In a Q&A authored by the Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care, Tatiana Cardenas discusses her new role as chair of the department’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee as well as what opportunities lie ahead.
Tell me about yourself and your role in the department.
I’m a biracial, Cuban-Brazilian mom, wife, tap dancer and art enthusiast. Within the department, I’m still all these things but also a trauma/acute care surgeon and surgical critical care intensivist.
I joined the department in 2018 as an assistant professor, then in 2019, I became associate program director for the General Surgery Residency Program. I help support the residency through didactic design, surgical skills implementation and health equity curricular advances.
What made you want to take on this new role as chair of the diversity, equity and inclusion committee?
So much of who I am and where I come from contributes to why I want to take on this new role. I am the first generation in my family to be born in the United States. During my teenage years, I realized that there were differences in how, when, why and where patients with diverse races and ethnicities — including my family — sought and received medical care.
While preparing to embark on my journey through medicine, I knew that my medical education and career would be tied to institutions seeking to break down these disparities, embrace diversity and provide access to health care for anyone who needed it. In 2018, when I came to Dell Medical School, I appreciated the history of the county’s safety-net hospital and the intentions of Dell Med to help support our community, provide equitable care, diversify our workforce and break down barriers faced daily by many minorities and diverse individuals.
These are the very values that I promised myself I’d live by and align with throughout my life, training and career. I see the committee chair role as an opportunity to help create impactful change within our department as well as for our patients.
What are your early plans in your role, and what opportunities do you think like ahead?
In this early phase of my new role, my purpose is to listen and enhance. The work in this space cannot be done without having an understanding of the needs of our department, our learners and our patients that make up our community.
We are currently working on developing our strategic goals that all revolve around fostering an inclusive culture, promoting diversity in recruitment and retention, building community partnerships, and incorporating health equity into clinical care and the learning environment. I look forward to building upon the excellent work done in recent years by the committee.
How can other members of the department get involved?
We are in the process of reinvigorating the committee. An announcement is coming this spring, but membership is open to all who are interested. The beauty of inclusivity is that all are welcome and that all are needed to get this work done. In the meantime, reach out to me or Dory Thompson directly to learn how to get involved.