Newswise — For the ninth consecutive year, the University of Virginia School of Medicine has earned a national award for its “outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

The UVA School of Medicine is among 46 recipients of the 2020 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, which covers diversity issues in higher education. 

“We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity. “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”

David S. Wilkes, MD, dean of the UVA School of Medicine, said the award is the product of dedication from across the school.

“Earning this award for the ninth consecutive year reflects how so many of our colleagues from across the School of Medicine work tirelessly to build a school that embraces diversity,” he said. “Our faculty, staff and students will continue to build on this work in the months and years ahead to ensure our school is welcoming to everyone.” 

Building a More Diverse School

The school has made significant efforts over the past several years to increase the diversity of its student body. In 2020, 23% of incoming School of Medicine students are from groups that are underrepresented in medicine, and 56% are women. 

The school and its faculty also continue to work on creating a more inclusive environment for students, faculty and patients. For example, surgeon Michael D. Williams, MD, formed an unofficial collective called the Hernandez Revels Saund Group to help build a sense of community among faculty members of color in the School of Medicine and School of Nursing.

Initiatives that have sprung from the group’s listserv discussions include plans led by pediatrician Irene Mathieu, MD, and the UVA chapter of the Student National Medical Association to create a mentorship program for medical students of color at UVA.

A long-term goal for the group, Williams said, is to elevate the mission of health equity – eliminating disparities in healthcare based on factors such as race or income levels – to “the same level as the school’s other three missions of patient care, research and education.”