Deborah Deas Instagram post
March 8, 2023

Looking Back on Black History Month 2023

Author: UCR SOM Staff
March 8, 2023

For Black History Month 2023, the UCR SOM social media pages highlighted some of the outstanding contributions of our Black faculty and staff along with several programs and research aimed at supporting the Black community.

Teresa Cofield

Director of the Pathway Programs

Teresa Cofield

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Teresa Cofield has been with the School of Medicine since its founding, but her time and impact on the UCR campus precedes even that. Starting as an undergraduate from the Class of 1993, she continued her career at the UCR Academic Resource Center before becoming the director of Pathway Programs in 2006, where she helps students from middle school to college explore career opportunities in health and the medical professions while staying involved in our local communities.

Teresa loves seeing students’ paths come full circle. “There are moments when students in Pathway Programs interface with a health professional, and it’s an individual that I worked with when that person was in their own college journey,” she said. “To see them now actually giving back at our School of Medicine, or in other parts of the community, is extraordinary.”

Our Pathway Programs would not be where they are today without Teresa. When many in-person activities needed to shift to a virtual setting in 2020, many of the pathway programs actually increased in participation and in reach — overall to almost 200%. The @FuturePhysicianLeaders (FPL) program also gained national recognition with the INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award.

PRIME Program

Prime Program

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Last year, the UC Riverside School of Medicine launched its Program in Medical Education (PRIME) to train physicians to address the health needs of African, Black and Caribbean (ABC) populations in Inland Southern California.

"The whole point of this program is to educate and train future physicians who really understand the ABC community and to provide students with the support, skills and belonging needed to accomplish this," said Adwoa Osei, MD, the program's first faculty director. "They will become adept at maximizing opportunities for equitable health for ABC communities by providing culturally informed care, leadership, and advocacy," she added, furthering the SOM's mission to train a diverse workforce and improve the health of the medically underserved.

The program provides coaching, mentorship (including mentoring from upperclassmen in the partner program at UCI), and other support for future physician leaders to help increase representation in medicine.

"Being a Black woman and an immigrant in the field of medicine, I have found my way, navigated and carved my own path with the help of amazing mentors and advocates," Osei added. "So being able to be part of this program, creating this space for students who may be like me, or taking care of people like me, is very personal and meaningful to me."

Mario Sims, PhD

Professor of Social Medicine, Population, and Public Health

Mario Sims

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Mario Sims, PhD, FAHA is a full professor in our Department of Social Medicine, Population and Public Health (SMPPH) and was one of our first two faculty members to be appointed to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in October 2022 along with Dean Deborah Deas. He has been the principal investigator or co-investigator of NIH funding related to the social determinants of health, resilience, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) among African American adults.

Sims has a specific interest in examining racism, stress, segregation, and psychosocial factors and their effects on CVD disparities and is also a member of the NIH National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities. One of his most recent studies was the first to examine how a comprehensive set of cardiovascular health behaviors and biological factors, such as diet, cigarette smoking, body-mass index, cholesterol, and blood pressure, are associated with religiosity/spirituality among African American individuals.

Michelle Burroughs

Director of Community Engagement & Outreach for CHC

Michelle Burroughs

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Michelle Burroughs, MPH, has been with the UCR School of Medicine since the beginnings of the Department of Social Medicine, Population, and Public Health (SMPPH) where she started as the department’s deputy director. In the 2020-2021 academic year, the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC), which is administered by SMPPH, overall exceeded its yearly community engagement goals by more than 100% through community engagement research opportunities, research partnerships, and health promotion activities.

Under her direction, CHC has also given several mini-grants over the past few years, while educating our local communities on COVID-19, racial justice, and voting information. Michelle also recently made history as the inaugural recipient of the UCR SOM Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award. Her impact and leadership, along with her passion for what she does, does not go unnoticed.

“I see Michelle as an outstanding leader and active liaison between UCR SOM and the community,” said Selina Hernandez, MPH, an HDR/CHC community relations specialist. “She genuinely cares about her team's wellbeing and excels on meaningful projects that empower communities to prioritize their health.”

Emma Simmons, MD, MPH

Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Salma Haider Endowed Chair for the Thomas Haider Program

Emma Simmons Instagram post

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Emma Simmons, MD, MPH, has been with the School of Medicine since 2011 and was one of the key individuals who led our medical school from an idea into a reality. As our current Salma Haider Endowed Chair for the Thomas Haider Program and senior associate dean of Student Affairs, her impact on the past, present, and future of the School of Medicine is undeniable.

In the 10 years of the School of Medicine and the two years preceding that, Simmons has seen and guided more than 300 medical students to complete their medical education. She truly lives the mission of our medical school and inspires the faculty, staff, and students of the UCR SOM to do so as well.

Deborah Deas, MD, MPH

Mark and Pam Rubin Dean and Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences

Deborah Deas Instagram post

See Deborah Deas' Instagram post

Deborah Deas, MD, MPH, recently made history as being one of 100 newly elected members of the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest national honors in health and medicine.

Since joining our school in 2016, Deas has worked to establish values that drive our mission forward and led efforts to increase the class size and expand the UCR Health clinical enterprise. Under her leadership, we've received five national HEED (Higher Education Excellence in Diversity) awards, which honor an institution’s level of achievement in broadening diversity and inclusion, and received funding to build the new SOM Education Building II.

”I couldn’t do this without the tremendous dedication of all the people that make up the SOM,” Deas emphasizes. “As my favorite African proverb says, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together’ — and I believe the faculty, staff, and students of our school are a true example of this.”

For Women’s History Month, we also asked Dean Deas to share a story about a woman who has made a major difference in her life. This woman is Carrie Randall, PhD, who she calls “mentor extraordinaire” and is a distinguished professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. ”I credit her for my successful career, and I am forever grateful,” she said.