Psychiatry diversity leadership in academic medicine: Guidelines for success

Ayana Jordan, Ruth S. Shim, Carolyn I. Rodriguez, Eraka Bath, Jean Marie Alves-Bradford, Lisa Eyler, Nhi Ha Trinh, Helena Hansen, Christina Mangurian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Dr. A, a Black woman researcher and clinician-educator in the Department of Psychiatry at a prestigious academic institution, was appointed chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee in 2017, in the context of public complaints and media coverage concerning sexism and racism. Following recent high-profile murders of Black people by police, Dr. A is called upon by the department chair to develop "antiracist programming." As a first step, Dr. A drafts a strong message against racismandexcessive police force.Despite the statement being vetted by all senior leadership, the department chair insists thatDr.Aplace only her name on it, in case it is not "well received." Dr. A receives negative e-mails in response to the statement, with minimal support from the department. Not to be dismayed, Dr. A assembles a DEI committee to plan an "antiracist" strategy for the entire department, without financial support, protected time, or additional resources. The DEI committee progress is slowed by the lack of institutional and departmental commitment. Additionally, several well-meaning non- Black colleagues in the department organize responses to the murders-including protests, town hall events, and public statements-without concerted coordination with the DEI committee, implying that "nothing was being done." In parallel, Dr. A is tasked with organizing and dispatching the limited number of Black psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers in the department to deliver care to the entire Black community at her institution. Feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks she has been asked to initiate-while navigating a tense climate, with minimal financial or administrative departmental support-Dr. A requests a meeting with the department chair and executive committee. At the meeting, Dr. A, a tenured faculty memberfor the past 10 years, is addressed by another colleague's name-the only other Black professor in the department. When Dr. A points out this microaggression, a senior colleague tells her she is being "too sensitive," and is "overreacting." Despite this interaction, Dr. A highlights multiple institutional barriers, including the structural racism that minimizes the work of DEI initiatives in the department. She presents her proposal for protected time and resources to successfully execute robust antiracist programming but is toldmoneyis tight and to "scale back" and "do the best you can.".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-228
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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