EDI Spotlight: Coral May, MPA, SHRM-SCP

By William Alexander


In the summer of 2020 Black faculty, staff, and students came together from across Duke to discuss the impact racism has had on our country, and to share their stories of dealing with racism in their own lives for the Living While Black symposium. Listening to those stories, Coral May, MPA, SHRM-SCP, knew she had to make a difference. For this month’s “EDI Spotlight” interview, May talks to us about how she works to bring equity to recruitment and retention as director of the School of Medicine’s Human Resources Service Center. She also discusses the employee resource group ME² she helped create for Black staff members and enjoying time with family and “fur babies” when she’s not at work.

What are your current responsibilities as Director of the Human Resources Service Center? What does a typical day for you look like?
I have the privilege of working with a team of HR Directors, HR Managers, and HR Specialists that provide everything from transactional to high level human resources services to the 28 departments and institutes with which the Shared Services Center contract. A typical day for me consists of meeting with team members and departments to support staff, problem solve, and work through various issues. 

When and how did you begin working to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion within Duke?When did you first become an EDI leader?
I began attending Inclusion Council meetings in 2018 for the HRSC; however, this was not a formal role. In July 2020, I was asked to co-chair the staff committee for Dean Klotman’s Moments to Movement Strategic Planning Process. During this time, I wanted to do more in the EDI space and was looking for ways to help. The opportunity to work with this committee allowed me to be a part of the solution and make the SOM a better place for all staff.  

What are some of the current issues relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion that human resources organizations face within academic medicine?
The two places that EDI and HR overlap are recruitment and compensation. HR should work with departmental hiring managers to ensure that the recruitment processes for filling positions are diverse, fair, and equitable. Fair compensation and equalizing pay are important steps toward creating an inclusive workplace.

How are you and the Human Resources Service Center working to address those issues?
When asked and included, our team completes compensation analysis on new hires to ensure that they are offered salaries based on education and experience. The offers are all created using the same regression and formula so that it is fair and equitable.    

You were heavily involved with the efforts to bring anti-racism, equity, and inclusion to staff within the School of Medicine during the beginning of the Moments to Movement initiative. What’s one result or bit of progress from that work that you’re proud of or heartened by?
I am proudest of the creation of the staff ME² (Motivate, Mentor, Educate & Empower) employee resource group (ERG). A small group of staff came together with a vision to create a safe space for Black staff to grow professionally and personally. ME² has hosted a series of dynamic speakers and a Juneteenth event with keynote speaker Mark Anthony Neal, PhD. Each attendee received lunch and a book written by an African American author. 

Do you have a moment or experience when the need for improving equity, diversity, and inclusion in academic medicine (or the country as a whole) felt especially urgent to you personally that you could share?
After the murder of George Floyd, Duke had an online event, Living While Black, that allowed me to listen to the stories of Duke students, staff, and faculty. I was brought to tears more than once. The issues the students have had to deal with and the indignities that the staff face are unconscionable. It was then that I knew I must do something to be a part of the solution. 

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of work?
I enjoy relaxing with my wife and fur babies, spending time with my son, a senior at NC A&T, and working with the Durham chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho, Sorority, Inc. I love crafting and plan to do some camping and take golf lessons in the fall.