Brigham and Women's takes down 31 portraits of male leaders in diversity effort

Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital officials plan to remove 31 gold-framed portraits of some of the hospital's department chairs — most of whom were white — June 14 as part of the institution's initiative to ramp up its diversity efforts, The Boston Globe reports.

The portraits have hung in the hospital's Bornstein Amphitheater for decades, the report states. Of the 31 portraits, 30 are of white leaders, while one is of a Chinese department chair. Officials said they plan to move the paintings to conference rooms and lobbies across the hospital.

Elizabeth Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women's parent organization, Brigham Health, told The Boston Globe officials have considered ending the tradition of hanging pictures of retired department chairs in the auditorium for several years. She said she has questioned staff about the proposed changes, and received feedback in favor of the move.

Titilayo Afolabi, a first-year medical student at Boston-based Harvard Medical School, told the publication she has attended two events in the auditorium at Brigham and Women's, which serves as a teaching hospital affiliated with the medical school, during her first month of school last August and has seen the portraits. She said the paintings did not surprise her.

"[The portraits] mirror the other images around the school and other universities. I almost expected to see that," she said, adding that "it's easy to remove people from the wall. It's more difficult putting people of color in power."

Dr. Nabel, the institution's first female president, said the hospital is working hard to increase its diversity efforts, noting Brigham and Women's has appointed its first diversity and inclusion officer for faculty, developed a leadership program for women and minorities, and has begun creating guidelines to minimize hiring bias, the report states.

George Q. Daley, MD, PhD, the Caroline Shields Walker Professor of Medicine and dean of Harvard Medical School, told the publication through a spokesperson the medical school has also appointed a committee to recommend changes to artwork on campus.

"It is vitally important to know that the lack of diversity seen in art at HMS reflects the school's past, not its present," a spokesperson for the dean said in an emailed statement to The Boston Globe. "Change is coming."

To access the full report, click here.

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