VP&S Equity and Justice Fellowship
The mission of the VP&S Equity and Justice Fellowship is to increase equity and justice through curricular programming. Each year, the fellowship class works with Dr. Hetty Cunningham (Director of Equity and Justice in Curricular Affairs) on a variety of projects determined by the fellowship group, critically applying an anti-racist lens to the VP&S curriculum. Please see below for current and past fellows and ongoing projects.
The VP&S Equity and Justice program was established in 2020 to create a central structure for ongoing work in anti-racist curricular programing. The fellowship was established to engage students in school efforts to create a more equitable and just curriculum at VP&S. By offering these funded fellowships, VP&S seeks to take a step toward countering systemic racism and other unjust power imbalances that continue to oppress large swaths of the population and crucially result in adverse health outcomes and distrust of the medical system.
The 2021 Fellows are currently working on the following group projects:
- Developing a longitudinal anti-racism thread for the Foundations of Clinical Medicine (FCM) pre-clinical course
- Assisting with an inaugural Anti-Racism Curriculum Summit (February 17, 2021)
- Collaborating with faculty to evaluate medical student assessment in the clinical curriculum
Students! (Or anyone!) Are you interested in getting involved? Fill out this interest form.
Faculty, educators! Do you wish to discuss anything about bias, anti-racism, or inclusion in your materials? Fill out this form.
Any other questions/comments? Send us an email at EquityandJusticeFellows@cumc.columbia.edu
Hetty Cunningham, MD
Taiwo Alonge (VP&S/MSPH 2021)
Taiwo Alonge is a senior medical student at VP&S and Mailman School of Public Health from Miami, Florida who attended the University of Florida before starting at Columbia. He decided to pursue a career in medicine to serve Black and Brown patients and with the hopes of helping healthcare and society become more just and equitable. During his time at VP&S, Taiwo served as the president of the class of 2020 where he engaged in driving forward curricular change that aimed to address and acknowledge the historic wrongs of the practice of medicine as well as equip students with the tools needed to begin to right those wrongs. As he rounds out his final year of medical school and public health school, Taiwo hopes to continue with these curricular efforts with this fellowship and take with him experience that he can apply toward his future career as a psychiatrist and advocate for patients everywhere.
Current Individual Projects: Microaggression workshops for URiM medical students, PHC collaboration
Laura Benoît (VP&S/NB&B 2023)
Laura Benoît is a 6th year MD/PhD student. She was a founding member of the VP&S Task Force for Promoting a Bias-Free Curriculum (2016-2018), which developed guidelines for educators and a feedback tool for students to reduce bias and improve inclusion in the medical school curriculum. She has two publications in the peer-reviewed journal Academic Medicine from this work. In graduate school, she has started the Bias, Inclusion, and Harassment Committee in the Neurobiology and Behavior Graduate Program, a student-led committee which has developed several initiatives, such as an anonymous online reporting tool for instances of bias, harassment, or learning environment issues for students in all programs in the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in Biomedical Sciences. She is currently completing her PhD in Neurobiology and Behavior before returning to the clinic to finish her medical studies.
Current Individual Projects Establishing resources for co-creating an anti-bias and inclusive curriculum, including guidelines, a feedback portal, and workshop.
Cameron Clarke (VP&S 2024)
Cameron Clarke, originally from Jersey City, NJ, is a first-year medical student at VP&S. As an undergraduate at Howard University, and later as a graduate student at the University of Oxford, Cameron worked in health education and health policy at the Baltimore City Health Department, Children's National Hospital, the National Institutes of Health, the United States House and Senate, and the DC Superintendent of Education, among others. At Columbia, Cameron serves on the University Senate, and helps coordinate Columbia’s chapters of White Coats for Black Lives, Primary Care Progress, Public Health Commute, and the Columbia VP&S Family Medicine Interest Group. In addition to his on-campus work, Cameron is a policy fellow at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, where he conducts health policy and equity research. As an Equity and Justice Fellow, he hopes to bring an anti-racist viewpoint to his work with Columbia.
