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Griffin, Sergent honored for their contributions to diversity, inclusion

Aug. 26, 2021, 9:41 AM

John Sergent, MD, and Marie Griffin, MD, MPH, were recognized for their longtime efforts in support of diversity and inclusion.
John Sergent, MD, and Marie Griffin, MD, MPH, were recognized for their longtime efforts in support of diversity and inclusion. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

by Kathy Whitney

Marie Griffin, MD, MPH, and John Sergent, MD, were recognized for their contributions to diversity and inclusion during a portrait unveiling ceremony in Langford Auditorium on Aug. 16, sponsored by the Office of Diversity Affairs.

“This is a unique day for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Our heritage of greatness has to recognize diverse leaders, representative of the people we serve. In addition, recognizing faculty in a new category, are faculty whose careers reflect an intentional commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said André Churchwell, MD, Chief Diversity Officer at Vanderbilt University.

Griffin is a professor of Health Policy Emerita and an internationally recognized epidemiologist and scholar. Her research focus has been safety and effectiveness of drugs and vaccines and the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases.

She has more than 300 peer-reviewed publications and has made seminal contributions to the vaccine science and public health literature. Her research has impacted policy and advanced some of the most important challenges and controversies in the field of vaccines and public health over the last several decades. Her work was the first to quantify the risks of influenza for pregnant women and was pivotal in the universal recommendation of influenza vaccine for all individuals in the United States over 6 months of age.

Griffin joined the faculty at Vanderbilt as an assistant professor in 1986 and advanced to professor of Health Policy and Medicine. She was one of the first women to choose the tenure track in the Medical Center and soon became a role model for other women interested in becoming research scientists. She co-founded the Master of Public Health program, which admitted its first students in 1996, and served in many roles in that program before becoming the director in 2014, including teaching medical students, residents and fellows.

Griffin was one of the key figures in the creation of the David Satcher Public Health Scholars Program, which provides tuition support and the opportunity to conduct research at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute to students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Sergent, professor of Medicine, is a former vice-chairman for Education and director of the Department of Medicine residency program.

He graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1966, spent two years at Johns Hopkins, two years at the National Institutes of Health, and returned to Vanderbilt to finish his residency and serve as chief resident in 1971-72. He went to Cornell for his rheumatology fellowship and remained on the faculty there before returning to Vanderbilt in 1975 as its first chief of the Division of Rheumatology.

He has held numerous positions, including being Vanderbilt’s first chief medical officer, and for 10 years as the internal medicine residency program director starting in 2003. At that time the house staff was almost all from the South, and there were only two minority members out of approximately 120 residents. He worked hard to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.

When Sergent stepped down as program director after 10 years, the program was more than 15% underrepresented minority, and the residency program was more national in scope, with over 70 medical schools represented from all parts of the country and a few foreign countries.

Sergent continues to play an active role working with Vanderbilt medical students and house staff.

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