On the Pulse: June/July Action Updates

Admissions Sphere

We have had a busy and productive month, with one class about to start and admissions work for the new cycle under way. We have almost all new admissions committee members trained and ready to begin. Our inaugural committee development session is scheduled for August where we will take a deep dive on important admissions topics like Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Metrics and Letters of Recommendation. We see this as a great step forward in nurturing and further developing our committee culture of thoughtful and holistic evaluation.

We have also gained momentum in the planning of our pathway retreat, where stakeholders will gain awareness of what the various programs we as an institution have to offer. With this growing collaboration we hope to harness valuable expertise and resources to best prepare the future science and medicine workforce. Learn more.

Clinical Sphere

The clinical sphere has continued to work within the pediatrics department to facilitate the Chats for Change series to normalize open dialogue about racism and bias. We have completed the two part series of chats for change and have continued discussions around requests for future sessions. We are taking an intentional pause to reflect and strategize about next steps. We are exploring and implementing a survey around chats for change experiences as well conducting a needs based assessment with our original stakeholders. Learn more.

Student Affairs Sphere

Student Affairs has collected verbal feedback from students about their advising experiences. The feedback has indicated that students are not always aware of how they can utilize their faculty advisor. We are working with Leona to create a one pager that describes Appreciative Advising so that students can learn about the advising model that we have implemented. We will also have a new Appreciative Advising “timeline” that will act as a schedule for when the different steps of Appreciative Advising should be carried out throughout a student’s time in medical school. Students will learn about Appreciative Advising in orientation so that there is more awareness around how advisor’s support students. Learn more.

Student Resources Sphere

In June, the Student Resources Sphere held a series of three equity lens workshops with staff and faculty from the medical and graduate schools. Participants will integrate techniques and strategies derived from these workshops in order to critically analyze their functional areas for equity barriers and opportunities and come together to report-out on their progress. The overarching goal of this program is to cultivate a community of practice in which participants plan and implement impactful and practical solutions that lead to lasting, equity-centered change. Learn more.

Student Sphere

We have been able to analyze the comprehensive student survey data that assessed student engagement in anti-racist efforts. We are finalizing the quantitative analysis and planning to distribute the information to key stakeholders. We are looking forward to potentially conducting qualitative analysis to supplement the quantitative data. Learn more.

Medical School-Wide

The mission statement campaign is pushing forward. The qualitative analysis of the Padlet responses has been completed and will be shared with the medical education community. During this time, we hope to partake in engaging dialogue with faculty, staff, and students. Once completed and a series of new statements are composed, we hope to reveal a new mission statement during the fall’s anti-racist town hall. Regarding the Campus Climate Survey, our team (Med Ed and GSBS workgroup) has focused on building a timeline, gaining and organizing feedback from students, faculty, and staff stakeholders across Medical Education and GSBS.

We have met with the external vendor, Viewfinder, who will conduct the survey to organize logistical details and to set deadlines for survey question delivery, and communicated and tested technological requirements with the appropriate departments. We will continue to integrate and compile outstanding feedback from stakeholders into the finalized questions to be communicated to the vendor, and will then enter the testing phase. Learn more.

For more information about the on-going focused work within the spheres, check out the Change Targets tracker and our latest release of the RBI 2021 Action Update.

The School’s First RBI Quarterly Meeting | June 2021

The Guiding Coalition recently held its first quarterly meeting for 2021, which was open to all medical school employees, faculty and students. A total of 58 attendees joined the Guiding Coalition on zoom. While the Guiding Coalition’s goal for these open meetings is to remain transparent about the progress being made towards our change targets and the challenges we face along the way, we hope that these meetings can provide an opportunity for the medical school community to feel more connected, learn how to become more involved in the Racism and Bias Initiative (RBI), and find new ways to collaborate.

Admissions Sphere

In the Admissions Sphere, steps have been taken to build upon the first change target: to reflect on and broaden the education and training of the admissions committee to continually engage in admissions work from an equity lens. During the most recent application cycle, the MD admissions committee consisted of 50 faculty members and 30 medical students and the MD/PhD admissions committee consisted of 32 faculty members and 4 medical students. All committee members attended an in-person orientation session which included trainings on topics such as unconscious bias and diversity as a driver for excellence. Additionally, the admissions sphere developed an equity handbook which has been in use for the past application cycle along with the “Time-In” to Learning tool for effectively addressing instances of racism and bias as they occur. They’ve begun gathering data surrounding the atmosphere around racism and bias amongst the committee members through the DEI form and committee climate surveys, finding that POC on the admissions committees have started to feel more comfortable talking openly about racism and bias with other committee members. In October, the admissions sphere is holding a retreat with the aim of finding more opportunities for collaboration with several pathway programs.

