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Diversity in the ED with DEI Director, Dr. Ronnie Rivera

Dr. Ronnie Rivera
Dr. Ronnie Rivera and students

By Cassandra Smith, UCISOM Class of 2025

Dr. Ronnie Rivera is the newly named Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for the UCI Emergency Department. His interest in DEI started when he attended his high school’s blood drive and was eager to help. When he went to donate, he was told he would not be able to donate because he was gay and that he would be unable to donate blood for the rest of his life. This was one of the most memorable times he experienced injustice and it sparked his involvement in social issues and passion for DEI.

Dr. Rivera has several goals as Director of DEI. He believes that diversity is a culture and you have to develop the culture for any initiatives to be successful. He is working on ways to build a better culture of diversity, starting with residency admissions. There are currently diversity days during residency interviews that are designed to attract candidates from many backgrounds and ensure their applications are reviewed by diverse faculty with shared lived experiences. He would like to make contributions to a culture of diversity as part of faculty evaluations and promotions. He intends to sit down with each member of the faculty and work with them on a project of their own design that adds their uniqueness to the department’s culture. Dr. Rivera’s current DEI projects include a pipeline summer program for medical students interested in emergency medicine, especially underrepresented students. He is one of the founding members of the UCI EM Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Alliance, which works with the Emergency Medicine Interest Group to better create mentorship relationships with students traditionally under-represented in medicine. Dr. Rivera holds a monthly social determinants of health book club for the department. At the Decembre 2022 meeting, EM faculty, residents, and UCI medical students watched “Clinica de Migrantes” (a documentary about caring for undocumented patients) at a dinner, followed by discussion and reflection. Knowing that some students may struggle more than others when it comes to standardized testing, Dr. Rivera hopes to improve board review for residents who may struggle with study skills by working to get protected time for a longitudinal board review course led by a faculty member, instead of self-study.

Dr. Rivera has been working to revamp the LGBTQIA+ curriculum in the School of Medicine and is actively working to start an LGBTQIA+ PRIME program. One of his goals is to ensure equitable education for all students. He hopes to leverage the HoloLens empathy study (which uses the Microsoft HoloLens to allow students to see their patient interactions from the patient’s perspective) to improve empathy in medical students across their four year curriculum.

In order to operationalize and formalize changes in DEI, Dr. Rivera hopes to work with someone on the graduate education side to have larger events beyond the emergency department, for all specialties. When asked about improving DEI at UC Irvine, he knows people are excited to make changes here and that resources continue to grow to make these changes a reality. He loves that his colleagues in the department are open minded and ready to accept changes that continually improve the culture of diversity at UCI and beyond.

Dr. Rivera

Dr. Rivera