Denise Martinez takes on associate dean for cultural affairs

Denise Martinez is the Carver College of Medicine’s newest dean of cultural affairs and diversity, with hopes to give back to those who are underrepresented in the health-care system.


Alexandra Skores, News Reporter

Denise Martinez has long known that the medical field lacks diversity. On Feb. 1, she earned the opportunity to combat this by becoming associate dean for cultural affairs and diversity in the Carver College of Medicine, with hopes of bringing attention to the need for diversity among health-care professionals.

As a premed college student, Martinez was told that she could never go to medical school, she said. However, through a summer program at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Denise was granted the resources to get where she needed to be.

“Unfortunately, in the United States, we have significant health-care disparities,” Martinez said. “This means people from different backgrounds aren’t always treated the same way in the health-care system.”

She stressed the need to continue the conversation regarding to implicit bias in health-care professionals simply because they are people of color.

One personal tie in her career involves bringing the same program that had allowed her to go to medical school to the UI to help others who are now in the situation she had been, she said.

She serves as the principal investigator for the Summer Health Professions Education Program, a free program that provides resources to underrepresented students applying to medical school.

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“We take 80 students each summer and pay for everything,” Martinez said. “We give them the resources they need to get into a health professional school: medical, dental, pharmacy, and public health.”

Martinez plans to continue the program but also focus on residents and faculty.

“We focus a lot on student pipelines,” Martinez said. “We need to focus on getting faculty from diverse backgrounds. The people who would most likely stay on as faculty are the residents. I am hoping to get to know the residents, so it encourages them to stay here as faculty members. The other piece involves recruiting diverse faculty.”

Martinez said most medical schools around the world have deans or leadership with regard to diversity, solely because of the documentation with regard to health-care disparities.

Currently, many UI professional colleges have diversity-related committees, such as the College of Pharmacy and College of Public Health, to try to address the issues. Some even have specific career opportunities, such as Martinez’s, that focus on promoting diversity in various careers.

Tanya Uden-Holman, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of the University College, said she has had the pleasure of working with Martinez on many different diversity initiatives.

“In addition to being an expert in her field, Denise is great to work with,” Uden-Holman said. “Our university is so fortunate to have her as a leader and role model on our campus.”

Uden-Holman noted Martinez’s Hawkeye Award for Faculty Adviser of the Year in 2014 and a UI Diversity Catalyst Award she received in 2017.

Martinez was also named a National Minority Quality Forum 40 under 40 Leader in Minority Health and a Corridor Business Journal 40 under 40 for 2018, as well.

Monique Galpin, the administrative services coordinator for Summer Health Professions Education Program and Community Outreach, said she had heard Martinez speak at a health-care conference and knew she needed to meet her.

“She is dedicated to the success of her students and faculty,” Galpin said. “She takes time to cultivate relationships and provide encouragement. Her other new role includes being a new mom to an adorable 4-month-old named Zane. She has her hands full, yet is doing all of it really well.”