Season 3, Episode 5 - Donovan Roy, the new vice dean of diversity and inclusion at the WSU School of Medicine, on the challenges of recruiting, how diversity improves medical access for all, more

Donovan Roy, Ed.D., the new vice dean of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Medicine joins the Today@Wayne Podcast to talk with host Darrell Dawsey about his new role.

Episode Notes

Donovan Roy, Ed.D., the new vice dean of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Medicine, sits down to talk about expanding outreach and recruiting, how the pandemic underscored the need for a diverse medical workforce, his upcoming documentary film and more.


Donovan Roy, Ed.D., is vice dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

With almost two decades of professional experience developing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on college campuses, Dr. Roy's strength and focus is on diversity and acceptance.

Dr. Roy joined Wayne State University in November 2021 from the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker, M.D., School of Medicine, where he served as assistant dean for Diversity and Inclusiveness. In that role, he was directly accountable for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives. He consistently evaluated and safeguarded progressive impact on a number of the school's divisions, including curriculum with the Office of Medical Education, faculty development and recruiting with the Office of Faculty Affairs, and the Office of Graduate Medical Education.

He led a team of leaders to create and introduce a strategic three-year plan dedicated to expanding diversity and inclusion, served as chair of the WMed Diversity and Inclusiveness Subcommittee, partnered with the Office of Health Equity and Community Affairs to establish monthly implicit and explicit bias training, and designed and implemented a recruitment database designed to guarantee diversity among staff, faculty and physicians.

He also has served as a learning consultant for Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, director of Academic Support Services for the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, a principal learning skills counselor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of Multicultural Affairs at Wayne State College in Nebraska.

He has led bias and structural racism training, incorporated technology to expand diversity, equity and inclusion, and led training surrounding the traumas impacting underrepresented students. At Western Michigan University, he developed an interprofessional primary care elective for third- and fourth-year medical students that supports underserved communities.

At Keck School of Medicine, Dr. Roy developed tutorial programs to support students and improve student success, extending supplemental instruction to promote student engagement and success during their third and fourth years of medical training.

In addition to creating LGBTQIA-friendly environments and gender bias-free and religious expression spaces for students, Dr. Roy chaired the WMed and Association of American Medical Colleges Virtual High School and College Student-Athlete National Conference, advancing how medical schools recruit underrepresented populations in medicine. He was the co-principal investigator for two funds that created pathway programs for ethnically diverse students. He also secured a grant to develop the documentary, "The Role of Social Capital and Social Networks that support Black Males' Matriculation into Michigan Medical Schools."

Dr. Roy graduated from Wayne State College in Nebraska with a bachelor's degree in human services counseling and a master's degree in higher education counseling. He received his doctoral degree in educational psychology from the University of Southern California, with the dissertation "The Role of Social Capital and Networks in Supporting Black Males' Matriculation into Medical School."

Additional Resources

Read a Q&A with Donovan Roy

Read the announcement of Roy's appointment

Follow the Wayne State School of Medicine on Facebook

Follow the SOM on Twitter

Follow the SOM on Instagram


Announcer:                   Welcome to Today@Wayne, a podcast that engages and informs the Wayne State University campus community with news announcements, information and current events, and discussions relevant to the university's goals and mission. Today@Wayne serves as the perfect form for our campus to begin a conversation or keep one going. Thanks for joining us.

Darrell Dawsey:             Welcome to the Today@Wayne podcast. I'm Darrell Dawsey. In a nation two years into its fight with the deadly coronavirus, the importance and impact of public health and medical expertise has never been clearer. And the need for a medical workforce that is as diverse, that is as competent and innovative, has also been dramatically underscored. The Wayne State University School of Medicine has long understood these needs and the challenges that go with them. And, in its ongoing effort to respond, the university continues to find new ways to promote and practice diversity.

                                    In one of its most significant recent moves, the university hired Donovan Roy, Ed.D., to take over as vice dean of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Raised in southwest Los Angeles County, Roy was an All-American student athlete whose team won the state football championship before he was recruited to play college football at the University of Southern California. Roy eventually went on to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees from a college in Nebraska before earning his Ph.D. in educational psychology from USC. Now, after stints at such institutions as the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, USC, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Western Michigan, Roy joins the administration here at Wayne State University. And he comes bearing a deep commitment to community, and a strong vision for his role at the school of medicine. And he's here to talk with us a little bit about that commitment and that role. Welcome, Donovan.

Donovan Roy:               Thank you very much for having me here, Darrell.

Darrell Dawsey:             Absolutely. Great to have you. So, just start off by telling us a little bit about your office, what that office does and what your role is over there.

