School of Medicine Student Orientation Focuses on Inclusion, Diversity Issues

First-year students gather in break-out groups with faculty to discuss communication and racial bias during the School of Medicine orientation on Sept. 1. Photo by Mark Wooding

The UCSF School of Medicine welcomed 153 new students to the class of 2019 earlier this month with a very different kind of orientation.

Following the lead of students who have been calling attention to racial health inequalities in the aftermath of the continued police-involved deaths of African Americans, school leaders decided to focus on communication and racial bias in the students’ first-two days on campus.

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This comes on the heels of the School of Medicine’s faculty retreat at the beginning of the year, which was also prompted by students and focused on intractable disparities in health outcomes, especially between blacks and whites, and the paucity of black, Hispanic and Native Americans in biomedical science.

While UCSF’s medical school students are quite diverse – with 31 percent of this year’s class coming from underrepresented minorities – these numbers diminish at each stage of training, until the faculty level, where only 3 percent are members of underrepresented groups.

Talmadge King, MD, the new dean of the School of Medicine, welcomed the incoming medical students, telling them, “everyone of you was chosen to come here.” But, he said, they must acknowledge that health inequalities endure – a truth that many doctors deny – while not pretending they can fix them singlehandedly. King said the forces driving these enduring inequalities are societal and therefore require systematic approaches – of the kind fashioned by many different experts – to solve them.

First-year medical student Zoe Kornberg wrote about her experience at the Sept. 1 orientation. Read her story on the School of Medicine website »