Vanderbilt appoints George C. Hill as chief diversity officer and vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion

George C. Hill (Vanderbilt University)

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos has named a pre-eminent biomedical researcher and diversity advocate to serve as Vanderbilt University’s first chief diversity officer and vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion.

George C. Hill, who will report directly to the chancellor and serve on Zeppos’ senior management team, is charged with articulating the vision and working with the chancellor and the provost to provide leadership in cultivating an inclusive, diverse and equitable academic community. Hill’s appointment, subject to Board of Trust approval, will take effect on Dec.1.

“Diversity, inclusion and equity are of paramount importance to our identity and to our future, not just as a university but as a nation. [rquote]At Vanderbilt, we are preparing our students to make an impact on the most important challenges facing society, and that will only be possible if their experience at Vanderbilt is grounded in true, honest respect for individual differences and appreciation for the value that those differences bring to each of us,”[/rquote] said Zeppos, who named diversity as his top priority in his Aug. 27 address to faculty. “We must ensure that every student, staff and faculty member is a full and equal member of our academic community. I have received valuable input from our students, faculty, staff, alumni and Board of Trust members over the past several months. Today we are taking an important step in using that input to take action.”

Hill is Levi Watkins Jr., M.D. Professor Emeritus in Medical Education and distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology. He also served as assistant vice chancellor for multicultural affairs and special assistant to the provost for health affairs from 2011 to 2012. From 2002 to 2011, he served as the first associate dean for diversity in medical education of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“George Hill is a giant in two fields, molecular biology and fostering diversity. He has a deep understanding both of the opportunities that we have as a top research and teaching university and the challenges we must overcome until every single member of our community is fully and equally included,” Zeppos said. “As Vanderbilt’s chief diversity officer, George will be a vital part of my leadership team and will develop strategies that we need to make our vision for this university community a reality. This work is complex, it is difficult and it is absolutely essential, and I have complete confidence that George is the right person at the right time for Vanderbilt.”

A member of the National Academy of Medicine since 1998, Hill was elected a fellow of the Academy of Microbiology in 2002. In 2011, he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS cited Hill’s leadership as president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, his work advancing a diverse workplace and his contributions to tropical diseases research. Hill was elected a fellow of health disparities of the Cobb Institute of the National Medical Association in 2014.

“Chancellor Zeppos has made achieving an environment of equity, diversity and inclusion his top priority.  It is an honor to serve him and Vanderbilt University as the inaugural vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and our chief diversity officer,” Hill said. “Working with all at Vanderbilt, we can set an example for our nation. [lquote]I agree with the chancellor that diversity is essential to Vanderbilt’s future as a leading academic institution and will exert all of my energies and vision in a collaborative spirit to achieve this goal.”[/lquote]

Hill will be responsible for advocating for institutional change, working with university stakeholders to set goals and institutionalize accountability, and ensuring that diversity efforts are coordinated throughout the university. He will be responsible for articulating the importance of equity, inclusion and diversity to the broader educational mission of Vanderbilt.

Hill will work collaboratively with the Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Community, which Zeppos named earlier this semester, as well as with student groups. “Addressing the challenges that our students face and facilitating their learning from the differences of each other will be an important priority,” Hill emphasized.

After earning his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University-Camden Campus, Hill attended graduate school at Howard University, where he received his M.S. degree before attaining a Ph.D. from New York University. After a NIH Research Scholar Award at Cambridge University, Great Britain, he taught and conducted research at Colorado State University, where in 1974 he started a mentoring program for minority students, the CSU Science Motivation Program.

Hill was a professor of microbiology and vice president for sponsored research at Meharry Medical College, where he also served as dean of the graduate school, director of the Division of Biomedical Sciences and associate vice president for international programs.

Hill was recruited to Vanderbilt to become associate dean for Diversity in Medical Education for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director for the school’s Office for Diversity in Medical Education.

His research is in the field of molecular biology and biochemistry of African trypanosomiasis. His laboratory was the first to grow the Trypanosoma rhodesiense in culture, the causative agent of African trypanosomiasis. He has received extensive research support from the NIH, NSF and other federal agencies. For his research accomplishments, he received the Seymour Hutner Prize for Research from the Society for Protozoologists and election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Hill is a member of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Microbiology, and other scientific societies. He also works throughout the country to advance opportunities for underrepresented minority students in medicine and the biomedical sciences.

Hill has trained numerous Ph.D. students, M.S. students and postdoctoral fellows. In 1999, he was recognized as a “Giant in Science” by the Quality Education for Minorities Network for his commitment to motivating minority students to pursue the sciences. He also chaired the National Science Foundation Committee for Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering.

Hill is the founder and president of Leadership Excellence, LLC, which is committed to working toward a diverse workforce of science and medical leaders. In April, he was elected by the Student National Medical Association into their hall of fame for his lifelong commitment to the support of minority students seeking a career in medicine.