For the sixth consecutive year, Weill Cornell Medicine has been awarded the Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, which recognizes the institution’s exceptional commitment to diversity and inclusion.
The largest and oldest diversity-centered publication in higher education, INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine will highlight the award winners in its November/December 2023 issue. The HEED Award is presented annually to U.S. health professional schools and other medical organizations that exemplify outstanding leadership in diversity and inclusion.
“The HEED award speaks to our institution’s culture and community spirit of reaching out, including everyone and continuing to find voices that may not be heard,” said Dr. Linnie M. Golightly, associate dean of diversity and inclusion at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Weill Cornell Medicine’s long history of promoting diversity and inclusion began in 1969 when it established strategic programs and policies to promote diversity in science and medicine. Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi elevated diversity and inclusion as a crucial pillar of the institution’s mission after being appointed dean in 2017. Dr. Robert A. Harrington, who succeeded Dr. Choi Sept. 12 as the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine, also brings with him a staunch commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as justice and belonging, in academic medicine.
At his first institution town hall event, Dr. Harrington discussed how to create a culture “where everybody feels as though they can belong.”
“We will look at every level of the institution to be inclusive, to help create a diverse workforce,” he said, later adding, “I believe that medical faculties should look like the community they serve.”
“We have experienced an incredible period of growth under the leadership of Dr. Choi and look forward to continuing our traditions of equity and inclusion under Dr. Harrington,” Dr. Golightly said.
The HEED award recognizes a range of Weill Cornell Medicine diversity and inclusion initiatives. “Our programs continue to make people feel seen and heard, and feel that their experience is validated, which increases their overall sense of belonging at Weill Cornell Medicine,” said Fanesse George, director of the institution’s Office of Staff Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement.
In celebration of Juneteenth this year, the office hosted the first-ever employee field trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. “We had a vision, which was to honor Juneteenth in a big way, in the same way Weill Cornell Medicine has chosen to recognize Juneteenth as an organizational holiday,” George said. On the bus ride back to New York City, employees reflected on what they saw during the museum visit and what it meant to them. “They loved the thoughtfulness of the trip and according to survey feedback, they can’t wait to do it again,” George said.
The HEED award also recognizes Weill Cornell Medicine’s programs aimed at supporting underrepresented graduate students. The Weill Cornell Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program aims to increase the number of doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds in biomedical research careers. “We provide mentorship, professional development training and a community, as they navigate their graduate careers,” said Dr. Yazmin Carrasco, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion and co-principal investigator of the Weill Cornell IMSD Program.
Similarly, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences offers the Esprit de Corps Program, a mentorship program for first-year doctoral students from diverse backgrounds, including racial, ethnic, first-generation, LGBTQ+, disadvantaged, and with disabilities.
The institution also continues to focus on employee engagement through Diversity Town Halls, which were first introduced in 2020 in response to the effects of the pandemic and the anti-racism movement. The ongoing series provides a forum for the community to confront, discuss and consider how to address inequities, as well as support one another and enable change.
Weill Cornell Medicine will also launch Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Led by a diversity, inclusion and belonging manager, the ERG program will feature employee groups for professionals of color, LBGTQ+, disabilities and LatinX. “ERGs are designed to create space for Weill Cornell Medicine employees to connect outside of their roles and their department, to be civically engaged with the institution,” George said.
“We are honored to receive this award for the sixth year in a row and proud of our accomplishments, but there’s more work to do,” Dr. Golightly said. “We are a strong community and look to become even stronger as we charge forward with these and other diversity and inclusion initiatives, seeking to better care for each other and our patient population, and striving to set an example as an institution to the rest of the nation.”