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Three to Receive MLK Award for Exceptional Leadership in Advancing Diversity at UCSF

UCSF to Host Award Ceremony on January 26

By Patricia Yollin

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award ceremony on Jan. 26, are, from left, UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Angela Echiverri, Susan Kools, Damon Lew and Vice Chancellor Renee Navarro. Photo by Susan Merrell

Three outstanding members of the UCSF community will receive 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards for their exceptional leadership in advancing the goal of achieving greater ethnic and cultural diversity at UCSF.

The UCSF community is invited to congratulate the winners who will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 26 from noon to 2 p.m. in Cole Hall on the Parnassus campus as part of the University’s celebration of the late civil rights leader’s life and legacy.

The 2012 awardees are:

  • Susan Kools, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor in the Family Health Care Nursing Department in the UCSF School of Nursing;
  • Damon Lew, manager of UCSF’s Community Outreach Internship Program (COIP) in the University Relations office; and
  • Angela Echiverri, a fourth-year student in the UCSF School of Medicine.

Susan Kools

Susan Kools has advocated tirelessly for diversity efforts in the School of Nursing for more than 14 years. A fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, she is internationally recognized as an expert and leader in increasing representation of diverse students and scholars at all levels of nursing.

Kools co-founded the Diversity in Action Committee and has co-chaired it since 2001. Under her guidance, the committee developed and implemented a six-module training course to enhance faculty skill and sensitivity in promoting feelings of inclusion and developing an optimal environment for learning.

Susan Kools, RN, PhD, FAAN

Susan Kools, RN, PhD, FAAN

She served on the School of Nursing’s Recruitment and Retention Committee for many years and as chair in 2007-2008. For the next two years, Kools chaired the Academic Senate’s Equal Opportunity Committee and also served for three years on the UC systemwide Committee of Affirmative Action and Diversity.

Currently, Kools is project director for Nursing Leadership in Adolescent and Young Adult Education Health Program, a traineeship to prepare MS and PhD degree students for clinical, education, research and leadership roles with adolescents and young adults.

She also helped develop the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Cultural Competencies for Graduate Nursing Education, led one of five peer diversity collaborative teams in the United States sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal Child Health Bureau, and created a culturally and developmentally appropriate HIV prevention intervention for youngsters ages 10 to 14 in rural Malawi, which she continues to visit regularly to further this work.

The courses Kools teaches also reflect her commitment to diversity, along with the largely minority doctoral students she advises, the numerous committees and advisory boards on which she serves and her extensive publications, including research on risk behavior among youth in foster care and on hospitalized Chinese children and adolescents.

Damon Lew

Damon Lew reconvened UCSF’s Community Outreach Internship Program (COIP) despite a growing recession in 2010, and is largely responsible for its success. He took the initiative to identify a funding mechanism and to overcome several obstacles.

Damon Lew

Damon Lew

COIP, which recently graduated its second class of interns since Lew took over, provides mentors to San Francisco residents who want to improve their lives. All of them have been getting government assistance or are homeless. COIP offers training and work experience to prepare people for the competitive job market, secure jobs and become self-sufficient.

The program gives adults with little or no work experience the tools to thrive in a work environment through developing skills, and it makes a wide range of training activities available. After a two-week assessment process, participants spend 10 weeks completing hard and soft skill training, including computer classes, interview techniques and basic job training. They also receive regular training seminars during placement and participate in a mentorship program with employee mentors at UCSF.

Lew has proved to be as adept at managing the program as he is at counseling a troubled intern. Thanks to Lew’s efforts, COIP was showcased during a visit by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) in June 2011. He has worked with community partners – San Francisco’s Human Services Agency, Jewish Vocational Services and Florence Crittenton Services – and has shown considerable fortitude resolving various challenges along the way.

In terms of UCSF’s commitment to creating economic opportunities for the San Francisco community, COIP has proved to be a particularly effective model because of its success in providing long-standing employment and career benefits while at the same time helping the University develop a well-trained and diverse workforce.

Angela Echiverri

Angela Echiverri, a fourth-year student in the School of Medicine, matriculated as a student in the extremely selective UCSF Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved, an innovative initiative that provides skills and support to diverse medical students with demonstrated interest in working with urban underserved communities.

She has done excellent work in her core medical school courses while at the same time serving as a champion for issues of diversity and health equity on campus. Echiverri was one of the leaders of a group of students who successfully advocated for the establishment of a Multicultural Center at UCSF and the appointment of a vice chancellor for Diversity and Outreach.

Angela Echiverri

Angela Echiverri

UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, accepted both recommendations and also recognized Echiverri’s pivotal role in the effort by naming her this year as one of the student representatives to the UCSF Committee on Culture, Climate and Inclusion — a testament to the young student’s determination and diplomacy.

Echiverri had previously served on the Chancellor’s Committee on Academic Diversity, Subcommittee on Diversity & Outreach and on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Diversity, Education Subcommittee. Since 2009, she has been a member of the Admissions Committee for the UCSF School of Medicine, an immensely time-consuming commitment. In 2009, she was honored as a UCSF Champion of Diversity.

Even before her arrival at UCSF, Echiverri had done impressive work in the area of health workforce diversity. For example, she was coordinator for the California Health Professions Consortium under the direction of the 2009 MLK award winner Kathy Flores, MD, associate clinical professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine based at the UCSF Fresno and director of the UCSF Fresno Latino Center of Excellence in Medical Education and Research. Echiverri also worked at the Greenlining Institute, where she was first author of a high-impact and extraordinarily well researched and well written report on faculty diversity at the University of California schools of medicine.

Before taking on those positions, she completed an MPH degree program at Johns Hopkins University.

Susan Kools with children in Malawai, Africa

Susan Kools, who created a culturally and developmentally appropriate HIV prevention intervention for youngsters ages 10 to 14 in rural Malawi, is among the three to be honored with the 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award at UCSF.

Portrait of Susan Kools by Susan Merrell