Consulting group selection and listening sessions for students and postdocs

Dear School of Medicine Community,

The Executive Faculty Task Force on Climate and Culture is pleased to provide this update on the progress of the newly assembled team entrusted with identifying within the culture of our academic Medical Campus underlying aspects that can lead to a negative climate for vulnerable groups.

Over the next year, the Task Force will continue to gather information and will develop a report that documents areas for improvement and proposes action items to enhance our culture. This work will focus specifically on challenges particular to our medical school academic environment.

There are two key areas of progress to report this month. The first is the selection of an external consulting group named Catalyst, that will provide expert guidance to the Task Force. Catalyst is a global nonprofit organization known for building environments that accelerate progress for women and underrepresented groups through workplace inclusion. Its team members will work with us to assess and analyze our current state, culture, climate of inclusion and areas of opportunity to support the building of a customized strategy to address our current climate and culture challenges.

The work will happen in phases, beginning with an analysis of where we are now, and ending with development of a strategy focused on who we want to be and how we’re going to get there. As part of the first phase, the Task Force will offer a series of focus groups as well as interviews of school leaders to uncover valuable insights, nuanced experiences and to amplify the voices of underrepresented/equity-deserving groups.

In addition, the school will become part of Catalyst’s 500-plus member network of institutions across the United States. This network shares best practices and has access to data-driven research, actionable tools and other learning resources.

A survey will go out this spring to gain insights about the work environment at the School of Medicine. Catalyst will provide guidance to the Task Force as improvement plans are developed in subsequent months.

The second area of progress for the Task Force is the establishment of listening sessions that will be led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The first wave will focus on students and postdocs, with plans to expand to other groups in the coming months. The sessions will be facilitated using a restorative justice approach to acknowledge harm and support healing.  

Further, the Task Force leaders wish to draw your attention to two relevant Perspectives sessions offered by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in March 2023. We encourage you to participate!

The Task Force wants to provide as many opportunities as possible to get input from the School of Medicine community. We encourage continued use of the online form to submit feedback on school culture and the ongoing work of the Task Force. We also can be reached via email at Special thanks to the numerous people who have already engaged with the Task Force and provided thoughtful comments. We will continue to post updates to our website,, to keep you informed and included.

The Task Force is hard at work and fully cognizant of how important this work is. We look forward to providing another update in the next several weeks.

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