Guiding emergency medicine toward a North Star of racial justice

Eugenia South, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and vice chair for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Emergency Medicine, highlights the need to connect and act in support of equity and inclusion on many fronts.

The push for inclusion, diversity and racial equity has risen to new levels since last year’s death of George Floyd. Throughout Penn Medicine, champions are pushing for change through the Action for Cultural Transformation (ACT), a unified effort that spans every level of the institution across both the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Perelman School of Medicine. The aims of the ACT touch on everything Penn Medicine does—in health care, in education and research, and in the community.

Eugenia South standing in a wooded area with arms folded surrounded by tree branches.
Eugenia South, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. (Image: Penn Medicine News)

That effort is held up through localized efforts and champions for equity in every department, including Eugenia South, an assistant professor and vice chair for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Emergency Medicine. South is one among a cohort of exemplary leaders in new formal roles established in the last year. Now, all clinical departments at Penn Medicine have a vice chair, like South, devoted to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through both her work in the ED and her research, she has shown how important it is to connect and act in support of equity and inclusion on many fronts.

In her department’s vice chair role, South brings “a lens of anti-racism in everything we do.” For example, one project, which is being led by the ED Antiracism Taskforce, focuses on helping support staff—such as unit clerks, registration staff, and environmental services staff in her department, many of whom are Black or members of other minority groups. “What can we do for staff that are often overlooked to move the needle, create mentorships and professional development for their career aspirations?”

She has also overseen and helped develop strategies to increase resident diversity in the department, such as increasing the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students who interview with them and creating an interview guide for faculty in which “more emphasis was put on their background and leadership potential while traditionally the emphasis is solely on grades and scores in medical school.” In addition, a “diversity day” effort for URM students connected the applicants with Black faculty members or other residents, to help them see how they could fit in and thrive in the program.

This story is by Sally Sapega. Read more at Penn Medicine News.