Clinical Sphere

In the Clinical Sphere, they have updated their change target to focus on the entire Mount Sinai Health System rather than limiting it to the Pediatrics Department. This decision was made to accommodate for increased interest and momentum across the health system after the death of George Floyd last year. Within Pediatrics, they have completed five department-specific Chats for Change including their most recent one on reporting racist events to compliance which took place in June. Their chat in July focused on alternatives to reporting. Across these departmental programs, they’ve had over 200 attendees with numbers steadily decreasing with each event.

Despite this decrease in attendance, they have committed to continuing hosting these sessions. As of February, the reporting system has received 19 compliance reports regarding racism and bias within the past 6 months. Although the cause of this spike is unclear, the number is an increase from the 31 total reports for all of 2020. Ultimately, they can see the perception of the clinical sphere changing as more sub-clinical departments are beginning to show interest in starting their own initiatives and using the sphere as a resource.

Curricular Affairs

In the Curricular Sphere, a new Medical Education Program Objective (MEPO) has been developed to address racism and bias. Set to roll out next month, the MEPO states, “Upon graduating, students should be able to demonstrate approaches to mitigate the manifestations of racism, bias, and social inequities in healthcare.” In order to fulfill this MEPO, Curriculum Affairs will assess the inventory of racism and bias curricular offerings and communicate with stakeholders about the change.

Additionally, the sphere met with ODI, national leaders, and a medical illustrator to develop a specialized patient session on navigating racist patients and/or colleagues during clinical encounters for both UME and GME. They also aim to diversify patient representation across all courses by creating a HIPAA compliant image database in collaboration with dermatology resident Dr. Krystal Mitchell-Gba and clerkship students.

Student Affairs Sphere

In the Students Affairs Sphere, we are working to adopt and support advising practices by Learning Community advisors that actively address racism and promote equity. We are proud to have developed a community of practice amongst our faculty advisors. Additionally, we have collaborated with the student sphere to collect feedback from students about their advising experiences and hope to analyze this data as our next step. We’ve also conducted faculty development training sessions on appreciative advising and crating our advising blueprint for the upcoming year. We look to continue this work by adding a new change target focused on implementing new anti-racism communication strategies for our faculty advisors to utilize with their students.

Student Sphere

In the Student Sphere, they have been focused on understanding the barriers and mediators to student engagement in anti-racist work and developing potential interventions to increase student participation in addressing racism. Thus far, they have hosted monthly racial healing circles since June of 2020, collected engagement data via the student council comprehensive survey, created the Participatory Decision-Making Guide with the MSHS task force to address racism, and facilitated collaborations between groups like Student Council and SNMA. As they begin to analyze the data from the survey, they hope that it will provide more information about student engagement, identify gaps in knowledge in the student body, quantify representation from different student categories, and serve as a baseline to examine longitudinal effects.

While much progress has been made, the students have come across challenges in promoting anti-racism as a value in medicine, increasing the visibility of our work, and maintaining student involvement. They have succeeded, however, in building a community of practice among students and creating space for conversation. They hope to continue this work by implementing healing circles for the clinical years and partnering with other medical schools on the new Anti-Racism in Medical Education program that was recently funded by the Macy Foundation.

Student Resources Sphere

In the Student Resources Sphere, we’ve developed an equity lens decision-making playbook and will be using outcome mapping to monitor the changes that result from its use. There was also work put into developing three one hour equity workshops that will be attended throughout the year by “equity champions” elected from different departments. These identified “equity champions” will attend the workshops, bring the knowledge back to their respective units, and give status update on the changes being seen during several report out sessions. It’s been challenging to implement some of our equity-based strategies as it can be difficult for individuals to pushback against the workplace status quo. Many have also voiced that they believe their individual influence is limited and they cannot directly link changes they see to our ongoing equity lens work. Fortunately, we have started to develop a community of practice and are seeing increased interest and active engagement from a diverse group people.


For more information about the on-going focused work within the spheres, check out the Change Targets tracker and our latest release of the RBI Action Updates.


This post was written by:

Kiarra Lavache

Strategy and Equity Education Summer Program Intern

On the Pulse: A Global Sphere Update

The Curricular Affairs Sphere aims to promote personal growth in antiracist knowledge and skills among course and clerkship directors. We developed this change target in partnership with students and faculty. 

The first steps included conducting focus groups and structured surveys of course and clerkship directors. This process helped us identify existing strengths and areas for growth as well as opportunities for and barriers to growth in antiracist knowledge and skills.

