Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives Dashboard

The Warren Alpert Medical School has had a years-long commitment to addressing systemic racism in medical education in the United States, recruiting with the goal of increasing the number of faculty and medical students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine (UiM), and fostering an inclusive culture. The Medical School's leadership has been working collaboratively with students and faculty on a wide array of initiatives toward fulfilling those goals. We greatly respect our students who have advocated for themselves, their colleagues, their patients, and the community. This is an important principle of our learning environment and will continue to be so. 

This dashboard was launched in April 2021 to track progress on these efforts and to share them with the broader Brown community. It will be updated periodically as milestones are met or new initiatives are added.

The dashboard is maintained by the Office of Biomedical Communications. If you have questions about any of the content, please contact [email protected].

Anti-Racism Training Opportunities

Since 2019, the senior-level leadership and extended leadership groups, which includes assistant/associate deans and center directors, have been required to participate in ongoing anti-racism trainings including unconscious bias training. There is a continued commitment by the Medical School to fund ongoing leadership and faculty anti-racism training.

Restorative Justice Work

Stronghold Consultants, a firm that provides "skilled facilitation, strategic consulting, and restorative processes for organizations and communities committed to racial justice," has been engaged to lead a restorative justice process in the Medical School community. The goal of this work is to restore trust between medical students and the administration and to set a course for cooperation going forward.

Stronghold Consultants

In November 2020, Stronghold met with stakeholders in an introductory session and began holding listening circles with groups in February 2021. Stronghold is taking a sabbatical through December 2021. When they return in 2022, we will determine next steps in the process.

Student Admissions and Enrollment

Efforts to Recruit Black and Other UiM Students

The Task Force on UiM Admissions, chaired by Joseph Diaz, MD, MPH, was charged with developing recommendations to attract and matriculate more UiM candidates to The Warren Alpert Medical School. The Task Force consisted of representatives from the Office of Admissions, the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, the Office of Financial Aid, and the Program in Liberal Medical Education and met monthly from January through May of 2021. The following are the recommendations from the Task Force:

  1. Update the mission/purpose of the Rhode Island Early Identification Program (RI-EIP) to specifically recruit students who are from groups historically underrepresented in medicine, first-generation college students, and/or are from low-income backgrounds.
  2. Establish new relationships with colleges/universities to recruit UiM candidates with a focus on colleges/universities in the Medical School's geographic drawing areas (e.g. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York.)
  3. Develop a robust “pipeline” program for Rhode Island students.
  4. Change the admissions process so that interviewers are “blind” to applicants’ MCAT scores.
  5. Create a contemporary definition of UiM for The Warren Alpert Medical School.
  6. Create a dashboard that presents data on applicants and matriculants to the Medical School.

Supporting Actions

  • Affinity Groups Chats.  The Office of Admissions, ODMA, OSA, and our UiM students have worked together to provide space for applicants to meet and speak with medical students every two weeks during the recruitment period. ODMA also continues to coordinate sessions to discuss issues affecting UiM medical students and accepted applicants at Second Look.
  • Contemporary definition of UiM. The Medical School leadership recognizes that the definition of UiM may not adequately encompass the heterogeneity of identities traditionally underrepresented in the field of medicine, and continues to refine a contemporary definition of UiM that is more inclusive. The Warren Alpert Medical School chapter of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) conducted much of the groundwork toward including underrepresented populations within the Asian American diaspora in the definition of UiM, including advocating for disaggregated demographic data and regular review of the definition. The Medical School has committed to the continued maintenance needed to follow “regional” and "state demographic information" and has committed to regular review and updates to the definition of UiM.
  • Month of Medical School. A pilot for a new pipeline program began in summer 2021. The program, which exposes students to careers in medicine, enrolls Rhode Island high school students who participate virtually in a month of programming. Participants are provided a stipend.

Liaison to the Office of Admissions

A member of Brown's Student National Medical Association chapter executive board has been appointed to be a liaison between this affinity group and the Medical School's Office of Admissions.

    Trends in Retention of UiM Students and Residents

    Roxanne Vrees, MD, associate dean for student affairs, and Sarita Warrier, MD, FACP, interim associate dean for medical education, are leading a task force charged with examining trends in retention. Currently, the task force is in the data-gathering phase and is focused on understanding the different definitions of "retention."

    Our leadership team is also actively working on solutions, including discussions with the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) on how to ensure a better transition from undergraduate to medical school for students.

