Racial Justice Forum Banner

We often say Birmingham has come a long way in the fight for racial justice. And, in many ways, we have. However, after the 2020 killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, we felt called to look for areas that needed improvement within the Heersinnk School of Medicine—because change starts with us.

To facilitate this change, we needed to listen.

First, the Heersink School of Medicine Office for Diversity & Inclusion hosted a racial justice forum to answer questions and look for major themes or concerns among team members. Wanting to dig deeper and gain more insight, we brought in a third party to conduct focus groups among our faculty, medical students, residents and fellows, non-supervisory employees, and managers.

Then, we formed a racial justice work group to turn the insight from each of these listening activities into a list of critical areas we needed to focus on. To achieve the vision of our office—fostering a collaborative environment that welcomes and celebrates all people—these areas were turned into priorities with actionable items.

To ensure transparency and so that we may hold each other accountable, we are sharing the priorities that came out of those meetings with the public. We encourage everyone to ask themselves, “can I help create a welcoming and inclusive environment in my daily life?”


In the Office for Diversity & Inclusion, we will focus on:

Priority 1: Develop metrics for the department Chairs to show advancement in diversity and inclusion.

In March and April of 2021, department chairs chose, from a list provided by our office, at least three areas of focus for their department. The most commonly selected focus areas include:

  • Improving participation in diversity and inclusion education and training
  • Implement recruitment plans for URiM and women faculty, staff, and trainees
  • Increase faculty participation in URiM mentoring
  • Implement a process to ensure sustainable pay equity for URiM and women faculty
Priority 2: Develop and implement a SOM accountability system to address microaggressions, harassment, bias, and discrimination within the School of Medicine.

  • We are working to develop a robust and private reporting system. Open to all faculty, staff, trainees, and students, this reporting tool will offer varying reporting levels that range from a meeting with one of our ODI representatives to a third-party ethics hotline. We plan to launch this new tool at the end of April 2021.
      • The new reporting tool will be subject to our anti-retaliation policy, which will also be accessible from the reporting page.
  • In mid-April 2021, training on the topics of anti-racism and cultural bias began for supervisors and leadership.
  • In summer 2021, our office plans to establish a listening forum with the SOM Dean, Dr. Selwyn Vickers, to ensure we continue listening and having the necessary conversations for growth.

Priority 3: Improve support of URiM faculty.

  • In November of 2020, our office developed and presented a new URiM Professional Excellence Award in teaching, research, and service. This annual award is presented at the Minority Faculty reception.
  • In June 2020, we established the Black/African American Faculty Association and Hispanic & Latin American Faculty Association. We are working to give each of these groups visibility on our website and the support needed to succeed.
  • With a targeted re-launch of fall 2021, our undergraduate medical education team has begun work on phase two of the UAB Connect mentorship portal.

Priority 4: Increase support and programming for the professional advancement of staff belonging to groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine.

  • The process of creating an ODI staff liaison group has begun and we hope to finalize the list by the end of May 2021. 
  • In summer 2021, we will be working with HR to identify mentoring opportunities and career pathways for our URiM faculty and staff.

Priority 5: Improve the ODI website and enhance its visibility.

  • In March 2021, we worked with the SOM Communications team to add ODI content to the main website.
  • We have an ongoing process for bringing the latest ODI news to all SOM faculty and staff.


The Future of Diversity & Inclusion in the Heersink School of Medicine

We hope that by pursuing these priorities, in combination with our other initiatives, we will be one step closer to fulfilling our mission of pursuing excellence in medicine by cultivating an accepting and affirming environment for all.


"Thank you to everyone in the School of Medicine who helped in the development of these racial justice priorities. Whether you submitted a question for the racial justice forum, participated in a focus group, attended training, or even clicked one of our articles to learn more, YOU are the backbone that helps us cultivate a diverse and inclusive environment. Together, we look forward to creating an institution free from discrimination of any kind."

Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH


Heersink School of Medicine Anti-Racism Statement

We acknowledge the existence of stereotyping, bias, discrimination, prejudice, microaggressions, and other forms of racism, and we commit to proactively working to eradicate inequalities. As an academic medical center, we understand that health disparities and barriers to health care exist; we also acknowledge that many other forms of systemic racism are present in our nation. We recognize that we are not immune to these kinds of failings and that we are in a position of influence to work towards eliminating them. We commit to taking on that leadership in Alabama and beyond. Furthermore, we acknowledge Birmingham’s important civil rights legacy. Daily, we strive to make our city a beacon of hope. We stand with our students, trainees, faculty, and staff in this commitment at all times.