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Our focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
By Matt Jacobson / Wed Sep 30, 2020
When I became Chair of the department, in 2016, I wrote a set of goals to guide my efforts. My overall goal was to “protect and nurture basic science at UCSF, focusing on achieving the highest levels of quality and impact.” To achieve this, I listed 5 more specific priorities, the first of which was to increase the diversity (broadly defined) of our faculty. Nearly 5 years later, I think we have made meaningful progress in this regard, but my priority list remains unchanged, and I’m quite certain that diversity, equity, and inclusion will remain a top priority for our next Chair, Michelle Arkin. Two things are true: (1) it is critical that we capitalize on the current momentum and the palpable sense of impatience for change, and (2) the effort will need to continue for many more years. DEI is not something that we can simply check off on a list and move on. At the simplest level, increasing faculty diversity is a multi-decade undertaking because faculty turnover in the basic science departments is low (in our department, faculty positions are held, on average, for over 30 years). This is largely a good thing, reflecting UCSF’s ability to retain outstanding scientists, but it does mean that this priority will need to extend across multiple department chairs.
As always at UCSF, a secondary challenge is the complexity of our institution, which requires coordination among departments, graduate programs, our 4 Schools and the Graduate Division, campus-level resources, and even UCOP. With respect to addressing anti-black racism and increasing representation of BIPOC, we have a few advantages in this regard. With 4 PhD programs being administered in the department, as well as the leadership roles played by several of our faculty, there is excellent communication and coordination between the department and the PhD programs/Graduate Division. The School of Pharmacy, with only 3 departments, continues to be nimble in making decisions and allocating resources. Coordination with the campus-level Office of Diversity and Outreach, led by Vice Chancellor Renee Navarro, is aided by Jason Sello’s role as an Associate Director in that office. I would also like to thank Jason for agreeing to serve on two important campus-level Task Forces: the Task Force on Equity and Anti-Racism in Research, and the Safety Task Force, focused on the UCSF police and security services. In this newsletter, you will hear about one of our department-level activities, the DEI Committee. I expect that all of these efforts, and others, will lead to substantive changes over the next year or so, some of which are starting to be rolled out now.
And of course, all of this is happening while we are simultaneously grappling with multiple other challenges. UCSF is fully capable of doing so. Indeed, two of the things I admire about our institutional culture are our prodigious capacity for change and our relentlessly self-critical drive to continually improve. Even under the broad umbrella of DEI, we can and must make progress on multiple issues. In addition to BIPOC, women remain significantly under-represented among the basic science departments, and disparities are unfortunately being exacerbated at the moment due to impacts of COVID-19, such as the childcare crisis. I personally believe that additional attention needs to be focused on underrepresentation of people with disabilities in science. It is imperative that we do not view these issues as being in opposition to each other, and commit to making progress on all aspects of diversity.
There is much more to say, but for now, I will end with a heartfelt request: please, please, please VOTE, and encourage everyone you know to do the same. UCSF does not exist in a vacuum, and the political environment at the local, state, and national level is certain to have major impacts on us over the next several years. The stakes could not be higher.
About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.