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Spotlight: University of California, Davis Office of Diversity and Faculty Life

by Valarie Clark, M.P.A., AAMC

How does a medical school demonstrate an organizational commitment to a diverse faculty, which reflects a range of interests, abilities, life experiences, and worldviews that enhances the academic mission?

A) Commitment from medical school leadership

B) An open and centralized faculty search process

C) A comprehensive faculty development program

D) A welcoming sense of community

E) all of the above

The correct answer, of course, is “E) All of the above.”

Although the city of Sacramento, home to the University of California-Davis School of Medicine, was named “the most diverse city in the country” by Time magazine in 2002, nevertheless the current faculty does not reflect the city’s diversity. However, the current faculty snapshot at UC Davis reveals a different diversity picture. The challenge to address faculty diversity through recruitment practices was heightened further by the requirements of California’s Proposition 209.

California's Proposition 209:

California's Proposition 209, which was enacted in 1996, requires that UC shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to nay individual or group based on basis or race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. In the four years following Proposition, many UC campuses experienced a drop in the rates hiring women and underrepresented minority faculty.

U.C. Davis guidelines offer ways to engage in a variety of voluntary practices that, although not strictly required by Federal affirmative action regulations, promote values of equal employment opportunity and are consistent with the State Constitution and UC policy. These non-preferential affirmative action guidelines and programs are important vehicles for expressing UC’s commitment to diversity, equal opportunity and academic freedom.

Commitment From Medical School Leadership

UC responded to this challenge by clearly spelling out their commitment to diversity by developing comprehensive recruitment and retention faculty guidelines. The guidelines include best practices on faculty recruitment, selection, retention, creating a welcoming climate, developing curricular diversity and valuating faculty contributions to diversity. Dr. Claire Pomeroy, medical school dean, set a strategic tone by addressing diversity as an institutional value and priority. Establishing an office on Diversity and Faculty Life was one visible step in a campaign to maximize the benefits of diversity. She appointed Dr. Jesse Joad, Professor of Pediatrics and an accomplished clinician and researcher, to lead this new office.

Dr. Jesse Joad, Associate Dean, Diversity and Faculty Life, believes “you should come at diversity from many directions.” Since 2003, she has been leading efforts to increase diversity and improve the academic work environment at UC. Davis. Dr. Joad regularly presents the importance and value of diversity in faculty recruitment to department chairs, local medical groups, and new faculty candidates. She has been successful in revising the search process for the institution, strengthening faculty development and building bridges with other diverse communities.

Overhaul the Search Process

The former UC Davis search process was characterized by variation and inconsistency. Search efforts were coordinated from within departments and processes differed from one to the other. During interviews, some candidates were asked questions that could be perceived as discriminating towards candidates with family or distinct cultural backgrounds. Efforts to reach out and identify an adequate pool of minority candidates were inadequate. Today the search process is described as centralized, open, clear and fair.

Dr. Joad began by approaching the human resource department for support and insight on conducting a productive search. “There was a huge disconnect between the faculty and the HR department. HR was a tremendous resource for educating me on the general rules of interviewing,” she reports.

Dr. Joad enlisted the department administrative assistants in developing a search manual to follow and adequately support search committees. The manual includes key documents, web sites links, and relevant university resources. The manual has brought consistency and fairness to the process.

When speaking to associate deans and department chairs, Dr. Joad describes her role as “part teacher, part advocate and part administrator.” She candidly presents the new search guidelines and recruitment approaches that reinforce changes in recruitment:

  • fill each position with the best candidate;
  • increase diversity in the faculty at the medical school; and
  • streamline the search process by using newly developed templates.

Having at least one person of color, one person to monitor affirmative action, and at least one woman on the search committee has proven to broaden and sustain the diversity conversation. Other significant changes that have transformed the search process and ultimately have had a positive impact on the UC Davis medical school include:

  • Listing specific qualifications for the position, such as “ability to work cooperatively and collegially within a diverse environment;”
  • Search committee members who take an active role in recruitment, making calls to qualified women and minorities and submitting names of potential candidates for consideration;
  • Sending letters to all applicants thanking them for their interest and providing a timeline and expectations;
  • Tracking gender, race, and ethnicity of candidates through voluntary confidential surveys of all applicants;
  • Verifying a diverse applicant pool before applicants are invited for interviews;
  • Sending “interviewing tips” to interviewers and establishing expectations that candidates be asked a consistent set of questions during the interview;
  • Arranging for minority candidates to meet informally with UC minority faculty members;
  • Augmenting recruitment packages with the Diversity Enrichment Award for those who conduct research in health disparities and gay, lesbians, and disabled persons.

For additional ideas to help improve the search process, review the Feature article “Seven Fresh Ideas to Help Searches for Academic Leaders Succeed” from Bill Mallon.

Comprehensive Faculty Development Programs

Dr. Joad believes, “strong faculty development is integral to the diversity of the climate.” UC Davis has a coordinated and centralized Faculty Development Program that supports faculty professional and career development and diversity. The comprehensive program is designed for faculty at all levels of the academic lifecycle ranging from newly recruited to emeritus faculty and junior to senior rank. With a broad portfolio of faculty development programs that aim to foster and sustain a collegial community of lifelong learners, two programs are instrumental to faculty professional development: the Mentoring Program and Mid Career Leadership Program. In the mentoring program, all junior faculty are partnered with a “main academic mentor” in their department to navigate written and unwritten institutional policies. The Mid Career Leadership Program is a year long leadership program designed to enhance core competencies of associate professor level faculty. Graduates of the program provide UC Davis with a pool of skilled leaders.

Develop a Sense of Community

Cultivating relationships with external groups, led Dr. Joad to unexpected rewards. Members of the Capital Medical Society (CMS), a community organization for African- American physicians and the California Latino Medical Association (CaLMA), a group for Latino physicians identify and welcome minority faculty. Several members of this broadened community have participated in the search process by reviewing job descriptions and offering valuable recommendations.

Dr. José Morfín is the newly recruited junior faculty member recommended by CaLMA. Dr. Morfin considered going into private practice, but was drawn to UC’s commitment to diversity. He views the academic medicine setting as unique in that it allows him to continue treating patients while influencing the Hispanic community. He actively participates on admission policy committees and in the Center for Reducing Health Disparities. Driven by his own experience of witnessing the lack of Hispanic representation in medicine during his training, Dr. Morfin is committed to supporting UC-Davis diversity initiatives.. “Part of my diversity work and vision at UC Davis is to create a critical mass of community focused physicians and change the perceptions of the University by establishing solid relationships both in and outside the institution.”

Future Plans

Dr. Joad says that even with the institution’s strong commitment to diversity and building a welcoming climate, UC Davis still has more work to do. She is planning to hire a director of diversity to serve as an “ambassador” to attend medical specialty conferences that hold minority caucus meetings, to bring UC Davis to the attention of potential minority candidates. Dr. Joad’s goal? -- To have UC Davis hold a national reputation as a premier institution supportive of diversity.


Bachrach, David, “How Can You Increase Racial Diversity Among Faculty at Your Institution?” Academic Physician and Scientist May 2002.

Lakhan, S.E. (2003). “Diversification of U.S. Medical Schools via affirmative action implementation.” BMC Medical Education 3:6.

Faculty Vitae

Please note that some links or e-mail addresses have been disabled, may be omitted, or may not load correctly due to changes in content availability or an individual's institution affiliation/contact information.

To inquire about updates to information published in Faculty Vitae, please e-mail Valarie Clark at

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