Toward progress: Reflections and gratitude from the Task Force

Dear School of Medicine community,

As we head toward Thanksgiving, the members of the Task Force on Climate & Culture want to emphasize how profoundly grateful we are for every member of our community. You’ve been open and honest in sharing your thoughts on how to improve and sustain a culture of safety and inclusion at the medical school. You’ve been generous with your time in attending town halls and listening sessions, taking surveys and offering your unique perspectives and experiences via the anonymous feedback form. Please know we value and appreciate your insights.

We’ve made significant progress in our work with WashU’s external consultant, Catalyst. Our goal is to share findings and recommendations, based on your input, by the end of the year. As we complete our report, the Task Force leadership would like to take a moment to reflect on our experiences during the past year.

What has serving as a co-chair of the Task Force taught you about your colleagues?

Benjamin Garcia: This has been a difficult but incredible journey with the Task Force members. My experience with this group has been very inspiring; my Task Force colleagues care deeply about the people in our institution. These are fierce advocates who want to see our campus culture continue to improve and evolve to enhance the research and educational training of our younger scientists, while also promoting equity and diversity to make this institution even better.

What has given you gratitude while serving as co-chair of the Task Force?

Dineo Khabele: I am truly grateful for the enormous amount of time and thoughtful inquiry each member of the Task Force brought to the process. I am proud of our contributions to improving a culture and climate of safety, belonging and inclusion. I care so deeply because I want to pay it forward. I want to prevent others from enduring what I’ve been through in my journey as a rarity in academic medicine and science.

What has serving as the administrative director taught you about the medical school?

Renée Shellhaas: This experience has revealed both the strengths and weaknesses of WashU Med’s climate and culture. To make meaningful change, we needed to understand the history and evaluate our community’s current lived experience. We exposed some difficult truths, as well as examples of excellent work that is already in place to improve our climate and culture. We are committed to taking the needed steps to foster a truly inclusive culture here at WashU Med and to creating a safe climate where our learners, staff and faculty thrive.

Please know that our Task Force continues to welcome your feedback on the reflection and work underway on the Medical Campus. We provide resources to report concerns or share your insight, as well as resources on workplace inclusivity available through our partnership with Catalyst.

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