We then began to work systematically with course and clerkship directors to help meet immediate needs while also gathering data on barriers to growth. So far, efforts have included:

Admissions Sphere

The Admissions sphere has expanded our team over the last month. We have started to plan out and work on our updated and additional change targets. We are reinvigorated and plan to build on our work, learning from each other on the Admissions Committee. Partnering with the MD/PhD program and ODI we look to grow our efforts on ongoing training and education of the Admissions Committee, enhancing admissions pathways and formalizing review of student outcomes to better inform our Admissions work.

Clinical Sphere

In the last month, we hosted a Pediatric Chats for Change (co-facilitated by a member from our sphere and a pediatric staff) that led to a strong discussion about the dynamics of breakout groups, including allied only spaces vs BIPOC spaces. We have continued to plan for 1 more Chats for Change session (Feb) and a topic specific workshop (March), which would create 6 total sessions for the department. We have been updating our working group spreadsheet weekly to develop and reflect on our SMART goals. We will no longer be working with psychiatry as their department leadership is actively working on their own internal initiatives. Opportunities have come up to work with specific departments within pediatrics (eg meeting 2/26 with child life specialists and social work to discuss ideas for combating bias towards patients with sickle cell disease) and OB.  Regarding the mistreatment reports, a meeting was held with external consultants from Vanderbilt and a proposed plan for a mistreatment committee was created.

Curricular Affairs Sphere

In February, the Curricular Affairs Sphere developed a comprehensive plan for our 2021 efforts, including refining our change targets and defining our organizational structure.  We met with SNMA leadership to share this progress and incorporate their feedback.  We are nearing completion of a comprehensive inventory of all current curricula focused on race and racism.  This will help us identify gaps and redundancies in the current MD program curriculum.  

In partnership with students, faculty, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and patient and community representatives we are analyzing this inventory and developing a curriculum map.  To guide this process we developed a draft Medical Education Program Objective (MEPO) that addresses racism and bias: “Recognize and develop approaches to mitigate bias, social inequities, and systemic racism that undermine health and create challenges to achieving health equity at individual, organizational, and societal levels.”  Our team is now soliciting feedback on this MEPO, and will present it and the Curriculum Map to the Course Directors and Clinical Curriculum Subcommittees upon completion.  Final approval and inclusion of the MEPO will occur with the Executive Oversight Committee prior to the 2021-22 academic year.

An analysis of current recruitment and retention practices is also ongoing, with current auditions specifically calling for SPs of color. Finally, our sphere is engaging Course Directors to diversify the representation of Black and marginalized individuals in their curricular materials as well as in patient presentations.  We have identified multiple external resources and are working with faculty and students develop additional resources to meet the unique needs of our curriculum.  We are grateful for the collaboration across multiple teams and offices to move our change targets forward.

Student Affairs Sphere

We have appointed Daniel as our administrative leader.  He will attend weekly advising team meetings.  He will collaborate with Tara and Leona to build faculty development workshops for the advisors taking place in May as well as provide case-based instruction for faculty development. An invitation has been sent to the Student Sphere to meet in March and collaborate to build an evaluative process that includes year to year data and possible on-the-spot advising feedback. The team is also searching for literature for scholarly work.

Student Resources Sphere

The Student Resources will be identifying equity champions and holding a kickoff equity champions to determine processes and practices for equitable decision-making. Student Resources is also moving forward with plans to fund student research related to racism and bias. Additionally, the group will be engaging the Safety Committee, a group that includes students, security personnel, and senior leadership, in identifying safety issues related to racism and bias. Lastly, Student Resources will be developing a staff survey on experiencing racism and bias at work.

Student Sphere

The Student Sphere has finalized 9 questions about anti-racism engagement to be included in Student Council’s comprehensive survey. Results are anticipated May/June 2021. We are continuing to hold monthly racial healing circles and work on the Participatory Decision-Making strategies for the implementation of the MSHS Task Force interventions or action to address racism.

Medical School-Wide

Dr. Muller, staff and students collaborated to develop a department-wide campaign, “Mission: Make a Statement” to update the Med Ed mission statement so that it explicitly denounces racism and commits to racial justice. From now through Friday, March 26, the department is collecting responses and feedback. Visit Padlet and upload anything that will help us shape the new mission statement.

