Dean's Statement on Diversity

Diversity makes medical school a richer learning environment

The world is a diverse place. Our patients are diverse. In order to care for them, future physicians need to understand cultures and beliefs other than their own.

To the Yale School of Medicine Community,

Looking at photographs of the medical school classes from 50 years ago, it doesn't take long to notice the homogeneity of the student body. One sees row upon row of white males in white coats, with the occasional female, or Asian, or African American face interspersed. Departmental photos of the faculty and trainees are much the same, only with fewer women and minorities.

Yale School of Medicine has changed dramatically since those photos were taken. For the past 15 years, women have made up roughly half of each class, and in this time the classes have become much more diverse racially and ethnically. Twenty-five percent of our current first-year students, who come from all over the world, are Black or Hispanic, two of the groups most underrepresented in medicine. Among faculty, the numbers are lower. Women represent only 34 percent of the faculty, Blacks and Hispanics only 5 percent.

Why is this issue so important? The world is a diverse place. Our patients are diverse. In order to care for them, future physicians need to understand cultures and beliefs other than their own. As educators, we need to provide instruction in a diverse environment that fosters intellectual exchange and enriches both the students and faculty.

As an expression of the school's commitment to diversity, a number of initiatives are under way:

  • The school is initiating a program wherein each faculty search committee will have one member who serves as a diversity representative. This faculty member will receive training in search strategies and be given access to information resources that will aid in recruitment, to be sure that we are not overlooking talented individuals when we fill positions. The diversity representative will be a resource to the committee in conducting a broad and effective search.
  • The Minority Organization for Retention and Expansion (MORE), a group of junior and senior faculty, is working to overcome obstacles to recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty. One issue MORE is confronting is that minority faculty, once recruited, are at significant risk of leaving Yale after a relatively short time. Making sure that faculty have the resources and mentoring they need to be successful is critical for improving retention.
  • The Office of the Chief Diversity Officer is focusing on diversity initiatives for the recruitment of employees in the managerial and professional ranks. Initiatives include raising the profile of Yale as an employer of choice, promoting diversity education and mentoring, and developing affinity groups for minority staff.
  • The school created a new position of director of faculty development and equity with the appointment in 2006 of Linda Bockenstedt, M.D. She is responsible for creating programs to support the academic development of all faculty members and to encourage the growth of a diverse faculty body at the school, including promoting the retention of women and underrepresented minorities.
  • The school amended its tenure policy in 2005, extending the tenure clock when a faculty member takes leave following the birth or adoption of a child.
  • University Human Resources recently created the position of dual career coordinator to enhance identification of opportunities for the spouses or partners of recruited faculty. This addresses an issue that sometimes impedes the recruitment of minority and non-minority candidates alike—identifying attractive job opportunities in the New Haven area for the candidate's spouse.
  • Several steps have been taken to address concerns regarding child care. With help from the dean's office, the capacity of the school's onsite child care center has been expanded from 80 to 96 places since the fall of 2007, and many additional places have been made on Central Campus and West Campus. University policy allows the use of sick time to care for a sick child, and private lactation rooms are available to mothers who want to breastfeed during the work day.
  • The YSM Office of Multicultural Affairs, as part of a national effort to increase diversity in the pool of potential applicants to medical schools, conducts several intensive programs for high school and college students. The goal is to provide an intensive educational experience for students who might not otherwise be prepared for entry into biomedical science careers. During the past 17 years, Yale has hosted more than 2,000 young people in these programs.

I welcome your suggestions on how to make a difference in this vital area. Please write to me at 333cedar@yale.edu if you have ideas you would like to share.

Sincerely,

Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D.
Dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine