Georgetown University’s School of Medicine recently welcomed Isela Melendez-Carpio, M.Ed., as its new director of diversity and inclusion, focused on growing the school’s pipeline programs, leading forums on health equity, and training students and faculty on cultural competency and unconscious bias mitigation.
“[B]y contributing to a diverse and inclusive campus, we will ensure that our students become physicians who embrace all dimensions of diversity in order to serve the growing health care needs of the diverse populations we serve,” says Susan Cheng, Ed.L.D., MPP, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the School of Medicine.
For future physicians looking to work with diverse populations, training in diversity and inclusion is crucial, Melendez-Carpio says. “We talk a lot about the cura personalis, care of the whole person. That’s the essence of what we are doing here. You can’t look at a patient without taking into consideration the context of their background and experiences,” she says.
As a first-generation student herself, Melendez-Carpio also brings an awareness of what students need in order to thrive during their medical education. She plans to emphasize relationship-building and openness to others’ diverse experiences.
Melendez-Carpio moved to the United States from El Salvador when she was 6 years old. An alumna of AmeriCorps, Melendez-Carpio holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Virginia, and she has worked in numerous nonprofits supporting students from diverse backgrounds.
“For somebody who is new to this country, the system is not intuitive; especially if you’re still trying to grapple with a new language, coupled with so many other factors—citizenship status, socioeconomic background, familial support—it can be very challenging to navigate,” she says.