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Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Saint Louis University School of Medicine is committed to the importance of diversity. We seek to immerse our medical students and graduate medical residents in a training atmosphere that prepares them for the practice of medicine in a multicultural America.

Medical Students
 

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) collaborates with departments and individuals across the Saint Louis University School of Medicine to promote inclusion for the medical school community. Programs, events and initiatives are designed to raise awareness, inspire action, support equitable employment and cultivate diversity and inclusion.

Our focus areas include:

  • Strengthen diversity recruitment and retention efforts
  • Development and promotion of internal talent
  • Creation and support of mentoring programs
  • Offer diversity education and training opportunities
  • Increase collaboration between Saint Louis University School of Medicine and the St. Louis community
  • Fostering the Jesuit tradition - agents of change who work to bring about a more just, humane world

For more information, contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at 314-977-9904 or ODEI@health.slu.edu.

About Us

Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI)

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) was established as a part of an institutional improvement plan. The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion oversees the School of Medicine’s efforts to promote inclusion for the medical school community. Programs, events and initiatives are designed to raise awareness, inspire action, support equitable employment and cultivate a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Welcome from the Vice Dean of Diversity

When matters of diversity, equity and inclusion are nurtured throughout the entire institution everyone benefits. It is a social and medical imperative that our healthcare systems, including academic/training settings, be diverse and inclusive for people from all backgrounds. There are many of us here at Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine working hard to ensure that every person in every community receives high-quality, equitable and safe care. To do that, we must work hard to eliminate health care disparities that continue to exist for far too many racially, ethnically and culturally diverse individuals. This goal can be achieved in part by recruiting and supporting a highly qualified and diverse student/trainee body and workforce. My office is here to help encourage a campus climate that lends itself to the aforementioned aspirations. 

Our goal is to serve the entire Saint Louis University School of Medicine community with a special focus on populations that have been identified as underrepresented in medicine. We do this by proactively championing the importance and value of a diverse and inclusive campus climate and by working with institutional stakeholders to assess potential barriers to recruiting and retaining a diverse student/trainee body and workforce.

The work of diversity, equity and inclusion will reach its full potential when it can be seen and felt at all levels of the institution; it must be a part of the fabric of the place. That takes all of us working together toward a common goal: diversity, equity and inclusion.

Together, we can!

Daniel Blash, Ph.D., LPC
Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
1402 South Grand Blvd.
Schwitalla Hall, Room M224
St. Louis, MO 63104
314-977-9904
daniel.blash@health.slu.edu 

Meet the Team 

The barriers that impact underrepresented populations are real. The solutions that mitigate those barriers must also be real, tangible and sustainable. As a medical community, we have a responsibility to proactively confront the barriers that have been associated with healthcare disparities. A part of the solution is to train and support underrepresented healthcare providers. My office exists, in part, to facilitate the recruitment and successful matriculation of those who are underrepresented in medicine.

Daniel Blash, Ph.D., LPC
Headshot of Daniel Blash, Ph.D.

Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Dr. Daniel Blash is the Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at Saint Louis University's School of Medicine. He also serves as an adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry. Before joining Saint Louis University, Dr. Blash served as the Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at Washington University's School of Medicine.

Dr. Blash holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, a master's degree in counseling, and a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy. In addition, he is a decorated combat veteran of the U.S. Army.

A long-time St. Louis resident, Dr. Blash is an experienced educator with a proven track record of advocacy in diversity and inclusion. He has worked as a counseling professor for nearly two decades before his current position. His doctoral research focused on the role of religion and spirituality among underrepresented minorities in the academic environment.


Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D., F.A.A.F.P.
Headshot of Denise Hooks Anderson

Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Hooks-Anderson is an associate professor in family and community medicine and physician at SSM St. Mary’s Hospital and SSM Saint Louis University Hospital. She started her career at a community health center, where her patients were diverse in socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race and gender. She also served as a staff physician and associate medical director at Family Care Health Centers, president at Wellness Healthcare Associates, and a staff physician at Southern Illinois Regional Wellness Center before joining Saint Louis University. 

Hooks-Anderson received her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Jackson State University and her medical degree at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Following medical school, she completed her family medicine residency at Lincoln Family Practice.

Additionally, Hooks-Anderson is an accomplished writer and advocate for the underserved populations of St. Louis. Serving as medical editor of a local newspaper with a readership of 70,000+, she writes a column on issues about health disparities in the African American community. Among her many awards and accolades, her efforts earned her the Dr. Norman A. White Award for Engaged Scholarship and Service. The award is named for longtime faculty member Norman A. White, Ph.D., who was highly respected as both a scholar and a community activist. She was also recently honored for her work advocating on behalf of those impacted by health disparities, poverty and inequality and her extraordinary efforts earned her the Donald Brennan Humanitarian Award.


Michael T. Railey, M.D.
Headshot of Michael Railey, M.D.

Professor Emeritus

Dr. Michael Railey is a native Saint Louisan who graduated from St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1972 and completed his medical school training in 1976 from the University of Missouri, Columbia. 

He began his academic teaching career with the St. Louis Family Residency Program at Forest Park Hospital (formerly Deaconess Hospital). He was the first family medicine clerkship director at Saint Louis University and has also been chief medical officer for Saint Louis County. 

Dr. Railey served as the dean of diversity and student affairs for 10 years and continues his work with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Saint Louis University School of Medicine as a professor emeritus in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. He has written book chapters, magazine articles, and journal publications in the areas of obesity, stress management without drugs, and health disparities in the St. Louis area. He remains committed to community service and is currently involved in collaborations with the St. Louis Board of Education, the African American Aldermanic Health Foundation, and other community outreach organizations. 


Esmeralda Aharon, M.A.
Headshot of Esmerelda Aharon

Program Director, Staff and Community Engagement

Mrs. Esmeralda Aharon is the program director of staff and community engagement for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Saint Louis University School of Medicine (SLUSOM). In this role, she collaborates with hiring managers to attract and retain underrepresented individuals. She supports the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by developing and maintaining recruitment pipelines and retention programs for underrepresented minorities, focusing on senior-level staff and managers. Additionally, she connects and engages SLUSOM with the St. Louis community to mitigate health care disparities. She supports the Institute for Vaccine Science and Policy with consultation germane to their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Most recently, she led the efforts that resulted in several English and Spanish webinars about COVID-19 vaccines.

Prior to joining Saint Louis University, Mrs. Aharon served as the director of plans and programs for the Office of the Command Chaplain, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, IL. Mrs. Aharon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Workforce Education and Development and a Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education. She is a decorated combat veteran of the United States Air Force. Mrs. Aharon is experienced in community outreach, religious accommodation, and resilience training. She collaborated with the Community Action Teams and Suicide Prevention helping agencies on programs regarding accommodation, diversity, equity and inclusion for 136,000 employees in Air Mobility Command.


Kathie Dingley, R.N., M.H.A.
Kathie Dingley

Executive Assistant II

Ms. Kathie Dingley is the executive assistant to the vice dean and chief diversity officer at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. In this role, she plans and directs all administrative, financial, and operational activities for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She manages the department's diversity training program, supports recruitment and retention programs, and provides oversight and guidance to various committees at the School of Medicine. In addition, Ms. Dingley works closely with the chief diversity officer to develop and implement new initiatives for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Prior to her current role, Ms. Dingley served as an executive assistant to the vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. In her time there, she managed coordination of site visits, including Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) site visit, pre-commencement speakers, search committees, candidates for executive positions, and executives from medical organizations, e.g., AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).

Before joining Saint Louis University, Ms. Dingley worked as a business alliance manager and marketing campaign manager for Jordan Lawrence where she was responsible for logistics and marketing efforts for 50+ annual events and managing marketing relationships with top associations like the Association of Corporate Counsel. As a registered nurse, Ms. Dingley has several years of experience providing direct patient care with BJC Home Care and St. Luke's Hospital Surrey Place.


Valerie Lovelock
Headsot of Valerie Lovelock

Program Director for Students

Mrs. Valerie Lovelock is the Student Pipeline & Engagement program director for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the St. Louis University School of Medicine (SLUSOM). In this role she plans and executes the Summer Scholars Program, which serves our underserved and underrepresented high school students with a hands-on program that will offer them the opportunity to explore various medical careers. She builds and supports good relationships with our local high school administrations to help students move from high school to college successfully. She works hand in hand with other members of the team to organize our pre-matriculation program for our incoming medical students, maintaining pipeline programs that are currently active and offering ideas for new programming to serve our community better.

Prior to joining our team, she devoted her time to her family, homeschooling all three of their children. She also worked in various roles as a volunteer for her local church serving as the children’s ministry director, teacher, church administration, youth team, community engagement, and many other church-related projects. Mrs. Lovelock served as the volunteer coordinator for the SLU virtual visit site in Old North St. Louis and continues to serve the community as a board member for the Old North Restoration Group. She served many years on a local homeschool group board as their membership and programming leader. Before leaning into full-time homeschooling, she studied and worked at Barnes Jewish Hospital as a registered medical assistant caring for post-surgical patients and as a phlebotomy technician. She is currently a full-time student with Wilson University as she furthers her education in theology. Her passion for St. Louis City is evident through her dedication over the last 23 years serving the community alongside her husband and children.