Current Individual Projects: Designing and implementing a session on protecting the privacy and safety of undocumented patients and patients presenting in police or prison custody; collaborating with Public Health Commute on incorporating racial justice and health disparities education into the medical school curriculum
Toluwani Dawodu (VP&S 2022)
Toluwani Dawodu is a 3rd year medical student at VP&S. Originally from Long Island, NY, she graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a certificate in Neuroscience. Before medical school, she worked as clinical research coordinator with a specific focus on recruiting historically underrepresented minorities in clinical research trials for rheumatological conditions with high disease burden in Black communities. During her time at Columbia, Toluwani served as VP for the Black and Latino Student Organization, Teacher’s assistant and research mentor for undergraduate students involved in NERA MedPrep and continues to serve as a senior clinician for Columbia Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership. Toluwani is excited to work with Dr. Cunningham and the fellows to intentionally amplify historically silenced voices and stories with the hope of creating a generation of more informed, equipped and compassionate physicians.
Lauren Fields (VP&S 2021)
Lauren Fields, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, is in 4th year at VP&S applying into psychiatry. The biases and racism she has encountered in our own curriculum have led her to advocate directly to lecturers for changes to our education as well as recently to become involved in the bias-free curriculum efforts championed by Laura Benoit and Chris Travis. As a descendent of U.S. slaves pursuing a career in medicine, she hopes to contribute to a more honest and holistic curriculum that pushes all of us to be more conscious of our history and our potential to become physicians capable of serving people of any background.
Current Individual Projects Microaggression workshops for URM medical students
Emily McNeill (VP&S 2022)
Emily McNeill is a 3rd year medical student at VP&S. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, she studied Anthropology and Global Health at Cornell University. Before medical school, she worked as a research assistant at the Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center, completing work in community based outreach and health literacy. At Columbia, Emily serves as a senior clinician at the Columbia Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership (CHHMP), a student-run free clinic, as well as is a member of the Black and Latino Students Organization (BALSO), for which she previously co-chaired the Young Docs Program that aimed to motivate local school-aged children from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue medicine. Emily is looking forward to facilitating a curriculum which creates physicians with the knowledge, skills, and passion for serving their communities using anti-racist, ethical, and human-centered approaches.
Ahmed Owda (VP&S/MSPH 2022)
Ahmed Owda is a senior medical student at VP&S and Mailman School of Public Health. Prior to his time at Columbia, he attended the University of Michigan where he studied Neuroscience. Problems of inequity, injustice and disparities in a medical context on local and global level served as a driving factor behind his decision to pursue medicine. During his time at VP&S, Ahmed has been a part of BALSO, where he co-chaired the Young Docs Program that aimed to motivate local school-aged children to pursue medicine. He’s also been involved with the Office of Divesity and Multicultural Affairs (ODMA) SPREP as a facilitator in the high school geometry and physics classes. Ahmed is excited work alongside the other Fellows and Dr. Cunningham to use this moment to bring lasting, sustainable change to VP&S to bring out stronger themes of anti-racism, justice and equity in the students, faculty and staff.
Cassie Tarleton (VP&S/MSPH 2022)
Cassie Tarleton is a senior medical student at VP&S and the Mailman School of Public Health. She is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii and graduated from Yale University with degrees in biology and history, with a focus on Asian American history. In undergrad, she was drawn to studying the histories of people of color because they were not the dominant narratives but told stories of great resistance and resilience. Her belief in the power and importance of learning our histories motivated her work advocating for Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies. Cassie comes to this fellowship recognizing the ways in which Black and Indigenous people are particularly harmed by systemic racism and structural violence. She hopes to further efforts to actualize an anti-racist curriculum that is rooted in critical discussions of power and oppression and centers the voices and experiences of those who have been most harmed and disenfranchised by the medical field to ultimately inspire structural change and create a more just and equitable health system.
Jessica Ho (VP&S 2023) - 2020 Fellow
Veronica Kane (VP&S 2023) - 2020 Fellow