Our diversity, inclusion, belonging and anti-racism initiatives

Oct. 21, 2020

Dear Members of the HMS Community:

Diversity, inclusion and belonging continue to be among my top priorities. Much has happened across our country in the few short months since we released the final report of our HMS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion and officially launched our Better Together plan. More names have been added to the long list of senseless and cruel killings of Black people who have died doing the same things that many of us have the privilege of taking for granted, and the feelings of unrest and divisiveness have only amplified.

Let me say again that these threats and loss of life are the outrageous consequences of deeply ingrained racism, which has seen an ugly resurgence in recent years. I am sorry for the wounds these painful incidents have exacerbated for members of our community, many of whom are already dealing regularly with microaggressions—both intentional and unintentional.

At the same time, more Americans are now awake to the discrimination and injustices faced by so many, and they have committed themselves to learning and taking action to support racial and social justice. Many passionate members of our community have come forward to share their experiences, ideas and suggestions to help make our school, our university, our city, our state and our country better places to live, learn and work. I am thankful to those who have come forward as individuals or groups, and I acknowledge that many have not come forward but may still be hurting. Please know that I see you, I hear you and I respect you.

After deep consideration and consultation with Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership Joan Reede and my senior advisers, today I write to announce a series of initiatives to further advance HMS’ diversity, inclusion, belonging and anti-racism agenda. The initiatives outlined below align squarely with our diversity statement and Better Together plan, whose goal you may recall is to establish HMS as the institution of preference for diverse individuals. As a community of healers and leaders, it is critical that HMS’ students, postdocs, faculty, staff, residents and clinical fellows represent the patients and families who are the ultimate beneficiaries of our collective work and service.

Perhaps most importantly, the framework for HMS’ diversity, inclusion, belonging and anti-racism agenda initiatives must remain grounded in our mission—to nurture a diverse, inclusive community dedicated to alleviating suffering and improving health and well-being for all through excellence in teaching and learning, discovery and scholarship, and service and leadership—and our community values. While there is certainly much more work to be done on local, regional and national levels, I believe that effecting change at HMS is the best way to create an enduring ripple effect. We must look inward at our own history, culture, policies and practices with the goal of examining ourselves and acting on those findings.

Click here to watch a video of Joan Reede and me discussing the importance of these initiatives with Ahmed Mohammed, director of talent acquisition at HMS.

video still of the conversants

Over the last two years—before and since the release of our Better Together plan in June—we have made important progress. Thanks to the fortitude and dedication of members of our community, we have established the HMS Faculty Council Subcommittee on Artwork and Cultural Representations, resulting in a sculpture of Alice Hamilton in the Tosteson Medical Education Center, a portrait of William Augustus Hinton in the Waterhouse Room in Gordon Hall and self-portraits of medical student Pamela Chen in the dean’s office; released a statement of mutual respect and public discourse at HMS; established guiding principles regarding eponymous features at HMS; and renamed the Oliver Wendell Holmes Society in honor of Dr. William Augustus Hinton, among other important initiatives.

There is much more we can and must do. This work is the responsibility of each and every one of us. Please talk with your colleagues, manager and department/unit administrator to learn how you can be a part of your local efforts. Join us and be a pollinator for racial justice and social change.

Sincerely,
George Q. Daley
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
Harvard University

Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging and Anti-Racism Initiatives

Framed within HMS’ mission statement, the following initiatives form the next wave of our important work toward becoming a more inclusive, diverse and anti-racism institution.

  • Teaching and Learning: We will review the functions and programs across Medical and Graduate Education—including admissions, learning environment, curriculum, student affairs, assessment and faculty and staff development—with the goal of identifying areas of concern, closing gaps and developing action plans to monitor and report racist actions that occur across programs and associated learning environments. We will develop new classes for master’s and PhD students to acknowledge the ways in which racism is embedded in science and scientific culture and work to redress these longstanding issues. We will create clearer, more direct outlets for members of our community to report instances of discrimination. And we will increase diversity in our external education course leadership and faculty, marketing and social media content, and in the breadth and depth of issues covered in these programs and materials.
  • Discovery and Scholarship: Within our preclinical departments, we will hire, as part of a cluster-hire initiative, up to four outstanding scientists in the life sciences who are committed to advancing HMS’ mission and community values. We will develop guidance, standards and metrics for faculty excellence in the areas of diversity, inclusion and belonging; create a path for faculty to be recognized for their contributions to this area; and signal to faculty the importance that HMS places on these contributions to its mission.
  • Service and Leadership: We will create events and dialogues that bring members of our community together to promote diverse perspectives on and understanding of history and context, and that bring our HMS community together with members of our neighboring communities. We will recognize and support the establishment of communities within community, such as the new HMS Black Postdoctoral Association and Black Staff Caucus. And we will launch a public dashboard to track progress toward our goals, be transparent and hold ourselves accountable.

