The School of Medicine’s Diversity Center of Representation and Empowerment (D-CORE) — the school’s first center of its kind — will officially open in Lane Library on Monday for use by School of Medicine (SoM) trainees, residents, students, faculty and non-SoM affiliates.
“A common thread you’ll find amongst minority students is that they often feel isolated or alone during their time at Stanford,” said biosciences PhD student Dorothy Tovar, one of D-CORE’s founders. “We wanted to ensure that unrepresented minorities in the School of Medicine [feel] like they have a safe space.”
Tovar is one of five MD and PhD students who helped lay the foundations of D-CORE during the summer of 2016. Fellow founders include medical students Osama Mohamed El-Gabalawy ’15 MS ’16, Shanique Martin ’14 and Gabriel Washington ’13, as well as biosciences PhD student Tawaun Lucas.
“I was heavily involved with student advocacy as a junior at Stanford and was surprised to see there was no physical space for minority communities in the Med School,” El-Gabalawy said. “So it became a priority to help propose and develop such a place.”
The five students, who collectively comprise the core leadership of the Student National Medical Association and Stanford Black Bioscience Organization, drafted and delivered a letter to School of Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor on Oct. 24, 2016. Among other recommendations, which included the SoM hiring a Chief Diversity Officer and implementing mandatory diversity training, the letter endorsed the construction of a physical space to help underrepresented minorities convene and interact with each other.
The five students were initially wary about how the University might receive their proposal, and according to El-Gabalaway, the vast majority of the letter’s “demands” have not yet been met. But both Tovar and Martin emphasized how supportive the SoM administration has been when it comes to the creation of D-CORE, saying the project has quickly come to fruition just a year after its conception.
“We were hesitant about how the administration would respond,” Martin said. “But Dean Minor was in fact extremely supportive and process was very smooth.”
Located on the ground floor of Lane Library, the center includes several social areas for organizations and meetings, along with a prayer and meditation room. The students envision the space as an instrumental home for future Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance and LGBTQ-Meds meetings and events. The students are also discussing creating a program that would connect minority undergraduate students with mentors involved in research and medicine.
D-CORE is already hosting activities. A donation drive for hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico was held earlier last week, and an educational session and fundraiser to benefit Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim refugees will take place this week.
In many ways, the impetus for D-CORE was recent political trends and events, the students behind the initiative said.
“We [the five creators of D-CORE] got together late last summer, concerned about the climate of the country, with the police killings of unarmed black men, the Pulse nightclub shooting and other such instances of intolerance,” Martin said. “These events were affecting the [medical] students, and we felt we weren’t receiving enough support from the administration. We had to organize our own makeshift meetings for facilitating conversation about such issues.”
D-CORE, its founders hope, will be able to serve as the space for discussions and meetings that they have felt were lacking in the SoM up to this point.
“This space is important for talking about the broader issues of discrimination in the country,” Martin said, “as well as the struggles of being a minority medical student.”
According to Tovar, the D-CORE is also intended to provide a space for reflection and relaxation, in addition to connection and discussion. Tovar emphasized the taxing nature of medical school and explained that several parts of the D-CORE space were included in order to give medical students a private place to relax.
“For whatever reasons, [private spaces] are really hard to find on the med campus,” Tovar said. “We’re expected to operate at a 110 percent the whole time, which can be really draining.”
Fernando Mendoza, associate dean of minority advising and programs and professor of pediatrics, echoed Tovar’s sentiments.
“Given the times we have in this country, we really hope this space helps minorities feel encouraged and empowered to be successful during their time here at Stanford,” Mendoza said.
Contact Surbhi Sachdeva at surbhi3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.