The importance of diversity to college campuses has been in the media spotlight recently, but the Keck School of Medicine of USC has been a leader in this arena for more than 40 years.

Founded in 1968, the Office of Diversity at the Keck School has developed numerous programs to strengthen the climate of the Keck School for underrepresented students, faculty and staff.

In an effort to continue this momentum, Dean Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, has recently announced the formation of the Keck School of Medicine Dean’s Diversity Cabinet. This cabinet, comprising six members of the Keck School faculty, will focus on enhancing recruitment and retention of students, faculty, residents and staff, and on creating a supportive and culturally sensitive campus environment.

“To ensure an intellectually stimulating environment, the Keck School of Medicine recognizes the need to support, encourage and facilitate diversity and inclusion in all aspects of academic life,” Puliafito stated in a memo to faculty, staff and students. “This includes training medical and graduate students, improving the working environment for staff, enriching the research environment and, finally, recruiting top residents and faculty.”

The cabinet will be led by Henri Ford, MD, MHA, vice-dean of medical education.

“Diversity has always been part of the intrinsic fabric of the Keck School of Medicine of USC; it is a vital core of our DNA and that of the entire Trojan family,” he said. “The Dean’s Diversity Cabinet is designed to embrace, promote and champion diversity throughout the Health Sciences Campus.”

Joyce Richey, PhD, chief diversity officer and assistant dean of educational affairs, has been instrumental in the establishment of many diversity programs at the Keck School. According to Richey, keeping the lines of communication open between administration and faculty, staff and students is a top priority.

“We are being very proactive and taking these matters quite seriously,” she said. “We want to make sure that our students, faculty and staff are well informed and that they feel comfortable engaging in necessary and important discussions about diversity with peers and others. We want everyone to feel valued and respected here — attaining these goals will ensure a campus environment that welcomes and embraces diversity and inclusivity. ”

Other members of the cabinet include: Ite Laird-Offringa, PhD, associate dean of graduate affairs; Larry Opas, MD, associate dean of graduate medical education; Jeffrey Upperman, MD, associate dean of faculty diversity; and Suzanne Palmer, MD, president of the Keck Faculty Council.

The Keck School has a long-established reputation for providing students and staff with support and resources to explore race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and gender identification. Programs such as Bridging the Gaps, MED-COR and the Latino Medical Student Association all encourage underrepresented college and high school students to find avenues into the school and flourish once they arrive.

by Amanda Busick