Med school appoints new dean for minority affairs

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Emma Simmons MD’91 MPH’04 has been named assistant dean for minority medical affairs at the Alpert Medical School. In a statement released in early September, Edward Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences, said he was “very pleased” that Simmons is assuming such a “new and essential role” at the Med School.

Simmons will take the place of Alicia Monroe, who served as associate dean of diversity for the Med School before taking a position at the University of Southern Florida College of Medicine last May. Simmons said Monroe has been one of her mentors.

While Simmons’ title is the first of its kind, she will take on many of Monroe’s old responsibilities. But Simmons plans to focus primarily on minority issues, while her predecessor had other duties to attend to, she wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. Simmons said her new position is “part-time” and will include recruitment of medical students and student advising. She wrote that she wants to foster a “vibrant” and “diverse” student body through her new position, and later said in an interview with the Herald that she plans to increase mentorship between students and work with the “underrepresented medical students” to make them “the best they can be.”

The Office of Minority Medical Affairs was founded in 1981 and works to help minority students at the Med School. Its stated goals are “the recruitment, selection, education, successful academic progression and graduation of minority students from Alpert Medical School, and raising awareness about cultural competency and diversity,” according to its Web site. It sponsors various programs within the Med School as well as with the greater Brown community, including the advising and tutoring program, the Interpreter’s Aide Program, the Rhode Island Advocacy Program and the Student Ambassador Program.

Simmons wrote that the Office and its programs are “absolutely” relevant and necessary in the Med School today. She wrote that a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine showed an “unacceptable level of disparate care among minorities,” and that the only way the situation can be corrected is through a “consistent and collaborative commitment to improving diversity at all levels.”

Simmons, who graduated from Tougaloo College and Brown Medical School, has spent much of her career working to correct health disparities among minority populations, and has won many awards in areas including AIDS prevention, minority faculty development and excellence and proficiency in her own teaching, according to Wing’s press release.

She said working at Brown is a “joy and a pleasure” as it lets her “work outside the box,” adding that this job will do more to promote diversity than any other position she has held.

In an e-mail to The Herald, Wing wrote about the “high quality” of Simmons’ work as a clinician and an educator. “Dr. Simmons will provide solid leadership as the assistant dean of minority medical affairs and in the efforts of strengthening diversity among the student body of the Alpert Medical School. We have a long standing commitment to the belief that diverse perspectives enrich the learning environment,” he wrote.