Chancellor's Message on Diversity and Inclusion

August 11, 2017

For an academic health center the demonstrable benefits of a diverse faculty, staff, and student body are myriad. From enhancing the educational experience for our students, improving recruitment and retention, to increasing patient access to care - we all benefit from a welcoming and supportive environment. While Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) is more diverse and inclusive than many of our peer institutions, if not most, we can take additional steps through conscious efforts, strategic planning, and meaningful investment to become truly representative and reflective of New Jersey, our very diverse State.

At my request, earlier this year RBHS Provosts Jeff Carson and Bob Wieder convened a special faculty committee, the RBHS Committee on Best Practices for the Recruitment and Retention of Minority Faculty. To identify best practices and make targeted recommendations for RBHS, this committee surveyed diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout the Big10, conducted a literature review, reviewed Rutgers policies and plans, and assessed our current climate through five focus groups.

This spring, the Committee issued its final report to me outlining a series of recommendations that will enhance our ability to recruit and retain faculty who reflect the diversity of our State and foster a welcoming and inclusive environment to learn, teach, conduct research, and care for patients. I would like to thank the Committee Chair, Dr. Maria Soto-Greene, and the members of this committee, listed below, for all their efforts and commitment to addressing these important issues for RBHS.

The report outlined a series of recommendations including both immediate actions and long-term commitments which I am pleased to endorse and move forward. In particular:

First, we will move forward to adopting a statement on diversity that is representative of the RBHS’s wide spectrum of disciplines and professions. During my recent series of town hall meetings, I shared the following statement, crafted by the American Association of Medical Colleges:

Diversity as a core value embodies inclusiveness, mutual respect, and multiple perspectives and serves as a catalyst for change resulting in health equity. In this context, we are mindful of all aspects of human differences such as socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, geography, disability, and age.

Inclusion is a core element for successfully achieving diversity. Inclusion is achieved by nurturing the climate and culture of the institution through professional development, education, policy, and practice. The objective is creating a climate that fosters belonging, respect, and value for all and encourages engagement and connection throughout the institution and community.

As mentioned at the Town Hall Meetings, we would like to formally collect your comments and feedback about this statement before final adoption. Please email your comments and suggestions within the next month to rbhsprovost@rbhs.rutgers.edu.

Second, we will launch in the fall a national search for a Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion (VCDI). The VCDI will have responsibility for advancing diversity and inclusion in recruitment, retention, education, and research efforts across RBHS and will guide our efforts to nurture these principles as institutional values and educational resources. Serving as a member of my senior leadership team, the VCDI will set accountability and generate reports on the achievement of institutional goals school and institute level. In addition, we will formalize a permanent Diversity and Inclusion Committee, advising the VCDI, to plan and operationalize initiatives consistent with our diversity statement.

Third, we will make a formal commitment to increase faculty diversity recruitments at RBHS with a meaningful investment of resources. President Barchi has already announced a program to foster the recruitment of tenure track faculty, funding at RBHS two new diverse faculty each year. Modeled after President Barchi’s program, the Chancellor’s Office will provide additional funds to recruit three new diverse faculty members per year (for a total of five new faculty each year) for their first three years, irrespective of faculty track, up to 50 percent of salary. Units will be responsible for the faculty members’ full salary and benefits thereafter. We will task the new VCDI with developing criteria and a process for awarding these funds, optimizing our search processes to attract diverse recruits for all our searches, establishing a formal collaboration with the RBHS Mentoring Committee, and supporting a robust pipeline for the recruitment of underrepresented students, residents, fellows, and postdoctoral trainees.

Fourth, following on the success of this year’s annual symposium on “Women in Leadership”, the Provosts forum for 2018 will focus on diversity and inclusion. We will encourage RBHS schools and units to collaborate on diversity initiatives and networking among faculty.

Lastly, we will formally incorporate diversity and inclusion as core objectives of the RBHS strategic plan, creating a strategic path and target goals through 2019.

Again, I would like to personally acknowledge the members of the RBHS Minority Faculty Recruitment and Retention Committee Members for their commitment of time and dedication to cultivating an environment where all can achieve success.

  • Felesia Bowen, PhD, RN, APN-BC, Rutgers School of Nursing
  • Rose Chaviano-Moran, DMD, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine
  • Suzie Chen, PhD, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy
  • Kitaw Demissie, MD, PhD, Rutgers School of Public Health
  • Robin Eubanks, PhD, Rutgers School of Health Professions
  • Maria L. Soto-Greene, MD, MS-HPEd, FACP, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
  • Patricia Whitley-Williams, MD, FAAP, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Through these initial efforts, we seek to enhance the richness and vitality that diversity and inclusion can bring to our community of learning, teaching, healing, and research. While our national public debate may not always demonstrate these values, we will celebrate them and endeavor to reflect the diverse tapestry that makes up our State.

Sincerely,

Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH
Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs