Perspectives from our Task Force members

Dear School of Medicine community,

We hope the start of the academic year has you inspired and full of hope. Throughout the fall, the Task Force on Climate and Culture is continuing our work with WashU’s external consultant, Catalyst, to distill your input and shape recommendations to improve and sustain a culture of safety and inclusion. Our goal remains to complete a report before the end of the year. Your experiences and perspectives are key to our work to ensure that all faculty, staff, students and trainees feel welcomed, safe and valued on our campus.

While we’re taking this time to translate your input into action, we’d like to give you an opportunity to get to know some of the Task Force members who have devoted valuable time and insight throughout this process. This month we’d like to share a brief Q&A with our student representatives, Christina Su, an MD candidate; Aishwarya Rajesh, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Radiology; and Jennifer Lawrence, a PhD candidate.

Will you share some thoughts on the Task Force and how its members work together?

The task force is comprised of individuals from different areas of the school, all at different stages in our careers. It’s been a strong example to me of how diversity in experiences, backgrounds and identities can positively impact discussion, idea building and collaboration. It’s shown me that while there is still room for growth as a school community, there are highly motivated individuals at every level ready to enact change. 

— Christina Su, MD candidate

Would you mind sharing something you’ve learned while serving on the Task Force?

Through the various community gatherings organized by the Task Force, I have been struck by how willing people are to share their vulnerability, their genuine commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice issues, and how these issues intersect with their professional lives in such a concrete way. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for senior faculty for giving me the space to voice my thoughts. I feel seen and heard because of the conscious efforts of senior members to listen to the concerns and reflections of colleagues with less experience.

— Aishwarya Rajesh, PhD, postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Radiology

Will you share with us something about your experience as a member of this Task Force?

I’ve learned a lot about the interconnected structure of WashU Med and that we must first consider how change will impact other departments and divisions. Due to the importance of this work, it’s critical to ensure that the representative deciding body is large enough that all diverse groups are represented — but at the same time, the larger the group the harder it is for all voices to be heard equally. I believe the members of the Task Force care greatly about improving the culture and climate and promoting equity throughout this process.

— Jennifer Lawrence, PhD candidate

The Task Force also would like to remind everyone in our community of the resources available to report concerns or share your own insight, as well as the resources on workplace inclusivity available through our partnership with Catalyst.

Thank you all for sharing with us. We appreciate how difficult that can be, and we deeply respect your work and willingness to move us all forward.

Most sincerely,

Benjamin Garcia, PhD, co-chair
Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics

Dineo Khabele, MD, co-chair
Mitchell & Elaine Yanow Professor and Head of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Renée Shellhaas, MD, MS, administrative director
David T. Blasingame Professor of Neurology and Associate Dean for Faculty Promotions & Career Development