    Other Retention and Support Programs

    • MEDSTEP: This structured mentoring program for individuals who self-identify as URiM uses a group and peer mentorship model that includes students, residents, housestaff, and attendings to build community and create a safe space for discussion, education, and professional growth.  
    • Brown Council for Diversity in Medicine
    • Minority Housestaff Association
    • ODMA Faculty Association

    Disparities in Medical Student Remediation

    Roxanne Vrees, MD, associate dean for student affairs, and Sarita Warrier, MD, FACP, interim associate dean for medical education, are leading a task force examining trends in remediation, the process through which medical students must repeat a course or year of medical school. This task force is in the data-gathering phase, focused on the following:

    • Remediations in pre-clerkship years (exam / course non-passing grades)
    • Remediations in clerkship year (exam / course non-passing grades)
    • Promotion between years of medical school (including repeating years of medical school)
    • Graduation rates overall
    • Graduation rates within 4 years

    Tuition Policy Change

    Beginning in June 2021, any medical student who is required to repeat an entire semester due to academic issues will not be required to pay additional tuition for that repeated semester. The student’s enrollment status would be full-time and they would still be eligible for financial aid to assist with other components of the cost of attendance, such as housing and other living expenses.

    Prior to this change medical students who were required to repeat a semester had to pay tuition for that semester. This policy change was made after medical students raised concerns that this policy disproportionately impacted students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those from groups underrepresented in medicine. The change was introduced by Medical School leadership and approved by the Brown Corporation at its spring meeting in 2021.

      Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Faculty and Administrators

      Diverse faculty recruitment is mission-critical. There have been important recruitments of faculty in a number of our basic science and clinical departments, including into leadership roles, but we must do more. Each clinical department has been charged to develop department-specific Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans, which include efforts for recruitment of a diverse faculty; this metric is a part of performance reviews of each department chair. Funding is also provided to departments from the Dean's fund to attract highly-qualified UiM faculty.

      The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs sponsors a number of programs to support and build community among UiM faculty.

      Working Group on Recognizing Diversity and Inclusion Efforts by Clinical Department Faculty

      The Medical School convened a working group in fall 2020 to make recommendations for compensation, acknowledgment and reward of faculty efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. This working group is chaired by Michele G. Cyr, MD, MACP, senior associate dean for academic affairs. The group drafted new recommendations for: 1) Recruiting with the goal of diversifying the faculty; 2) Recruiting faculty who are committed to DEI work; and 3) Rewarding DEI work. These guidelines have been adopted and will be part of the promotions process beginning in 2024.

        Anti-Racism Education in the Medical Curriculum

        The Office of Medical Education (OME) continues to work with leaders of the Health Systems Science and Doctoring Courses on the integration of additional anti-racism curriculum material. Additionally, the Committee on Diversity and Inclusive Teaching and Learning (CDITL), a sub-committee of the Medical Curriculum Committee, actively reviews multiple aspects of the curriculum through a careful review of the different ways in which bias manifests in biomedical knowledge production, practice, and training. The CDITL provides recommendations on curricular change to correct inaccuracies, and suggests faculty development to improve future iterations of the curriculum. The CDITL consults and engages with experts from Brown University and elsewhere as necessary. Based on recommendations from these groups, the following changes have recently been made:
        • In 2020, all incoming first-year medical students were required to read Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts and attend mandatory small group discussions on the book led by trained faculty.
        • The Race and Medicine section in the Health Systems Science course was moved earlier in the course with an added focus on racism and oppressive policies.
        • Rather than focus on incorporating stand-alone sessions that focus on anti-racism, a recommendation was made to weave a longitudinal thread across several aspects of the curriculum. The implementation of this will include:
          • Required summer readings incorporated throughout the academic year
          • Weekly faculty facilitators’ guides with discussion points from the summer readings as well as a new list of readings and resources
          • Incorporate the use of anti-racist written documentation into case write-up and oral presentation materials presented at the start of Year 1
          • Bystander training for first- and second-year students as part of the Doctoring curriculum, using a new resource on microaggressions
          • 70% grade or better on the IMS exam multiple-choice questions in order to pass the Health Systems Science course; small group leaders trained to give more critical feedback on reflective narratives, which also count toward students’ final grades
        • Efforts are being made to include additional content related to race and medicine in the systems block during the Year 2 curriculum. In 2021, a new lecture entitled "Race specific medications: the case of BiDil" by Professor Lundy Braun was incorporated into the Cardiovascular block. Content about PFTs and GFR were incorporated into the Pulmonary and Renal blocks, respectively, by the course leaders during their introductions to each course block. Two lectures in the Human Reproduction block, "Race and Neonatal Mortality" by Dr. Phyllis Dennery and "History, Race, & Gynecology" by Maggie Goddard, have been well received by students and are planned for the current academic year.  

