BUSM Racial Equity Task Force Teams 11/17/20 Progress Report

This summer many students, faculty and staff identified a number of issues to improve the anti-racism climate on the BU Medical Campus. The Medical School formed student, faculty and staff BUSM Racial Equity Task Force Teams within each of the associate deans’ offices (admissions, diversity & inclusion, medical education, student affairs, GMS and faculty affairs) to address the issues identified in their areas of responsibility. These committees are providing their first progress report.

This continuous quality improvement (CQI) initiative will continue as long as additional issues are identified. Please report racist, sexist and other unprofessional conduct to BUSMDean@bu.edu, or to the BU Ombuds, or anonymously to EthicsPoint. Medical and graduate students, respectively, should also use ATM or the Appropriate Treatment in Graduate Education.

The Anti-Racist Admissions Working Group (ARAWG) includes Associate Dean for Admissions Kristen Goodell, MD, and students Nakul Vyas, Namita Arunkumar, Eric Oh, Lucas Conti, Rachel Ingraham, Sarah Keller and Rita Gehrenbeck-Shim. Drs. Michael Cohen and Shoumita Dasgupta have also contributed to committee discussions. Although admissions quotas are prohibited by law, the Admissions Office is committed to the goal of increasing the number of Black medical students and to diversity in every sense of the word, by creating a level playing field and providing opportunities to those who have not had them.

This working group reviews and discusses our current admissions policies and practices, and considers modifications to ensure our practices and procedures are clearly anti-racist. We have expanded the committee to include more members from under-represented groups, and created an additional structured, evaluative component to the interview day to complement the individual faculty interview.

Many of our accepted Black students choose to attend higher-ranked schools with substantially more scholarship support, so BUSM has increased its scholarship fundraising efforts. Our Diversity & Inclusion, Admissions, Development are currently collaborating to secure additional scholarship funds highlighted a celebration of the 190th birthday on February 8, 2021 of Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD, the first Black American Woman physician in the United States who graduated from BUSM’s predecessor institution, the New England Female Medical College.

This summer, students were concerned that participating in demonstrations or even an arrest for demonstrating would be perceived negatively by the admissions committee to medical school.  In response, the Admissions committee posted the following statement on their website, “peaceful protests are consistent with the School’s mission and any applicant’s participation in such events would not be a deterrent for admission”. The statement notes advocacy and activism are part of our institutional identity and culture and reiterated BU’s policy on academic freedom. In fact, BUSM faculty have also taken a leadership role in drafting AAMC’s official statement of support for peaceful protests.

BUSM has nine admissions pipeline programs. (See also the Faculty Affairs report below.)  In addition to expanding our BEST BET, BEAMS, CityLab, EMSSP and BAHEC programs, the ARAWG is reaching out to local Boston colleges, including working to establish close connections with UMass Boston and UMass Lowell.  Dean Goodell and current BUSM students also meet with high school students and BU undergraduates.

The ARAWG also acted on the recommendation to add a question on the applicant’s experiences with racism to BUSM’s secondary application for entry in fall 2021; the answers have been revealing in terms of fit for our School. Given that all admissions interviews are virtual this year, travel costs for URG applicants has not been an issue.

The Diversity & Inclusion Office (DIO) includes current and former Associate Dean Drs. John Polk, and Rafael Ortega, Assistant Deans Drs. Thea James, David Henderson, Ali Guermazi, Samantha Kaplan, Alcy Torres, Ebonie Woolcock (interim director of the EMSSP Program), staff member Malissia Evans, and the inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Diversity Fellow Kaye-Alese Green, a BUSM3.

The DIO strives to ensure equity throughout BUSM, including the curriculum and faculty development. First and foremost, the DIO maintains an Affinity Space where students of color can voice and share their concerns surrounding race, racism and antiracism in a safe environment

Current key initiatives include creating a diversity glossary to provide a common language for conversations on identity and equity; building a diversity dashboard to display and track trends in gender, race, ethnicity and rank of students, staff and faculty. DIO is also planning special events to commemorate Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s 190th birthday to raise funds for the scholarship in her name. DIO is working with the leadership of the Faculty Development Program, BUSM Research Office, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Proposal Development Office to support and mentor junior URM faculty’s research efforts to facilitate their academic promotion.

Finally, thanks to a new $200k grant from Vertex, DIO is rolling out new enhancements to its premier pipeline program, EMSSP, designed to recruit and prepare students from URGs for a successful transition to medical school. They include virtual recruitment, mentoring support and a professional curriculum.

The Medical Education Office (MEO) Racism in Medicine Committee includes Associate Dean for Medical Education Priya Garg, MD, Drs. Samantha Kaplan and Shoumita Dasgupta, and students Kaye-Alese Green, Ajay Nathan, Becca Wolinsky, Sabreea Parnell, Daniela del Campo, Rachel Ingraham and Korede Yolove.

