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Faculty Received Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mini-Grant Award

Elahe Nezami, Viviana Horigian, and Gauri Agarwal, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine faculty, are recipients of the 2023 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Mini-Grant Award with a total of $5,000 – the maximum amount offered. Their proposal, “The KIND Program: Kindle Inclusion through Narratives of Diversity” aims to foster a culture of inclusivity and diversity within the university's faculty and student body.

The purpose of the DEI Mini-Grant Award is to encourage and support long-term initiatives that advance a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community at the University of Miami. Examples of such initiatives include fostering anti-racism, supporting programs that help retain diverse faculty, staff, and students, and fostering inclusive teaching and research.

Viviana Horigian, M.D., M.H.A.

The KIND initiative will launch a storytelling series where interprofessional faculty will be able to share challenges such as imposter syndrome, and stereotype threats. They will also share their successes and perseverance, serving as role models and inspirations for historically marginalized communities.

The storytelling series will be centered on four primary objectives. The first objective is to create a safe and inclusive environment that encourages faculty members to share their stories through safe and inviting spaces. “The COVID-19 pandemic and persistent racial inequities in higher education highlight the urgent need for the implementation of efficacious strategies that could bring about more just outcomes for underrepresented populations,” said Viviana Horigian, M.D., M.H.A., Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences.

Elahe Nezami, Ph.D.

The second objective is to strengthen students' feelings of belonging by introducing role models who can inspire them to seek careers in healthcare. “The goal is to provide role models for our students who can share their stories of passion, commitment, success, and overcoming challenges. We aspire to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to become future healthcare professionals to serve our collective communities,” said Elahe Nezami, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences. “Diversifying the healthcare workforce can reduce barriers to achieving equitable and responsive healthcare.”

An additional objective is to offer university leadership the opportunity to get to know the diverse faculty, connect with their experiences, and create an open discussion that can help with compliance, retention, and a constantly improving climate. The proposal's fourth objective is to conduct a qualitative analysis of the storytelling events. This will offer direction on the university's future racial justice initiatives. “We hope to create a better culture and climate of equity that can assist with promotion, retention, and ultimately recruitment of more diverse faculty,” said Dr. Horigian, who is also the director of the M.P.H. and M.S.P.H. Programs. 

Gauri Agarwal, M.D., F.A.C.P.

“By linking storytelling with a reflective learning process, we hope to better prepare medical and nursing students for the rigors and uncertainties they may experience in the clinical learning environment. In addition, both events will be recorded for dissemination to MSOM pathway programs at local schools to engage students considering a career in healthcare. We hope hearing the powerful stories of our diverse and accomplished faculty can be an inspiration for all students.,” said Gauri Agarwal, M.D., F.A.C.P., Associate Dean for Curriculum and Associate Professor of Medicine.

The storytelling series will be a collaborative project between the Medical and Coral Gables Campus. The grant will support two events - one in April 2023 and one in May 2023.

For each event, members of the university community, including university and departmental leaders, DEI representatives, faculty, staff, and students will be invited for a time of dialogue, celebration, and learning.

Drs. Nezami, Horigian, and Agarwal hope their KIND initiative will ignite the start toward change. By fostering a sense of community and empathy through storytelling activities, they aim to promote awareness and understanding of the experiences and challenges faced by underrepresented communities. KIND demonstrates DEI's commitment to creating a more just and equitable community.

Supplementary collaborators in the Department of Public Health Sciences include Nicole Sardina, M.B.A., M.P.H., Project Manager, and Heather Rose, M.P.H., Senior Director of Accreditation and Doctoral Administration.

Written by Deycha Torres Hernández
Published on March 15, 2023