Antiracism and DEI in STEMM

Daylong Anti-Racism, DEI conference unites Brown STEMM community.

Leaders from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the Brown science community gathered at The Warren Alpert Medical School to focus on how to create a more inclusive and diverse environment for Brown and beyond, as part of the “Advancing Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEMM Organizations: Beyond Broadening Participation” conference on Oct. 26.

The daylong conference was the culmination of more than six months of planning by a steering committee composed of representatives of STEMM fields (science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine) at Brown and chaired by Patricia Poitevien ’94 MD’98, MSc, senior associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, in the Division of Biology and Medicine. Poitevien opened the day’s events and served as a panelist during a session on antiracist and DEI strategies for graduate students.

Poitevien said Brown has made "incredible strides in diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging, across the STEMM continuum," due to the University's activist nature, the advocacy among students, faculty, and alums, the support from administrators, and the passion that many have for "inclusive excellence." She stressed, however, that there is still much work to be done, and the conference represented an opportunity to engage "honestly and humbly" with members of NASEM and the community.  

"My hope, and I think our hope collectively, is to set a standard for STEMM institutions," she said. "We understand that the future of scientific inquiry and innovation depends on the work that we will embark upon today.”

Attendees included students, faculty, administration, alumni, and staff from across the University and a variety of divisions, including engineering, chemistry, physics and others. A trio of faculty-led panels discussed advancing anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion for faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students, which also allowed questions and input from audience members. 

Mukesh K. Jain, MD, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of medicine and biological sciences, said that Brown and other institutions have a responsibility as members of the community to remain invested to increase diversity and inclusion across these fields.

“We in the Division are focused on working on structural deconstruction that we believe will bring a conducive environment for lasting anti-racist change,” Jain said. He cited “robust efforts” to increase the number of young people in medicine through K-12 pathway initiatives like SMART-Plus and Week of Medicine, and the Brown Gateways to Medicine, Health Care, and Research master’s degree program.


“ My hope, and I think our hope collectively, is to set a standard for STEMM institutions. We understand that the future of scientific inquiry and innovation depends on the work that we will embark upon today. ”

Patricia Poitevien ’94 MD’98, MSc Senior Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Joan Y. Reede ’77, MD, MS, MPH, MBA, a NASEM Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee member, presented and discussed NASEM’s report, “Advancing Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM Organizations: A Consensus Study,” which aims to identify strategies, barriers, and principles related to bias and racism in STEMM workplaces.

Reede shared some of the findings of the NASEM report, which offered recommendations like to increase opportunities for grant awards focused on underrepresented populations, encourage predominantly white institutions to seek sustainable partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) and national societies, and to understand the core principles of MSI programs and translate those to other STEMM organizations.

“It is important when we look at successful programs and practices to understand the context with which they were developed and how they need to be modified as we move them into other places,” said Reede, who also serves as the dean for Diversity and Community Partnership and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The report also covered research demonstrating adverse impacts of racism at personal and institutional levels, and how to hire and retain minoritized faculty and staff in education. Reede stressed that equity, diversity, and inclusion is not a single set of goals or practices that people put into place to “declare the work concluded.”

“None of our organizations in my lifetime are going to declare that this work is done. We’re not going to declare this work is done in my grandchildren’s lifetime. When I think about it, we should all be able to say we have not stepped back. And for so many, there is a concern about stepping back,” she said.

During his closing keynote address, Joseph “Adrian” Tyndall, MD, MPH, executive vice president for health affairs and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, recalled his experiences as an EMT in the Washington, DC, area and his journey to the University of Florida College of Medicine and eventually Morehouse School of Medicine. 

Tyndall said the differences in managing those organizations helped inform some of his thinking about DEI in STEMM, and he cited data that showed challenges in meeting workforce demands for diverse communities. Even with increasing the number of people entering medicine, the timelines for adding professionals to health systems throughout the nation are long. 

“Even if you quadruple volumes of class sizes across the country, you’re still going to result in gaps. Given the attrition of the workforce, it’s going to take a significant amount of effort not only to meet the gaps, but with creating the diversity that is actually needed if we want to meet those numbers,” he said.

Tyndall said that Morehouse has addressed a range of barriers for entry into medical school, particularly by accepting students who have had MCAT scores that would have denied them entry into other institutions. By the time they were in their second year of medical education, these students were succeeding at the national average.

“If there was not a place like Morehouse School of Medicine, these young men and women would not be physicians today,” he said. “They’re all physicians because we let them in the door, we believed in them, we developed the relationships, and we had the environment to support their success.”

Reflecting on the event, Poitevien said, “The day was energizing! We were able to bring together DEI champions and stakeholders, invested in STEMM, from all facets of our Brown community - undergraduate and graduate campuses, educators and researchers, students, faculty, administrators and alum - to think critically about how we can advance antiracism, diversity equity and inclusion across Brown. And we got to do this with the evidence-based recommendations of the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine.”

She added, “What is most exciting is that the conference was just the beginning. Now, a working group of these stakeholders and I head back to the table to actualize the NASEM recommendations right here at Brown.”