Dr. Omobonike Oloruntoba-Sanders: Empowering Diversity in Medicine with the MRRC

Embedded within the fabric of Duke's Department of Medicine (DOM) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office lies the Minority Recruitment & Retention Committee (MRRC), a beacon of support for underrepresented medical students, trainees, and faculty. At the helm of this transformative initiative stands Dr. Omobonike Oloruntoba-Sanders, serving as co-chair of the MRRC with a focus on trainee liaison, her leadership driving the committee's mission of fostering inclusivity and equity. 

In her capacity as co-chair, Dr. Oloruntoba-Sanders plays a pivotal role in guiding the MRRC's initiatives, ensuring that URiM (Underrepresented in Medicine) individuals receive the necessary support and resources to flourish. Collaborating closely with the vice chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Department's trainee selection committee, she leads efforts to provide comprehensive support across multiple domains. This includes advocating for diverse clinical exposures and robust academic mentorship, facilitating connections and sponsorships to promote mentorship and leadership development, and organizing events throughout the academic year to foster community building, enhance work culture, and promote overall well-being among MRRC members. 

Reflecting on her trajectory, Dr. Oloruntoba-Sanders emphasizes the profound influence of her predecessors, Dr. Kimberley J. Evans and Dr. Michelle Winn, whose legacy laid the groundwork for her own endeavors. Regarding her commitment to DEI efforts, Dr. Oloruntoba-Sanders says, "The MRRC is not just a committee; it's a driving force behind creating an environment where every individual feels valued and empowered to succeed." 

One pivotal moment in Dr. Oloruntoba-Sanders's journey was the inception of the Second Look event during her tenure as chief resident. Recognizing a decline in diversity within their program, she and her colleagues approached leadership with proactive solutions, aligning with the mission of the MRRC. This initiative, born out of a commitment to equitable recruitment practices, provided prospective candidates with a tailored experience, fostering a sense of belonging and community. 

Dr. Oloruntoba-Sanders firmly believes that a robust DEI program, as championed by the MRRC, is indispensable in building equity, particularly for women of color. She advocates for diverse perspectives at every level of decision-making, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity within residency education and patient care. 

In her call to action for the DOM community, Dr. Oloruntoba-Sanders underscores the need for sustained focus on promotion, echoing the sentiments of the MRRC. While commendable progress has been made in recruitment and retention efforts, the promotion of minority faculty remains an area ripe for improvement. She challenges leadership to interrogate existing promotion practices, ensuring transparency and accountability in the process. 

As we honor Women's History Month, Dr. Oloruntoba-Sanders's narrative emerges as a poignant portrayal of advocacy and resilience in the medical field. Her steadfast dedication within the MRRC underscores a commitment to fostering inclusivity and equity, aligning with the theme of this year's celebration: "women who advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion." In a landscape where progress can feel slow, Dr. Oloruntoba-Sanders's leadership serves as a compelling testament to the impactful strides made by individuals in advancing the cause of diversity and equity.