Equity Office of Inclusive Excellence Newsletter: February 2021

Table of Contents

  • Nate's Notes
  • Dr. Kim Nichols As New Associate Dean For DEI Faculty Access and Success
  • Carolina EXCEL Program
  • 39th Annual Zollicoffer Lecture and Banquet
  • Task Force For Integrating Social Justice Into The Curriculum
  • The Kenan Rural Primary Care Scholars Program
  • The STAHR Program
  • UNC-IMSD Welcomes New Assistant Director and Launches Peer Mentoring Initiative
  • School of Medicine Diversity Liasons

Nate's Notes

OIE Wellness Walk November 2020

As we strive for equity, I’m glad to be at this moment with all you. With fantastic leadership from our OIE directors, diversity liaisons, leaders, and staff, we are excited, ready, and committed to elevate DEI in the SOM. More important our success begins with you! From our baby boomers to generation Z, it is our time to be bold, create institutional change for marginalized and oppressed groups, and at the same time be inclusive to respect our diverse identities and navigate our differences. While social issues will always exist, each generation has a chance to create systemic change and make this world better for all individuals. Our goal is to one day eliminate the oppression and marginalization of diverse groups of people in our state and society. To do so, would allow everyone to lead a healthy and high-quality life.

You are Making the DEI Difference

They say one’s true values and character are demonstrated during the toughest times. COVID and the 2020 social justice issues shed a spotlight on our values and character for diversity, equity and inclusion. While leadership has to be at the forefront of championing DEI it takes all of us to make this change. Here is a list of efforts that reflect our work in the SOM:

  • SOM DEI Social Justice town hall with over 1,000 participants and similar department townhalls with over 30 departments and centers
  • Difficult Dialogues from challenges to action: conversations among faculty, staff, post docs, fellows, residents, students, leaders and within departments
  • Launched the DEI framework and Inclusive Excellence Plans (IEPs)
  • The majority of Chairs and Diversity Liaisons have finalized IEPs posted on the DEI website for transparency and accountability
  • The majority of diversity liaisons have started DEI committees in their departments that include faculty, staff, trainees, and students
  • The task force to integrate social justice into the curriculum finished its report and the implementation of recommendations has started
  • The faculty leadership and diversity group is working together to support chairs, ACAs and businesses managers with addressing the challenges of DEI and wellness in their departments
  • The Dean and Executive Dean meet with SNMA approximately every four months to discuss DEI from the student experience
  • UNC SOM and UNC Health discussed climate survey results
  • UNC SOM and UNC Health started the Executive System DEI Council
  • Departments chairs have started the process of ensuring all their faculty receive bias 101 training and all chairs have registered for 2 day racial equity training
  • We are seeing focused efforts to identify, outreach, interview, and hire highly talented individuals that diversify our leadership and faculty
  • The SOM faculty Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure (APT) committee shared that the new APT guidelines will include diversity, equity and inclusion. Specific communication around this will be released in early 2021

While we still have a lot of work to do this work is happening because of each student, faculty member, trainee, staff, and leader. Your continued push to hold us accountable, be transparent, and communicate with you, helps us to be better and fulfill our values and demonstrate our character.

At the same time please continue to recognize and support the outstanding leaders in OIE who are continuing to build a DEI foundation that creates systemic and intentional change. Some of the efforts are showcased in this newsletter.

-Dr. Nate Thomas, Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dr. Kim Nichols as new Associate dean for DEI Faculty Access and Success

Join us in welcoming Kim Nichols, MD, as the new Associate Dean for DEI Faculty Access and Success. Dr. Nichols is a proud alumnus of the MED program and UNC School of Medicine, as well as a graduate of the UNC Dept. of Anesthesiology Residency and Pain Management fellowship. In her role as associate dean, Dr. Nichols will support faculty from groups that are underrepresented in medicine (URM) and/or historically marginalized, lead efforts focused on URM faculty recruitment, hiring, advancement, and success, and work closely with the VDDEI and Diversity Liaisons to collaborate with the UNC Health Care System (HCS) and other partner organizations. In addition to recruiting, she will support the retention of URM faculty that are already part of our institution. We are lucky to have Dr. Nichols as a part of our team and we can not wait to see all that she brings to this role.

Carolina excel program

To address the disparities within the healthcare system and within our education system the UNC School of Medicine is rolling out a transformative new program, Carolinca EXCEL (Carolina Early eXperience in Clinical Education and Learning). Claudis Polk, MA, the director of the Office of Scholastic Enrichment and Equity, is providing oversight of the program, with Dr. O'Rese Knight serving as clinical director and Dr. Neva Howard serving as curriculum director. The program also has the strongest support at all levels of the medical school and at the highest levels in the University. Carolina EXCEL is recruiting its first class of students this winter and the program will formally launch in May 2021. Carolina EXCEL students will join the class of 2026 in the fall of 2022.

