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With an advisor to the dean and other steps, IU School of Medicine strives to be a welcoming environment for all.

Diversified Approach

a mother and son, both wearing scrubs, hold protest signs at the White Coats for Black Lives rally in Indianapolis

The White Coats for Black Lives rally in the wake of George Floyd’s death

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, a racial reckoning swept across the United States. At IU School of Medicine, Dean Jay L. Hess identified tangible steps needed to ensure the school is welcoming and inclusive of every member of its community. Among them was the creation of a new position: Special Advisor to the Dean and Chief Diversity Officer.

Named to the post was Patricia Treadwell, MD, who has taught at IU School of Medicine for more than 30 years and is now a professor emeritus of pediatrics and dermatology. She is advising the dean on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion across all areas of the school’s mission.

Treadwell said other administrators were doing some of this work already. But, even before the national discussion on race in 2020, underrepresented students were interested in having a go-to contact.

“I see my position as a little bit of overview,” Treadwell said, “collecting information when questions come up in order to try and answer those and bringing my perspective directly to the dean.”

Black students account for 7.9 percent of enrollment at IU School of Medicine—slightly above the national average for medical schools. Treadwell wants to make sure their experience—and those of other underrepresented minorities—is a good one.

“I think we have to have a good climate. The students don’t feel it is always welcoming—that diversity is appreciated,” she said. “We know that diverse students, diverse residents enhance the academic atmosphere and they need to feel appreciated, and need to feel supported.”

Beyond being an advocate for underrepresented students, Treadwell intends to raise awareness about the health disparities minority populations face.

“COVID-19 has shone a light on the health care disparities and what can happen,” she said. “I had given lectures over the past several years about health care disparities, but I think this has been one that is more apparent and a number of individuals have been able to see it.”

Treadwell has considerable experience in both medicine and issues of diversity.

For 17 years, she served as Chief of Pediatric Dermatology at Riley. She’s served for 15 years as chair of the School of Medicine’s Diversity Council, to name a few of her roles.

Treadwell, 67, doesn’t consider her task a long-term role, but one in which she is eager to make a difference. “I came out of retirement to do this,” she said. “This is an issue that certainly speaks to me.”

Dean Jay L. Hess outlined a series of steps IU School of Medicine will take during the 2020-21 academic year to help foster a climate of diversity and inclusiveness:

  • Reviewing data on racial diversity and inclusiveness at the School of Medicine, implementing a climate survey and openly sharing and discussing results.
  • Conducting town hall meetings to review data and solicit input on ways to improve diversity, equity and inclusiveness.
  • Expanding the office hours of the deans of Student Affairs and Diversity Affairs to provide more opportunities for School leadership to hear what our community has to say about our climate and how it can be improved.
  • Implementing regular training for faculty and learners on unconscious bias, microaggression, cultural humility and professionalism.
  • Conducting a comprehensive review of the medical school curriculum to address potential biases and microaggression.
  • Enhancing the curriculum to better address eliminating health disparities.
  • Integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into the competency assessment system across every level of training.
  • Improving information, resources and transparency around expectations of professionalism and potential consequences of Honor Code violations, including acts of racism and bigotry.

Read more stories from the 2020 Annual Report.

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IU School of Medicine

With more than 60 academic departments and specialty divisions across nine campuses and strong clinical partnerships with Indiana’s most advanced hospitals and physician networks, Indiana University School of Medicine is continuously advancing its mission to prepare healers and transform health in Indiana and throughout the world.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.