Churchwell to lead Vanderbilt’s diversity, inclusivity initiatives in permanent roleMay. 27, 2020, 3:39 PM
by Ann Marie Deer Owens
André L. Churchwell has been named vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer for Vanderbilt University, a position he has held on an interim basis since June 2019.
Churchwell, whose appointment was announced today by the university and is effective immediately, also will continue in his role as chief diversity officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He holds the Levi Watkins Jr. M.D. Chair and is a professor of medicine, biomedical engineering and radiology and radiological sciences.
“Throughout Dr. Churchwell’s distinguished career, he has been a strong voice for advancing diversity and inclusion in his own field of medicine as well as in the broader community,” said Incoming Chancellor Daniel Diermeier. “I have seen the many ways he has been instrumental in Vanderbilt’s significant progress toward making every member of our community feel welcomed and supported, and I look forward to working closely with him to continue to expand and elevate this work.”
As interim vice chancellor, Churchwell has worked closely with other university leaders to advance and support best practices for promoting a culture of inclusivity.
“Churchwell’s outstanding leadership, boundless energy and deep love for Vanderbilt are among the many reasons he is the ideal individual to help make every facet of our community inclusive,” said Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente. “His vision and dedication will play a major role in our university’s bright future.”
Churchwell’s accomplishments as interim vice chancellor include:
- co-chairing the University Diversity Council, which is identifying strengths and areas for growth across the university;
- launching a program to increase unconscious bias trainingon campus;
- helping lead the Staff Listening Tour initiative;
- establishing partnerships with external councils to increase the university’s engagement with diverse suppliers; and
- co-leading a summit for black men interested in health professions.
“I am honored to continue this important work in partnership with my colleagues across campus and in the community,” Churchwell said. “My career experiences related to diversity and inclusivity have taught me that embedding these principles into the fabric of a university requires an intentional set of processes. Vanderbilt is on the right path now, and I’m excited to help develop a ‘roadmap’ for these goals that will strengthen and make even better our ‘One Vanderbilt’ community.”
He added that his areas of focus in the coming months will be the campus culture and climate and programming related to diversity and inclusion.
Churchwell has deep family ties to the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities. He was born and raised in Nashville, and his father broke the color barrier at the Nashville Banner as the first full-time African American journalist hired by a major newspaper in the South.
Churchwell earned his bachelor of science in biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt, graduating magna cum laude in 1975. He then went to Harvard Medical School to earn his doctor of medicine. He completed his internship, residency and cardiology fellowship at Emory University, where he joined the medical school faculty after completing his training. He also was the first African American to serve as chief medical resident at Grady Memorial Hospital, which is affiliated with Emory University.
He returned to his hometown and Vanderbilt as a School of Medicine faculty member in 1991. He became associate dean for diversity in graduate medical education and faculty affairs in 2007 and worked closely with Jeff Balser, president and CEO of VUMC and dean of the School of Medicine, to create a plan to significantly increase the percentage of applicants to graduate medical education who are underrepresented in medicine.
In 2011, Churchwell was named dean of diversity for undergraduate medical education, in addition to his graduate medical education and faculty affairs roles at Vanderbilt. The work of Churchwell and his team, building on that of prior deans for diversity, has resulted in more diverse School of Medicine classes.
Churchwell also made contributions to the university’s diversity efforts, joining the Chancellor’s Diversity, Inclusion and Community Committee in 2015. In addition, he served on the COACHE Faculty Working Group, charged by Wente with analyzing and assessing the results of the 2016 faculty survey.
His many professional honors include the Walter R. Murray Jr. Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni in 2005 and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Vanderbilt School of Engineering in 2010.
In 2011, Churchwell, along with his twin physician brothers Keith and Kevin, received the nationally recognized Trumpet Award for Medicine. In 2014, he was honored as one of the “Top 15 Most Influential African American Medical Educators” by Black Health Magazine. Through Churchwell’s leadership, Vanderbilt University Medical Center was chosen as a Top Hospital for Diversity by BlackDoctor.org in 2018 and 2019.
Last spring, he was nominated by the leadership of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to serve as a member of the Roundtable on Black Women and Men in Science, Engineering and Medicine. The roundtable is charged with proposing actionable solutions that remove the barriers facing black men and black women in pursuit of STEM careers and create the type of systemic change necessary for them to thrive.
In May 2020, he was one of 15 faculty members elected to the School of Medicine Academy for Excellence in Education, a collective of faculty members who promote excellence, innovation, leadership and scholarship at the school.