Claudette Jones Shephard, MD, has been named the founding associate dean of Diversity and Inclusion for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine. She currently serves as an associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the College of Medicine.
“Last year was a very interesting year, not just with COVID-19 and the pandemic, but all the social issues,” Dr. Shephard said. “For me this role means that the college has come to realize that it’s time to have a specific role focused on diversity and inclusion. So I applaud it, I’m excited for this role.”
Dr. Shephard has championed diversity and inclusion within the college for years. For 10 years, she has served as the college’s representative for the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
As associate dean of Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Shephard will be charged with assembling a team of leaders to develop a strategic plan with the goal to increase diversity and inclusion in the college for the next three years. This includes students, residents, fellows, and faculty within the college. She will also advise the Office of Student Affairs and Admissions and the Office of Medical Education on increasing recruitment of diverse students and faculty, and assist with the development of an inclusive curriculum for its students and faculty.
Dr. Shephard will also advise the Office of Graduate Medical Education on ongoing efforts in diversity and inclusion and work with the Office of Research to address diversity and inclusion efforts in its strategic plan.
Beyond measurable metrics, she plans to address inclusion issues and more.
“Some people have different ideas of what diversity is, they think in terms of underrepresented minorities,” she said. “It goes beyond just the underrepresented, the inclusion piece helps you feel like you belong. You can invite me to the party, but if you don’t sit next to me, or let me play the games, then I don’t know that I want to be there.”
In addition, Dr. Shephard will chair the College of Medicine’s Diversity and Inclusion Think Tank Committee. As associate dean she will meet quarterly with students, residents, and fellows to discuss ongoing efforts and their concerns, as well as collaborate with campus experts to establish a College of Medicine Diversity and Inclusion website which will feature resources and training.
“Probably in no other profession is it as important to understand the needs of our clients, as a physician in this case, our clients are our patients,” Dr. Shephard said. “I want students to learn about the LGBTQIA+ population, to learn about the African American and Latinx community, so that when they see patients, they can understand them and patients know that they are listening.”
She will work not only with the Memphis campus, but the College of Medicine campuses across the state in Chattanooga and Knoxville to build diversity and inclusion numbers that are more representative of those communities.
“Diversity enhances whatever product we have,” Dr. Shephard said. “We see the need and importance of different talents and perspectives when corporations are coming together. It’s the same thing when building a curriculum because we need to learn from the experience of everybody. I want everyone to feel excited about diversity and inclusion. For people not to feel like they are being forced to change because that’s not going to do it. People have to want to change because they realize it’s the right thing to do. And everybody wins.”
Dr. Shephard has been with UTHSC for more than 30 years. She first joined the college as an instructor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Over the years she has held the titles of assistant professor, program director, associate professor, and interim department chair for the UTHSC College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Shephard is the only fellowship-trained pediatric/adolescent gynecologist in the region. She serves as chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. In addition, Dr. Shephard serves as a member of the Regional One Health Board.
She is a graduate of Loma Linda University where she earned both her bachelor and medical degrees. Dr. Shephard completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the SUNY-Health Science Center and her fellowship in Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology at UTHSC.
“We are delighted that Dr. Claudette Shephard will assume the role of inaugural associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion,” said Scott Strome, MD, executive dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine. “Dr. Shephard has made a lasting impact in her roles as residency program director and interim chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her exceptional insight, engagement, and ability to tackle complex problems will champion our efforts towards increasing diversity and inclusion, ensuring that the College of Medicine is accessible, welcoming, and kind.”