Donovan Roy:               So our office here, we're committed to increasing the diversity here on our campuses, not only with our students and residents, but also with our staff and faculty. So, my office here is really to support and provide training opportunities, to really talk about what are the experiences are like from a standpoint from being from a BIPOC community, and the importance of having more representation of the patients that we work with here in the city of Detroit.

                                    So my job has been tasked to really develop opportunities and engagement when it comes to working with high schools, elementary junior and high, then undergraduate campus. But also, we're definitely committed to the community, really reaching out there and developing programs to really support the communities. Not only academic stuff, but their health, to have more healthier people in the city of Detroit. So we run here at Wayne State, we have the first ever postbaccalaureate program at a medical school. Our postbaccalaureate program is over 50 years, and that program is here, housed out of my office. We also do have other opportunities for pathway programs to get students in medicine. So we provide a variety of opportunities. We do consultations about diversity and how we should show up here as an institution related to working with certain populations.

Darrell Dawsey:             Now, the postbaccalaureate program that you mentioned has been one of the tools that Wayne State has used — has done a great job of using— to try and improve diversity at the School of Medicine. Before President Wilson arrived, I don't know if you know, but there was a little bit of a history of us kind of falling down on some measures. But since he's been here, we've renewed that commitment, we've really stepped things up, and you and your office have been actually integral even before you arrived. And certainly now that you're here in kind of helping to promote diversity and help push his vision. I'm kind of curious, what are your top priorities in your particular role and how do you plan to achieve these objectives?

Donovan Roy:               So, there's a couple priorities that for the first year that I really want to focus on. I started in this position in November, so one of the things that I was tasked with was to try and increase the current applicant pool of, they call them URiM, underrepresented in medicine students. Since I've had stints at other institutions, I reached out to some of my colleagues at the undergraduate campus to get some students who meet our mission here at Wayne State to apply to our medical school. So I was able to get about 15 to 20 students to submit their application. And Dean Schwetizer's commitment to the institution about increasing the URiM population here on our campus, he really met with me and said, "This is my priority Donovan. I really want to increase the URiM students, so could you reach back to some of your colleagues across the nation and ask if there are any students that meet our mission?"

                                    So Dean Schweitzer has been very instrumental in me really driving more opportunities for students. He also allowed me to go on undergraduate campus and facilitate office hours. So that's part of my mission. My mission is actually to be on the undergraduate campus twice a week, really being able to meet with the different programs that will turn into feeder programs into our medical school. And also to work with the counselors, work with students to do more intrusive counseling to make sure those students are competitive applicants. So that's one of my really big goals, is to really increase the medical school student population going now, focus on state recruitment, just really hitting every undergraduate institution in the state of Michigan, to make sure that they're aware of our commitment to serving underserved communities. Also, to going to some of the minority-serving institutions across the nation to really promote Wayne State, work closely with the Med-direct program, which is part of President Wilson's scholars, a program that really focuses on representing student opportunity as undergraduates.

                                    It's a clear pathway program, where students are accepted into that program. They one, get tuition paid for — room and board is included — but also two, they get medical school paid for as well. These students need to hit a certain matrix in order to take advantage of this opportunity. But this program is another way that we are committed to increasing diversity here at the Wayne State School of Medicine.

                                    Also, another part of my first year, is really looking at faculty retention; junior faculty advancing their career into being senior faculty members; [and] really providing more training, more diversity engagement around curriculum. When we talk about curriculum today, most [universities] across the nation really doesn't have an adequate representation of people of color in the curriculum. And sometimes these curricula really focus on deficits. When I mean deficit, [I mean a] focus on racial and structural racism around patient care. And what we're trying to do as a national push is to really focus on the patient symptoms, focus on diagnosing patients based upon how they identify, but really looking at the whole purpose of what a doctor should do, [which] is focus on the symptoms, focus on the patient, to make sure that adequate health care has been provided for all patients.

Darrell Dawsey:             That's exactly why diversity is so important. I mean, studies show that communities kind of have better relationships with their doctors when their doctors come from those communities, look like them, have relationships with them. We know that there are studies about African Americans not necessarily receiving the same level of empathy from non-Black doctors who may think that they're more tolerant to pain, things like that. So, there are some very practical reasons as you've laid out for the need for diversity. I'm just kind of curious, what do you see as being some of the chief obstacles for attaining those greater levels of diversity in medical schools?

Donovan Roy:               I think it starts, first of all, way before they get into undergraduate. It truly starts at the 7th to 12th grade, when they're at that level. Really, we do a great job across the nation of developing these pipeline programs that really focus on career exploration. Here's what it is to be a physician, getting role models that look like the students to really see themselves as physicians. But one of the things that we really need to improve on is really providing curricular instruction, instructional design, which means getting students more exposed to math and science, getting them really to understand analytical, improving the analytical skills to be successful at the undergraduate level. Because, according to across the boards that, no matter African Americans, Latinx students, Caucasian, Asian students, all come in at the same rates of wanting to go in to be a physician.

