Diversity and Inclusion

EM NEIPORT ORGANIZES INAUGURAL PRIDE WEEK TO CELEBRATE INCLUSIVITY

Planning a weeklong event for a college is in itself a great balancing act in logistics. But to plan it during an unprecedented health crisis—a pandemic—is something quite beyond the usual challenge.

In 2020, as COVID-19 spread locally and globally, Em Neiport, MA, PMP, embraced the challenge.

Neiport was staff co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee during its inaugural year and works as project manager in the dean’s office at the College of Medicine. They took on planning the college’s first PRIDE Week, a celebration scheduled for September 2020 that strictly conformed with all COVID-19 safety precautions for social distancing.

Neiport arranged for online panels and discussion for most of the week’s events. But the kickoff to PRIDE Week had to be something special.

“The first event of PRIDE Week was outside, in front of the College of Medicine Learning Center, on the grass,” Neiport said. “About 90 people turned out—which was great. We had a photo booth and local organizations offering resources. And we also had two speakers play-acting how to speak to a trans patient.”

Trans awareness, as well as support for all LGBTQ+ people, is a priority for Neiport. “It’s important to me that the LGBTQ+ community should be inclusive. For instance, people of color were involved in the Stonewall Riots”—the demonstration by gay patrons at the Stonewall Club in New York in 1969 —”but they’re seldom acknowledged. And more recently, trans people have come up against exclusion in the gay community. So it’s important for the College of Medicine to be inclusive.”

This commitment to inclusiveness in embedded in the LGBTQ+ SAFE Pledge. In signing the pledge, College of Medicine faculty, staff, and students promise to “advocate for the rights of transgender persons and stand in opposition of antiLGBTQ+ policies and practices” and “serve as a trans-affirming ally, using the preferred name and pronouns of trans and non-binary persons regardless of perceived gender.”

Those who take the pledge are offered a badge to wear so they can make clear their commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion and support, an initiative first funded by UK’s Office of LGBTQ* Resources.

In July 2021, Neiport rotated off the co-chair position but will continue on the committee as an active member. In their work in the dean’s office and through the College of Medicine, they will continue to live the SAFE Pledge’s commitment that “all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve to feel safe and supported.”

“About 90 people turned out—which was great. We had a photo booth and local organizations offering resources. And we also had two speakers play-acting how to speak to a trans patient.”

—Em Neiport

LGBTQ+ ADVISORY COMMITTEE PROMOTES INCLUSIVITY THROUGH PRIDE WEEK, SAFE PLEDGE

The College of Medicine established a unified approach to ensuring inclusivity with its launch of a LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, led by a faculty, staff, and learner co-chair. With the launch of this committee, the College of Medicine was able to host its first annual Pride Week, four days of celebratory events sharing important local resources and displaying the college’s commitment to continued progress. During this time, the committee launched the College of Medicine’s SAFE Pledge, allowing members of the college to promise to serve as effective, supportive allies for the college’s LGBTQ+ community. Those who signed the pledge are able to show their support with a digital badge provided by the college to place in their email signatures, as well as a badge to attach to their physical name badges.

FIRST CLASS OF MARKEY STRONG SCHOLARS GAINS VITAL MENTORSHIP

The Markey STRONG Scholars Program was created by the UK Markey Cancer Center (MCC) to enhance diversity in the field of cancer research. The first class of participants – college sophomores, juniors, and seniors who come from historically underserved ethnic and racial backgrounds – completed the 10-week program in the summer of 2021. They gained valuable experience to help further their medical careers including mentored research experiences, interactive cancer research lectures presented by MCC faculty and trainees, clinical shadowing experiences, and networking and career development activities.

AARTS SCHOLARS
PROGRAM LAUNCHES TO INCREASE REPRESENTATION IN NEUROSCIENCE

The Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC), in collaboration with the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences, selected five undergraduate students for the inaugural African American Research Training Scholars (AARTS) program. The AARTS program was established to provide vital research opportunities for Black undergraduate students at the University of Kentucky as part of the SCoBIRC’s continued efforts to increase representation in neuroscience, a field in which Black and African American students and faculty are underrepresented nationwide. Nolan Abdelsayed, Jordon Burdette, Urim Geleta, Alexa Halliburton, and Bisimwa (Jack) Nzerhumana were part of the first class of scholars.

DIVERSITY AMBASSADORS ENSURE INCLUSION ACROSS THE COLLEGE

The College of Medicine Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion restructured and expanded its existing diversity and inclusion ambassadors. Ambassadors work in centers and departments across the college to develop a more inclusive and equitable environment for all learners, faculty, and staff.

COMMITTEE ESTABLISHES INCLUSIVE EDUCATION CURRICULUM

Bringing together faculty, staff, and learners, the College of Medicine’s Inclusive Education Advisory Committee was crucial in developing a curriculum for the College of Medicine community. In June 2021, the committee collected a list of useful resources that would help colleagues define equitable language and understand how this language can impact education, research, and health care. The team also helped launch a book club to discuss literature about race and identity.

TIMELINE OF SUCCESSES