Past Messages

  • Acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of our history

    September 23, 2020

    Dear Members of the HMS and HSDM Community:
     
    One of my early acts as dean was to form the HMS Faculty Council Subcommittee on Artwork and Cultural Representations. This broadly constituted group—made up of HMS faculty members, medical and graduate students, and both salaried and hourly staff drawn from departments and offices across the School—has been offering advice and direction on several projects throughout HMS over the past few years.
     
    In July, after receiving a petition spearheaded by our medical students urging the HMS administration to change the name of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Society, I asked the committee’s leaders, Nawal Nour and Fidencio Saldaña, and my strategic advisor, Willy Lensch, to convene their members along with additional individuals from the HMS and HSDM communities to form a special task force to address these specific objectives:

    1. Develop a set of guiding principles that broadly deliberated why we name features across our campus and under what circumstances we might consider changing an eponymous feature.
       
    2. Apply these guiding principles to consider a specific case: Should the name of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Society at HMS be changed, what general principles should guide such a decision, and if it should change, what might the new name be?

     

    The task force did its work and returned a deeply considered set of guiding principles, Inspiration and Aspiration: Elements to Consider Regarding Eponymous Features at HMS. On the specific question of the Holmes Society, the group wrote: “The Task Force agreed that Dr. Holmes’ contributions to science, medicine and elements of the culture of his time were incredible. However, his publicly articulated views concerning racial inequality, even understood in the context of their time and perhaps further informing our understanding of his role in the expulsion of HMS’s first three African American students, run especially contrary to the guiding principles articulated in the Inspiration and Aspiration document as well as other sources cited therein. This discordance was particularly evident regarding the specific use of Dr. Holmes’ name for a student society at HMS.”
     
    After considering several possible alternatives for a new namesake, the task force unanimously recommended the late William Augustus Hinton, AB 1905, MD 1912. I was delighted to hear this, as it was a little over a year ago that HMS celebrated the installation of a formal portrait of Dr. Hinton in the Waterhouse Room in Gordon Hall. Dr. Hinton was a Harvard College and HMS graduate, an HMS faculty member, a beloved teacher of medical students, an ardent advocate for the advancement of underrepresented people in science and medicine and the first Black full professor at Harvard. After being denied the opportunity to train as a surgeon because of his race, he became an internationally recognized infectious disease researcher who contributed enormously to public health and medical practice worldwide.
     
    I am writing today to announce that I have formally accepted the task force’s guiding principles document and recommendations to rename the Holmes Society in honor of Dr. Hinton, effective immediately. Please join me in celebrating the William Augustus Hinton Society. Click here to read more, including perspectives from members of the task force.
     
    As I said in my community email following the killing of George Floyd, HMS’ mission statement, community values and diversity statement signify our deep commitment to respect, integrity and accountability. Among these core principles is that we acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of our history and actively promote social justice, challenge discrimination and address disparities and inequities. With that, I want to thank and congratulate the task force, whose work is an important step on our path toward social justice.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    George Q. Daley
    Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
    Harvard University

  • Wed., June 10: Pause for reflection against racism

    June 9, 2020

    Dear Members of the HMS and HSDM Community,  
     
    A week ago I sent a message calling out the insidious and injurious racism plaguing our society. The release this past Thursday of the report of our Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion was coincidental but meaningful and timely. I am in active discussions with members of my leadership team about implementing an anti-racism agenda at HMS. And tomorrow, Wed., June 10, I ask you to pause in solidarity with a nationwide STEM shutdown.
     
    While one day will not reverse the structural racism embedded in our country, it gives us the opportunity to build on our Better Together plan and to identify specific steps we can each take to confront racism. Tomorrow and always, I want to encourage all of us, faculty, administrators, postdocs, students and staff, as well as deans—current and former—to commit to open expression and discourse about the challenges we are all confronting, while remaining sensitive to the power of words to inflict pain and perpetuate injustice. I urge you to embrace this opportunity to reflect, become better informed and plan concrete actions.

    We have provided a number of anti-racism resources that may help as each of us takes on this important work. Additionally, I encourage departments, units, individuals and groups to provide one another with the important gift of time and space. Some of you may want to gather together via Zoom for group discussion and reflection. I will ask that we all, however, pause at noon and spend 8 minutes and 46 seconds in quiet reflection. While we will be apart, there will be power and community in our collective silence. 

