Dr. Pamies hosts third annual diversity celebration

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From left: Doctoral student Alisa Cleveland, third-year medical student Rogelio Muchaca, graduate nursing student Dorothea Clute, Dr. Kristie Hayes, Dr. Rubens Pamies and third-year medical student Jameca Price were among those who attended the Third Annual Diversity Celebration at Happy Hollow Country Club on Jan. 19. The crowd of more than 60 people was the largest in the event’s history.

Rubens Pamies, M.D., UNMC vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean for graduate studies, has served in a number of positions at major biomedical institutions where the minority members were a small, often scattered, portion of the campus.

That’s why he inaugurated the annual “Diversity Celebration” for minorities at UNMC in 2005.

The Third Annual Diversity Celebration was Jan. 19 at Happy Hollow Country Club. More than 60 faculty members, students, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and their family members attended.

“It may seem like a routine matter to others, but minority faculty and students often struggle against a feeling of isolation in environments where they are few in number,” Dr. Pamies said. “In particular, they often feel that they don’t have real opportunities to make connections with other minorities in informal social gatherings like our annual gathering.”

The turn out for this year’s celebration was the largest in the event’s history, a fact which Dr. Pamies found encouraging.

“I am particularly pleased that people are now bringing family members,” Dr. Pamies said. “It means that our gathering is more than just a chance to network and people want to get know each other and their families.”

Dr. Pamies scheduled the annual event during the week of the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday. He said that in the spirit of Dr. King, it was an excellent time to reflect on UNMC’s own challenges and successes in diversity initiatives.

When the short program portion of the evening began, Dr. Pamies asked the entire room to introduce themselves and their area of campus. It was not only an opportunity for graduate students and faculty to openly volunteer to help others in need of their expertise; it was also a time of genuine humor.

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From left: Dr. Marvin Stancil and Dr. Rubens Pamies at the Third Annual Diversity Celebration on Jan. 19.

Marvin Stancil, M.D., associate professor in the department of obstetric/gynecology got a huge laugh when he said his name and title and then added, “Oh, by the way. A lot of people at UNMC think I’m Dr. Pamies.”

During his remarks, Dr. Pamies also updated attendees on developments at UNMC over the past year, including the opening of the new College of Public Health that will include the UNMC Center for Health Disparities.

He also noted that in 2006, the incoming College of Medicine class had the largest number of minorities ever and that last summer, the first year of the three-year Student Medical Dental Education Program, saw 78 college undergraduate students on campus for a six-week internship, including the largest single contingent of minority students to ever intern at UNMC.

In addition to Dr. Pamies, there were comments by Kristie Hayes, M.D., chief of the dermatology section and assistant dean for diversity; Valda Boyd Ford, director of Community and Multicultural Affairs; Tina Flores, M.D., assistant professor in the family medicine department and chairwoman of the UNMC Minority Faculty Organization; Marcus Harris (M-2), chairman of the Student National Medical Association; and Mario Fernandes, doctoral student in cancer research and president of the Graduate Student Association.

“I have had at least half a dozen minority students ask me to be their mentor or preceptor,” Dr. Flores said. “I can’t take them all on. These students are seeking minority role models and we need our minority faculty to try to be available for them.

“We also really need minority faculty to just get together more often for simple social interactions beyond meetings and business-oriented events.”

Perhaps the evening’s most poignant comments came from Dr. Hayes, a faculty member for more than 18 years. She has carried the banner for diversity at UNMC — a fact acknowledged by Dr. Pamies and everyone present at the event — longer than anyone else in the room. She has a reputation for being as much godmother as mentor to many minority students, including Dr. Flores.

“You have no idea what it means to me to see the growth of this gathering from just two years ago, let alone what it might have been five or 10 years ago,” Dr. Hayes said. “While we know that we have a long way to go, this is the kind of event where we can rejoice in what we are accomplishing.

“It is so important that we really get to know each other and support each other. Unity can only help magnify our presence, strengthen the value and image of diversity at UNMC and, above all, create an environment that will enable even more minorities to believe that they can find their future careers through UNMC, as well.”