Not everyone knows of doctors Howard, Dorsey and Still. They come from a time in America when education for people of color was not a right. A period of time when greatness in people of color was suppressed—not celebrated and not expected. Despite numerous obstacles, they persevered.
The Howard, Dorsey, Still Lecture is named for the first three African Americans to graduate from Harvard Medical School: Edwin Howard and Thomas Graham Dorsey, both from the class of 1869, and James Still, who graduated with honors in 1871.
After graduation, Howard was instrumental in establishing the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School, the only hospital for African Americans in Philadelphia. Dorsey was rumored to have settled in Washington, D.C., and Still was the first and only African American elected to the school board in Boston. Through his efforts, an opening was made for African American teachers in Boston schools.
The strength and steadfastness of these physicians to combat bigotry in the field of medicine and their persistence and passion paved the way for other physicians of color in America.
“When we created the Howard, Dorsey, Still Lecture, it was meant to not only honor these three individuals but to also recognize others who have made significant contributions to advancing the nation’s health,” said Joan Reede, dean for diversity and community partnership at HMS.
Jack Dovidio, the Carl Iver Hovland Professor of Psychology and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale University, delivered the lecture “Racism Among the Well-Intentioned: Implications for healthcare interactions and outcomes.” A prominent voice in advancing the dialog about health disparities, Dovidio focused on the presence of unconscious bias within the medical community, its adverse effects on patients, and solutions for recognizing and resisting it.
HMS Diversity Awards Ceremony
George Daley, dean of HMS, spoke of the current work that is underway by the Diversity Task Force to tackle issues that hinder collaboration and inclusiveness, but he emphasized that the task force could not handle all of the issues alone. “It is not just a matter of having fairness by engaging, celebrating and welcoming diversity; we also need to maintain the mission of Harvard Medical School, which is the mission of excellence—excellence in education, excellence in patient care, and excellence in research,” said Daley.
“Each aspect of that mission is served importantly by bringing in diverse perspectives,” he said. “Diversity and excellence go hand in hand. It is a prerequisite for Harvard Medical School to maintain its world leadership, and it is essential for maintaining and transforming our culture.”
In the spirit of maintaining that excellence and actively driving Harvard’s mission forward, HMS honored three recipients who have enhanced their respective work environments by making them more inclusive and reducing unconscious bias. An advisory committee, comprised of representatives across HMS/HSDM, carefully reviewed all nominations and unanimously recommended all three recipients.
The Harold Amos Diversity Award
The Harold Amos Diversity Award was named after Harold Amos, the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Emeritus and the first African American to earn a doctoral degree from the Division of Medical Sciences at Harvard Medical School in 1952. This award was established to recognize HMS faculty who have made significant achievements that have contributed to making HMS a more diverse and inclusive community.
This year, Fatima Cody Stanford, HMS instructor in medicine, and Ravi Thadhani, HMS professor of medicine, both at Massachusetts General Hospital, were honored.
Stanford, who specializes in obesity medicine and nutrition for adults, adolescents and children, was recognized for her tireless efforts to diminish health disparities in underserved populations and for her leadership on local, regional and national committees, including the Massachusetts Medical Society Committee on Diversity in Medicine and as an associate member of MGH Disparities Solution Center. Stanford expressed her commitment to continue her work to create an inclusive environment among her peers and to foster diversity in medical education. She thanked her family and husband of 23 years for their support.
Thadhani, chief of the Division of Nephrology at Mass General, was recognized for his commitment to research and innovation and for inspiring his diverse group of students, staff, and junior and senior faculty to strive for excellence in their work. His commitment to minority faculty development is underscored by their success under his leadership. Thadhani said that we should “disrespect the boundaries that divide people” and that his father taught him to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Passing this on to his children, he said he tells them, “Be selfless. Do something for others.”
Sharon P. Clayborne Staff Diversity Award
Sharon P. Clayborne began her career at Harvard Medical School in 1981 as a staff assistant in the financial aid office. Over the years, Clayborne received many awards for her dedication to students and their education, including the YMCA Black Achievers Recognition Award in 1998 for her commitment to service on behalf of young people and the first annual Dean’s Award for Community Service in 1999 for her work producing Good News, a two-hour gospel program on the MIT radio station WMBR 88.1. That same year, she also received an award from the HMS Class of 1999 in “Recognition of Tireless Dedication to the Students of Harvard Medical School.”
Sharon P. Clayborne Staff Diversity Award was established in her honor to recognize HMS staff who embody that same level of dedication and who have gone above and beyond to enrich the HMS community and foster an inclusive environment.
Susan Dale, who served as chief of staff for former HMS Dean Jeffrey Flier for seven years, has done just that by helping to advance the HMS mission of diversity and inclusion by advocating for the rights of LGBT students, staff, and faculty across Harvard. Dale was influential in creating the dean’s LGBT Advisory Committee and what would later become the LGBT Office at the School. She was also instrumental in having gender-neutral bathrooms placed across campus. Dale credited Flier for allowing her to be herself.