and Inclusion Office and partner with diversity leaders across the institution’s three schools, business units, and academic and administrative departments to ensure the goals and milestones outlined in the IMPACT 2025 strategic plan are met.

“I hope that through our partnership we can reimagine and strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at UMass Medical, so that all members feel that inclusive excellence is a core value, and that they can experience it through all of the policies and practices that they interact with,” said Duncan, who will be joining UMMS from Brown University.

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Milagros C. Rosal, PhD
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Maria M. Garcia, MD, MPH

Other highlights, continued Chancellor Collins, include enrolling a student body that is more diverse than ever; appointing Milagros C. Rosal, PhD, professor of population & quantitative health sciences in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, to the newly created position of vice provost for health equity at UMMS; appointing Maria M. Garcia, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, to the new role of assistant vice provost for diversity and student success; the formation of the provost’s diverse faculty hiring task force; and expanding communication through the Diversity In Action webpage and a SharePoint site for access to documents.

Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, said that $4.6 million is budgeted for diversity and outreach activities in fiscal 2021.

Results of the 2020 Diversity Engagement Survey, presented at the summit, also showed favorable trends in aspects of diversity and inclusion at UMMS, with some remaining gaps, according to Sharina Person, PhD, professor of population & quantitative health sciences.

The survey, developed in collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges, was sent online to approximately 5,500 UMMS faculty, students, staff and trainees in October. Thirty-six percent, or 1,972, completed the survey. Among respondents, the majority, 57 percent, were staff; nearly two-thirds were female; nearly three-quarters were white; and 87 percent were heterosexual.

UMMS’s overall favorable response toward diversity and inclusion efforts across the 22 questions was 75 percent in 2020, a slight increase from previous surveys in 2011, 2014 and 2017.

“This is the first time since the beginning of our use of the survey that we have actually matched the benchmark (of all participating institutions), so we’ve made improvements in that area,” Dr. Person said.

But Person added that there were still opportunities for improvement. “Opinions about our low-rated items vary by demographic group,” she said.

Total UMMS respondents rated most favorably the following items: I feel that my work or studies contributes to the mission of the institution (92.8 percent); In my institution, I experience respect among individuals and groups with various subcultures (84.5 percent); and Someone at work/school seems to care about me as an individual (84.4 percent).

The lowest favorable responses across all items were: In my institution, I am confident that my accomplishments are compensated similarly to others who have achieved their goals (51.5 percent); and I believe my institution manages diversity effectively (62.6 percent).