        This curriculum is continuously evaluated and may change based on feedback from students and faculty.

        In addition, Anne Vera Cruz, PhD, is joining the Office of Medical Education as Assistant Dean of Curriculum for Diversity, Inclusive Teaching and Learning. She will be reviewing the four-year curriculum and provide a framework for inclusive curriculum development, and guidance for faculty regarding improving diversity and inclusion in lectures, small groups, and other teaching sessions.

        A number of changes have been made in order to recruit a more diverse faculty, especially those who identify as Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Beginning in 2020, the hiring process for Doctoring faculty includes:

        • A formal application process with specific questions on diversity, the learning environment, as well as discussing race, gender, and sexual orientation.
        • Required interview with a standardized interview form with members of OME. Faculty applicants are reviewed by OME and the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) before hiring decisions are made.
        • Application and interview questions about diversity and inclusion:
          • Application Form Questions

            - Briefly describe your approach to developing and supporting diverse learning environments.

            - Briefly describe any experience facilitating conversations in health care such as intimate partner violence, spirituality, disability, race, LGBTQ patient care, etc.

          • Interviews

            - Managing a diverse group of students with varying perspectives and backgrounds is important. What is your approach to this?

            - Tell us some of the factors you think are important in training 21st-century medical students.

            - Describe what diversity and inclusion mean to you in your teaching.

        Specific recruitment outreach is made to community health care organizations who serve historically underrepresented patient populations and other Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODMA) networks, such as BASCE fellowship alumni.

        The Doctoring Peer Mentoring program pairs rising second-year students with first-year Doctoring small groups. Students are nominated by their Doctoring small group faculty and the  Office of Medical Education reviews the list of nominations. In the past, selections were made based on small group participation, clinical skills, and OSCE performance. This process led to significant underrepresentation of BIPOC students.

        Beginning in 2021, the following process will be used to select DPMs:

        • Students will be invited to self-nominate (or nominate a peer) and complete a formal application. Students will be invited to provide demographic information to avoid assumptions about demographics.
        • For those nominated, feedback will be sought from Doctoring faculty and Mary B. Arnold Mentors.
        • Members of the offices of Medical Education, Student Affairs, and Diversity and Multicultural Affairs will review applications.

        We will monitor the selection process and outcomes and continue to refine this process to ensure equitable representation of BIPOC students.

        Doctoring Small Group Faculty

        For this academic year, Doctoring small group faculty must complete:

        • Four anti-racism modules prior to the start of classes
        • One virtual debrief session
        • Required student summer reading
        • Additional modules on trauma-informed care, assessment, feedback, and small group facilitation with longitudinal threads of anti-racism and ways to minimize bias

        Brown's Office of Continuing Medical Education is facilitating delivery of these modules to ensure completion and provide CME credit if applicable.

        In addition, all Doctoring small group faculty will be observed at least once throughout the semester and given feedback through the Office of Faculty Professional Development.

        Ability VII. Health Equity and Racial Justice

        The Nine Abilities constitute a competency-based curriculum that defines the knowledge, skills and personal and professional values expected of Warren Alpert Medical School graduates.

        One of these core competencies has been revised to reflect the Medical School’s dedication to racial justice. Ability VII, Health Equity and Racial Justice, will state:

        The competent graduate practices medicine in a broader context by understanding the many factors that influence health, disease, and disability. The competent graduate recognizes the inextricable role of social and racial justice in medicine to achieve positive health outcomes for all people. The graduate characterizes social issues that impact their patient population and understands different models of action that makes their medical practice more ethical and inclusive.

        The Ability includes five specific, measurable medical education program objectives that students must demonstrate throughout their medical school career. For example: 7.5 Applies social justice theories and resources to frame anti-racist advocacy within the student’s future practice of medicine. These objectives are mapped to all required courses and clerkships to ensure that they are taught throughout the curriculum. Assessments are integrated across the curriculum to ensure measurement of student achievement.

        Current curriculum on health inequity and racial injustice will be mapped to this ability. In addition, OME proposed a required four-week clerkship in the third year on Racial Justice and Health Inequity, in which students will gain a deep understanding of topic areas such as health disparities, intersectionality, and the inequities that pervade the US health care system. For incoming students, we used anti-racist training developed by the University of Washington as a framework.

