For the fifth consecutive year, the Duke University School of Medicine has received a record number of underrepresented minority applicants for its biomedical graduate programs.
Under the leadership of Sherilynn Black, PhD, director of the Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity (OBGD), the School of Medicine aims to create an inclusive environment within the science community.Sherilynn Black, PhD, director of the Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity (OBGD), the School of Medicine aims to create an inclusive environment within the science community.
“Many universities have offices dedicated to increasing diversity; however, there is not another like the Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity (OBGD) in the country,” says Black. “We are dedicated to maintaining a climate of inclusiveness and celebrating the richly unique scientific community at Duke University.”
The office hosts a series of programs to ensure a positive transition for each student and continued success in the sciences at Duke. These programs include an annual OBGD retreat for all underrepresented graduate students to participate in team-building exercises and prepare for their time at Duke. The OBGD also offers numerous support programs, study groups and open-door lunches with the director.
In 2013, Duke received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to create the Biosciences Collaborative for Research Engagement (BioCoRE) program. As co-principal investigator, Black promotes diversity within the sciences at both the graduate and undergraduate level through the BioCoRE program.
Although the number of underrepresented students is steadily rising, Black explained that one of the toughest challenges is the lack of student awareness about the services Duke offers.
“We want people of all different cultural backgrounds to know that they have a place in the sciences at Duke, and Duke offers resources and support to help them be successful,” says Black.
The OBGD spreads awareness to prospective underrepresented students through its institutional partnerships, conference travel to the Society for the Advancement for Chicano and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Scientists (ABRCMS) conference, and department initiatives and events hosted by OBGD each year.
While the work of OBGD and BioCoRE continues to increase the number of underrepresented minority applicants at Duke, Black does not measure accomplishments by the numbers, but rather, by the tangible differences she sees on campus.
“The biggest success has been the endless stories of how the lives of students have changed through their experience here at Duke,” said Black. “The School of Medicine is committed to diversity and inclusion among our students, faculty and staff, and the students can see and feel that commitment.”