July 13, 2007

Event welcomes new minority house staff

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At the minority house staff welcoming party were, from left, Kenisha Martin, M.D., John Sergent, M.D., Monique Anderson, M.D., Kim Carter, M.D., Rita Paschal, M.D., and Zandraetta Tims-Cook, M.D. (photo by Alecia Lohaus)

Event welcomes new minority house staff

Hosting the welcoming event were, from left,  Andre Churchwell, M.D., George Hill, Ph.D., and Fred Kirchner, M.D. (photo by Alecia Lohaus)

Hosting the welcoming event were, from left, Andre Churchwell, M.D., George Hill, Ph.D., and Fred Kirchner, M.D. (photo by Alecia Lohaus)

Minority house staff recently gathered for a welcome party at the home of Doreatha and Andre Churchwell, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine.

The event served as an opportunity for the 20 new minority residents to get to know each other and meet current members of the house staff and faculty.

About 7 percent of the 830 house staff are “underrepresented in medicine,” according to Fred Kirchner, M.D., associate dean for Graduate Medical Education. Second-year resident Monique Anderson, M.D., and a group of Medicine residents worked with Kirchner and George C. Hill, Ph.D., Levi Watkins Jr. Professor and associate dean for Diversity in Medical Education, to organize the gathering after several house staff members expressed interest in increasing diversity initiatives at the Medical Center.

“We recognize that neither the faculty nor house staff is as diverse as leadership would like, and we are interested in finding ways to address it,” Anderson said. “Our first priority was finding a way to celebrate the diversity that we do have. We wanted to bring together house staff and faculty across medical disciplines, and a house staff welcome was a great place to start.”

Third-year resident Kenisha Martin, M.D., who helped organize the event, agrees.

“It is my hope that by putting people together with similar interests and backgrounds that we will be able to encourage each other. It creates an atmosphere where suddenly you realize that you are not in this alone,” she said.

In addition to making this welcome party an annual event, Anderson and other residents are interested in creating a mentorship program, especially for incoming house staff.

“During my first year, I was very fortunate to have mentors like Drs. Andre Churchwell and Walter Clair, who are cardiologists. They gave me advice on how to prepare for rotations, connected me with physicians who were doing research I was interested in, and have just listened to me talk about where I want to be in five years and continue to help me to figure out a game plan for how to get there,” she said.

“I think mentorship is very important for those who are thinking about academic careers.”

Anderson said she and her colleagues will be exploring ways for residents to work with the Meharry-Vanderbilt Student Alliance.

They are particularly interested in spending elective clinic months or rotations at Meharry Medical College.

“What we want to do at Vanderbilt, as part of the overall strategic plan for increasing diversity, is to increase the number of residents who could potentially stay and become faculty,” Hill said. “As we attract more individuals, we'll be training our own, and they will see the benefits of Vanderbilt and want to stay.”