New Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Gemeda Fosters Community   

New Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Gemeda Fosters Community

Mekbib Gemeda

For Mekbib Gemeda, it’s about community.

Gemeda, EdD, who started in March as the new senior associate dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine (HMSOM), is planning to bring his core philosophy of human, interpersonal connection to the school.

What he sees is an already-thriving environment which could be brought to a whole new level of outreach in the community, to place it at the vanguard of 21st-century medical education.

“I always think my job is creating communities and partnerships,” said Gemeda recently. “The job gets done out of those relationships you build.”

“Mekbib is a terrific new talent to come to our school, and we are eager to see how he can help us keep getting better,” said Jeffrey Boscamp, M.D., president and dean of the HMSOM.

“Mekbib is the kind of new leader who immediately understands our mission and vision, and we are seeing already how he is a huge asset to what we are doing here at the school,” said David Kountz, M.D., MBA, MACP, the chief academic officer and vice president of Academic Diversity for Hackensack Meridian Health.

Gemeda comes to HMSOM from Eastern Virginia Medical School, a unique institution which was established by the Hampton Roads community, who founded it through massive fundraising and civic efforts in 1973.

Over 11 years at the school, Gemeda spearheaded many initiatives which included outreach into the community. Perhaps most notable is the Community Inclusion Health Equity (CIHE) group which solicited direct input from across the entire community around the school. In this initiative, the community advisory group is directly involved in health policy and education decisions; they interview candidates for leadership positions, review seed-grant opportunities, and even develop ideas for seed grants focused on health equity. The group started during COVID-19 lockdowns, with iPads distributed allowing participation from a wide swath of stakeholders across the community.

“That was a game changer,” recalled Gemeda.

Gemeda helped EVMS garner positive DEI attention during his decade there, including the Institutional Excellence Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, in 2019.

Gemeda said the “narrative” was already built in at the community-founded EVMS. But he sees the same kind of spirit here at the HMSOM - with the Human Dimension as the centerpiece of the curriculum, and also the Medical Internship Navigating Diversity and Science (MINDS) program providing a pipeline of students from groups traditionally under-represented in medicine - a kind of talent pipeline he helped to establish in Virginia.

“You do have the narrative already to do this valuable work here, since the school is connected to a great health system, and you have programs looking outwards beyond our walls,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity here.”

First things first: it’s about understanding what the community currently is, what is working, and what could be augmented and expanded upon, said Gemeda.

The arrival at HMSOM is somewhat of a homecoming. Gemeda was born in Ethiopia and educated in Croatia, but he earned his master’s degree from Seton Hall University and lived for several years in Essex County. In fact, it was his time here and at Hunter College which inspired his pursuit of diversity and inclusion in his career arc.

“I’ve understood diversity and inequity. I was an immigrant - all of that shaped me,” he said.

An EVMS news article recently described the departing Gemeda, in part, as a “true gentleman with high ethical and moral principles,” among many professional accomplishments.

Gemeda is married with two children - a son working as an actor in Manhattan and a daughter who is studying at the Rhode Island School of Design. His move to New Jersey brings him closer to them - while also affording him new opportunities.

“We have to change the game a little bit - and make it more accessible,” he said. “My main question to start is: how do we dig deeper - and develop that?”

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By using this site,
you agree to our Terms & Conditions. Also, please read our Privacy Policy. Accept All CookiesLearn More