Moving the Needle on Gender Equity – Columbia University Irving Medical Center – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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The Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons traces its origins back to the time of the American Revolution, but it was only a century ago that women were brought into the fold of medical education at Columbia. The first woman faculty member, Rosalie Slaughter Morton, MD, joined the medical faculty in 1916, and the college’s first women students matriculated a year later in 1917, graduating in 1921.

But thanks to past and present efforts of trailblazers across the profession, today’s medical professoriate is almost 50% women and more accomplished than at any time in history. An award from the National Institutes of Health in August recognized VP&S for leading the way in the advancement of equity for women faculty in biomedical and behavioral sciences. A few weeks later, the Association of American Medical Colleges announced it would honor Anne L. Taylor, MD, vice dean for academic affairs, for her role in that success, celebrating her leadership in the advancement of women in medicine at Columbia and beyond.

In considering the path of women at VP&S, Taylor—herself a faculty member, the John Lindenbaum Professor of Medicine—has worked with fellow faculty members and school leadership to honor the courageous past of women faculty, to maintain a flourishing present, and to keep a determined eye on the challenges that still remain.

women faculty at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

A century after the first woman faculty member joined the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, women make up nearly half of the medical school’s faculty. A group of current full-time faculty gathered for a photo at the Vagelos Education Center. Photograph by Jorg Meyer.

Building it up better

Ask anybody about Anne Taylor, and the responses will be glowing. In addition to heading academic affairs for VP&S, she is senior vice president for faculty affairs and career development at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, a role in which she stewards the career growth, satisfaction, and recognition for all faculty across the medical center.

When Taylor arrived at Columbia in 2007, VP&S had no professional development programs for faculty. Women accounted for 38% of full-time faculty, and while that number was above the national average at the time, women faculty were not included proportionately in many important aspects of the school’s decision-making processes nor did they have access to as high quality mentorship as men faculty.

Anne Taylor

Anne Taylor

Working in concert with Lee Goldman, MD, then dean, and many fellow faculty members, Taylor and her newly recruited team in the Office of Academic Affairs set to work to create an approach to faculty professional development that considered important determinants that have been shown to positively impact satisfaction, success, and vitality for all faculty. A few of these important determinants of faculty vitality include clarity in governance processes, development of networks of peers and appreciation by peers, support for academic advancement, and support for work/life integration. While the overarching task of the new Office of Academic Affairs was to support all faculty, an important guiding principle was to be sure that the specific needs of women and diverse faculty were identified and addressed.

Clara Lapiner, assistant vice president of faculty professional development, diversity, and inclusion, was among Taylor’s first hires in the Office of Academic Affairs, where they have worked together for 13 years. “It’s been an incredible journey, an immense privilege, and a huge learning experience to work with Dr. Taylor on implementing her vision,” Lapiner says. “Our team has been able to create impactful and sustained institutional change. To see her approach to this work—in building on these programs and initiatives, constantly incorporating faculty feedback, and making sure that our offerings served their needs—has been a phenomenal journey, and the work has continued to grow.”

The office’s approach has been multidimensional and faculty-driven with a focus equall

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