From the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority and economically disadvantaged communities to the racially motivated killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, 2020 has unfortunately provided us with even more evidence that systematic racism continues to plague us.
The Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program stands in solidarity with the Black community and communities of color and is committed to meaningful, long-term change and to the diversity of our student cohort: the faculty and the leaders in biomedical research and academic medicine of tomorrow. We will do everything within our power to ensure equality for our students and dismantle structural racism—in our Program, the Tri-Institutional campus, our city, and our country.
While listening to our students’ voices is critical at a time like this, it is our responsibility as educators and scientists to drive this change through specific, long-term, substantive efforts. To begin to address these issues, we will implement the following strategies:
- Curriculum: We will work with our incoming students to develop a journal club on health disparities and the history of oppression in science and medicine. We will re-evaluate all Tri-Institutional MD-PhD courses with respect to both content and representation of instructors. In particular, we will reorganize our Responsible Conduct of Research course for incoming students to include explicit coverage of oppression in biomedical research, as well as weaving issues of race throughout the course;
- Cultural Competencies: We will work to train and hold accountable faculty who interact with our students, especially those who interview our applicants and mentor students in their PhD years;
- Support: We will work with the Offices of Diversity and Inclusion and Student Diversity to better support our students who are members of underrepresented groups;
- Gateways to the Laboratory: We will continue to develop our Gateways to the Laboratory Summer Program, the goal of which is to mentor and prepare students from backgrounds underrepresented among physician-scientists to become competitive applicants to MD-PhD Programs and increase representation of people from diverse backgrounds in biomedical research and academic medicine. Since the establishment of the Program 1993, over 75% of Gateways participants have completed or are pursuing MD, PhD, or MD-PhD degrees, including 21 who matriculated at Tri-I.
We are proud of the work the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program has done to increase the diversity of physician-scientists through our Program—and recognize there is more work to be done. There are no quick fixes to counter long-term, structural oppression; we are in this for the long haul and will continue our efforts to train the next generation of diverse and empowered physician-scientists who will be agents for change.