UCSF Names First Director of Academic Diversity

By Lisa Cisneros

Renee Navarro

J. Renee Navarro, PharmD, MD, has been appointed to lead UCSF's efforts to implement initiatives to nurture and enhance diversity among faculty and trainees, who include students, residents and postdoctoral scholars. She is the first person to hold the new position of director of academic diversity, a post created as part of 10 key outcomes outlined in UCSF's diversity initiative, which was unveiled in February. Nurturing diversity is also an important priority in the UCSF Strategic Plan, a blueprint to guide the University's direction and development over the next two decades. The entire strategic plan, unveiled in June, is posted here. Navarro will serve as the point person for ensuring the advancement and timely completion of academically related diversity initiatives at UCSF and for coordinating with relevant systemwide committees. She will work with Sally Marshall, PhD, Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, Joseph Castro, PhD, associate vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost A. Eugene Washington, MD, and the deans to enhance diversity at UCSF. Current efforts to foster diversity at UCSF include:
  • implementing a comprehensive communication program about diversity,
  • establishing a new faculty database,
  • fostering best practices for faculty searches,
  • developing a comprehensive program promoting diversity among trainees, and
  • creating a coordinated outreach program.
Navarro, who was named a UCSF Champion of Diversity in Leadership last year, also will work closely with leaders in the four professional schools and the Graduate Division to maintain and monitor school- and division-specific diversity plans. "I am excited about the opportunity and I am looking forward to working with all of you to implement the diversity iniative," Navarro told colleagues gathered last week at a meeting of the Chancellor's Faculty Diversity Initiative Steering Committee. Navarro currently serves as a member of that committee and is working to develop active outreach programs to improve the diversity of the faculty applicant pool. She is currently a health sciences clinical professor of anesthesia and perioperative care, and has served as an associate dean for academic affairs in the UCSF School of Medicine since 2004. Championing Diversity In 2004, Navarro was asked by David Kessler, MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine, to chair the medical school's Task Force on Underrepresented Minorities. Currently, the physician workforce in California does not reflect the diversity of the state. The task force was charged with assessing the status of underrepresented minorities within the school's training programs and faculty, reviewing UCSF programs and initiatives that support a diverse community, and identifying successful programs as well as unmet needs. The task force also was charged with producing a report with recommendations for the medical school to support and enhance the promotion of a diverse community and to reduce institutional and policy level barriers to underrepresented minorities' participation in training and the school's faculty and faculty leadership. Under Navarro's guidance, the task force report was completed in 2005. The school continues to work to implement many of the recommendations, including creating a new associate dean for multicultural affairs position. In 2005, Navarro served as the UCSF representative to UC President Robert Dynes' Task Force on Faculty Diversity. Through this service, Navarro participated in several site visits to other UC campuses, and helped produce a set of recommendations that were accepted by Dynes and chancellors, and presented in a statewide summit in May 2006. She also addressed efforts to increase the recruitment, retention and promotion of underrepresented minorities in medicine and science, as well as health care disparities among African Americans, at the Women's Health Summit at UCSF Mission Bay in May 2005. "We recognize that the California State Proposition 209 had a chilling effect on many diversity initiatives," Navarro said. "But we know that many opportunities to recruit for candidates with diverse life experiences exist and we believe that it is essential for us to optimize our outreach efforts at all levels. We must also create a culture, a climate within UCSF that embraces and promotes the fact that diversity is essential to fulfilling our mission." Addressing Access "Efforts to improve access to health care must include education and training of a larger proportion of underrepresented minority physicians and scientists," Navarro noted. "These providers are essential, but not sufficient. Institutions of health care delivery must also change." Navarro helped guide institutional changes as chair of the San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) Operating Room Committee for the last 12 years and as the elected Chief of the Medical Staff from 2001 to 2003. During her tenure as medical chief at SFGH, Navarro joined the steering committee of a community-sensitive, citywide initiative called the African American Health Disparity Project. The project was developed in response to a San Francisco collaborative community needs assessment of the health of San Francisco's citizens. That assessment revealed alarming statistics on the disparity in the overall health and well-being of the African Americans within the city and county of San Francisco. It pointed to a lack of access to quality health care, institutional racism, insufficient health information to make informed decisions and general distrust of medical centers by the African American community. "The African American Health Disparity Initiative and the School of Medicine Task Force on Underrepresented Minorities have challenged all involved to look more introspectively at the subtle and not so subtle ways in which their systems might be contributing to disparities in health," Navarro said. "These efforts represent a welcome challenge to the status quo of the health care community in San Francisco." For her leadership at SFGH, Navarro was recognized with the Elliot Rapaport Award and with a proclamation from the city and county of San Francisco when the mayor declared June 18, 2003, as "J. Renee Navarro Day in San Francisco." Navarro received her PharmD degree from the University of the Pacific and her MD degree from UCSF. She served a one-year internship in internal medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and returned to UCSF for a three-year residency in anesthesiology. Navarro joined the UCSF faculty in 1990 as an assistant professor in residence in the Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care. She became acting chief of anesthesia during her second year on the faculty. Photo by Christine Jegan Related Links: UCSF Launches 10-Point Initiative to Promote Diversity
UCSF Today, Feb. 28, 2007 UCSF Unveils Strategic Plan to Guide Its Global Leadership in Advancing Health
UCSF Today, June 28, 2007