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My School of Medicine Columbia

Strategic Planning Update for the School of Medicine Columbia

A message from Dean Les Hall:

In June of 2020, the UofSC School of Medicine Columbia announced we would focus our strategic planning efforts for the coming academic year on identifying ways to build a more robust culture of diversity and inclusion within our School of Medicine. I want to provide you with an update on these ongoing efforts. Last summer, our SOM Strategic Planning Steering Committee organized three work groups, focused on the following three areas:

  1. Work group on promoting diversity and inclusion within our faculty and staff, led by Dr. Caughman Taylor and Dr. Donna Ray:
  • Attracting, hiring, and retaining a more diverse and talented workforce.
  • Developing a diverse group of faculty and staff for career success.
  • Ensuring that hiring practices, compensation and promotion/tenure are equitable across diverse groups within the SOM.

  1. Work group on attracting a more diverse group of medical and graduate students to the School of Medicine, led by Dr. Robert Rhinehart and Ruth Riley:
  • Strategically expanding pipeline programs to increase return on investment.
  • Creating both economic and non-economic incentives for students to prioritize the UofSC SOM Columbia as their choice for medical/graduate trainining.
  • Strengthening or establishing partnerships to further student recruitment.
  • Advancing philanthropy in support of student scholarships.

  1. Work group on creating a more equitable culture of inclusion within the SOM, led by Dr. Carol McMahon and Dr. Matt Orr:
  • Highlighting and communicating our desired values more effectively.
  • Addressing behavioral issues that are undermining the culture of inclusion.
  • Seeking ways to mitigate unconscious bias.
  • Identifying ways to periodically assess our culture of inclusivity.
  • Creating safe spaces for dialogue that move us toward increased understanding and identify common ground for improvement.

Each of these groups comprised of faculty, staff and students have met regularly throughout this academic year. They have reviewed existing information related to their focus area and in some cases have identified needs to gather additional data. With the assistance of SOM Library faculty, they have identified best practices that point to evidence-based approaches to these complex problems. All of these three groups are now beginning to hone action plans to bring forward as recommendations to the Steering Committee this spring.

In the meantime, significant actions have already been taken over the past several months, which we believe are helping to build momentum in the right direction:

  • ​​New elements have been added to the medical student curriculum focusing on the impact of racism in health care, better understanding of health disparities and interventions available to address those disparities.
  • Utilizing funds supplied by SOM supporter Chris Jarvis, a summer reading program focusing on the book “Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century” was well-received by our students.
  • The SOM offered admission to the greatest number ever of under-represented minority medical student applicants for the fall, 2020 entering class. However, only about 20% of these offers of admission were accepted, with students citing lack of scholarship funding as one of the greatest barriers to matriculating in our SOM.
  • In response to this challenge, the SOM has made the raising of funds for student scholarships our top fundraising priority. The generosity of many of our alumni, SOM faculty and staff, and friends of the SOM are allowing us to offer higher levels of scholarships to incoming students for the fall of 2021 than in prior years. To learn more about supporting scholarships, visit the Give to Medicine webpage.
  • Responding to recommendations from the School of Medicine’s Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity in the Arts, a display highlighting exemplary minority faculty, staff, alumni, and benefactors of the School of Medicine was unveiled yesterday evening (February 18, 2021) in the lobby of the main educational building on the SOM campus. The seven individuals honored on the Wall of Luminary Leaders in Medicine and Science have made contributions which have advanced our school’s mission and values while lighting the way for others to succeed. More information about the honorees can be found on the School of Medicine website.  This display is the cornerstone of ongoing efforts to highlight the enduring contributions of dozens of individuals of all genders, races, and backgrounds whose efforts have established the foundation on which the current success of the School of Medicine has been built.

More information about the ongoing work of the SOM Columbia Strategic Planning Steering Committee, including members of our Steering Committee and working groups, meeting agendas, assigned readings, can be found on the SOM Strategic Planning page on our website.

The work to continuously improve the diversity and inclusivity of the culture within the School of Medicine Columbia is ongoing. We know much work remains to be done if we are to achieve the inclusive and equitable society that all desire and deserve, and we are committed to that journey. I am grateful for the many individuals in our School of Medicine who are contributing to these efforts through their creative ideas, hard work and financial support. I am confident we will make progress as we continue working together to create a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse culture in the School of Medicine.​


Les Hall, MD

Dean, UofSC School of Medicine Columbia


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.