College of

Meet Lisa Lowery

July 1, 2020

The new job Lisa Lowery assumed recently was created last year, months before two events made it all the more important and timely.

Lowery, MD, MPH, an associate professor of Pediatrics and Human Development, was named the College of Human Medicine’s Assistant Dean for Diversity and Cultural Initiatives in early April as the coronavirus pandemic spread, killing a disproportionate number of African Americans. Nearly two months later, the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

Combined, the two events “have reemphasized that racism still exists,” Lowery said. Laws passed during the civil rights movement of the 1960s might have lulled many into asking, “Didn’t we fix this?” she said. “For those of us who live it, we know we haven’t fixed it.”

Racism often is much more subtle these days, taking the form of “microaggressions” and cultural barriers that make minority students and faculty feel less welcome.

The College of Human Medicine has done more than most institutions to encourage diversity and inclusion, Lowery said. “Could we all do better?” she asked. “Yes.”

College administrators created the new position last year, but changes in administration delayed filling the position. Norman Beauchamp, MD, MSU’s Executive Vice President for Health Sciences, and Wanda Lipscomb, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean for Student Affairs, “felt we needed to do more in diversity, equity and inclusion,” Lowery said.

She applied for the position despite her heavy workload as a physician and Section Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. She often meets with college, high school and even elementary students, encouraging them to consider medical careers.

“How do we develop a health care system that is more representative of the people we serve?” Lowery asked, adding that “My lofty goal is to continue to have a supportive and inclusive atmosphere for all students and faculty.”

Recruiting more minority faculty members and encouraging more minority students is a key she said. She plans to expand the college’s pipeline program, preparing a diversity of future students for medical school. While she is based in Grand Rapids, Lowery hopes to have “diversity champions” in all seven campuses statewide.

Lowery earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology from MSU and her medical degree from the University of Michigan. She completed a combined internal medicine and pediatric residency at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and, later, a fellowship in adolescent medicine at Johns Hopkins University, where she obtained a Master of Public Health degree.

As the college’s first assistant dean for Diversity and Cultural Initiatives, Lowery knows this is both an opportune and challenging time to take on the responsibility.

“I’m excited,” she said. “It’s totally new. There is no template. While there may be a lot of work to do, it is a great time to do this amazing and vital work.”