LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2020) – Becoming a medical student, from any walk of life, is an unprecedented change. There is a need to understand the particular culture of medical school, and a need for an individual to help students with that task.
The University of Kentucky College of Medicine prides itself in educating future physicians and scientists with the goal of providing innovative research and excellent patient care to the Commonwealth. Meeting that goal requires the acknowledgement that diverse perspectives provide better outcomes.
Dr. Stephanie White has recently begun her post as the College of Medicine’s Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion. White’s experience in academic administrative leadership and executive training in diversity and inclusion have prepared her to take on her new role at UK. Her goal, that she is already swiftly accomplishing, is to advance the culture of inclusion that will allow diverse perspectives to thrive.
“Diversity without inclusion is exclusion,” said White. “And that doesn’t allow us to retain the amazing talent we have and are cultivating here.”
White said she was excited about coming here to bring a fresh perspective to faculty and students in the College of Medicine. She’s already excited about the progress being made, because of the foundation that has already been laid here.
“One of the most attractive aspects of this position was the number of people, programs and initiatives already in place to support diversity and inclusion,” said White.
In addition to enriching the College of Medicine’s diverse environment, Dr. White will also oversee several faculty and student organizations within the college, including the Faculty of Color Network (FCN) and Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS).
The FCN was established at UK in 2018 to be an advocacy program for African American and Hispanic faculty in the College of Medicine. The group also stands to support the admission, retention and overall success of learners and faculty of underrepresented identities. WIMS exists to advance the full and successful participation and inclusion of women within academic medicine.
“WIMS and FCN both have impressively committed faculty leaders,” said White. “While both of these organizations will fall within my purview, I look forward to collaborating, sponsoring and advocating for their efforts rather than ‘overseeing.’”
Aria Byrd, a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology, is a graduate representative for the WIMS organization. She says the program allows her to tackle the issues of the unheard graduate student experience.
“We are at a time in our lives where we are preoccupied with developing our personal and professional identity, so the resources that WIMS provides are extremely relevant and necessary,” said Byrd.
White is passionate about the impact she has the opportunity to make in the College of Medicine, and these groups will play a vital role. As a woman of color, she wishes she had the support system that these groups offer while she was going through her education.
“The presence of these groups is more meaningful because of the commitment of their members to sustain them,” said White. “Considering the scarcity of time, our dedication to our research, providing excellent patient care and teaching, it is heartwarming to know that we still make time to take care of each other.”
White is already pushing the barriers within the College of Medicine and at this institution. By advocating for students, faculty and staff, she is cultivating an exceptional future for prospective students as well.
“Dr. White’s establishment here means that my presence in and contribution to this college is valued and necessary,” said Byrd. “I’m looking forward to seeing her develop a realistic and effective plan to better support the black and brown students who matriculate through the college.”
Diversity and inclusion are two of White’s passions that are included in her title, but it leaves out one goal that is very important to her – equity. White says the college’s success is absolutely dependent on how it allows every member of the community to contribute to their full potential. Ensuring access to equitable learning and working environments will allow those within the college to truly experience the benefits of supporting a diverse community.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.