College of Medicine appoints interim dean of diversity

Dr. Cheryl Holder

–By Ileana Varela for FIU News

Dr. Cheryl Holder has been named interim associate dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity, and Community Initiatives for the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM).

Holder is a highly respected clinician, educator and community leader who has dedicated her medical career to serving underserved and vulnerable populations.

“I am truly grateful that Dr. Holder has agreed to serve in this capacity, as she is not only an esteemed clinician and medical educator, but is also an advocate for vulnerable people globally and for social justice,” said Dr. Robert Sackstein, HWCOM dean and senior vice president for health affairs.

As an associate professor in the Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP program, Holder teaches and assesses the impact of social determinants of health on health outcomes. She was one of the first physicians to sound the alarm about the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on the African American community. She has advocated for more testing sites in black neighborhoods and better messaging to educate African Americans about the virus.

Her work also addresses diversity in the health professions through pipeline programs, like STEM Saturdays. The programs are designed to encourage love of science and provide opportunities for careers in health care to young people from demographic populations that are underrepresented.

Pre-pandemic STEM Saturday: FIU medical students teaching science under trees at Philadelphia Evangelical Church in North Miami. Due to COVID-19, STEM Saturdays became virtual events. Right now, the program is on it’s annual summer break.

“I am excited to continue HWCOM’s mission of ensuring our communities receive the care they need to achieve optimal health from a diverse, caring workforce,” she said.

Holder is the president of the Florida State Medical Association, a regional arm of the National Medical Association, the largest and oldest organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States. She also serves as co-chair of Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, working to increase climate literacy and enhance awareness of the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations. She recently gave a TEDMED talk about the link between climate change, health and poverty.

A board-certified internist and HIV specialist, Holder, is a veteran of the battle against AIDS. She continues to have a keen interest in treating HIV patients and studying transgender women – people born male who identify as women – the population most at risk for HIV. Most of the patients she sees in her clinical practice are black, homeless or undocumented. 

Dr. Cheryl Holder receiving the FIU Medallion Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award.

FIU has honored Holder with the 2016 FIU Medallion Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award, the 2017 Faculty Convocation Award in Service and the 2019 Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.  

She is taking over for the former head of diversity at HWCOM, Cheryl Brewster, who was appointed to a similar position at Roseman University College of Medicine.