Under the leadership of Nanette Vega, Ed.D., assistant dean, and assistant professor for the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (ODICE), the Miller School has been honored with its third Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine — the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.
The HEED Award program is the only application-based national recognition honoring colleges and universities that show an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion across their campuses.
“This award is special, as it celebrates the commitment and achievements of the Miller School on diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Dr. Vega said. “Students, faculty, and staff are driving the change they want to see at the Miller School.”
The Miller School has made great strides in its diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. It quickly rose to action in 2020 with its actionable and evidence-based Task Force on Racial Justice, to which Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, students, faculty, and staff gave their full support. ODICE has played a role in continuing the momentum, as the Dean’s Diversity Council meets monthly, as do with the seven subcommittees led by co-chairs. The council serves as the implementation arm for the task force recommendations.
Through ODICE, the Miller School has established a website to focus on various campus initiatives and progress. The Student National Medical Association at the Miller School collaborated with ODICE to establish a mentorship program for Black students in which more than 30 faculty members volunteered. Through the virtual Medical Scholars Pathways Program, more than 125 public high school students participated in programs in MCAT prep, college and medical school application prep, academic advising, and more. In addition, two grants were received to further expand the program’s goals to high school and middle school students during the academic year.
On the faculty side, the Miller School has invested in expanding ODICE with new a director of programs position while incorporating professional development opportunities under the leadership of Joan St. Onge, M.D., M.P.H., senior associate dean for graduate medical education and faculty affairs, on topics such as unconscious bias and allyship facilitated by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“As a result of the Task Force on Racial Justice and the Dean’s Diversity Council, it created an opportunity for departments, divisions, and centers to collaborate on initiatives and reimagine what hadn’t been considered before,” Dr. Vega said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility, and our community is being creative and innovative with the goal of creating a sustainable culture for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Even as the Miller School celebrates the award, it also acknowledges that significant work is still needed to diversify its faculty. ODICE has been involved in pushing forward that agenda and making diversity, equity, and inclusion part of the strategic plan of the Miller School in ways that it can be measured and tracked.
“It has been amazing seeing all the pieces come together as the Miller School furthers its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Dean Ford said. “As we strive for even more success, we have to take time to acknowledge the great work ODICE, our student body, and faculty have done. The HEED award is proof that our efforts don’t go unnoticed.”