For the fourth consecutive year, INSIGHT into Diversity Magazine has recognized the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine with its Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award. The HEED award is a national honor given to health professions schools that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The school is featured, along with other recipients, in the December issue of the magazine.

“INSIGHT Into Diversity’s stringent review of our diversity efforts helps to identify where we may have deficiencies and shines the light on impactful, innovative strategies that contribute to a welcome, inclusive medical school community,” said Azziza Bankole, chief diversity officer for the school. “While it’s an honor to be recognized, our work is never done in this arena. We are continually looking for ways to create meaningful partnerships to reach communities that are traditionally underrepresented in the health professions.”

Over the past nine years, the school has made deliberate strides in increasing its diversity among students. Five percent of enrolled students are Black, and 8 percent are multiracial. In the most recent class, 29 percent are socioeconomically challenged, and 8 percent represent the first in their families to attend college. The school recently received approval to increase its class size from 42 to 49 students, with a goal of increasing the diversity of the student body.

One of the school’s most popular diversity initiatives, the Health Professions Enrichment Program offers educational outreach programs to high-potential 10th-graders who are passionate about science and health-related careers. Building upon its success in Roanoke, Virginia, the program has expanded to include students from nearby Martinsville and Danville.

Another endeavor, the Early Identification Program, provides immersive research experience, clinical exposure, preparation for the medical school entrance exams, and coaching to undergraduate students interested in medical school who comprise underrepresented minorities. Two students are accepted into the two-year program each year. The school plans to expand the program next year.

New this past year was the school’s Medical Experience for Diverse Students program, which targeted first-year students at Virginia Tech who were members of groups underrepresented in medicine and were planning careers in medicine and research. The virtual day-long experience expanded participants’ networks and increased their awareness of opportunities in health professions.

In addition, the school hosts students from the Achievable Dream Middle and High School in Newport News each year. Medical school students work with the younger ones, introducing them to such concepts as anatomy, ultrasound technology, and mock patient exams.

“Diversity in health care has the potential to improve patient care outcomes,” Bankole said. “Creating this environment requires intentional and continuous outreach to those who have historically been underrepresented in medicine.”

Other ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts by the school include scholarships that target groups that are underrepresented in medicine, courses on diversity and inclusion and health disparities and equity for first-year students, and training for faculty and staff on cultural competencies.

INSIGHT is the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. Considerations for the HEED award include continued leadership support for diversity and examples of institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across campus.


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