A Letter to the Tulane Medical Community

February 14, 2021

Dear School of Medicine Community,

The recent developments regarding the leadership of the combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics residency program have raised concerns in our community about Tulane’s progress towards creating an equitable, diverse, and inclusive community. We understand and share these broader concerns.

We know that this situation is difficult, and we want you to know that our students, residents, faculty, and staff have our full support. Your educational and professional careers are as important to us as they are to you and we want you to know that we will endeavor to assist our community in every way we can. We are committed to carrying out the work necessary to achieve our common goals and we have outlined below the key immediate actions we plan to take.

In terms of the specific decision regarding Dr. Dennar, we are confident that the processes were thorough and consistent with how the Tulane Medical School has addressed similar issues in the past. The recommendation regarding the Medicine-Pediatrics program was made unanimously by a diverse panel of 15 peers, including individuals from other healthcare institutions. In the recent past, at least four other residency programs undergoing special review also experienced a change in program leadership. Dr. Dennar has the opportunity to appeal that recommendation and she remains a member of our faculty regardless of the outcome of this process.

In recent years, while we have seen some improvements in diversity at the School of Medicine, the response to recent events has highlighted the need to accelerate our progress. As a leader in researching and combatting healthcare disparities, Tulane must bring the same discipline and focus to our own community and set clear goals for healthcare education. To that end, we believe it is important to undertake the following:

School of Medicine
Immediately engage a third-party firm to facilitate dialogue and discussion at the School of Medicine with the goal to:

  • Deepen understanding of the precise experiences of our residents, faculty, staff, and other students relative to race and sex
  • Solicit suggestions and develop targeted recommendations for consideration by Tulane’s leadership by the end of the academic year

We recognize that many of the challenges, suggestions, and recommendations will not be unique to the School of Medicine. However, the distinctive characteristics of medical education and training suggest the School of Medicine is an ideal place to conduct a focused third-party review. We anticipate that the recommendations will also serve to inform other initiatives currently underway across the university.  The Office of the Provost will oversee this work.

Institutional EDI Programs and Initiatives
Reinforce our shared sense of urgency by expanding the scope of support, coordination, and sharing of best practices on EDI approaches across all schools. This will be facilitated through monthly meetings led by Will Ferbos, associate vice president for institutional affairs and deputy chief of staff, and Anneliese Singh, associate provost for diversity & faculty development and chief diversity officer.

EDI Climate Survey
We will conduct a comprehensive, university-wide EDI climate survey in fall 2021. This will provide objective data and metrics to assess our racial climate, identify areas where additional focus and improvement are needed, generate ideas, and measure our progress over time.

These are difficult issues that require concerted and sustained action across the university. As we move forward on this important journey, we must recognize that there will be particularly challenging moments. But with commitment and resolve, we will become a stronger, more diverse, inclusive, and equitable university.

Michael A. Fitts, president
Robin Forman, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost