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A Seat at the Table

Strategic Engagement in Service Activities for Early Career Faculty From Underrepresented Groups in the Academy

Carson, Tiffany L. PhD, MPH; Aguilera, Adrian PhD; Brown, Susan D. PhD; Peña, Jessica MD; Butler, Ashley PhD; Dulin, Akilah PhD; Jonassaint, Charles R. PhD; Riley, Isaretta MD, MPH; Vanderbom, Kerri PhD; Molina, Kristine M. PhD; Cené, Crystal W. MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002603
Invited Commentary: PDF Only

Many academic institutions strive to promote more diverse and inclusive campuses for faculty, staff, and students. As part of this effort, these institutions seek to include individuals from historically underrepresented groups (URGs)— such as women, people from racial/ethnic minority populations, persons with disabilities—on committees and in other service activities. However, given the low number of faculty members from URGs at many institutions, these faculty members tend to receive more requests to provide service to the institution or department (e.g., serving on committees, mentoring) than their counterparts from majority groups. Faculty members from URGs, especially early-career faculty, thus risk becoming overburdened with providing service at the expense of working on other scholarly activities required for promotion and tenure (i.e., conducting research, publishing). While many scholars and others have written about this “minority tax” and its implications for early-career faculty from underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups, fewer have published about how this tax extends beyond racial/ethnic minorities to women and persons with disabilities. Further, the literature provides scant practical advice on how to avoid overburdening early-career faculty from URGs. Here, a group of multidisciplinary early- and mid-career faculty members from URGs seek to provide their peers from URGs with practical strategies for both evaluating the appropriateness of service requests and declining those that are not a good fit. The authors also provide institutional leaders with actionable recommendations to prevent early-career faculty from URGs from becoming overburdened with service.

T.L. Carson is assistant professor, Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Birmingham, Alabama; ORCID:

A. Aguilera is associate professor, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, and Department of Psychiatry, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, University of California San Francisco San Francisco, California; ORCID:

S.D. Brown is research scientist I, Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, California; ORCID:

J. Peña is assistant professor, Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging, Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital; New York, New York.

A. Butler is assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

A. Dulin is the Manning Assistant Professor, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, Rhode Island.

C.R. Jonassaint is assistant professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh, Pennsyslvania.

I. Riley is medical instructor, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine; Durham, North Carolina.

K. Vanderbom is implementation science coordinator, National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability, University of Alabama at Birmingham/Lakeshore Research Collaborative, Birmingham, Alabama; ORCID:

K.M. Molina is assistant professor, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; ORCID:

C.W. Cené is associate professor, Division of General Internal Medicine & Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Acknowledgements: The authors wish to thank the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (PRIDE) and the Research in Implementation Sciences for Equity (RISE) Program at the University of California, San Francisco for convening the cohort of scholars that contributed to this Invited Commentary. The authors specifically thank their mentors and the RISE principal investigators, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS; Alicia Fernandez, MD; Margaret Handley, PhD, MPH; and Adithya Cattamanchi, MD for their intellectual and emotional support throughout the conceptualization and development of this commentary. The authors also thank their RISE colleague, Nathalie Moise, MD, MS, for her critical review of this Invited Commentary.

Funding/Support: TLC received support from the National Cancer Institute grant K01 CA190559. SDB received support from National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases grant K01 DK099404.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Disclaimer: This Invited Commentary emerged from discussions at the 2015, 2016, and 2018 summer meetings of the Research in Implementation Sciences for Equity Program at the University of California, San Francisco. The work is that of the authors alone; it does not necessarily represent the views of their sponsors, nor of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Correspondence should be addressed to Tiffany L. Carson, Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1720 2nd Avenue South MT 639, Birmingham, AL, 35294; telephone: 205-934-1443; e-mail:; Twitter: @DrTiffanyCarson.

© 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges