Internal medicine resident praised for contributions to diversity

Jorge Salazar is the kind of doctor who thrives in diverse environments – he always has.

Jorge Salazar wins the inaugural award for contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion in Graduate Medical Education. Jorge Salazar wins the inaugural award for contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion in Graduate Medical Education.

Born in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, he was raised near the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where his parents worked at a research lab.

He attended Meharry Medical College, a historically black academic health science center in Nashville that has trained thousands of students to serve the underserved.

Coming to UC Davis three years ago for an internal medicine residency was a natural match, he said, because he wanted to train in “a diverse and inclusive community.”

So perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Salazar’s enthusiastic desire to influence those around him about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in health care has won him special recognition from the UC Davis School of Medicine.

Salazar is the inaugural recipient of the Postgraduate Trainee Award in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

Honorable mention went to Bethel Essaw, who made significant contributions to EDI in research, clinical care and education. She also helped launch the UC Davis Black Resident Organization.

The award was recently created by the Resident Medical Staff Committee with support from Graduate Medical Education and the Office of Student and Resident Diversity.

“We hope that this award will help to demonstrate for those in the health system who are not trainees that residents and fellows have been working on EDI in spaces that span education, clinical care, and research,” said Erik Fernández y García, a UC Davis Health pediatrician and director for diversity in the office of Graduate Medical Education.

Salazar was selected for a number of reasons, including:

  • His leadership role as chair of the Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Committee within the department of internal medicine (DICE)
  • Helping organize forums for trainees to safely discuss EDI and social justice issues
  • Enlisting speakers for internal medicine Grand Rounds discussions and executing several events to help recruit trainees from underrepresented backgrounds
  • His stellar dedication to clinical duties as part of the Transforming Education and Community Heath (TEACH) program
  • Educating the community about COVID-19 through public forums in English and Spanish

“I feel honored to have been selected for this award,” Salazar said, “especially because there were many amazing individuals who had a tremendous impact on our community and health system in regard to EDI efforts.”

Bethel Essaw, who helped launch the UC Davis Black Resident Organization, receives honorable mention.

Like many trainees connected to the School of Medicine, Salazar is a fervent believer that institutions that are focused on health equity contribute to better patient outcomes and improve their quality of life.

“Diversity, inclusion, and equity must be adopted at all levels to work in synchrony,” he said. “It includes our first responders, nurses, discharge planners, physical and occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, primary providers, specialists, and so on.”

UC Davis’ commitment to health equity was a major draw for Salazar when he was seeking an internal medicine residency.

“One of the main aspects I was looking for was a diverse and inclusive community reflected in both the health system and in the patient population,” he said. “Of all the places I interviewed, UC Davis demonstrated that the best and I ranked UC Davis number one on my match list.”

Salazar has spent quality time outside clinical hours to help others appreciate diversity.

The death of George Floyd in May 2020 prompted the internal medicine DICE group to take a leading role in discussions over Zoom that allowed residents to “reflect and process the traumatic current events we were witnessing,” Salazar said, “and to also share any experiences of injustice or discrimination we had felt in our own lives.”

He described the online sessions as “emotional, but therapeutic.”

Salazar’s three-year residency comes to an end on June 30. The day after, he’ll start a fellowship in infectious diseases at UCSF where his training no doubt will focus on COVID-19.

He is grateful for the invaluable connections and friendships forged with residents and faculty.

“There’s nothing quite like residency training,” Salazar said, “especially with the development of a pandemic right in the middle of it.”

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