New Fellowship Recruits Underrepresented Faculty in STEM

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The inaugural E.E. Just Fellow, Ellesse-Roselee Akré, studies health care inequity.

Ellesse-Roselee Akré smiling and arms crossed
Ellesse-Roselee Akré is the inaugural fellow in the new E.E. Just Faculty Fellowship Program. (Photo courtesy of Ellesse-Roselee Akré)

Dartmouth has launched a new E.E. Just Faculty Fellowship Program recruiting scholar-teachers committed to advancing diversity in STEM fields across Arts and Sciences, the Geisel School of Medicine, and Thayer School of Engineering.

The fellowship program is intended to differentiate Dartmouth’s faculty recruitment efforts from peer institutions by providing resources and community-building opportunities to new faculty. 

The program honors Ernest Everett Just, a Dartmouth valedictorian from the Class of 1907 and a pioneering African-American cell biologist.

“The new faculty fellowship, funded by part of a $20 million gift from the Donahoe family, will provide professional development funds for one new faculty member each year, for a six-year term,” says Dean Lacy, associate provost for faculty affairs and a professor of government. “At any given time, we’ll expect to have six faculty fellows in residence. It’s important for students from all backgrounds to see and know STEM scientists they can emulate, whose career paths they can follow.”

The inaugural fellow is Ellesse-Roselee Akré, an assistant professor of health policy and clinical practice at the Dartmouth Institute. Akré uses the intersectionality conceptual framework to study structural inequities and their role in creating barriers to accessing health care services for vulnerable populations. Using health services research and population health science, she examines how heterosexism, sexism, and racism are determinants of health outcomes.

Born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents—her father comes from Côte d’Ivoire, her mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo—Akré holds a PhD in health services research from the University of Maryland College Park and did postdoctoral research at Vanderbilt University in the LGBTQ+ Health Policy Lab, with a focus on LGBTQ+ aging. She also worked for eight years at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services implementing policies and regulations for the Affordable Care Act.

With colleagues, Akré has launched a new laboratory called the Dartmouth Health Equity and Advocacy Lab, or Dartmouth HEAL. Lab members investigate barriers to accessible, affordable health care, among other systemic problems that have too long been ignored, says Akré.

“We didn’t just wake up one day and realize that certain hospitals don’t treat patients of color. We didn’t wake up one day and discover that if you had a certain identity, an identity that has been marginalized or historically racialized, you aren’t able to receive appropriate care,” she says.

“All of these things are downstream effects of upstream decisions that are made in our policies. They’re made in our processes, and they have either intentionally targeted or unintentionally ignored people with diverse identities and diverse backgrounds.”

As the E.E. Just fellowship adds faculty throughout and beyond the Dartmouth community, Akré believes it will become a powerful network, linking students, teachers, and researchers at all levels of their careers.

“It’ll be a great way to connect people in different disciplines who are interested in engaging in a shared outcome,” she says. “We have different approaches, and being able to share information, resources, and expertise will allow us to collectively address the big and complex problem of inequity in our health care systems.” 

Magdalena Bezanilla, the Ernest Everett Just 1907 Professor of Biological Sciences, directs the new fellowship program.

Professor of Biological Sciences Magdalena Bezanilla
Magdalena Bezanilla, the Ernest Everett Just 1907 Professor of Biological Sciences, directs the new fellowship program. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

“One important thing I can do is to provide our fellows with a roadmap that will help them maneuver the tenure-track world, connecting them with mentors and opportunities to present their work, and sharing teaching practices that work in a STEM classroom specifically,” she says. “In order to succeed in academia, either as an undergraduate, a graduate student, or as a faculty member, you need a sense of belonging. And I don’t think we can accomplish a sense of belonging without representation.”

The new faculty fellowship is separate from the E.E. Just Program, which seeks to increase the number of systemically underrepresented minorities who choose to pursue degrees and careers in STEM disciplines, and is also supported by the gift from the Donahoes.

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe ’81 is a Dartmouth trustee and the executive director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University. Her husband, John J. Donahoe ’82, is a former trustee and the president and CEO of Nike.

Charlotte Albright