Diego Jaramillo, MD, MPH, Named Vice Chair of Diversity

October 7, 2020
Dr. Diego Jaramillo
Dr. Diego Jaramillo, Professor of Radiology and Vice Chair of Diversity

The Department of Radiology is pleased to announce Dr. Diego Jaramillo's new appointment as vice chair of diversity. This new position solidifies the department’s commitment to recruiting, retaining, and supporting a diverse faculty and group of trainees.

Dr. Jaramillo, professor of radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and director of MRI at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, has led the department’s diversity efforts since he joined Columbia Radiology two years ago. As vice chair of diversity, he will oversee the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and participate officially in both the recruitment and support of minority faculty and trainees.

“Minority faculty members have to deal with a number of issues that the rest of the population does not,” Dr. Jaramillo says. “Now we can let them know that there is a structure in place to support them if they have a specific need.”

Dr. Jaramillo joined the Department of Radiology in 2018, bringing with him a national reputation as a distinguished leader in pediatric imaging. He served as division chief of pediatric radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, radiologist-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and associate chair of the Department of Radiology at Stanford University. He was a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University and he served as a diversity officer at both institutions. At University of Pennsylvania he was a minority faculty mentor for five years.

Q & A with Dr. Jaramillo

What role does the Vice Chair of Diversity play in a department and an institution?

Diversity is one of the department’s top priorities. In order for diversity policies to be effective, there has to be a specific advocate for diversity who is part of the leadership of the department.

In my view, there are four main roles for the Vice Chair for Diversity. The first is to support the minority faculty and trainees in the department by providing mentorship, facilitating career advancement, and offering support to overcome challenges that are unique to underrepresented minorities.

Second, to make the department a preferred destination for highly qualified candidates who are being considered during the process of recruitment.  

Third, to serve as the departmental liaison for diversity efforts throughout the communities of Columbia and NYP.

And finally, to create awareness of issues such as racism and discrimination throughout the department by promoting education, and to help create a community where there is respect for all and tolerance for differences.

Ultimately, we want to provide better patient care through diversity.

What kind of challenges to minority faculty and trainees face?

Minority faculty members have to deal with a number of issues that the rest of the population has not—issues with racism from patients, for example, or problems with moving up the academic ladder. It’s getting better and better, but they are still very present.

How does diversity in a radiology department lead to better patient care?

I think it’s important for patients to have someone that they can relate to, which is something that I experience daily because this is a Hispanic community. It’s amazing the information that I get from my patients because I speak their language and understand their cultural context. I often learn important information that their doctors have no idea about.

Can you give an example?

A child presented with abdominal pain and everybody was completely puzzled. I started talking to the patient’s mother in Spanish and she told me that the patient had been passing worms. Without that conversation, my ultrasound would have never targeted the area that detected intestinal obstruction from Ascaris. The patient may have been hospitalized and had a number of tests and other things that were unnecessary.

What’s your vision for the future in terms of diversity in the department?

The ideal thing would be to have a core of diverse faculty members and residents who are actively promoting diversity, so that we’re an example nationally. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, or gender, we should all be advocates for diversity in the Department of Radiology at Columbia.