December 18, 2023

Wayne State School of Medicine convenes committee to develop strategies to increase diversity in the student body, faculty and staff

To launch its work in fulfilling the School of Medicine’s charge to galvanize efforts to increase diversity within the school to better reflect the city of Detroit, Wael Sakr, M.D., dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has convened a new Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to develop strategies and tools to further increase diversity in the student body, faculty and staff, one of the six key pillars of the school’s Strategic Plan.

A young man receives his coat during Wayne  State's White Coat ceremony for the Class of 2027, held on July 28, 2023 at the Detroit Opera House.
A young man receives his coat during Wayne  State's White Coat ceremony for the Class of 2027, held on July 28, 2023 at the Detroit Opera House.

The committee, consisting of 36 faculty members, students, staff and community members, met Dec. 13 to begin achieving the charge goals. Some of the key points of the committee’s charge includes:

  • Collect and aggregate historical statistics on diversity in the School of Medicine
  • Develop and implement a plan to support the success of graduates of the Post-Baccalaureate Program
  • Re-examine the admissions process and implement a plan to recruit a medical school class that better reflects the city of Detroit
  • Develop and implement a hiring plan for tenure-track and tenured faculty that prioritizes hiring faculty members whose research, teaching, community engagement and student support efforts focus on the Black community, which aligns with the university’s cluster hire in Black Studies. This includes redoubling efforts to recruit clinical faculty who better reflect the city, and implementing proactive strategies to support the development, retention and promotion of diverse faculty.
  • Develop and implement a plan across the School of Medicine that promotes the hiring of a diverse workforce

Although there is much work to do, Dean Sakr said he expects that through weekly meetings of the committee’s subgroups to collect and analyze relevant data, key recommendations should be developed, completed and available to the community by the end of the Spring 2024 semester. The work, he said, will enhance the School of Medicine’s longstanding commitment to health equity and the communities it serves.

“We have an ambitious timetable for this vital mission,” Dean Sakr said. “The committee includes diverse representation from across the medical school and our community friends, ensuring a majority membership of those who are underrepresented in medicine. They bring a comprehensive range of individual expertise, years of experience and fields of specialty. We are fortunate to have an outstanding group of dedicated and talented individuals who are enthused to serve on the committee to address this challenge.”

The committee’s mission is to develop a road map, complete with strategies and tactics, to achieve the targets of the School of Medicine charge, thereby enhancing the school’s diversity, particularly among students and faculty.

The factors to be analyzed include:

• Review and understand current status, numbers, data and trends of diversity.
• Assess the experience of being at the School of Medicine from a DEI perspective.
• Review available data and feedback from those recruited from underrepresented in medicine populations who chose not to join the School of Medicine as students, faculty or staff.
• Evaluate marketing and recruitment approaches, and tools within the DEI domain.
• Assess the School of Medicine’s effectiveness in mentoring and retaining faculty in underrepresented in medicine populations.
• Define the effective management structure for the DEI mission and the School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
• Identify the needed resources and support to achieve the stated goals and align the targets with the strategic plans of the school and the university.
• Monitor the progress and adapt a data-driven assessment to adjust approaches as needed.

“I believe the committee members, given their experience and expertise, will develop a blueprint to enhance diversity that will become a model for medical schools across the nation,” President Espy said. “I eagerly anticipate the recommendations that will bolster our School of Medicine’s reputation as a leading educator of physicians and medical researchers from all populations who strive to improve healthy equity in our communities.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion are integral to Wayne State’s mission and vision, and Laurie Lauzon Clabo, Ph.D., acting provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, pointed out that the charge supports the university’s strategic plan, in which DEI is an area of strategic focus.

“Wayne State University is not only located in Detroit,” said Clabo, “we are inextricably tied to our community and our impact is strengthened by enhancing diversity in all aspects, including a faculty, staff and student body that reflect the diversity of the community.”

Although all aspects of DEI in the School of Medicine are being evaluated, Dean Sakr acknowledged and appreciates ongoing DEI efforts within the school and envisions the new committee’s work as supporting and enhancing those efforts.

The project will be guided by an executive committee composed of Dean Sakr; Donyale Padgett, Ph.D., interim associate provost of Diversity and Inclusion, and chief diversity officer; and Joseph Dunbar, Ph.D., interim vice dean of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the School of Medicine and chair of the Department of Physiology. Other members of the executive committee will include the chairs of five subgroups of the overall committee. Those subgroups include:

• Clinical faculty and residency/fellowship training program representatives
• Basic science/research faculty, postdoctoral students, research assistants and associates
• Medical and graduate students
• School of Medicine staff, with representation of the Admissions Committee
• School of Medicine alumni, and community friends and partners.

Drs. Padgett and Dunbar, and the chairs of the subgroups, will serve as the steering committee for the initiative, facilitating meetings with individuals and entities beyond the committee membership, including department chairs and program directors, university DEI experts and others.

“We had an excellent first meeting and now we are ready to do the work,” Padgett said. “I am excited by the charge of this committee because it has broad support from the top of the institution on down, which is critical for us to make a difference.”



Matt Lockwood
Phone: 248-622-8060
Phil Van Hulle, Wayne State University School of Medicine
Phone: 586-206-8130

Subscribe to Today@Wayne

Direct to your inbox twice a week