LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The University of Louisville announced Wednesday a small group of professors has come together at the School of Medicine to combat what they claim is long-standing racial inequality in medical education.
University leaders aim to do that by developing the Endowed Excellence Fund for Diversity. Students of color, like Danielle Little, said the move is something that makes them excited to go to UofL. When Little set out to earn a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, she knew she was going to have her work cut out for her.
“It already is very stressful,” Little, who is a woman of color in her second year of study at UofL’s School of Medicine, said. “Grad school is obviously very hard.”
Lately, other issues have also been weighing on the minds of some students on campus, like Timothy Audam, an international student born in Nigeria.
The unrest in America surrounding the push for racial equality he is supportive of has opened his eyes.
“I had a different aspect of America,” Audam said. “Now, I’m experiencing something totally different. It’s just really stressful.”
At times, some in the medical school said it can be hard to find others going through that same thing.
“Currently, I think I’m always the only black person in different community meetings and different seminars,” Audam said.
That need for diversity is something faculty members noticed too.
“We decided as a small group, well, maybe we should look at our own income and could we afford to do a little bit,” Ron Gregg, the chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, said.
Digging into their own pockets, six School of Medicine department chairs established an endowment fund of $50,000, and have a goal of reaching $1 million.
“Long after I’m gone, this endowment will be in place,” Gregg said. “It will still be supporting hiring of diversity.”
The endowment will be used to put more money toward retaining and hiring diverse faculty and staff, and increasing scholarships and other methods of support for students.
“My little sisters, one of them wants to go into science,” Little said. “This could definitely benefit her.”
Earlier this year, UofL President Neeli Bendapudi laid out a challenge for those at the school to come up with ways to make UofL the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university. Students of color said the fund shows them that they’re welcomed.
“I think seeing people that really look like you, actually, you feel a sense of belonging,” Audan said. “That’s going to encourage you to participate as fully as you can. That’s going to enhance learning and innovation as a whole.”
Gregg said the founders of the endowment are recruiting others to help fund it.