You are reading my thoughts at the end of a week in which, as an institution and as a country, we reflected on the universal value that all people are created equal. One year ago, the Department concurred with the University in stating our strong commitment to diversity and to fostering an environment that recognizes the unique value that each member (whether faculty, staff, or trainee) brings to our organization, irrespective of country of origin. The Department of Internal Medicine unequivocally recognizes the equality, worth, and potential in every individual, regardless of the nation they call home or the continent on which they were born. We remain committed to creating an environment that pursues excellence in all of our missions, without losing sight of the tremendous responsibility that we all share in improving not only the lives of those in our local communities, but the lives of those beyond our borders as well.
In this regard, it is fitting that I highlight the tireless work of Dr. Nicole Nisly, Clinical Professor and Associate Chair for Diversity in Internal Medicine. Her passion constantly reminds us of the importance of identifying and treating with dignity many who might be marginalized in society. Dr. Nisly’s commitment to serving many medically underserved populations is exemplary. As many of you know, Dr. Nisly is responsible for creating the LGBTQ Clinic, the first in the state, which has garnered national attention. The multidisciplinary program continues to expand its services and to innovate. Last year she received a grant to implement and increase the utilization and availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to individuals at high risk of HIV infection. Recently, Dr. Nisly, in collaboration with Dr. Judith Assouline-Dayan from the Division of Gastroenterology, established an Anal Dysplasia Clinic to increase cancer screenings for individuals at risk for delayed diagnosis. At a health system level, Dr. Nisly and colleagues advocated for and implemented within every patient’s medical record fields for “PREFERRED NAME” and “PREFERRED PRONOUN.” A small change perhaps, but a powerful one that maintains the dignity and respects the identity of each patient we care for. Dr. Nisly also recognized that many of our patients embrace non-traditional approaches to their health and wellness. As such, she has spearheaded a Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clinic, which seeks to ensure that patients who may seek complementary and alternative approaches to health care are effectively and rigorously managed with sensitivity, consistent with the best available research. Finally, Nicole has worked tirelessly in our efforts to promote diversity in our recruitment of trainees to our residency and fellowship programs. She has been a fierce advocate for female medical students, for example, recently working to put in place a lactation policy for medical students and housestaff. Thank you for leading with action.
I have long believed and have noted here before that our unique position as medical professionals brings a great responsibility to educate the public. One of the most direct forms this can take is by writing, especially in more visible media outlets. Dr. Brittany Bettendorf, a recent recruit in the Division of Immunology, will be teaching a new course to medical students this spring that will help them hone this skill. Up to 12 students at a time may enroll in her course, “Editorial Writing for Medical Students,” which will meet for four weeks and feature a mix of reading published writing and providing feedback to each other in a workshop setting. By the end of the course, each student should produce a publishable work of persuasive writing that leverages his or her expertise. I am encouraged that our curriculum recognizes our responsibility, as current and prospective physicians, to be aware of the social determinants of health and how to turn that awareness into advocacy. I suspect that Dr. Bettendorf’s course will become very popular in the Carver College of Medicine’s curriculum.