Carolina EXCEL will provide an intensive one-year clinical, academic, and professional development curriculum with conditional acceptance to UNC School of Medicine upon successful completion of milestones. Conditional acceptance means that these students are guaranteed admission to the medical school in the next academic year, if they fulfill clearly established milestones. This conditional acceptance will help alleviate anxiety and allow these students to be valued members of our medical school community. By connection the Carolina EXCEL cohort with clinical and community leaders for healthcare training and skills development, as well as providing career and academic advising and professional development opportunities, we will do three things: significantly increase their social capital, immerse them in the culture of the school as leaders, while also working to transform the culture to one that is more inclusive and representative of the state we serve.


The Office of Scholastic Enrichment & Equity was delighted to welcome Dr. Pedro J. Greer Jr. as the 39th annual Zollicoffer Lecturer. The OSE2 in collaboration with the UNC Student National Medical Association hosted several events engaging with Dr. Greer and the Carolina community in celebration of Dr. Zollicoffer’s legacy and the legacy of diversity and inclusion and UNC School of Medicine. On Thursday, February 20, 2020, Dr. Greer was welcomed to UNC School of Medicine by Dr. Michael Zollicoffer, medical students Candace Barr & Aaron Morris, and Dr. Beat Steiner, Associate Dean of Medical Education. The group gathered for an intimate dinner held at the Crossroads restaurant at the Carolina Inn. On Friday, February 21, 2020 the Old Clinic auditorium was host to the most well attended Zollicoffer Lecture in recent memory. Dr. Greer’s lecture, Humility, Empathy and Social Accountability, where we have failed and why we need to change medical education, challenged audience members to examine the current culture of medical education through inspiring and tragic stories underscored by data on current health disparities of community of colors.

Pedro J. Greer Jr. MD, FACP, FACG

Better known as "Joe,” Dr. Greer established Camillus Health Concern and Saint John Bosco health care centers for underserved populations in Miami, Florida. He has published over 25 articles and book chapters on topics from hepatic and digestive disorders to policy, poverty, health, and medical education in the United States. Dr. Greer wrote Waking Up in America, an autobiographical account about his experiences, from providing care to homeless persons under bridges to advising U.S. Presidents George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton.

Dr. Greer serves in various capacities for national, state, and local organizations, including Trustee at the RAND Corporation and current Chair of the Pardee RAND Graduate School Board of Governors. Dr. Greer is also on the boards of American Funds and Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Greer is a fellow in the American College of Physicians and the American College of Gastroenterology, and has practiced medicine in Miami, Florida since 1991.

The Zollicoffer lecture and banquet are named in honor of Dr. Lawrence Zollicoffer, UNC SOM c/o ’62. Dr. Zollicoffer (1930-1976) was the fourth African-American graduate of the UNC School of Medicine and founder of the Garywn Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Zollicoffer graduated from NC A&T State University at age 17, the youngest to do so. He then earned his medical degree in 1962 from UNC School of Medicine after waiting nearly a decade for its doors to open to students of color. A supporter and activist for civil and human rights, Dr. Zollicoffer dedicated his life to the health care of the community in which he practiced. Throughout his life, he exemplified qualities that students admire and hope to emulate as future physicians.

Due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, there will be no formal 2021 Zollicoffer programming. We invite you to visit the Zollicoffer website to learn more about Dr. Lawrence Zollicoffer and past Zollicoffer programming.

Task Force for Integrating Social Justice into the Curriculum

In July 2020, Dr. Julie Byerley, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, convened the Task Force for Integrating Social Justice into the Curriculum and gave it four charges:

  1. Report recommendations on the learning environment, faculty development, and curricular innovation regarding social justice topics to the Education Leadership Committee.
  2. Establish clear goals, strategies, action steps, metrics, and outcomes for enhancement of integration of social justice into the medical school curriculum and create recommendations to submit to the Education Committee for consideration.
  3. Specify the anti-racism components to the curricular pieces proposed.
  4. Identify other key partners within UNC SOM, expand the task force, and work collaboratively with those partners to make recommendations on best approaches to integrating social justice into the curricula for graduate medical education, allied health, and biological and biomedical graduate programs.

The Task Force, led by Dr. Nate Thomas, met over the course of four months to develop recommendations around three key areas that would require systemic change in order to effectively integrate social justice into the medical curriculum: the learning environment, curricular innovation, and faculty development. In October, the Task Force went before the education committee to present forty-two recommendations related to medical education.

