Diversity administrator cites need for responsibility in creating health equity
GROWING UP, TRACEY M. GUTHRIE, MD, followed her passions. With a dentist and a nurse as parents, she always knew that medicine would be her career, but the question was a matter of exactly where she would fit.
“My mother strongly encouraged me to become an OB-GYN, but I had no interest in following that path,” says Guthrie, assistant dean for diversity in the Division of Biology and Medicine at Brown University and program director in the Butler Hospital/Brown Psychiatry Residency Program. “You see, she raised an independent-thinking daughter; I knew that my choice of psychiatry was the right one for me.”
Guthrie’s frankness serves her well as assistant dean, supporting the work of Brown University’s associate dean in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. “The mission of ODMA is to help create and foster a diverse, inclusive and culturally competent learning and training environment for students, faculty and trainees within the Division of Biology and Medicine,” she says. “We have a further social mission to promote social responsibility, active engagement and the well-being of our communities in the pursuit of health equity.”
Health equity continues to be a serious issue in today’s health care arena, but the programs Guthrie works with are challenging the norm by providing opportunities for more people of diverse backgrounds to benefit from inclusion.
“Inclusion really is key to creating health equity, not only for patients, but for those of us who serve in the medical field,” she says. “I think that the only way we will truly progress is if everyone sees inclusion as their responsibility, not someone else’s responsibility.
“In an organization, people generally take their direction from the leadership. For any organization to succeed, we need our leadership at every level to take an active role in modeling, promoting and supporting diversity and inclusion,” Guthrie says. “That can make all the difference in our accomplishments.”
As an independent thinker, Guthrie has always been open to the ideas and guidance from those with more and different experiences than her own. Mentors have played crucial roles at various stages of her career development, some long-term and others for shorter periods along the way.
“I have had so many mentors, so many people who willingly have given me their time and knowledge,” she says. “Some of those relationships lasted moments, a few weeks. Others are still present in my life today. I have quite a collection of mentors, and I hope I never stop collecting them. She credits one mentor with helping her attain her current position at the university.
“My predecessor in my job as program director, Jane Eisen, MD, has certainly had a major influence on my life,” she adds. “Dr. Eisen currently serves as clinical director of the Division of Depression and Anxiety Disorders at McLean Hospital. If it were not for her, I would certainly not be in this role as a program director.”
Guthrie credits Eisen with the gift of helping her see potential beyond the obvious and inspiring her to reach deeper. “She has the ability to get you to do things that you did not even know you were capable of doing. She could see things I didn’t see in myself. I still call Jane when I have a career decision to make. So far, she has done an excellent job managing my career, and I do not intend to let her stop now.”
As Guthrie moves forward, her goals are succinct:
• To advocate for meaningful inclusion for all students in all settings;
• To support and mentor students who are underrepresented in medicine on their journey through medical school and beyond;
• To support and engage UIM (underrepresented in medicine) faculty at Brown through the recently developed faculty association.
And her advice to others?
“Believe in yourself. Find a mentor and listen to them. Ask questions and seek out guidance from people who have traveled the path before you,” Guthrie says. “Medicine is a dynamic and stimulating profession. I feel privileged to be able to use my training to alleviate suffering. Join us.”
This article originally appeared in Diversity in Action magazine.