DEI Initiatives

The BMS program is committed to combatting the structural racism that threatens our community values and ambitions. This document provides an executive summary of ongoing and proposed BMS program policies and actions to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our scientific community. The descriptions of these efforts are grouped into three major areas: Transparency and Communication, Inclusion and Accountability, and Building Diversity. BMS will coordinate with other graduate programs and the Graduate Division to share best practices and promote consistency in policies and student experiences.

Transparency and Communication

Website: BMS will update its website to feature information about our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism, including specific policies and actions we are taking to make tangible, measurable improvements in our working and learning environment.

Town Halls: The BMS program will host DEI Town Halls with program students and faculty, and will coordinate to increase faculty and student participation in the annual S4D-hosted diversity meeting to amplify the messages delivered therein.

Consistent communication: The BMS program will integrate DEI efforts and communication into core program activities, including but not limited to recruitment and orientations, ethics training, classes, retreats, seminars and journal clubs. DEI overviews will be presented at recruitment, orientation, and program-specific 3rd year reorientiation. These presentations will involve both program leadership and students, and focus on benefits to students and the community.

2020 New policies to be implemented

  • Designated DEI leadership: The BMS program will form a DEI Committee that includes faculty members, students, and staff. The chairperson(s) of the DEI Committee will be the BMS DEI Lead in a Graduate Division-wide parent committee.

Inclusion and Accountability

Faculty Training: The BMS and DSCB programs led the creation of the Graduate Faculty Development Program (GFDP), and were the first to require participation by all training faculty with students in their laboratory. Effective mentoring across differences is a critical competency for BMS faculty. The central goal of this program is to ensure that faculty members gain the cultural awareness and skills they need to help all of their mentees thrive in the UCSF research community. DEI Champion Training, a successful and robust program produced by the School of Medicine's Differences Matter Initiative, is the entry point and keystone training event for the GFDP. (This function was formerly served by Sharpening your Mentoring Skills (SyMS), a 2.5-hr workshop facilitated by Dr. Sharon Milgram, Director of the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education). Each faculty member with a BMS student in their lab must complete SyMS and take part in at least one mentorship development activity each year. Failure to do so triggers a ban from taking rotation students until compliant. Faculty participation is tracked, and this information will be made available to all BMS students and to the BMS Executive Committee for program membership review.

2020 New policies to be implemented

  • Participation requirement: The expectation for participation in the GFDP will be extended to all BMS faculty members. All members must complete SyMS or DEI Champions training (or both) and take part in at least one training activity each year.
  • Increased transparency: Individual participation in the GFDP will be prominently displayed on the BMS website. A link to detailed participation logs will be provided.
  • Train the trainers: Faculty volunteers and resources are needed to help build and continuously refresh peer-to-peer programming in the GFDP. The BMS program will provide resources to support faculty (and staff) participation in ‘train the trainers’ workshops hosted by Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) and/or the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE). This policy is in keeping with the overarching goal of increasing the number of faculty, particularly including majority faculty, involved in work that promotes DEI in the BMS Program.

Faculty membership policy: This policy was updated in 2019. BMS faculty are made aware that membership in the graduate program is a privilege, and that all BMS faculty members are expected to represent and uphold UCSF values of Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diversity and Excellence.  The BMS Executive Committee will revoke program membership as a consequence of conduct detrimental to the program, including but not limited to scientific misconduct or violations of the University Code of Conduct, which includes Title VII and Title IX violations. Program participation requirements, including participation in the GFDP, are also enforced by the Executive Committee.

Feedback: Given the power imbalance between faculty members and students, it is difficult to obtain granular and honest feedback on the performance of individual program faculty members, even after graduation. Both faculty and students have expressed that this a problem. The BMS program has made a point to recommend that faculty ask for feedback (i.e. after rotations, as thesis mentors, etc.), but this alone is inadequate.

