The Community Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion (CABDI) — created to examine the culture at EVMS following the disclosure of racist photos in an old student yearbook — has completed its study.

The independent, eight-member CABDI board, generally found an inclusive and supportive environment at the school, according to the report that also includes recommendations aimed at further strengthening the institution.

These findings and recommendations include:

  1. Students strongly believe EVMS is a great place to attend medical school and that its community-oriented focus and increasing diversity in the student body distinguishes it from other medical schools. The positive sentiments by students should be highlighted to reinforce and strengthen the culture and the school’s reputation.
  2. Faculty and staff have relatively low levels of trust in leadership and confidence in the future of EVMS, and more needs to be done to address trust among non-white and female employees.
  3. EVMS’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are recognized as improvements by students, faculty and staff. And there are expectations that the school will do even more to recruit, enroll and support students from diverse backgrounds, attract and retain African American and other non-white faculty, and close the gap in positive experiences between whites and non-whites; men and women.
  4. Implementing a diversity, equity and inclusion leadership development and education initiative for employees, as proposed in the 2020-2024 EVMS strategic diversity plan, will provide needed skills and training throughout the school and help to make DE&I a greater management priority.
  5. A more comprehensive focus on DE&I that is integrated throughout the EVMS strategic plan and leadership initiatives is needed to build upon current efforts and further demonstrate leadership’s commitment to a more diverse and inclusive culture. This priority of attention and intention by leadership will lead to an increased understanding and awareness about the importance of DE&I at EVMS.

Richard V. Homan, MD, President and Provost of EVMS and Dean of the School of Medicine,  thanked CABDI Chairman Gilbert Bland, CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads, and members of the CABDI board for their work and their commitment to EVMS, its students, residents, faculty and staff.

“I appreciate the Community Advisory Board’s thoughtful and thorough approach to this important endeavor,” Dr. Homan says. “The board’s input and recommendations are invaluable as we work to make our campus a model of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

It was in February 2019 that racist photos surfaced from the 1984 student yearbook page of now-Gov. Ralph Northam, MD. On further examination, other disturbing images were discovered in other yearbooks.

In the wake of the yearbook disclosures, Dr. Homan oversaw a comprehensive, institution-wide response and pledged full disclosure of all findings. As part of that effort, he commissioned the independent Community Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion to review the culture of the school and to make recommendations for improvement.

The school also hired a well-respected law firm to investigate the particulars behind the offensive photo and launched a strategic plan focused solely on diversity and inclusion efforts.

EVMS has made steady progress in diversity, equity and inclusion, particularly during Dr. Homan’s term as President.

For instance, last fall EVMS admitted its most diverse class in the school’s history.

In March 2019, the school received national recognition of its efforts when EVMS received the Institutional Excellence Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. The organization presents the annual award to recognize a single institution of higher education that has “demonstrated measurable progress in promoting and sustaining innovative diversity efforts within their campus community.”

Last summer, EVMS brought together hundreds of individuals from across campus — students,  residents, faculty and staff — to develop the 2020-2024 strategic plan, “Advancing Health Equity and Inclusion for Community and Academic Impact.” That plan addresses many of the issues identified in the CABDI report.

“The hallmark of our school and our graduates is a focus on bettering our communities — and confronting racism and other barriers to inclusion is a key component of healing our communities,” Dr. Homan wrote in a letter to the EVMS community.

The Community Advisory Board report is available on the EVMS website.