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July 19, 2022

Q&A: Fouad on DEI at Heersink, at UAB, and in the community

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HSOM Fouad Announcement ODEIBefore expanding her role to include associate vice president of UAB’s Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), Mona Fouad, M.D., dedicated her career to pursuing equity—both within the Heersink School of Medicine via the Office for Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) and in underserved communities across the world.

Upon accepting the associate vice president position, Fouad was tasked with three initiatives:

  • Enhancing recruitment and retention of URiMs and diverse faculty

  • Strengthen and broaden the coordination between the Heersink School of Medicine and UAB Medicine’s DEI initiatives

  • Advance health equity through achieving the goals of Live HealthSmart Alabama

To get a better understanding of how Fouad’s expanded role builds on the work she will continue to conduct as the senior associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion, directors of the Division of Preventive Medicine and MHRC, and CEO of Live HealthSmart Alabama, we sat down with her to learn more.

Q: What does this new role mean for the Diversity and Inclusion in the Heersink School of Medicine and UAB Medicine? 

A: My day-to-day will be mostly unchanged. However, with this new role, I will assist Dr. Paulette Dilworth by broadening and strengthening the link between the school of medicine and UAB Medicine. 

One of the steps we have already taken to achieve this was establishing a DEI communications collaboration committee. While ODI initiatives within the school and UAB Medicine have been separate entities for quite some time, this group is tasked with ensuring communications and events work synergistically—whether it be areas for collaboration or streamlined promotions. 

I will also work to advance the goals of Live HealthSmart Alabama throughout the state. After receiving the Grand Challenge in 2019, our team was able to show the impact this program could have through changes to policy, systems, and the built environment. Quickly, we became part of the overall strategic effort of the university. This role will provide a platform to continue the work of making good health accessible and equitable for all.

Q: How do your positions within the Heersink School of Medicine align with the goals of UAB’s ODEI?

A: This answer is two-fold. While diversity, equity, and inclusion are always goals at UAB, regardless of what school you may be in, Heersink School of Medicine and UAB Medicine have different audiences than most. While we have students, faculty, and staff, we also must be equipped to handle the DEI needs of residents, fellows, and the clinical setting. 

Our ODI team works to recruit students and residents from underrepresented populations, and we have an excellent team in place that nurtures the relationships with those students from introductory pathway programs to second-look events. 

But, when it comes to faculty in medicine and science, we need a more targeted approach to affect sustainable change on the systemic level. My position with the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center gives us that visibility.  

For example, I am one of the Principal Investigators for UAB’s newly awarded FIRST grant. Through this partnership with Tuskegee University, we are fostering inclusive excellence in research by recruiting and supporting a diverse group of early-career faculty who have demonstrated a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, with interest in achieving health equity. Having diverse faculty members is invaluable to Heersink, UAB Medicine, and UAB as a whole.

Q: With your current high-profile positions, how do you feel about meeting the demands of this expanded role?

A: Over the years, we’ve been working toward and laying the foundation for success in each of the target areas. I’m confident that the teams we have in place will be the drivers for implementing these initiatives.

Additionally, we’ve been expanding our teams across these focus areas in support of health equity and DEI efforts.

I’m excited about the potential for the impact this expanded role has and I look forward to working with Dr. Dilworth and each of our teams to make it happen.