Faculty of Color Network Hosts First Gala to Celebrate Diversity in Medicine

More than 200 well-dressed guests filled The Campbell House for an evening of elegance, glamour, and celebration as the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Faculty of Color Network hosted its first gala commemorating diversity in medicine and the community.

On Friday, Oct. 18, the black-tie event recognized leaders within the College of Medicine for their impact to move medicine forward and provided attendees the opportunity to network and connect.

UK President Eli Capilouto kicked off the event by acknowledging the sense of warmth and welcoming energy he felt in the room, noting that he hadn’t seen anything like this.

“This event was really about bringing a sense of belonging and community to the University,” said Sylvia Ofei, MD, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics who helped spearhead the event’s planning. “The turnout Friday night really encapsulated everything we were trying to accomplish.”

Sonja Feist-Price, PhD, CRC, vice president of the Office of Institutional Diversity, and Michael Rowland, PhD, associate dean for faculty development in the College of Medicine, followed President Capilouto’s remarks with acknowledgements of the University’s recent diversity initiatives, such as its recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority faculty and learners.

The event also comes as the University celebrates its 70th year of integration, made possible by Lyman T. Johnson, the first African-American to attend UK after a successful legal challenge.

Marian A. Swope, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry within the College of Medicine, was honored during the gala as a “Pioneering Physician” for her more than 30 years of achievement in the field of medicine. A UK alumna, Dr. Swope’s leadership includes serving as director for the child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship program, overseeing its administration, and supervising fellows, residents, and medical students. She was also a trailblazer in providing telepsychiatry services to youth in juvenile justice settings.

Jean Branttie, a doctoral candidate in the department of molecular and cellular biochemistry at the College of Medicine, was recognized during the event as an “Emerging Scholar” for her passion and drive to play a role in solving public health concerns. Branttie’s study focus is in the mechanisms of respiratory viral interaction with host cells, working to identify potential therapeutic targets.

The event was attended by University faculty, staff, and community members, though it was the students in attendance who were likely impacted the most.  

“There’s something about seeing someone that looks like you who is in a position where you want to be, and we had that there with Dr. Swope and Ms. Branttie,” said Brittany Smalls, PhD, MHSA, assistant professor in the Center for Health Services Research and department of internal medicine, who co-planned the event. “These are the situations when we can truly show these students that diversity exists in the College of Medicine and UK.”

Proceeds from the event benefited the UK Center for Graduate and Professional Diversity Initiatives, as well as The Nest - Center for Women, Children, and Families in Lexington.

“We may have to find a larger venue at some point,” Dr. Smalls said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm after this event.”

Click here for a full album of photos from the 2019 event.