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Churchwell named to new Chief Diversity Officer role

Jul. 14, 2016, 9:31 AM

Andre Churchwell, M.D., has been named Chief Diversity Officer for VUMC. (photo by Joe Howell)
Andre Churchwell, M.D., has been named Chief Diversity Officer for VUMC. (photo by Joe Howell)

Andre Churchwell, M.D., the Levi Watkins Jr. M.D. Chair, professor of Medicine, Biomedical Engineering and Radiology and Radiological Sciences, and senior associate dean for Diversity Affairs, has been named to serve in the newly created role of Chief Diversity Officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).

In this new role Churchwell will continue to oversee the Office for Diversity Affairs (ODA), which will have a continued vital role in Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), while also engaging with other leaders across VUMC to create new opportunities that will increase diversity and inclusion throughout the organization.

“Dr. Churchwell is a widely recognized national leader in the recruitment and graduation of medical students and residents underrepresented in medicine. With these new responsibilities Andre will be reaching out across all areas of VUMC, partnering with others, to help us realize our goal to reflect and encourage, to the greatest degree possible, the diversity of the city and the population we serve. There is no better individual to champion these efforts,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO of VUMC, and Dean of the School of Medicine.

Since the ODA’s founding in 1999, each of the office’s four successive leaders — Kenneth Robinson, M.D., the late Michael Rodriguez, M.D., George Hill, Ph.D., and Churchwell — have all made significant contributions toward building diversity within VUMC’s workforce by increasing diversity among the School of Medicine’s student body, and more recently its programs in Graduate Medical Education (GME).

The number of applications and admissions to VUSM from students underrepresented in medicine (URM) has increased so that now one out of every four members of each incoming class of VUSM’s students is URM. Since 2007, following the appointment of Churchwell to associate dean for Diversity Affairs, the office has worked to address the status of URM applicants in GME, and this effort has created significant impact.

“As VUMC has been reconfigured into a new entity, now is a good time to take an inward look at our structure surrounding diversity and inclusion. My efforts will be to work with VUMC’s leadership to focus on this vitally important aspect of our culture as it relates to our business plan, business practices and how diversity can impact our posture in the local community and throughout the region,” Churchwell said.

He will work closely with Traci Nordberg, Chief Human Resources Officer, and others to form a team that will address issues surrounding diversity and inclusion, including increasing diversity among key administrative, nursing and physician leadership positions.

“It is clear this work will require multiple partnerships including those with Human Resources but also others to assist in the growth of diversity and inclusion across VUMC,” Churchwell said.

Churchwell said additional key relationships will include working with Marilyn Dubree, MSN, R.N., Executive Chief Nursing Officer, and Terrell Smith, MSN, R.N., director of Patient and Family Engagement, and other members of VUMC’s leadership team to create cross-departmental cultural initiatives surrounding diversity and inclusion.

Among his first initiatives, Churchwell will be creating an Executive Diversity Council, comprised of key stakeholders, to provide a forum for the ODA to share new information, present new ideas and new programs for review and response.

As Churchwell assumes these new responsibilities, Kimberly Vinson, M.D., assistant professor of Otolaryngology and assistant dean for Diversity, will assume a greater role in the progress of VUSM’s activities to increase diversity and inclusion.

Churchwell is a 1975 magna cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt University with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. He graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed his internship, residency and cardiology fellowship in Atlanta at Emory University. In 1984, he became the first African-American chief resident of medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital.

After completing his training he joined the faculty at Emory, where he served as the first director of diversity for the medical school from 1985 to 1991, receiving the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Minority Faculty Development Award in 1986.

Earlier this year, he was named to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows.

In addition to maintaining his clinical duties, Churchwell keeps busy on numerous boards and committees both on the Vanderbilt campus and across the nation.

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