The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE) at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth has a history rooted in student activism. In the fall of 1989, the matriculating class of 1993 comprised of 9 minority students (African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans). By winter term, 5 of these students were on a split schedule and two eventually transferred out of DMS. These circumstances galvanized minority students into action and provided a focal point addressing issues of diversity and retention. The student leadership of the Student National Medical Association (the oldest and largest independent student organization that acts as an advocate for black medical students in the US) wrote a letter to Dean Wallace in May of 1991 documenting a concerning trend of academic difficulty and psychosocial problems for minority students. Armed with documentation and letters of support from faculty members and other concerned individuals, the students demanded that institutional resources be used to create an office that would provide advocacy for the needs of minority students. Additionally, these student leaders laid the groundwork for what is now commonly recognized across all medical school: that recognizing the rapidly changing demographics of the nation, it is imperative for all of Dartmouth’s medical students to gain knowledge of diseases that may differentially affect minority communities and of the cultural, economic, and social factors that are critical determinants of health disparities.
In their letter to Dean Wallace, students recommended the establishment of an Office of Minority Affairs that would:
- educate professors and administrators on how to best help students in need;
- address specific issues about recruitment, retention, and financial aid;
- coordinate programs for educating all students throughout their four years of medical education about health care delivery to minorities;
- provide role models for minority students; and
- provide a centralized resource for students in their clinical years to secure elective clerkships in inner cities, as well as identify residency programs that are supportive of minority physicians.
In response, in 1991, Dean Andrew Wallace appointed Dr. Martha Regan-Smith as the first Assistant Dean for Minority Affairs. Dean Wallace felt strongly that a minority affairs director should be an integral part of the Dean’s office and an individual that was accepted and respected by faculty to best serve minority students.
While our name and leadership has changed over the past two and a half decades, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement remains fully committed to addressing issues of diversity, inclusion, and retention at the Geisel School of Medicine. As we continue to gain knowledge on the impact inequities and the social determinants of health have on communities across the country, we work to ensure students are exposed to the variety of issues that impact our lives.