Spring 2017
Faculty Focus

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

In His New Role, Alumnus Focuses on Diversity and Inclusion

By James Rutter

Wilfredo Torres
Wilfredo Torres, M.D.’10, in the stacks at the Savitt Medical Library. Photo by Anne McMillin, APR.

In 2016, the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine created the new administrative position of dean of admissions, diversity and inclusion. The goal for this position: find someone to focus on diversifying UNR Med’s applicant pool.

Enter Wilfredo Torres, M.D., into that role.

Torres, a graduate of UNR Med’s Class of 2010 himself, believes that diversity and inclusion are at the heart of a successful medical school.

“Our job is to provide great physicians who are also representative of the communities they serve,” Torres said. “By creating this position, it allows for a person with the sole purpose of focusing specifically on making sure we can do that.”

Since taking the position, Torres has helped develop and strongly advocated for a fair and inclusive application process.

“We are constantly trying to fine-tune the way we interview our applicants,” Torres said. “Today, we are using a technique called a holistic review process, where we have multiple mini-interviews with applicants, which hopefully allows us to get a better idea of who they really are as individuals.”

Torres also works with efforts like the post-baccalaureate program to help applicants who may need improvement in some areas of their application to be viable candidates. Often times these students come from academically underserved populations.

“Sometimes a student might have struggled with something during their undergrad, but if given the chance to improve, they can become great applicants, and then great students.”

Along with Nicole Jacobs, Ph.D., associate dean for diversity and inclusion, Torres also serves as co-chair for the Council of Diversity Initiatives (CDI), which consists of students, faculty and staff.

“With the CDI, we try to come up with different ideas and programs to help push a culture of inclusion in the school.”

Torres explained that one of the CDI’s main roles is working with UNR Med student interest groups.

“Our goal is to mentor and help them develop into a more established interest group by helping them come up with new ideas and advancing their interest in diversity,” Torres said.

“We hope that by growing the presence of these groups, we are creating an environment that is more comfortable for all of our diverse students.”

Torres believes that helping to ensure this type of safe environment is important now more than ever, due to the national climate.

Sometimes a student might have struggled with something during their undergrad, but if given the chance to improve, they can become great applicants, and then great students.

“Given the climate we are in, where some students might be more subject to discrimination, or being put down, or told that they are less than who they are, I think when an institution like ours stands up for inclusion and these students, it carries a lot of weight in the community,” Torres said.

Coming from a medical background—he still works as an obstetrician-gynecologist with Carson Medical Group, Torres admits that initially there was a learning curve to the new administrative role he finds himself in, but says that the position is well worth the time it takes to learn its inner workings.

“If there isn’t someone constantly pushing this issue, I think there is a risk it could get forgotten,” he said, adding: “Inclusion has to be at the forefront of our school in our actions, not just our words. I want our students to feel comfortable in their own skin, and to never have to be fearful of someone judging them for the color of their skin, or their culture, or sexual orientation. Diversity and inclusion makes us all stronger.”