“Diversity” Dean Hired at Geisel

Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine recently appointed Dr. Stephanie White to the position of Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion. She will serve alongside Shawn O’Leary to lead the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE), an office committed to creating a “diverse and inclusive community of students, fellows, residents, faculty, and staff at our medical school.”
It may seem shocking at first that an Ivy League Medical School has such an elaborate scheme to increase diversity. Closer inspection reveals that the “Geisel Plan for Diversity, Inclusion and a Respectful Workplace” includes just the kind of language on the goals of affirmative action and inclusion that we have become so used to on our campus. The plan, which admittedly seems to be the product of much careful thought and deliberation, can be summarized by three distinct goals.
I. Raise Awareness of Importance of Diversity, Inclusion, and a Respectful Workplace
II. Improve Recruitment and Retention of a Diverse Faculty, Staff and Student Body
III. Provide resources that support programs that enhance diversity, inclusion, and respect

The office states its rationale for this plan by citing “studies” and “research” that “conclusively” demonstrate the benefits of a diverse workforce. They claim that their mission is genuinely not a case of numbers but a quest for inclusion and the release of the school’s full potential in the medical field. How can a school of medicine function if it doesn’t have a “diverse” colorful rainbow of faculty at the helm?
There is no better spokesman for this idea that diversity is an integral necessity to a medical program than Dr. Stephanie White.
White certainly has a prolific resume. Among her credentials are an M.D from the University of Pittsburgh, a top school, and a Masters in Health Professions Education from Rutgers University. Before her time at Geisel, White also spent four years in residency at the Jackson Memorial Hospital and two and a half years as a General pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. These credentials are no doubt worthy of a new Dartmouth Professor, but it is Dr. White’s outspoken views on racial issues in the medical field that most set her apart; it is her firm belief that a doctor has a duty to diagnose and treat racial disparities in society.

These views are most apparent in Dr. White’s widely shared writings which have been discussed at events such as the AAP National Conference and the national AAMC conference. White headlines her opinions in her highly publicized op-ed, “As an early intervention, pediatricians must talk to their patients about racism.” Dr. White essentially argues that pediatricians have a duty to tackle racial biases and disadvantages in the young minds of their patients. White touts the American Academy of Pediatrics “Bright Future Guidelines” which recommend “that pediatricians address discrimination, prejudice, and lack of cultural opportunities at various stages throughout childhood. In her most peculiar analogy, White compares teaching children about racism to teaching them about experimenting with their bodies:
“In daily practice, it might work like this: my colleagues and I often give our patients (and their parents) guidance on the normalcy of genital exploration. In a similar way, we could–and should–take advantage of the teachable moments that arise when our patients mention differences in skin color, heritage, or abilities”

While the quotation conjures up painful memory of middle school health class, White’s suggestion that a doctor has the same right to impose his own social values on a young child as he does to explain the biology of the human body is more disturbing. According to Dr. White, in other words, a doctor’s duty includes more than simply physical treatment; a doctor has a role in shaping the social perceptions and biases of their patients.

After reading her outlandish opinions on this progressive doctor-patient relationship, Doctor White’s appointment represents a serious turn towards identity politics for the Geisel school. On top of this, it seems to these writers that the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement provides little benefit to the Geisel school. Instead, it offers a substantialadministrative burden on a small school that has no room for it.

Just two years ago, Dartmouth College as a whole reported a net operating loss of $112 million, and a large part of the College’s financial woes have been as a result of the Geisel School of Medicine. Geisel routinely posts operating losses-one estimate putting the annual deficit at around $30 million. Meanwhile, in the same year, Geisel saw the value of its endowment investments decline by almost $100 million dollars and had to lay off 30 employees. This financial difficulty has supposedly been due to a mass restructuring of the School rather than administrative incompetence. However, the point remains the same; if Geisel is a financially struggling medical school, we must examine every decision, every appointment, every administrative role, under a microscope. And this one simply seems to not only be a waste of space, but perhaps even a hindrance to the growth.
Ultimately, Stephanie White and her fellow administrators in the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement act as another barrier to Geisel performing as its peak potential: it takes only one read through of the Geisel Plan for Diversity, Inclusion and a Respectful Workplace to see that these diversity appointments and affirmative action goals simply have no place at what should be a respectable Ivy League institution at the vanguard of the medical field but is instead a wildly expensive, low ranking mess. Despite being the fourth oldest medical school in the country and being affiliated with a top school like Dartmouth, US News and World Report ranks Geisel as 44th in Research and 21st in Primary Care.

A prime example of how appointments like Stephanie’s and Offices like DICE have no place at Geisel is in the Office’s frequent discussion of “numbers.” The plan proudly states that the “case for diversity is not about numbers. It is, rather, about creating a culture of inclusiveness in which differences such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other physical abilities are valued and where barriers to reaching an individual’s full potential are removed.” However, the plan immediately goes on to contradict itself, as all of the goals of the office base their “assessment” and “progress” on numbers: “numbers of women and non-majority applicants in search pools; numbers of women and non-majority applicants on short-list” etc. This thinly veiled interest in a quota-esque system represents a dangerous step for Geisel that in the end will severely detract from Geisel’s ability to fix the very real problems it faces. The Office clearly proves itself to simply be an administrative burden on the Geisel School’s success.

Hopefully the appointment of Stephanie White will represent a move in a positive meritocratic direction from Geisel, but it seems improbable. More likely this appointment is simply the continuation of a bureaucratic mess known as Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement. However, towards the office’s desire to have Geisel focus on diversity education instead of on medicine, this appointment should go a long way.