        OME also funded a student on the Academic Scholars Program to review lecture slides depicting race. This work will continue as a subgroup of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusive Teaching and Learning.

        Learning Environment and Student Support

        UiM Focus Groups 

        Medical school leadership began meeting with small groups of UiM students in November 2020. Students are divided into groups by preclinical and clinical years. Participating leaders represent the Dean's Leadership Group and key administrative offices, such as Admissions; Financial Aid; and Medical Education. The meetings have been taking place every month and topics of discussion have included:

        • recruitment of UiM students and faculty;
        • disparities in UiM attrition and academic success;
        • the clinical grading system;
        • and proactive measures to prevent remediation among students who may need academic supports.

        Information gathered during these meetings is brought back to the leadership team to guide decision-making and to provide better understanding of the UiM student experience.

        New Appointments 

        The Warren Alpert Medical School has created several new positions to assist with sustaining these initiatives. 

        A search firm, Diversified Search Group, was engaged to assist with the hiring process. A search committee underwent training and created the job description, which the search firm used to identify candidates. Candidate interviews are taking place.

        Job Description

        Kelly Holder, PhD, began her appointment as the inaugural Chief Wellness Officer for The Warren Alpert Medical School on April 1, 2021.

        In her role as Chief Wellness Officer, Dr. Holder will serve as a champion for the promotion of a healthy environment for students and the development of lifelong skills to maintain physical and mental well-being during medical school and their future careers. She will work collaboratively with the Medical School’s Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Medical Education, and the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, to develop and maintain a wellness curriculum across all four years of medical school. This curriculum will promote medical student well-being, education, success, and retention. She will provide leadership for and oversight of student wellness group activities and services and act as a central point of contact between the student body and the Office of Student Affairs.

        Dr. Holder earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Oakwood University. She went on to earn a master’s degree in psychology and PhD in clinical psychology at Loma Linda University. She completed her psychology internship at the Loma Linda VA Healthcare System and postdoctoral fellowship in HIV Mental Health/Behavioral Medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Holder is coming to Brown from the Penn State College of Medicine & Hershey Medical Center, where she was the director of the Office for Professional Mental Health.

        Anne Vera Cruz, PhD, has been appointed Assistant Dean of Curriculum for Diversity, Inclusive Teaching and Learning effective October 25, 2021.

        In this role, Dr. Vera Cruz will review the four-year curriculum and provide a framework for inclusive curriculum development, and guidance for faculty regarding improving diversity and inclusion in lectures, small groups, and other teaching sessions.

        Dr. Vera Cruz received her master's degree in curriculum and teaching at Boston University and her PhD in curriculum and instruction at Boston College. She comes to us from Connecticut College, where she has been the director of the Academic Resource Center, with a focus on leading cross-disciplinary equity-based programs for students, working with faculty, administrators, and staff to create equitable solutions to student concerns, and sharing inclusive teaching strategies with faculty. She has also been teaching PhD and master's level courses focused on educational change and curriculum design at Boston College.

        Rory Merritt ’09 MD’13, MEHP, has been appointed Assistant Dean for Student Affairs (Learning Environment) effective October 18, 2021.

        Dr. Merritt will assist our efforts to create and maintain an open, caring, and inclusive learning environment at the Medical School and its clinical affiliates and partners. He will serve as a resource for persons seeking consultation about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the learning environment and will provide critical leadership to address student mistreatment concerns. He will also serve as a liaison between the Medical School and the health care systems and will assist clinical departments in their development, execution, and maintenance of individualized Learning Environment Action Plans.

        Dr. Merritt came to Brown through the Program in Liberal Medical Education and earned his bachelor’s degree in 2009 with a concentration in community health. After graduating from The Warren Alpert Medical School in 2013, he completed a residency in emergency medicine at George Washington University, serving as chief resident in 2017. He returned to Brown to complete a fellowship in medical education research in the Department of Emergency Medicine in 2019 and subsequently joined the department’s faculty, where he is an assistant professor. In addition, Dr. Merritt earned a master of education in the health professions from Johns Hopkins University in 2019.

        Since 2018, Dr. Merritt has served as an Assistant Dean of Medicine for the PLME. He serves on a number of key committees for the Medical School, including the Medical Curriculum Committee. Dr. Merritt is passionate about faculty development, particularly in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and co-created a continuing medical education course called “Centering Antiracism” that has become required training for Brown faculty teaching in the Doctoring program. Dr. Merritt is a dedicated and thoughtful advisor for more than 100 medical students, helping them navigate research opportunities, licensing examinations, and residency considerations.