                                    And what occurs is [that] attrition starts to happen when they get into their sophomore year. Because some of those gatekeeper courses that some of their counterparts are successful in and they've been exposed to that at the 7th and 12th grade levels, where a certain populations are not exposed to that curriculum until they get into college. So, their counterparts are pretty much reviewing the courses, while they're [getting a] first-time introduction. So as they start to take some of these lab courses and tend to not do as well,  then they tend to reapply to other majors. So you start to see a huge drop off when they become juniors, where you've only probably seen couple of the students that look like certain populations in those courses, which resulted in a small number of candidates applying to medical school, because you need to have a certain GPA, you need to be able to perform well on the MCAT, which is the exam that medical schools use in order to identify the students who are competitive applicants for their program.

                                    So it's a lot that we really need to do. And one of the things that we're doing here through my office is we're developing more engagement at the 7th and 12th grade levels with providing curricular support. We're coming in and doing more. We're going to develop a MCAT program that really support students who... Because these MCAT programs are very expensive, Darrell. You're talking about, if you're a first-generation college student, you can't afford $2,000 to $5,000 on a course.

Darrell Dawsey:             Right.

Donovan Roy:               So what we need to do is provide more equity, meaning we need to provide more resources that will level the playing field for those students who cannot afford to pay for these courses, and provide instruction and support that will allow them to be successful. So I've reached out to some of my colleagues across the nation who have been successful at doing these types of programs. And they're going to consult with us as we develop these programs that we're going to roll out during the summer of 2022.

Darrell Dawsey:             Okay. Well, fantastic. Well, first of all,  I want to thank you and the listeners for bearing with me. I'v got a little bit of the scratchy throat today and cough, so I want to thank you for that. But I want to continue on. We're in the middle of this pandemic, like we talked about at the outset. I've been grappling with this thing for about two years, we've had the chance to talk about issues such as the racial health gap, the lack of diversity in some of these public health sectors and some of the medical sectors, and the need for more. How, in your opinion, has the pandemic underscored the need for a broader range of medical professionals from, specifically, underrepresented and disadvantaged communities?

Donovan Roy:               It goes back to something that you said before, about what research says. Research says that African American and Latinx students are two times more likely to serve in their community compared to their counterparts. So when you have a small number of this population, who are trained medical professionals, you don't have adequate support in order to support the community, meaning that you don't have the access to proper health care to really be able to educate the community on the pandemic. And being able to really understand the complexity of some of the things that the community needs in order to be aware on how to better serve and treat ... They understand how to stay safe and how to make sure that they are getting tested often. We here at Wayne State, we do our best, and we're doing a good job with some of our students going out and helping out the community and giving free vaccination shots and really trying to support the community.

                                    But when the pandemic hit real hard, especially in Detroit, we didn't have (enough) beds. We didn't have enough professionals to support our community across the nation. There's going to be a huge shortage in 2040, where there's going to be a need for over 100,000 trained physicians. And when we talk about trained physicians, we really are talking about [that] we need more URiM — which is underrepresented in medicine once again — to lead the charge and be the next workforce that really fills those open spots that we're going to have by 2040 to really be able to support the community. Because as we hit 2040, we're going to be a more diverse community. As we see more population growth from certain different demographics, the need for those people to take care of their own community is really going to be very vital to the overall quality of health for all in the United States.

                                    So we really need to really promote more engagement, more opportunity, and the pandemic has really exposed what's going to be some our future if we do not get more trained professionals — especially for the URiM population — going to medical school. This problem really is epidemiology. It's and epidemic and, as with every epidemic, we need a solution, we need a cure. And the way that we can do that is really providing opportunities starting at seventh grade. It doesn't start their freshman year of high school or their freshman year of college. It really should be starting when they hit seventh grade, giving them more opportunities to really be able to expose [them] to curriculum that will build that capacity to make sure that they have the tools they need to be successful in academic. [crosstalk 00:17:08].

Darrell Dawsey:             Same education for our middle schoolers, our elementary schoolers, things like that.

Donovan Roy:               You're totally right. Because one of the things, science is a very intense environment. It's a dog-eat-dog world, right? And it's very intense and, especially when you're talking about pre-med students, it's this mindset [of], ' In order for me to win, you have to lose.'

Darrell Dawsey:             Oh.

Donovan Roy:               So with these quotas that everybody wants to say that medical schools have for minorities, if you look at most medical schools, you're talking about most medical schools are upwards to 90 to 95% Caucasian. But you have a small, minute number of Latinx and African American students in those curricula. So where's this quote-unquote minority tax, meaning where are these quotas being filled, if we only have a small number of certain populations in medical school? So that's one of the things that we really need to understand when you talk about the sciences, that we really need to help these students build their self-efficacy and be able to be successful in an environment that's already tense and unforgiving toward them. Because there's this perceived notion that you are going to get in because of the way you identify yourself. Instead of we already know you get it in because of the hard work that you are putting in.

