By Carlos S. Smith, DDS, MDiv, FACD
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion & Director of Ethics Curriculum & the Mirmelstein Lecture
Associate Professor, Department of Dental Public Health and Policy and Affiliate Faculty, Oral Health Equity Core, VCU Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation
It is my pleasure to share our 2020-21 Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report of Activities.
Unprecedented no longer seems adequate enough to truly convey the year that was 2020. Even now in the ninth month of 2021, in many ways time has seemingly stood still, all the while so much continues to happen all around us. Author Charles Dickens, in his storied A Tale of Two Cities, offers this, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
While COVID-19 has changed so much about how our world operates – particularly dentistry and dental education, it also placed a magnifying glass on longtime health disparities and inequities. 2020 also saw a global reckoning around issues of racial injustices, following the horrendous unarmed killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Rightly so, many organizations, institutions, corporations and yes, medical and dental schools began new and actionable diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Under the leadership of former Dean David Sarrett and continued by Interim Dean Clara Spatafore, our DEI Office was launched with my appointment as director in August 2020.
While we have accomplished much, principles of DEI are fluid, ever-evolving and broad. We look forward to continuing to advance DEI at the School of Dentistry and further cultivating both an optimal educational environment, work climate and patient experience for all.