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Breonna Taylor’s Life Matters -- Tri-I MD-PhD's Response

Breonna Taylor’s life matters.

The decision made by a Kentucky grand jury yesterday is another painful reminder that our country and its systems continue to fail the Black community and communities of color. The Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program condemns this decision. We re-iterate our commitment to meaningful, long-term change and to supporting our students from diverse backgrounds.

In June, we proposed several strategies to address diversity in our Program. We have made some progress—and recognize there is much more to be done.

Curriculum:

  • Our incoming students have developed a journal club on health disparities and the history of oppression in science and medicine. This has provided a forum for both education and meaningful discussion. Their curriculum will be passed down to future generations of Tri-I students: in their short time in the Program, they have already left a mark.
  • We have begun to evaluate our MD-PhD-specific courses with respect to both content and instructors. For our Frontiers course, we have asked instructors to incorporate a discussion on disparities and/or biases in the context of the paper they are presenting and/or their field of research. For example, this could include how the data is analyzed and presented, the choice of study participants, or how scientists evaluate each other or formulate policies.
  • We restructured our Responsible Conduct of Research course for our incoming students to include explicit coverage of oppression in biomedical research, as well as wove issues of race throughout the course; we will continue to build on this curriculum as we plan for next year’s course.
  • We have founded a new seminar series that focuses on Physician-Scientist Careers. The goal of the series is to expose our students to both diverse physician-scientists and their varying career paths.

Cultural Competencies:

  • We have made adjustments to our holistic review of applicants to the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program.
  • We are working with current students and faculty interviewers to diminish biases and microaggressions during the interview process.

Support:

  • We continue to support our three MD-PhD-specific student groups: ADePT, FACES, and our latest addition, QUIPS. We will continue to collaborate with the Offices of Diversity and Inclusion and Student Diversity to effectively support our students who are members of underrepresented groups.

Gateways to the Laboratory:

  • This summer, we reimagined our Gateways Program so that we could offer a meaningful remote curriculum in the face of the pandemic. Despite challenges, it was an immense success—in no small part due to the contributions of our current MD-PhD student mentors. A key highlight was the journal club that addressed both the scientific underpinnings of, and social issues related to, COVID-19.
  • We are thrilled that two Gateways alumnae decided to matriculate at Tri-I in July. We have now matriculated 23 Gateways alumni/ae at Tri-I.
  • We have 341 alumni/ae of our 27-year-old Gateways Program, over 75% of whom have completed or are pursuing MD, PhD, or MD-PhD degrees.

We continue to be proud of the work the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program has done to train the next generation of diverse and empowered physician-scientists who will be agents for change. And we recognize that this work requires a sustained commitment to effect real, meaningful change that the Black community and communities of color deserve.

 

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