In 2021, Task Force leadership will begin working with various offices in the SOM to track the implementation of the various recommendations. Simultaneously, the Task Force will shift its focus and expand its membership in order to develop a new suite of recommendations for integrating social justice into Graduate Medical Education, Allied Health curricula, and Biological and Biomedical graduate programs.


The Office of Rural Initiatives (ORI) exist to address the health care disparities in rural North Carolina through the recruitment and retaining of a diverse primary care provider workforce to meet the unique needs of our rural and underserved communities.

Studies suggest that students educated in rural or underserved areas are more likely to establish practices in similar locations and the longer a student spends in a rural area, the more likely they are to work rurally following graduation. Specific to medical students, other key potential predictors for increased intention and actual graduate rural employment include rural interest/intentions prior to entering medical training, interest/intentions in practicing primary care (specifically family medicine), financial and rural bonded scholarships, and a well-funded and organized rural immersion experience and its duration. These rural pipeline programs are increasingly important in the state of North Carolina (NC), where there is obvious disparity of the distribution of health care providers.

The opportunities provided by ORI and collaborative efforts directly align with the aforementioned outreach prongs and it is our goal to provide numerous avenues through early recruitment starting in high school and continuing through residency that will allow future rural physician access to the pathway to rural care. One example of our programming which places students in rural areas of North Carolina to support workforce development is the Kenan Rural Primary Care Scholars Program.

Despite dealing with Covid-19 and delayed permission for students to be in clinic, the Office of Rural Initiatives was excited and fortunate to continue our relationships with our preceptors across the state that allowed our Kenan Scholars and Rural Engagement Students to obtain hands on experience, mentorship, team building and deepen their commitment to future rural practice to address the disparities of health across our state. This work reflects the commitment of ORI and the SOM to create equity for all patients across North Carolina. See reflections from some of our students about their summer experiences.

"It was so inspiring this summer to work with Dr. Keith Whiteman and Dr. Kelly Garcia at a rural federally-qualified health center in Haywood County. I watched them compassionately care for patients with substance abuse disorders, provide critical mental health treatment in an area with a psychiatry shortage, transition to video and phone visits to protect their patients and staff, and turn their clinic parking lot into a COVID-19 testing center each afternoon. They provided such a breadth and depth of care to the community with very limited resources, and I came away from the summer with renewed motivation to learn all I can to help underserved communities. Thanks so much for everything this summer!" - Joline Hartheimer
"I spent my 2020 Kenan summer working with Dr. Blair and the team of Island Family Medicine in Surf City, NC. And work I did! Instead of simply shadowing him, Dr. Blair empowered me to interview and assess patients on my own before he saw them. I also got a lot of hands on experience with point-of-care ultrasound, helped with procedures (which he does a lot of!), and learned some about the business of rural family medicine from a physician with years of experience running a successful practice. Moreover, I did all of this between my first and second years of medical school. The fact that I was able to enjoy this opportunity at all during the COVID-19 pandemic speaks to the support that the Kenan Program affords its students, and more broadly to UNC’s commitment to primary care. Of course, that’s why I chose UNC, but this summer was reaffirming for me nonetheless!" -Michael McLendon

ORI also partnered with OSEE and the Vice Dean for Inclusive Excellence for a Fireside Chat for the First Generation Initiative program, bringing together students who identify as first-generation at UNC SOM and OIE leadership to hear concerns, and identify opportunities to provide support for our first-generation students. We are excited to begin fall programming with OSEE for the First Generation Initiative, and the feedback we received from a first year student about the program.

“…. I really enjoyed that first gen fireside chat last week. It was so much fun. Medical school is hard, but that kind of stuff was a big part of the reason I picked UNC. I love The Office of Rural Initiatives and how family-like they all are.”

We believe in highlighting and recognizing the value of diversity in life experience and background in how we move towards a campus anchored in inclusivity and preparing future providers for a career of service with diverse patient populations.

The STAHR Program

Students in Training, Academia, Health, and Research is an Office of Inclusive Excellence initiative and a collaborative effort within UNC School of Medicine. The goal of STAHR is to build community, leadership, academic and professional excellence, and increase the graduation rate and success among underrepresented students and trainees. The annual program uses a framework of tiered cluster mentoring that involves faculty, fellows, residents, post docs,, MD students, and graduate students. The success of STAHR will have university implications, as well as directly affecting the diversity in hospitals and faculty in medical schools.

The STAHR leadership team has developed a cluster mentoring structure that creates community, promotes faculty collaboration, and supports residents, post docs, and MD & PhD students in Years 1-4. A key component of the mentoring program is its curriculum. The curriculum is grounded in the research-based Thomas Principles: Identity Development, Psychological Support, Social Support, Academic/Professional Development, Sense of Belonging, and Leadership Development.

