On the previous health sciences campus at 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, a statuette of Florence Sabin, MD, was situated outside Sabin Auditorium to remember the career of a pioneering woman known for her research in blood cells and the lymphatic system. As the first female professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Dr. Sabin opened doors for generations of aspiring women. The statuette, now located in the Health Sciences Library on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, serves as a constant source of inspiration for Bonnie Camp, MD (’65).
Dr. Camp knew that something needed to be done to honor the accomplishments of early women in medicine and enhance diversity in medical schools. The Ruth Fuller, MD, Fund in Psychiatry was started in 2016 to recognize Dr. Fuller, her accomplishments in psychiatry and those of women clinicians just like her. Dr. Camp said, “our hope is that we will be able to bring outstanding speakers to [CU] to demonstrate the accomplishments of culturally diverse researchers and practitioners in psychiatry.”
Dr. Fuller specialized in child psychiatry, graduating from State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. She went on to open a private practice in Harlem, New York. Dr. Fuller entered the field at a time when women were underrepresented in medicine, but with the help of scholarships and sheer determination she was able to graduate and make a lasting impact in psychiatry and health care broadly. Dr. Fuller was recruited to Denver in 1978 where she practiced child psychiatry and mentored countless students. She was passionate about empowering women to enter the field of medicine and encouraged minority students to attend medical school.
This Ruth Fuller Fund will live in the CU Department of Psychiatry where faculty and administrators are dedicated to celebrating diversity. Doug Novins, MD, head of the CU Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and a mentee of Dr. Fuller’s, is excited to host distinguished scholars through the Ruth Fuller Fund. Dr. Novins said, “As a division we are fully dedicated to diversity and inclusion and this fund will allow us to enrich and expand these efforts by bringing in notable health care professionals to work with our students, residents, fellows, faculty, and staff.”
While diversity and inclusion may be difficult to define, the school overall is directing resources to recruit and retain a diverse physician workforce, starting with attracting students and health professionals from underrepresented populations. This group of students is defined as those from ethnic and racial minority backgrounds, students from rural areas or first-generation students. More broadly, enhancing diversity at the CU School of Medicine takes place in every lab, classroom, exam room and center.
The CU School of Medicine is demonstrating its commitment to diversity through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Led by Associate Dean Shanta Zimmer, MD, this office is responsible for many of the diversity and inclusion efforts within the school and beyond. Dr. Zimmer said, “At the CU School of Medicine, our goal is to improve the health of patients through research, education and clinical care that includes a focus on eliminating health disparities. Enhancing the diversity of students, residents, faculty and staff is an important component of achieving that goal.”
In accordance with university policy, the CU Anschutz Medical Campus annually reports diversity statistics, and the campus has consistently witnessed an increase in students from underrepresented populations. In 2006, the number of underrepresented undergraduate students enrolled in classes at CU Anschutz accounted for 14 percent of the student body. In 2015, this proportion increased to 27 percent, with more than twice as many students of color than in 2006.
A similar increase has occurred among graduate students at CU Anschutz. In 2006, students of color accounted for 12 percent of the student population. By 2015, the share of underrepresented students increased to 20 percent, more than doubling the number of students in 2006. These results are due to the efforts being made university-wide to enhance diversity in every school and college. For the CU School of Medicine, an ambitious diversity plan was adopted in 2015 that will continue to foster a climate and culture of diversity on campus. This year, new initiatives are already underway. Dr. Zimmer said, “initiatives this year include training in the impact of unconscious bias in the classroom, in our admissions and recruitment practices, focusing on strategies to decrease the impact of these biases by first recognizing them and then deliberately avoiding the influence they have on our processes and environment.”
These institutional efforts pair with private philanthropic contributions such as the establishment of the Ruth Fuller, MD, Fund in Psychiatry to inspire and foster diversity in the CU School of Medicine. When fully funded, the Ruth Fuller Fund will bring speakers to campus to highlight the continued accomplishments of women in medicine.
University leaders are confident that focusing on diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but will propel the university to new heights. Dr. Zimmer said, “We are particularly focused on this commitment because of the potential we have to be the best medical school in the country and consequently provide the most comprehensive, cutting-edge health to the patients we are called to serve.”