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Fellowship tackles racism in medicine

Brown Advocates for Social Change and Equity includes projects, workshops, mentoring

By
Contributing Writer
Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Brown Advocates for Social Change and Equity fellowship, a program led and supported by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at the Alpert Medical School, is in its inaugural year. The fellowship provides a framework for “med(ical) students, residents and faculty members who are interested in gaining leadership skills around issues of diversity and inclusion, but also more broadly structural racism and how that manifests in the medical system,” said Ry Garcia-Sampson MD’19, the diversity fellow at the ODMA. 

The fellowship program, which was proposed last summer by Bryan Leyva MD’18, consists of three components: projects, workshops and mentoring. Eight fellows — two medical students, three faculty members and three residents — were accepted in September, Garcia-Sampson said. The fellows come from the programs in pediatrics, medicine and pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology, Garcia-Sampson said.

As part of the program, each fellow has worked to create a year-long project around topics of diversity in medicine. For example, Sravanthi Puranam MD’19, BASCE fellow, decided to expand on workshops she constructed with other students surrounding health disparities in Asian-American communities, Asian-American identity and allyship. “I really applied to this fellowship so I could get some education — formal education — around how to engage and facilitate conversations about race and diversity and racial justice and why that matters,” Puranam said. 

Since October, Garcia-Sampson has curated monthly two-hour sessions covering a variety of topics, including structural racism, race in research, race and medical education, change and action and health disparities, some of which brought in speakers from other universities and hospitals. The sessions featured aspects of presentation, discussion and workshopping the fellows’ individual projects, with the focus on addressing “racism on three levels: individual, institutional and systemic,” Garcia-Sampson said.

Eric Chow, the pediatric chief resident at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and a BASCE fellow, used the fellowship to expand a project he had previously developed called “MED Talks: Medical Education through Diversity.” The project hosts a group “meant to represent patients from a community, and they talk about what it’s like to be a patient in the hospital,” Chow said. For example, members and leaders of a Jehovah’s Witness community  came to the hospital to share their outlook on health care, including the fact that their church doctrine does not allow blood tranfusions, he added. Chow is looking to expand his project by conducting focus groups after each session “to sit down and come up with ideas and actionable items” to improve the experiences and understandings between diverse groups and hospitals.

The fellowship will continue next year, with current fellows helping to provide mentorship to make the program sustainable, Garcia-Sampson said. The projects and work of the fellows will be showcased in August, and applications for next year’s cohort will open in August as well.