Deans Muller and Filizola committed to a series of quarterly town halls where students, faculty and staff can process, update and coordinate responses to current events and community needs as they relate to racism and bias. The purpose of the Unit In Action town halls is to provide an ongoing forum whereby members of the ISMSS community can engage in conversations that are responsive to the myriad and intersecting ways that oppression and disenfranchisement impacts our institution and daily lives.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Racism and Bias Initiative are partnering to plan for the development of a department-wide culture and climate survey with faculty, staff, and students in medical school and identify potential opportunities for change.

For more information about the on-going focused work within the spheres, check out the Change Targets tracker and our latest release of the RBI March 2021 Action Update.

Reflections from the SNMA Executive Board

This is what the SNMA Executive Board had to say after reflecting on the past few months following the open letter addressing anti-Blackness and racism at Mount Sinai and the broader medical community.

Jennifer Dias

This year we’ve been confronted by two pandemics that have warranted a hard pause and deep introspection. Personally, it’s made me reflect on my faith, failures, value to self and others, particularly as a Black body, and the power of community. While I struggle with my faith in the supernatural at times, this process has reaffirmed my faith in people. I recognize the work and voices of our ancestors, mentors and fellow classmates which have allowed us to harness our vulnerability and share our vision. This process has shone light on the values we must be willing to defend together: humanity, connection, truth and healing- which gives me hope.

Beselot Birhanu

SNMA was inspired by the events of this summer to reflect more on our own experiences and Mount Sinai’s institutional history. Coming to Sinai with a love of anthropology and history, I felt it was important to centralize and capture the long legacy of leadership and activism by Black students, staff, and faculty. This is not only to see how far we have come, but to also see how much farther we can go. As a result, we have partnered with the Arthur H. Aufses Archives to create a digital archive documenting the history of the Black community at the Icahn School of Medicine. Through a series of interviews with alumni, staff, and faculty, we are hoping to reconstruct the evolution of the community through pivotal moments, like the founding of our chapter and the creation of the Center for Multicultural and Community Affairs (CMCA), and all of the allies that made these milestones possible. We hope that this archive will be a living, breathing document that continues to evolve alongside the institution. I am also proud of our partnership with the Apothecary, Sinai’s student-run creative arts magazine, on a special issue dedicated to uplifting Black creative expression and providing a space for healing through art. In spite of all of the really important conversations I have had since the events of this past summer, I sometimes feel like words fail me, and I hope that this issue serves as a means of expression and community. Above all, I am really thankful for the dedication and friendship of our Board and of the student and faculty allies who made this time a little less lonely.

Taylor Harrell

The demands of working towards equity within Mount Sinai have been both extremely taxing yet overwhelmingly inspiring. Although I had not imagined being a part of implementing anti-racism initiatives as a facet of my medical school trajectory, it has significantly enhanced my experience by enriching my ability to think critically about tough issues, reinforcing my sense of purpose, and strengthening my capacity for problem solving. Some days are heavy, but I am sustained by the resilience of those who came before us, the fortitude of my colleagues, and the support that has been given to SNMA. While the road to truly achieving equity is long and sometimes tortuous, I am most proud of the collaborative spirit between leadership, faculty, staff, and students that have allowed the voices of Black students to be amplified and for our perspectives to be validated. It is SNMA’s hope that this continues to be the narrative, that we never allow this fire to be extinguished, and that Mount Sinai can position itself as a beacon of transformational change in addressing the systemic oppressions that exist within academic medicine.

Sewit Bereket, Jeffrey Okewunmi, and Makda Getachew Zewde

Overall, we have been heartened to see such an enthusiastic and supportive response from leadership throughout the hospital system on ways to bolster an anti-racist community at Mount Sinai. Regarding efforts to improve the medical student curriculum, we’ve begun to make progress on actualizing initiatives related to increasing diversity throughout our learning spheres. Specifically in the areas of student clinical encounters, basic science lectures, and research experiences, we look forward to seeing these efforts move forward. As trainees, it has been both rewarding and empowering to be able to contribute to the design of a curriculum that is inclusive, diverse, and representative of the community in which we live and learn. While we feel that it is our obligation to continue to push for these improvements, we acknowledge the disproportionate burden that we as Black students bear and we eagerly look forward to the day where future underrepresented students are relieved of this kind of work. Although the work at times was painful, the experience on this board has produced strong bonds of friendship, invigorated a drive for equity, and helped develop leadership and communication skills that will undoubtedly serve us, and our patients, in the future.

Last thought from Jeffrey Okewunmi:

Black women have been stunting on all the Black men who consistently fail to show up.

If you are interested in learning about the actions that the Dean’s Office and Medical Education have taken since the SNMA open letter addressing anti-blackness and racism at Mount Sinai and the broader medical community, check out this blog post.