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Tell me a bit about your background.
I am very thankful for where I am and what I am able to do every day. I grew up in a communist country (Romania) during the height of communism. There were many years when we didn’t have our basic needs met. I came to the States in high school and feel like I am living the American dream, because I am here at UCSF, being able to do what I love, and understanding what it means to come from nothing. I love being in San Francisco and at UCSF. I identify as LGBT, so living here and doing this work in such a creative, thoughtful place, is a dream.
October is Diversity Month! Tell me about your work as a Dean’s Diversity Leader in the School of Medicine’s Differences Matter program.
My work as a Dean’s Diversity Leader focuses on the Leadership Equity and Inclusion pillar. We lack clear guidelines about how these important leadership positions are assigned. Some departments are more transparent than others. Dean King has taken important steps in putting rules in place about search committees, as it pertains to women and URM composition, but making sure that there is equity in leadership positions at UCSF – including Division Chiefs, Vice Chairs, Residency Directors, and Chairs – and that there are opportunities for all to advance, is integral to our goal of becoming the most diverse, equitable, and inclusive academic medical center in the country.
I work with Dr. Renee Navarro and Dr. Catherine Lucey on this pillar. The first task has been to come up with guidelines that are based in best practices currently in existence, that we can put forth to the Chairs for adoption across the School of Medicine. Hopefully other schools of at UCSF will eventually adopt these guidelines. We have created a committee with senior faculty that have history, knowledge, and academic weight within the school, to inquire within the clinical departments and come up with a point by point list of what is being done and what should change.
We are also looking at faculty development. How are our URM faculty and women being developed at UCSF? How are endowed chairs awarded? Do we have demographic data on our leadership? Each department has to put together a Diversity Report – how do we analyze those results and how can we assure there is advancement? The more we understand who we are, what we’re made of, and what challenges we have, the better informed we will be to carve our way forward.
What is your personal commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at UCSF?
My team is very mindful of the diversity of our colleagues. In hiring for the surgery department, our Chair thinks about this issue and has championed a search committee for every recruitment, irrespective of the seniority of the role. She seeks the best candidates across all demographics and geography, and seeks out opportunities for URM via postings to national minority societies and makes sure the roles are available broadly, so we have a diverse applicant pool to choose from.
We have been very thoughtful about hiring to represent our patient population. We recently hired a Spanish-American clinician, since we have many Spanish-speaking patients. In our patient interactions, we are very thoughtful about health equity – how are we treating patients of different backgrounds, not just clinically, but based on their personal beliefs. We have designed specific procedures for people that take these values into account, including scar-free surgery.
What are some resources students, faculty, and staff can take advantage of to learn more about DEI efforts at UCSF and/or become allies?
We have terrific opportunities to learn, train and explore diversity and inclusion at UCSF. In regards to learners, we need to be mindful about how we incorporate diversity into training, because we don’t want people to be fatigued; rather, these concepts should become fully integrated into our culture. It is really about making sure we operate in an environment where everyone feels they belong, and we empower people to be there for each other. When people see things that are unjust, they need to feel as if they can say something. Allyship is really important. Making people – especially those in positions of power – aware of their privilege, is where it starts. People who have a lot of privilege don’t tend to think actively about it. This is not surprising, since we all have our own experiential story. However, making them aware that not everyone is so lucky, allows you to be more aware and thoughtful. Doing the right thing should be built into our definition of professionalism and humanism, and at the core of medical practice.
What is a fun fact your colleagues may not know about you?
Before I went to medical school, I was a professional opera singer. I recently got back into performing with some of my surgical colleagues. Who knew that coming to UCSF would bring back the music in my life!
Thank you, Sanziana. Keep on singing!
Interviewed by Lesley Snyder