Dr. Delair takes inaugural diversity role at College of Medicine

by John Keenan, UNMC strategic communications | October 09, 2020

Image with caption: Shirley Delair, MD

Shirley Delair, MD

As Shirley Delair, MD, becomes the UNMC College of Medicine's first associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, she brings a strong vision to the role.

Dr. Britigan's statement:

"A college of medicine that attracts, encourages, supports and celebrates diversity, equity and inclusion among its faculty, staff and trainees has been repeatedly shown to enhance the quality of medical education and research, better prepare trainees for the practice of medicine, and improve healthcare to the patients of the community it serves.

"Accomplishing this requires a leader whose primary responsibility it is to assure that college remains focused on the goal and provides the knowledge, wisdom and experience to help us develop the programs and infrastructure to achieve it.

"That was the reason why this new associate dean position was created, and I can think of no one more qualified to take on this critical leadership role than Dr. Delair. Throughout the time that she has been at UNMC, she has been a vocal and energetic advocate for the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion and has initiated efforts at UNMC, Children's Hospital, and throughout our metropolitan community to make them a reality. I look forward to working closely with Dr. Delair in her new role."

-Bradley Britigan, MD, dean of the UNMC College of Medicine

Her vision includes initiatives that will help diversify the health care workforce in Nebraska to better reflect the demographics of the population being served, thereby helping to address the state's gaping health disparities.

This position, though new, has always been needed at the college, she said.

"The lack of diversity in the college is not new," said Dr. Delair, an associate professor of pediatrics and chief of the UNMC Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases in the Department of Pediatrics. "Health disparities in the state are not new. COVID-19, however, has laid bare the urgency of addressing these issues."

"The Hispanic/Latinx population represents around 12% of the state population but has disproportionately high number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19," she said.

Initially, she plans to meet with fellow associate deans, department chairs, students, house staff and faculty leaders, and the UNMC Office of Inclusion, as well as leaders from the community at large. The meetings will allow her to gain a broader perspective of the state of diversity, inclusion and equity across the college of medicine and to appreciate the scope of diversity, equity and inclusion work already in progress, as well as how the community views the college and its activities. This information will allow her to better formulate initiatives to move forward.

Dr. Delair already had begun working to increase representation in the college. In June 2020, she received funding from the UNMC Diversity Fund Grant for a project aimed at diversifying the workforce at UNMC. More specifically, she plans to improve the recruitment of underrepresented minority students to the college of medicine by leveraging existing pre-health pathways.

About Dr. Delair

Dr. Delair is an associate professor of pediatrics and chief of the UNMC Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases in the Department of Pediatrics. She has been a member of the faculty at UNMC since 2010, moving to UNMC after completing her pediatric infectious diseases fellowship at UCLA. She received her MD from Universidad CES in Medellin, Colombia, in 2001 and completed her pediatric residency at Saint Joseph's Children's Hospital, in Paterson, New Jersey in 2007. In 2014, she also received a master's of public health in epidemiology from the UNMC College of Public Health.

Throughout her time at UNMC, Dr. Delair has been a leading advocate for the importance of diversity within the university and in our health care delivery systems. In her new role, Dr. Delair will work with leadership throughout the College of Medicine, UNMC, its office of inclusion, and health system partners to foster diversity, inclusion and equity.

"Studies have shown that a strong predictor of diversity in faculty at medical institutions is the diversity of the medical student body," she said. "We have a talented pool of diverse young people in our state, we need to harness that talent using structured pre-health pathways with targeted recruiting strategies and metrics to evaluate program performance to ensure continued success and longevity."

Dr. Delair pointed to the Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP), the longest UNMC pre-health pathway pipeline program, which has provided for nearly 20 years a stream of students from rural areas to train at the UNMC College of Medicine. Rural Nebraska has now over 12% Latinx population but the rural students recruited into RHOP do not reflect this demographic. The diversity fund grant will help devise recruitment strategies in rural high schools to tackle this problem.

Similarly, in metropolitan Omaha, Dr. Delair plans to develop recruitment strategies in urban high schools to attract Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other students of color in order to increase participation in the most recent pre-medical pathway program, the Urban Health Opportunities Program (UHOP).

She doesn't expect to work alone.

"When you think of the breadth of diversity, equity and inclusion work that needs to be done at the college of medicine, it's not a one-person task," she said. Dr. Delair envisions building a team that will assist her in devising a vision, mission and strategic plan for the new office of DEI at the college in order to tackle DEI issues that address the needs of students, residents, fellows, faculty and staff as well as the community served by UNMC.

Dr. Delair, who will officially begin on Nov. 1, said she is ready for her new role.

"I understand the challenge, and I'm ready to do some good work," she said.

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Giovanni Jones
October 09, 2020 at 4:04 PM

Congratulations Dr. Delair!

Sara Pirtle
October 09, 2020 at 12:21 PM

UNMC is fortunate to have you in this position. Your experience and leadership is extraordinaire!

Sonja F. Tutsch
October 09, 2020 at 11:47 AM

I am thrilled about these news! Big congratulations, Dr. Delair! Well deserved indeed. Very much looking forward to continued collaboration and supporting your efforts.

Kym Abraham
October 09, 2020 at 11:03 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Delair! Well deserved!!

Steve Wengel
October 09, 2020 at 10:55 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Delair! I know you will bring much creativity and innovation to this important position.

Sasha Shillcutt MD
October 09, 2020 at 10:37 AM

An excellent choice, and will be a wonderful leader. Congrats Dr. Delair, and I commit to being an ally.

Linda Cunningham
October 09, 2020 at 10:21 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Delair!

Jessica Tschirren
October 09, 2020 at 9:44 AM

Congratulations Dr. Delair!

John Keenan
October 09, 2020 at 8:56 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Delair!

Kaeli Samson
October 09, 2020 at 8:55 AM

Congrats, Dr. Delair!

Dr. Toure
October 09, 2020 at 8:42 AM

YES! Congratulations!

Dr. Sheritta Strong
October 09, 2020 at 8:38 AM

I am so excited for the campus! Congratulations Dr. Delair and I am looking forward to working with you! Your leadership will help us become a more diverse and inclusive campus!

Regina Idoate
October 09, 2020 at 8:14 AM

Thank you Dr. Delair! This is excellent news for COM, UNMC and our community. Looking forward to working with you.

Lucille Woodard
October 09, 2020 at 7:49 AM

I believe Dr. Delair will be up to the task. I only hope the University is committed to her success and the success of patients.

Sandy Willett
October 09, 2020 at 7:30 AM

Congratulations Shirley!

LaKaija J.
October 09, 2020 at 7:15 AM

Congratulations Dr. Delair!!

Lisa Runco
October 09, 2020 at 7:00 AM

On behalf of the Department of Pediatrics, we congratulate Dr. Delair on this appointment and will support her in every way we can to ensure her continued success. We are confident that she will make the most of this wonderful opportunity and her work will benefit the campus community in extraordinary ways.

Sarah Gloden Carlson
October 09, 2020 at 6:32 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Delair!!!

Nikki Carritt
October 09, 2020 at 6:27 AM

Congratulations, Dr. Delair, on you appointment to this important role for the COM! I look forward to continued work with you on these critical efforts.

Carmen Sirizzotti
October 09, 2020 at 4:57 AM

Congratulations!

donny suh
October 08, 2020 at 2:45 PM

Well deserved. I know she will do an excellent job. Congratulations.