Dr. Risha Irvin will become the next Associate Vice Chair for Diversity and Inclusion and Director of the DOM Diversity Council on March 1, 2021.
Born and raised in the South, Dr. Irvin and her family were no strangers to the unjust Jim Crow laws and discrimination that still exists in our society today. Her parents and extended family marched for civil rights, and instilled in her from an early age the importance of diversity, inclusion, equality, justice and health equity.
Dr. Irvin attended undergrad at Spelman College in Atlanta, a global leader in the education of women of African descent. She was a biology major, but more importantly, received a comprehensive education on health disparities, health equity and the implications of the lack of diversity in medicine. She knew early on that she wanted to be a part of the solution. She then obtained her medical degree and master’s in public health from Harvard. During medical school, she became interested in HIV health disparities research, and continued this work while completing her internal medicine residency at UCSF.
Since her time in medical school, Dr. Irvin has been continually engaged in pipeline programs. She led science programs for underrepresented in medicine (UIM) students as president of the Harvard Chapter of the Student National Medical Association and for the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Partnership. She also launched a program during her residency that focused on UIM students in middle school along with her husband, Dr. Nathan Irvin, an emergency physician at Hopkins. Through the Hopkins Center for AIDS Research, she founded Generation Tomorrow in 2013, which trains students and community members in HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) education, testing and counseling to expand the workforce and decrease health disparities. In 2019, she launched Generation Tomorrow: Summer Health Disparity Scholars with Drs. Nathan Irvin and Denis Antoine, which trains undergraduate students from across the country in HIV and HCV health disparities and their intersection with mental health, substance use, violence and other social determinants of health.
In her role as Associate Vice Chair for Diversity and Inclusion, she will continue to strengthen efforts to increase recruitment, retention and promotion of UIM faculty and trainees as well as develop process and outcome measures along with innovative programming. She hopes to recruit new members to engage in the DOM Diversity Council from each division, share best practices in diversity and inclusion while inspiring each other to do more and foster a sense of community through academic and social events.
We’d like to thank Dr. Deidra Crews for her tireless efforts and leadership. She has served the Department of Medicine and the Diversity Council well during her eight years of leadership, and will continue to collaborate with Dr. Irvin and the rest of the council. “I am most proud of the openness to new ideas and the ability to adapt to new challenges that I have seen Diversity Council members display, especially this past year,” said Dr. Crews. “I look forward to supporting Dr. Irvin as she assumes this role, and am confident that, under her leadership, our department will continue to advance efforts in diversity and inclusion.”
As we sit in a time of racial and social unrest in our country, we must each contemplate what we can do to improve diverse representation within the DOM. Everyone can help us achieve success in this area by focusing on mentor-mentee relationships, providing input on how we might create a culture where all are highly valued and respected, and showing up to DOM Diversity Council events to show that we are all committed to diversity and inclusion. Dr. Irvin said, “It is a time to be bold, forward-thinking and inclusive.”