Diversity’s Importance Is ‘Paramount’
Visiting Clerkship Program Celebrates 20th Year
As a child, LeRoi Hicks ranked last in his math class. “The teacher never really worked with me,” he said. Today, Hicks is an HMS assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who was introduced to Harvard Medical School through the School’s Visiting Clerkship Program. Hicks, a 1995 VCP graduate, thanked the many clerkship program advisers who mentored him at every turn in his career path during the program’s 20th anniversary celebration on May 17.
Founded in 1990, the VCP brings fourthyear and qualified third-year African-American, Native-American and Hispanic-American medical students to HMS-affiliated hospitals. The goal, said VCP founder Joan Reede, HMS dean for diversity and community partnership, is to introduce minority medical students to opportunities in academic medicine and draw stellar applicants into HMS internships, residencies and other training programs. VCP graduates enjoy successful careers in medicine, policy, education, research and public health. Nearly 40 have returned to join the HMS faculty.
For Jeffrey Flier, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, diversifying the faculty, staff and student body is of “paramount importance.”
“It is critically important that we embrace the principles of equity and inclusion in everything we do,” Flier said. “The Visiting Clerkship Program is one outstanding example of how the entire HMS community has joined together to achieve that goal.”
VCP’s track record speaks for itself (see sidebar). Nevertheless, “diversity isn’t about numbers,” Reede said. “It’s about capturing the best of everyone in our environment and putting that to use.”
The true sign of VCP’s success will be the day it no longer needs to exist, said Peter Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital. Slavin and other CEOs of affiliated institutions have backed the VCP since its inception.
LeRoi Hicks shoulders the cause by mentoring young people. “Because of my experience, I chose to return here for my fellowship and, later, as an instructor,” he said. “The VCP helped change my life.”
Copyright 2010 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College