Darrell Dawsey:             Certainly again, we know that has often been a huge problem, but that's exactly why we're fortunate to have our Office of Diversity Inclusion and folks like you coming in and helping to address this problem. I know we're going to get ready to wrap up, I know you got a lot to do and really big demand, but I just want to throw out one more question to you and then kind of give you an opportunity to speak to anything else we haven't spoken to. What made you choose Wayne State and what made you choose Detroit?

Donovan Roy:               Man, you said the reason why I chose is because one, I can do the job. One of the things through my career — I've been in medical education over two decades now — it's the fact that, one of the holes that I see is that some medical schools that I've been at don't do a good job of reaching out to the undergraduate campuses. They really reach for that cream of the crop, that top 10% of students, because those students are easy to work with. You need to be able to work with those students who are really the rest of the population. I think that's one of my skill sets.

                                    I've been very successful with working with underserved community, because I'm from Inglewood, California, which is similar to Detroit. That's one of the reason why I moved to Detroit. Detroit is just a cooler version of Inglewood, California. The same dynamics, the same people who made up the community of Detroit are the same people that made up my community growing up in Inglewood. So I feel very comfortable in Detroit. I grew up in an inner city, came up in a single-parent home, a lot of my friends were getting involved in a lot of shenanigans that I didn't partake in because of athletics, and I really wanted to leverage my experiences of growing up in the neighborhood, and going back into the city of Detroit and being able to understand how to make sure that those students don't end up like some of my friends that I grew up with. So being able to work with the undergraduate campus in Detroit's mission towards serving underserved communities. Wayne State is a very well-recognized institution across the nation that really works with BIPOC communities.

                                    And also, something that is very dear to my heart, is the fact that Wayne State is really supporting the Black community and I really... At most institution I have, like when I tell people here at Wayne State, I have to build an underground railroad for our people. Because sometimes, some institutions that I work with, you have to explain to them why it's important to really focus center on the Black community. Here, my first day of meeting with the Diversity Advisory Committee, they tasked me with increasing African American Black students on that campus. I was like, man, what? I don't have to build an underground railroad. I can be front with this, I don't have to maneuver [inaudible 00:22:07] things. You guys really want me to do that? So I'm going on. Like I said, February through April, I'm going to be getting a lot of HBCUs.

Darrell Dawsey:             Okay.

Donovan Roy:               I do my HBCU and billing linkage agreements with HBCUs to really be able to improve our African Americans, but also to going to Latinx-serving institutions in California, Texas and New York and Florida to really increase the Latinx. And I really have been building a relationship with the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with Mark A. Moreno, building a relationship to support the Latinx community here in the city of Detroit as well.

Darrell Dawsey:             Okay. Wonderful, wonderful. Well, first of all, we certainly wish you all the best in that role. And I think there's no more appropriate way to kick off Black History Month than with the reference to the underground railroad. So I appreciate that. I thank you for that as well. We want to get ready to wrap up, but I just want to give you a couple seconds-

Donovan Roy:               Before we leave, there's two more things that I forgot to mention. So one, I'm going to be bringing out a documentary. I'm developing a documentary that focuses on the roles of social capital and social network that support Black male matriculation into medical school in the state of Michigan. That's going to be coming out in April. And on June 1 and 2, I'm putting together a student-athlete conference that really centers around  research.

                                    Now the student-athlete conference is a national initiative that I've been working with for the last four years to get the way that we're going to increase Black male matriculation. Because since 1978, Black male numbers in medical schools have been flatlined. It hasn't increased; in some years, it's actually dipped. So one of the things that I'm doing in order to make sure that we increase that representation is looking through athletics. When you look at PWIs, which stands for a predominantly white institution, where you're going to see the most number of Black males enrolled on those campus is going to be students through the athletic programs. So my intentions are to works work with athletic programs to develop programs and initiatives that would help them steer those young Black males into medicine.

Darrell Dawsey:             Fantastic, fantastic. Well, we wish you all the absolute best in your role. We welcome you Wayne State. We're really glad to have you and we're proud of the work that you're starting to do and the work that you will be doing, we know you're going to be very successful here. So I want to thank you Donovan Roy for joining us here on the Today@Wayne podcast, and I hope we can get you back on soon.

Donovan Roy:               Thank you very much and stay Warrior Strong. Thank you very much.

Darrell Dawsey:             Warrior Strong. Take care and thanks again.

Donovan Roy:               Right. Thank you.

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