Geisel appoints new diversity dean

by Elizabeth Janowski | 9/13/18 2:45am

Stephanie White was appointed as the Geisel School of Medicine’s new associate dean for diversity and inclusion by Geisel dean Duane Compton. White succeeds Leslie Henderson, who vacated the position to focus on her role as Geisel’s dean of faculty affairs.

As head of Geisel’s office of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, White will act as a liaison between the medical school and its partnering institutions — the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and White River Junction Veteran Affairs Medical Center — to foster a community of students and professionals throughout the Upper Valley, Henderson said.

Compton added that White’s duties will extend from coordinating recruitment and retention efforts to reshaping Geisel’s curriculum through a lens of deepened multicultural understanding.

As a Dartmouth Public Voices Fellow, White has written several op-eds in national publications dealing with the topics of race in pediatrics and in the hierarchy of academic institutions. In these pieces, White said she notes that racial disparities must be confronted directly in order to begin the process of constructing more open and inclusive environments, even if doing so prompts conversations that some might find uncomfortable.

“It’s interesting being in the Upper Valley when your community is a little more homogeneous than others that you have experienced,” White said. “One of the things I’ve noticed is that some people, while they appreciate differences, are almost paralyzed with the fear of bringing those differences up because they’re afraid of saying something wrong or doing the wrong thing. And really to create an inclusive environment, it not only requires you to acknowledge that there are differences, but to be willing to appreciate them, understand them and work with them.”

White said she hopes to ease conversations on race and diversity at Geisel through a broad three to five-year strategic plan that will assess the medical school’s educational programming from a multicultural standpoint. As part of this initiative, she plans to integrate discussions of racial inequality into Geisel’s existing programming and attract guest speakers who will engage Geisel students, faculty and staff in larger discourses on how to increase equity in healthcare and in academic hospitals.

“Having more conversations that get different people to the table encourages our community to think more about these issues and incorporate this way of thinking into their lives,” White said. “I think that’s the way that you really start to see change.”

White came to Geisel in 2015 as an assistant professor of pediatrics. Over the past three years, she has grown increasingly involved in diversity-oriented initiatives at the medical school, serving as a student advisor and a member of the admissions committee. Since 2016, White has served as Geisel’s representative at the Association of American Medical Colleges, where she sits on a subcommittee for diversity and inclusion and participates in national discussions regarding the future of equitable, fair learning opportunities in medical education.

“This is a position that, when I was a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh, I envisioned myself being attracted to at some point,” White said. “I’ve always seen myself doing the type of work which really involved working with students, working with faculty and staff and building those bridges between them.”

Compton said that White’s experience made her a top candidate for the position.

“I was quite impressed by the insight she has brought to her work at Geisel, along with her advising roles in her professional societies and associations,” he said.

Henderson noted that White has the right perspective needed to address issues at Geisel in “a way that promotes a diverse clinical and academic environment.”