Vanessa Northington Gamble Named Diversity Council Chair

December 07, 2011

Dr. Gamble will lead George Washington’s President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion.

Vanessa Northington Gamble, university professor of medical humanities and professor of health policy and of American studies, has been appointed chair of the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion.

Dr. Gamble succeeds co-chairs Gregory Squires, professor of sociology and public policy and public administration, and Helen Cannaday Saulny, associate vice president and dean of student academic success.

“As the new chair of the council, I will be building upon the incredible foundation established by the previous chairs, and I have greatly benefitted from their assistance with this transition,” said Dr. Gamble. “I am also looking forward to learning more from the other members of the council about their perspectives on issues of diversity and inclusion.”

The President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, which President Steven Knapp created in spring 2010, consists of 14 members who represent the breadth of the university community. Its role was to generate ideas and formulate recommendations for increasing the university’s effectiveness in reaching out to persons of all backgrounds, and to provide advice and feedback to Terri Harris Reed, vice provost for diversity and inclusion.

The council will now add to its responsibilities ensuring the implementation of several recommendations and assessing the feasibility of many others. In addition to appointing Dr. Gamble, Provost Steven Lerman will make other appointments to the council. Membership will double, as will the number of committees tasked with creating working plans, setting goals and delineating success metrics.

“I am extremely pleased with the plan to expand the role and activities of the council and believe our work will benefit from Dr. Gamble’s vision and experience,” said Dr. Reed. “I am looking forward to working closely with her in the coming months. The council will also continue to benefit from the knowledge, wisdom and experiences of Professor Squires and Associate Vice President Cannaday, who will continue serving as council members.”

Dr. Gamble agrees that one of her first goals is to lead the council’s efforts to implement the five recommendations selected by the university leadership as top priorities for this year’s efforts. The recommendations are derived from the 53-page report “Diversity: A Key to Academic Excellence,” which was released in September.

“The council will be establishing working groups composed of various constituents of the GW community in order to implement these recommendations,” said Dr. Gamble. “It is clear that we have an ambitious and important agenda and a lot of work to do which will require a collaborative effort of the trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni.”

Dr. Gamble, a physician and noted scholar, joined GW in 2007 and became the first woman and African American appointed to the rank of University Professor.

Throughout her career, she has focused on equity and justice in health care and authored numerous articles and book chapters on these issues. Dr. Gamble, who has both an M.D. and a Ph.D., developed the nation's first course on the history of race, American medicine and public health, and she founded the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Medicine. She also chaired the committee that took a leadership role in the successful campaign to obtain an apology from then President Bill Clinton for the infamous United States Public Health Syphilis Study at Tuskegee.

“Provost Lerman asked me to be chair because he knew that issues of diversity and inclusion have been an important part of my professional career,” said Dr. Gamble. “He knew that I could talk about these issues not just from a professional perspective, but also from a personal one.”

“After a great deal of thought, I enthusiastically accepted his offer because I am convinced of President Knapp and Provost Lerman’s commitment to issues of diversity and inclusion,” she added. “In addition, chairing the council gives me the opportunity to work on issues that are personally very important to me and to make a difference here at GW.”