The program was initiated with a one-time mentor retreat in August to establish mentoring expectations, program values, and curriculum content. Mentoring began in September with a mentor/mentee retreat, followed by two monthly sessions in the fall semester (October and November), three monthly sessions in the spring semester (January, February, and March), an end of the year celebration in April, and a session in the summer (June). Over an academic year, we requested approximately 26 hours of our participants’ time.

In its inaugural year at UNC, the STAHR Mentorship Program has obtained over 100 faculty members, residents, trainees, and medical students, forming our 10 mentor clusters.

UNC-IMSD Welcomes New Assistant Director and Launches Peer Mentoring Initiative to Increase Support for New Students During Unprecedented Start to Grad School

Peer Mentors and first year IMSD students at Maple View Farms (September 2020)

In June 2020, the UNC Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (UNC-IMSD)** welcomed Dr. Debra Ragland as the new Assistant Director of the program. After earning a BS in Chemistry (NCA&T) and PhD in Structural Bioinformatics (UMass Medical Center), Dr. Ragland completed her postdoctoral training at the UNC SOM. She has returned to the UNC SOM from Clemson University where she served as faculty in the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry.

Shortly after her arrival, Dr. Ragland began to collaborate with current IMSD student Juanita Limas (Doctoral Candidate, Pharmacology) to design and implement programming especially targeted to support incoming graduate students during the excessively challenging strains of the COVID pandemic and international focus on injustices committed against Black bodies and other POC. With tremendous concern for the mental wellness and social integration of new students who would commence graduate school virtually, they recruited IMSD students to serve as peer mentors to incoming IMSD graduate students. The program was designed to pair peer mentor clusters of 2-4 graduate students with small groups of incoming first year graduate students based on similar research and/or personal interests. IMSD Mentors regularly engage with their mentees and attend at least one DEI-focused training, and the structure of the groups enables mentors to share the effort of engaging the first-year students. The program has been tremendously successful for supporting new students, as well as providing a new means for established IMSD students to remain engaged with IMSD and develop relationships with new members of the IMSD community. The Peer Mentor Advisory Board has been created to oversee the program, and this committee is co-led by graduate students Juanita Limas and David Aponte-Diaz (2nd year Graduate Student, Microbiology & Immunology). Additionally, the Peer Mentor News newsletter is distributed monthly to highlight upcoming IMSD activities and recognize the Peer Mentor(s) of the Month, a nominee(s) recognized by their first-year mentees for outstanding support and commitment to their mentees’ success.

The other members of the IMSD leadership team including Dr. Ashalla Freeman (Director), Dr. Jean Cook (Principal Investigator) and Co-PIs Dr. Rita Tamayo and Dr. Tom Kash are thrilled to welcome Dr. Ragland and excited about this and other innovations she has brought to UNC.

** UNC IMSD is an NIH-funded program that aims to increase the numbers of individuals from groups historically underrepresented (UR) in biomedical research that complete PhD degrees and continue to successful careers and leadership positions in the biomedical workforce.

SOM Diversity Liaisons

As we strive for equity, to increase the infusion of diversity across the SOM, the Diversity Council recommended the development of the diversity liaison position. In 2019 OIE started the process to implement 27 Diversity Liaisons in the clinical and basic science departments. The majority of diversity liaisons are faculty who spend 10% of their time a week on diversity issues. In the summer of 2020, the diversity liaisons received strategic diversity leadership training and were introduced to a DEI framework and how to create Inclusive Excellence Plans. Over a period of six months, Diversity Liaisons used a DEI SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity, Threats) analysis to develop action items to address department weaknesses and opportunities. As a results, basic science and clinical departments are strategically leading DEI efforts in the SOM. Several departments have DEI committees comprised of faculty, staff and trainees; the departments of Psychiatry, OBGYN, and Neurology have developed strategies that include mental health equity, patient care, and have a DEI Spotlight on faculty. The department of Biology and Physiology, and Genetics have started recruitment initiatives to diversify faculty (Rising Star – Led by Dr. Ashalla Freeman and Dr. Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera) and post docs. The departments of Medicine and Pediatrics started Project EMBRACE to address issue of racial equity and being a bystander, and Allied Health’s JEDI Toolkit.

Please click the link below to see our diversity Liaisons and their departments. Look to see more of their DEI department work in our DEI annual report in April/May.

Upcoming Events

  • Feb. 17th, 2021 - SNMA: Self Care "Dealing with Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout" Workshop (12-1PM)
  • Feb. 18th, 2021 - SNMA: For the Culture Trivia (6:30 - 7:30 PM)
  • Feb. 20th, 2021 - SNMA: Called to Care (10:00 AM - 1 PM)
  • Feb. 23rd, 2021 - SNMA: Black Maternal Mortality/Health Inequities Seminar (12 - 1 PM)


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