For Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley, it’s a very straightforward issue.
“I don’t think we can be an exemplary, world-class institution unless we are a diverse institution,” Daley said. “I don’t believe we can lead the world as researchers, educators or clinicians without embracing, embodying and truly entertaining a wide range of perspectives and experiences.”
Daley’s words highlighted a special Oct. 18 gathering of HMS students, staff and faculty who shared personal stories that reflected on the importance of acceptance around a multitude of experiences, perspectives and backgrounds at the medical school and throughout society. The event—part of the School’s ongoing effort to do an even better job of furthering equity, justice and full inclusion for all members of the community—was held to formally announce the Harvard Medical School Diversity Statement.
The statement, crafted after months of discussion and work, declares that the School’s combination of “unique perspectives, talents, experiences and contributions of HMS students, trainees, faculty, staff and administrators are the foundation and drivers of our excellence.”
Daley said that the HMS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which he created on becoming dean, has been listening carefully to members of the community and gathering insights into the School’s shared values, strengths and weaknesses as it seeks to increase diversity, support cultural sensitivity and challenge bias across the School.
The task force is led by Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership Joan Reede and enriched with the expertise of 38 students, faculty and staff. The group’s completion of the diversity statement is an important milestone in the tasks force’s efforts, Daley said, noting that the statement stands in harmony with the HMS mission statement and the HMS community values statement.
As they continue their work, Daley said, the task force will make recommendations for how HMS and the school administration can better support and advance diversity and inclusion, identify current resources and gaps in offerings across the greater HMS community, and establish goals and mechanisms for tracking the institution’s progress in attaining its goals, ensuring accountability.
The task force will now create smaller groups to work on initiatives that can help address keystone issues in an effort to increase diversity at the School. One of the first, they said, will be an initiative to make sure that the art displayed around campus reflects the complex history of medicine and the rich diversity of the current HMS community.
“The art that we display on our walls should make everyone feel like they belong here,” Daley said, noting that having inclusive, representative art was an important part of creating a space where people are free to learn and work to their full potential.
Other subcommittees will address key challenges to improving diversity inclusion, including a focus on diversity in residency training and the development and retention of diverse faculty; more engagement with diverse local and global communities; and a greater understanding of and commitment to addressing barriers to diversity in science and technology in the wider culture.
“This is a national problem and HMS should be a leader in solving it,” Reede said. “It is about being firm in our belief that we can be better together.”