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Leading Voice for Diversity Coming to Dell Med School

April 21, 2016

René Salazar, MD, a South Texas native who became a leading voice for diversity in medical education, is joining the new Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin to serve as Assistant Dean for Diversity.

Salazar has served since 2003 on the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, where he was most recently the Director of Diversity for the Office of Graduate Medical Education. He is a graduate of both the UT Austin College of Pharmacy and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine and a Latino health disparities fellowship at UCSF.

“Because we’re starting this medical school from scratch, we can develop a foundation that embraces values such as diversity that are essential in providing quality care to all individuals,” Salazar said. “In so many areas, Dell Med is rethinking the role of academic medicine in improving health. We also will rethink the role of diversity in creating the vital, inclusive health ecosystem that Dell Med envisions.”

Salazar has more than a decade of experience supporting diversity and promoting an inclusive climate at UCSF. He led efforts to recruit minority residents and clinical fellows to the school, and he helped lead an initiative to increase awareness and provide skills to address unconscious bias among faculty, staff, students, and trainees. He has presented his work at national meetings including the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Society of General Internal Medicine, and the Society of Hospital Medicine. His work also has been featured on National Public Radio.

He said he will focus especially on enhancing the pipeline of diverse medical school applicants. He said he also will work to ensure that people inside and outside the medical school recognize the value of diversity, that members of traditionally underrepresented groups feel supported through an inclusive learning and work environment, and that medical students learn to provide culturally sensitive care to a diverse patient population as a basic part of their curriculum. And he pledged to connect with existing UT Austin diversity and community engagement resources and with the range of leaders, voices and communities across Austin and Central Texas.

“Medical schools across the country struggle with diversity – René’s expertise and focus will help us approach it in new ways,” said Clay Johnston, inaugural Dean of the Dell Medical School. “Ultimately, we want the physician population to resemble the community it serves. René will help shape our approach to that challenge.”

Salazar has mentored numerous minority undergraduate students, medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty. For more than a decade, he served as volunteer medical director for Clínica Martín-Baró, a San Francisco State and UCSF student-run clinic providing free primary medical care to uninsured Latinos and Latino day laborers living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“As a native Texan and UT Austin alum, René is well-versed in inclusion issues, and he knows this region well,” said Sue Cox, the Dell Medical School’s Executive Vice Dean for Academics and Chair of Medical Education. "His knowledge and experience will boost our work to create a student body that's as diverse as the Austin community.”

Dr. René Salazar discusses some of his early priorities as the new Assistant Dean for Diversity.