    Thank you in advance for your thoughtful and constructive engagement, and for the hard work of confronting our history and our current challenges, while ensuring that we do better together in the days that lie ahead. 
     
    Sincerely,
     
    George Q. Daley
    Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
    Harvard University

  • Better Together and Voices from the Community

    June 5, 2020

    Dear Members of the HMS Community:
     
    A couple of weeks ago, Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership Joan Reede and I earmarked this week for the release of the final report of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. We could not have anticipated that the timing would be so meaningful. As we embrace in our community values statement, our community is committed to seeking diversity and promoting equity and social justice. This week has highlighted the critical importance of this aspiration. 
     
    As I wrote in my message to you this past Sunday, it is imperative that we acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of our history and actively promote social justice, challenge discrimination and address disparities and inequities. I launched the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion with four goals in mind: 1) To analyze the landscape of HMS, its affiliates and Harvard University; 2) to develop an HMS diversity and inclusion vision, statement and policy that foster excellence in teaching, research and service; 3) to identify measures of accountability; and 4) to prioritize needs for deeper investigation, goal-setting and action.
     
    Chaired by Joan, the Task Force included 36 administrators, faculty, staff, postdocs and students. Their community-wide assessment comprised input gathered through numerous town meetings, focus groups, site visits, website portals and surveys. Emerging from their efforts were four key goals: develop people and infrastructure, build community and belonging, address culture and communication, and hold [us] accountable and generate knowledge.

    This final report serves as a springboard for an ambitious, long-term effort, Better Together. The goal of this effort is to implement the Task Force’s recommendations, with the priority of establishing HMS as the institution of preference for diverse candidates. As such, we strive to increase representation of historically marginalized individuals—those underrepresented in medicine (URM), those with disabilities, those who identify as LGBTQ and women—at all academic levels, particularly senior faculty and department administrators and leaders, at both HMS and its affiliated institutions. Better Together also acknowledges a shared responsibility and potential to address issues of health disparities, equity and social justice.

    I hope you will enjoy this week’s Voices from the Community video. It features Joan Reede interviewing Karina Gonzalez Herrera, Alden Landry and Nawal Nour about the work of the Task Force, how the pandemic has changed their work and how our patients, students, faculty, staff and trainees are being affected by what is happening in our country.

    Voices from the Community with Joan Reede

    Please join me in thanking Joan and the entire Task Force for their critically important work. I encourage you to read the report and consider how you can get involved in our diversity and inclusion efforts. I also hope you will join us for the Diversity Awards virtual ceremony on Tuesday, June 9, at 2 p.m.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    George Q. Daley
    Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
    Harvard University

  • In solidarity

    May 31, 2020

    Dear Members of the HMS Community:
     
    Sundays are meant for rest. Instead, there is pervasive unrest across our country. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis is the latest in what is a long history of senseless and cruel killings of black people, including 26-year-old Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, who would have turned 26 on May 8.
     
    It’s important to say their names and observe that each of them died doing things that many of us have the privilege of taking for granted, like grocery shopping, relaxing in our homes or taking a run. These activities will now cause many more to live in fear for themselves and their families.
     
    The backdrop for this violence rests in something more insidious that has not yet been fully addressed. And it is the result of racism, inequality and discrimination. Members of our black and brown communities and those on the margins, who often are without voice, are disproportionately suffering and dying from illness and disease.
     
    COVID-19 has taught the U.S. a hard lesson about the role of social determinants of health in patient outcomes, but this is not new information. We must go beyond recognizing the impact of these economic and social conditions and commit to further understanding the root causes and addressing them.
     
    These threats and loss of life must be called what they are: outrageous consequences of deeply ingrained racism, which has seen an ugly resurgence in recent years. This has reopened wounds for some members of our community and served as a reminder for others of the discrimination and injustices faced by many in our society. My heart goes out to those who are suffering and are fearful. Please know that I am committed to ensuring that HMS is a safe haven.
     
    HMS is a community of healers and leaders. Our mission and values and our diversity statement signify our deep commitment to respect, integrity and accountability. Among these core principles is that we acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of our history and actively promote social justice, challenge discrimination and address disparities and inequities.
     
    Each of us must stand as a defender of higher ideals and an advocate for a more just and inclusive society. I ask each of you to take a few moments today to reflect on our individual roles and responsibilities, as HMS prepares this week to release the formal report of our Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which was chaired by Dr. Joan Reede and will speak to our aspirations as a community. Through both individual and collective action, HMS can be a force for good and an agent of change during these challenging times.
     
    In closing, I encourage you to read—or reread—Langston Hughes’ “Freedom’s Plow,” which uplifts us and reminds us to keep moving forward.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    George Q. Daley
    Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
    Harvard University