The Medical Education Committee is happy to report that the implementation of the anti-racism vertical integration group (VIG) report is underway. The education subcommittees (Preclerkship Curriculum Subcommittee and Clerkship Curriculum Subcommittee) each have made one of their annual committee goals this year the implementation of the racism in medicine and gender diversity VIG recommendations into their courses and modules. A task force within each committee will follow up and review their implementation success. Module and course directors must now describe which recommendations they have addressed this year in their required annual self-assessment form that is reviewed with Dr. Garg at their annual evaluation.

Kaye-Alese Green, a third-year medical student who was named the first Diversity & Inclusion Fellow at BUSM, is working with the Medical Education Office (MEO) and as a resource for faculty. She is reviewing cases used in courses focusing on inclusion and the appropriate use of race in cases, creating faculty development for the Academy of Medical Educators (AME) and mapping health equity and racism in medicine competencies in the curriculum. She also worked on a new diversity and inclusion statement now under review.

BUSM faculty have taken a leadership role in anti-racism initiatives within the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Dr. Garg chairs an AAMC task force to draft a roadmap for senior educational leaders, Creating Action to Eliminate Racism in Medical Education, likely to be released to medical schools next month. Dr. Garg and Kaye-Alese Green are describing the work of the VIG and its recommendations for medical education at the AAMC’s annual meeting on November 16.

Drs. Angelique Harris, Molly Cohen Osher, and Kaye-Alese Green have developed and given two faculty development programs for the AME.

  • They led a four-hour session for the 39 AME faculty, Engaging in Difficult Conversations: How to Think and How to Respond, on how to facilitate difficult dialogues with students including race-based comments. Topics included identities, social roles and beliefs that influence social interactions and dialogues; how to recognize, respond to and facilitate dialogue across differences; the role of power and privilege within social institutions. AMEs deconstructed cases of racism, gender and sexual diversity; political, religious and ideological differences, and ways to create safe spaces and enable groups to engage in difficult conversations through active listening and respectful conversation. The Medical Education plans to provide similar sessions for other preclinical and clinical teachers.
  • They also recently led microaggression training for AME’s using the LIFT model and will work on cases with students in the winter.

Increasing the fraction of AME advisors and teachers who are from groups underrepresented in medicine is a priority for Medical Education and Student Affairs. Currently seven URM faculty serve in the AME (18%).

The MEO is also reviewing the student assessment system to determine if clinical grading, shelf performance or exam performance differs significantly by race. The MEO plan to complete their analysis and share their findings by the end of the year.

MEO is working to embed more enrichment experiences like Creating Leadership and Education to Address Racism (CLEAR) into the formal curriculum and plan to meet with CLEAR leaders. Human Behavior in Medicine and Genetics course faculty will explore the way race has been perceived incorrectly as a biologic risk factor and how racial assumptions and implicit bias affect human and physician behavior.

The Medical Education Office is committed to anti-racism and recognize this as a multi-year CQI process. We will continue to update the community on our progress.

The Student Affairs Office (SAO) Conversation Coalition includes Drs. Angela Jackson, Sheila Chapman, Terrell Johnson, Vincent Smith, Vonzella Bryant and Vivian Sanchez and students Rachel Ingraham, Lauren Burdine, Sabreea Parnell, Patty Chen, Emily Anderson, Lucas Conti, Lauren Bielick, Kaye-Alese Green and Isa Gell-Levey.

The Conversation Coalition was established to drive open dialogue, develop initiatives to promote antiracism, and serve as an advisory board to the SAO.  To support students fully throughout their entire education at BUSM, the Student Affairs deans, students and faculty of color discussed how the Student Affairs Office (SAO) can provide student support and programing more holistically, and how we can re-imagine the discussion of professionalism.

Discussion has focused on how professionalism is framed at BUSM, how the SAO can be a resource to advocate for students, and how to maximize student engagement in school activities and discussions. The committee is developing a vocabulary to discuss professionalism and the student’s year-specific definition of professionalism, and is planning a school-wide survey and focus groups exploring concepts of professionalism among students and faculty.

Dr. Vonzella Bryant and colleagues delivered SAO workshops addressing microaggressions to both the M1 and M2 classes (complementing similar sessions for faculty, nurses and staff at BMC), to facilitate dialogue and enable groups to engage in difficult conversations through active listening and respectful conversation. The SA and ME offices jointly delivere faculty development sessions for the AMEs (see above).

SAO is identifying successful programs and best practices and other schools, and creating a resource list. We will invite faculty leaders to deliver workshops and share resources.

SAO recently named two additional Assistant Deans of color. Drs. Vonzella Bryant & Vivian Sanchez, to oversee the new SAO Learning Climate initiative.

Dr. Bob Beazley and the BUSM History Society will devote their journal Aceso this year to the history of racism in medicine.  Many articles will be co-authored by faculty and students.

