Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion, Herminio Perez ’04 holds several leadership roles in diversity and inclusion at national and local levels. He’s a member of the American Dental Association Board of Trustees’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee; a counselor for American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Pride; and a member of the RBHS Diversity Leadership Council. For Pride Month, Perez reflected on how diversity and inclusion efforts are taking place at RSDM.
How does all your diversity and inclusion work feed into your role at RSDM?
It provides me with different ideas and strategies that I can use to develop programs here. It also makes me realize all the things that we’re doing but aren’t necessarily happening in other schools, things that are unique to our school.
Can you give examples of those unique initiatives?
For example, we established gender-neutral bathrooms in different areas of the school. Another example is with Clinical Affairs we recently changed the new patient registration form to be more inclusive. Now, the document includes not only demographics but also transgender history, sexual orientation, and pronouns. Many years ago, we also started this program called Creating Awareness in Academic Dentistry to plant the seed in underrepresented and also LGBTQ students to pursue careers in dental academia. Those are things I don’t see in other dental schools. Additionally, in 2021, we launched the “Building Bridges for Impact and Growth” program to develop diversity champions across RBHS; we’ve been leading that program and collaborating with other RBHS schools.
How did these come to life at RSDM?
They happened because so many people believed in them and supported them. The way you can create a collective impact for the good of many people is a true collaboration, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts. We also have a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion at RSDM based on the RBHS strategic plan. It’s pretty unique because you don’t see strategic plans for diversity and inclusion in many dental schools.
You also do groundbreaking work on the national level. Tell us about your involvement in ADEA Pride.
Our mission is to educate the dental community about the needs of the LGBTQ community. That’s why we started creating the first set of webinars called “Out and Safe” to create awareness about the LGBTQ faculty, students, staff, and patients. My role provides an opportunity for RSDM to be represented and be part of all those initiatives. We’re not only educating other dental schools, but also our own school.
What’s in the works for the future?
Next, we’ll be creating another set of webinars, “Beyond Safe.” It’ll provide tools and strategies to create and implement initiatives supporting an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ community.
What do you strive to accomplish through your work?
We want to continue to make dental schools more inclusive communities and drive change.