Fighting For Diversity

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:03

Since his time as a student attending Stuyvesant High School on East 15th street, Dr. Gary Butts has always worked to prove stereotypes wrong. Born in New York he has seen the city at its worst, and focused his career on improving the quality of healthcare offered to children in all five boroughs for the past forty years.

He now holds positions at Mt. Sinai as a Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Medical Education, and Preventative Medicine. He has also been appointed the Senior Associate Dean for Diversity Programs, Policy and Community Affairs for the Icahn School of Medicine. His work as a pediatric physician has inspired his focus his career on improving education for children interested in science and medicine.

Butts starting working at Mt. Sinai in 1980 as a pediatric intern, and quickly realized how under-served the children of East and Central Harlem was. Infant mortality rates were alarming low, and childhood immunization rates were averaging at only 40%, and New York parents were facing a measles epidemic. After being appointed the Healthcare Commissioner in the 1990s he increased the immunization rate of children 2 years old and younger to 90%.

"It was important for us to understand where the gaps in the [healthcare] system were," he said. "In order for us to be successful, it required a truly collaborative effort between public and private sectors."

Upon receiving more responsibility as the Senior Associate Dean for Diversity Programs, Policy, and Affairs in 2013 he began working in a more administrative role. Dr. Butts made sure to stay connected to his patients, he wanted remain aware of what the people in his community really needed.

A connection to his community has been a vital part of Dr. Butt's success, and he believes that this starts with education. He has developed educational programs for minority and disadvantaged students living on the Upper East side. Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine has partnered with Columbia Medical School, and Rutgers Medical School to form the Northeast Regional Alliance Medical Prep Program.

The program offers junior high school students who are interested in science or medicine to spend a day at a New York City hospital. Here they get to meet doctors, researchers, and medical students that show them it is possible to achieve their goals.

"Students in East Harlem get a chance to see doctors who look like them and they are able to see that practicing medicine is

possible," he said. "Programs like this have been so influential in increasing diversity within medical industries."

The Northeast Regional helps students prepare the skills needed for acceptance into medical school. They have bees successful in inspiring minority and disadvantaged students living in New York who don't think they have the ability or resources to pursue a career in science or medicine. This past year, 35 out of their most recent group of 55 students were accepted into different pre-med programs all over the country.

Dr. Butts has been a leader in the fight for racial and gender diversity in the medical industry. Since heading the diversity programs, Mt. Sinai has become one of the most diverse medical schools, and the hospital has doubled the percent of Black and Latino faculty and house staff.

"Healthy kids translates into healthy communities," he said. "This begins with decreasing infant mortality, and continues through their educational development. It is my goal to inspire the children of East and Central Harlem to become leaders in science and medicine."