2020 New policies and activities to be implemented

  • Bi-directional rotation feedback: Faculty members and students will be instructed to meet to set expectations at the beginning of each rotation, and will provide mutual feedback at the end of each rotation. Both will also submit an evaluation form to the BMS coordinator. To improve the content and professionalism of this exchange, and to help eliminate bias (including implicit bias), we will develop a joint student/faculty workshop on providing and receiving professional feedback. 
  • Community building and conflict resolution: For incoming student cohorts, BMS and the Graduate Division will implement Community Circles, a restorative justice model for building community, and ultimately for addressing situations of bias, stereotyping, and exclusionary behavior.
  • Anonymous feedback: We will explore and implement new models for anonymous feedback (e.g. SAFE), and clarify existing options for providing feedback and reporting inappropriate or unethical behavior, including the Ombuds Office, CARE Advocate, and Whistleblower Hotline, in addition to staff and faculty directors of the BMS Program and the Graduate Division.
  • Student training: Orientation activities include important DEI focused training. BMS will also advocate for student and postdoc versions of DEI Champion Training, inclusion of DEI in 3rd year orientation material, and further integration of DEI topics in required Responsible Conduct of Research classes. We will explore creating training for student teaching assistants (TAs).
    In addition, incoming students will be offered DEI-focused minicourses, and will be required to complete a new course:
    Race and Racism in Science (GRAD202), directed by Dr. Aimee Medeiros, Professor of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine. This introductory course provides the historical background of systemic racism in scientific research.  It explores the relationship between notions of race and science and how scientific research has been informed by and perpetuates anti-Black racism.  This course also examines the impact of bias and a lack of diversity in science and ways in which to address these deficiencies. Students will learn the principles of social justice-oriented scientific research and its potential.
            Course Objectives:
    • Execute the principles of social justice-oriented scientific research.
    • Decipher how scientific research can endorse racial inequalities.
    • Identify specific historical examples of anti-black racism in scientific research.
    • Distinguish how the historical relationship between the white supremacy campaign in the US and scientific medicine influences contemporary scientific research.
    • Analyze how implicit bias and lack of diversity undermine science.

Building Diversity

Outreach and admissions: The BMS program recognizes the need to proactively identify future PhD candidates from underrepresented groups, invite them into the UCSF community, and encourage and help them to successfully apply to graduate programs (especially including BMS!).

  • BMS staff, faculty and student representatives regularly participate in national outreach conferences ABRCMS, SACNAS, and CSUperb.
  • BMS faculty visit CSUs and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI), including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to provide information and an invitation to apply to UCSF graduate and summer research programs, and to provide advice about preparing for the admissions process. 
  • The Summer Research Training Program (SRTP), Science and Health Education Partnership (SEP), and the Emerson Collective CollegeTrack interns hosted by ImmunoX are 3 examples of effective programs that invite students from underrepresented groups to conduct research in BMS labs, make connections with BMS mentors, and participate in structured learning activities that help them to explore and prepare for post-graduate education in the biomedical sciences. 
  • BMS employs a holistic approach to selecting applicants for interview and admission to the program, and does not require GRE scores. A subgroup of the admissions committee provides focused review of applications from students from underrepresented and/or disadvantaged backgrounds, and students with disabilities. Resources for conducting fair evaluations and reducing implicit bias are provided to the admissions committee. 

2020 New policies to be implemented

  • Increase BMS faculty participation in outreach visits: Create a roster of faculty members willing to participate in outreach visits. Make it easier and more common for faculty to incorporate outreach activities into visits to MSIs.
  • HBCU partnership: Establish a more formal relationship with one or more HBCUs. Explore the possibility of creating a post-bac program.
  • Admissions: The BMS program will share its admissions procedures and recruitment statistics on the internet. Resources for conducting fair evaluations and reducing implicit bias will now be provided to all faculty and students involved in interviewing and recruiting.

Faculty diversity: Although the BMS program does not hire or employ faculty, it can and does influence the recruitment of new faculty, and the selection of faculty involved in student training.

  • BMS sanctioned searches follow university policy regarding the diversity of search committees, the provision of educational materials to reduce bias in faculty searches and hiring decisions, and the requirement for Diversity Statements from all candidates.
  • BMS program leadership actively encourages departments to seek BMS sanction for new searches and membership for existing research faculty that build the diversity of available mentors for BMS trainees.
  • The BMS program actively recognizes faculty that make important contributions to the program, providing commendation letters to remind department chairs, division chiefs and institute directors of the importance of graduate program service to the Committee on Academic Personnel and decisions regarding promotions and retention. Major contributions to DEI in BMS will be specifically noted in these letters.

Download BMS Town Hall slides here.

Download the Faculty-Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force slides here.