HMS honors Pursley
DeWayne Pursley, MD, right, is congratulated by Reed Tuckson, MD, FACP, this year's Howard, Dorsey, Still Visiting Lecturer at HMS.
When nominating him for the Harold Amos Faculty Diversity Award, DeWayne Pursley, MD, MPH, Chief of Neonatology, was hailed by his colleagues for building a culturally diverse department, for emceeing BIDMC's annual Martin Luther King, Jr., celebration and for his contributions health disparities research.
"This was certainly not expected, but it is a nice acknowledgement," Pursley says.
His nominators made accurate assessments of their chief and colleague. Since the creation of the Department of Neonatology in the early 1990s, Pursley has attracted an impressive roster of physicians from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The department boasts young and older physicians with African American, Asian American and Latino roots.
"We even have a Yankees fan," Pursley jokes. "We recruit the most talented physicians. We have an amazing group of faculty who provide outstanding care and have made important academic contributions in newborn medicine. They also wonderfully reflect the populations of patients they serve. I think we have set the benchmark for diversity in the Harvard Medical School system."
The Harold Amos Faculty Diversity Award recognizes Harvard Medical School faculty who have made significant achievements in moving the School toward being a diverse and inclusive community.
In addition to having a diverse department, Pursley's philosophy on education and research exemplifies the award's ideals. He hosts eighth grade students from Boston Public Schools as part of the Red Sox Scholars Job Shadow Day each year, giving them, and other middle and high school students, a personal tour of the NICU. He encourages his staff to take advantage of BIDMC's many Pipeline programs to advance themselves into challenging careers in health services. Each summer, Pursley's department partners with neonatology colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Children's Hospital Boston to engage college and medical students of all backgrounds from around the country in research projects.
"For the middle and high school students, I try to demonstrate the importance of teamwork and how each role in the NICU from physician to respiratory therapist to nutritionist to nurse is important to the care and health of the baby," Pursley says. "I want to show students the rich options for careers in health care."
Pursley's research is focused on racial and social disparities in infant mortality. He says his time in medical school and earning his master's degree in public health laid the foundation for this investigative work.
"My first introduction to the newborn exam was by Dr. Will Cochran, my predecessor at BIDMC. I enjoyed my pediatrics rotation and when the attending physician took me into the NICU, I thought, 'This is it,'" Pursley says. "I liked the idea of being an age-based generalist and the breadth of clinical experience there. There was also a public health perspective present because you are exploring approaches to improve care access and quality for underserved women and their babies. That is what motivated my master's in health policy and management and laid the seeds for my research into disparities."
Pursley's commitment to underserved populations is shared by his family. His wife recently returned from an orphanage in Tanzania and spent a month with their two daughters working in Malawi when they were high school students. His son graduated with a degree in economics at Vanderbilt, but chose as a first job to be a counselor at an all boys high school in Chicago's South Side.
"I'm very proud of my faculty and my family," Pursley says.