The DIO and SAO provide regularly scheduled discussions and open forums on Race and Racism and are setting up a mentoring program. An Orientation mixer was sponsored by SAO, SCOMSA, SNMA.

The Student Affairs Wellness Office is staffed by Camille Serelus and Melissa Paz, both individuals of color.

The Faculty Affairs Anti-Racism (FAAR) Committee includes Drs. Hee-Young Park, Maura Kelley, Thea James and Elaine Lee; Valeda Britton, JD; and students Sojourna Ferguson, Ke Zeng, Rachel Ingraham, Frederick Lu, and Namita Arunkumar.

BUSM has nine pipeline programs. We successfully completed the Vertex-funded, five-week virtual Introduction to Medicine summer program for BAHEC (Boston Area Health Education Center) students. Sixteen medical students participated as instructors and mentors. A manuscript on the program’s outcome is in preparation.

To collaborate with the undergraduate campus on making the recruitment and enrollment of local Black high-school students a priority for the University, BUSM’s Faculty Affairs, GMS, D&I and Admissions representatives provide information and advising (via group sessions and individually as needed) for high school and BU undergraduate students interested in medicine & science.

BU’s Wheelock School of Education and Undergraduate Admissions have multiple outreach programs for Boston Public Schools, whose graduates accepted to BU receive full-need Menino scholarships.

Faculty are now developing virtual curriculum on medicine & biomedical research (BUSM-MSP) to offer to Boston Public high school students in Spring 2021. We will pilot 2-4 medical and graduate students to instruct and mentor 20 high school students. If successful, the program will be expanded. We will submit an R25 NIH grant for a summer high school program in March 2021.

The medical students created a new student group named BUSM-PUSH (Pipeline for Underrepresented Students in Healthcare), whose goal is to develop and implement a mentorship program for BU undergraduate students and Boston Public high school students.

BUSM has designated a new Associate Director of Diversity Outreach for Research in the Proposal Development Office to facilitate minority supplements and grant applications by our faculty of color. The committee is drafting a grant proposal to recruit URG faculty such as the FIRST (Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation) and/or SEA (STEMM Equity Achievement) Change.

Regarding concerns about police violence, the University has convened a committee to determine how the BU Police Department can most effectively keep our community safe. BU Police Chief and Executive Director of Public Safety Kelly Nee has met with students to discuss the department’s procedures.

Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS) is focusing on three initiatives – recruitment, retention and dialogue – centering around providing resources to recruit and retain graduate students and faculty from groups historically under-represented (URGs) in the health sciences. Of 316 GMS faculty, only nine self-report as a minority and the number of minority PhD students has not changed in the last five years. Current GMS initiatives include:

  • A new faculty and staff GMS DEI Steering Group is working to improve diversity across our Master’s and PhD programs.  Short-term goals include collecting and reviewing current DEI metrics, identifying obstacles to PhD student recruitment, engaging faculty in DEI-related education and training. Long-term goals include developing data standards, diverse alumni networks and external partners. The first recommendation, to develop a post-decision survey for students, is in progress as is the collection of URG data from current student population.
  • Re-structuring the admission process for the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS) the largest PhD student program, with more but smaller review committees, and one expanded review rubric.
  • Faculty also will complete microaggressions and implicit bias training, followed by a group orientation to reinforce the holistic review approach.
  • Continuing high-touch outreach to URG student applicants with personal communications and follow-up.
  • Improving the integration of URM students in NIH-funded STaRS and PREP programs with ongoing GMS career and professional development workshops and panels.
  • Offering regularly scheduled workshops, webinars, events and personal meetings tailored for our diverse populations and headed by GMS Associate Director for DEI.
  • Developing recommendations via the Faculty Affairs Committee for consistent and transparent guidelines enabling faculty promotion to internal leadership positions.

In conclusion, BUSM faculty, staff and students are on the front lines of anti-racism initiatives locally and are taking leadership roles in the national dialogue on combatting racism. They care for patients and are PIs on research studies including the Black Women’s Health Study, Boston cancer health disparities, pregnancy outcomes, gun and other types of violence, and many programs for children. Many faculty have also responded to requests for new anti-racism and COVID-19 research proposals.

We will continue working with the University and BMC.  Dr. Hugo Aparicio, one of our Neurology faculty, is an assistant director of the BU AntiRacism Center and the liaison for the Medical Campus. Our primary teaching affiliate, Boston Medical Center is also committed to serving Boston’s diverse communities and to the diversity and inclusion of its residents and fellows. See the faculty and residents discussions in their  URM Recruitment Video.

Please address suggestions to BUSMDean@bu.edu. Report racist, sexist and other unprofessional conduct to BUSMDean@bu.edu, or the BU Ombuds, or anonymously to EthicsPoint. Medical and graduate students respectively should also use ATM or the Appropriate Treatment in Graduate Education.