Year of Anti-Racist Work at School of Medicine

Tufts University

Real change takes time. Tufts University School of Medicine has been living these words for several years on its journey-along with the other schools at Tufts-to become an anti-racist institution. This fall, the School of Medicine is marking an important milestone on that journey: The Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) just completed its first year of service to the medical school, contributing ideas and recommendations to several projects with the goal of furthering anti-bias training in medicine, public health, and biomedical sciences.

The ARC was inspired by the Anti-Racism Task Force that began in 2019 for the MD program within the Office of Educational Affairs. It became a standing committee in September 2021 under the leadership of chairman Damian Archer, assistant dean for multicultural affairs and clinical assistant professor at the School of Medicine. In contrast to a task force, which is convened for a temporary period of time, a standing committee exists in perpetuity as part of the school’s bylaws, on equal footing to the Admissions Committee and Curriculum Committee.

“The ARC’s work is centered around diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging. It is critically important to create a space of psychological safety, and that work takes intentionality and time,” said Archer. “We spent the first few months making sure everyone understood how to engage on the committee and saw each other as equals, because that allows for trust and full engagement by students, faculty, and staff.”

The committee has elected faculty representatives from various departments at the medical school and from academic partners, such as Maine Medical Center. There are also eight medical student representatives. The committee’s responsibilities to address anti-racism at all levels of the school are outlined in the charter. However, the work of the ARC is not to implement, but to look at policies, review data, and make recommendations using an anti-racist lens.

The committee began by trying to get a foundational understanding of past and current anti-racism work and efforts around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) at the school and university levels.

“In that beginning stage, it was understanding how the medical school functions, who reports to whom, and what the accountability structures were,” said Archer. “This was critically important, because one of the charges to the ARC was to create accountability mechanisms and develop recommendations that could be held against an outcome we could measure.”

A Focus on Medical Education

The ARC has seven subcommittees that range in focus from admissions to climate to faculty recruitment and retention. The seven subgroups regularly gather data and conduct analyses of their respective areas and make recommendations around gaps found or resources needed.

Laura Baecher-Lind, dean of education affairs and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine, recently engaged the curriculum subcommittee for a project related to DEIJ awareness among all faculty with teaching responsibilities.

“There’s increasing recognition about racism in medicine and the disparities in healthcare outcomes that are really ubiquitous. One of the strategies to mitigate them is to increase education in medical school about historical and current racism in medicine,” said Baecher-Lind. “We recognize the racism that’s inherent in medicine and develop physicians who approach medicine without some of the biases that were taught historically.”

Baecher-Lind and her department have spent the last few years focused on improving the school’s curriculum to reflect an anti-racist medical education. In the summer of 2020, at the same time as the ARC was growing from a task force into a standing committee, the school began an enormous review of all medical curriculum with an anti-racist lens.

/Courtesy of Tufts University. View in full here.