University of Arizona’s Medical Schools Prove To Be the Model For Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

University of Arizona’s Medical Schools Prove To Be the Model For Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

By Corinne Murdock |

The University of Arizona (UArizona) College of Medicine epitomizes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) best practices, based on the latest report released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The AAMC released a report in November assessing the DEI efforts at its 157 U.S. schools, 14 Canadian schools, and about 400 teaching hospitals and medical centers (including the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers), and 80 academic societies. AAMC quantified its DEI assessment through a “Diversity, Inclusion, Culture, and Equity (DICE) Inventory” consisting of 89 questions. UArizona’s College of Medicine campuses in Tucson and Phoenix qualify for high DICE Inventory scores based on the report. 

Both campuses have DEI offices, though the Phoenix campus has an Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion while the Tucson campus has an Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Though both are through UArizona, each college of medicine charts slightly different paths for achieving DEI goals. 

UArizona’s College of Medicine in Tucson (COMT) requires all faculty, staff, residents, fellows, graduate students, and medical students to complete six hours of DEI credit during the year. This includes an “Implicit Association Test.” The linked test directs users to “Project Implicit” by Harvard University, and offers 15 different tests of one’s implicit association of skin tone, gender science, weight, Asian Americans, Native Americans, race, sexuality, weapons, gender and careers, disability, religion, Arabs and Muslims, age, transgender people, and presidents. 

A DEI credit is also eligible through the college’s DEI book club. Books read this past year include “Dying of Whiteness” and “Beautiful Country: A Memoir of an Undocumented Childhood.”

Each department at UArizona COMT has a “Diversity Champion,” or a DEI designee. Nearly every month, the college hosts a diversity lecture. In August, attendees learned about how unconscious racial bias impacts clinical care; in October, attendees learned about LGBTQ-inclusive climate initiatives. 

UArizona COMT’s diversity statement includes an acknowledgement that the campus exists on indigenous land and territory. It expresses a commitment to diversity through increasing diversity of students, residents/fellows, faculty and staff as well as hosting culturally relevant activities. The college also includes a breakdown of its demographics across faculty, staff, medical students, graduate students, undergraduate students, and residents.

UArizona COMT also has an anti-racism initiative tasked with reforming the school’s operations, such as admissions and curriculum. The sub-committees assigned to this initiative achieved certain reforms, such as changing the selection process for the medical honorary to admit more underrepresented minorities, as well as implementing a racism and discrimination reporting system.

UArizona’s College of Medicine in Phoenix (COMP) employs many similar, though different DEI initiatives. 

Following George Floyd’s death in May 2020, UArizona COMP issued a joint statement with AAMC, the American Medical Association (AMA), Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and Arizona Medical Association condemning racism and declaring racism a public health problem. 

Then last year, UArizona COMP joined 10 other medical schools nationwide in the “Anti-Racist Transformation in Medical Education” initiative. So far, they’ve secured nearly $500,000 in scholarship funding for underrepresented student populations, created a four-year anti-racist curriculum, developed faculty on teaching anti-racist medicine, and included an anti-racist medicine statement into each clerkship orientation. 

Additionally, the Phoenix campus has launched its own 12 action steps for DEI achievement. 

As of September 2021, they reported achieving three of these 12 steps: creating a scholarship fund for medical students interesting in serving the underserved Black/African American community, supporting the formation of employee resource groups for faculty and staff of color and other groups, and issuing a statement on the college’s website recognizing racism as a public health issue in line with AAMC and AMA.

The other nine steps are ongoing. So far, the college has achieved its “most diverse” class in history with 22 percent underrepresented minorities, established a “post application review” program focused on underrepresented minority applicants denied admission, gathered demographic profile information for a diversity review, hired managers in the selection of search committee members to increase diversity of Black and other underrepresented minority staff, established unconscious bias and cultural competency training for residents, prospected for Endowed Chair of Health Justice and Equity Research, drafted unconscious bias training for all faculty/students/staff/residents/fellows/postdocs, approved anti-racism curriculum, and secured funding for an underrepresented minorities mentor director. 

Additionally, the college recognized last month as Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Health Month. Students who attend most of the eight DEI events scheduled this month may earn “Diversity Hour” credits. These credits aren’t compulsory. However, students who earn 50 Diversity Hours receive a Distinction for Inclusive Excellence on their Dean’s Letter upon graduation. 

The events included discussions of female nurses who served Tuskegee Airmen, ableism, Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander immigration, and Native American, Asian American, and Latino physicians and patients.

Similar to the Tucson campus, UArizona COMP has faculty from different departments serving as DEI designees called “Inclusive Excellence Champions.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.