Duke Surgery continues to identify and address areas of opportunity to invest in the department and its surrounding community. 

A commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion is at the heart of the department’s mission and is reflected in the establishment of a new society and professorship, and an enhanced awareness and interest in the many ongoing activities of the Sustaining Equity, Elevating Diversity in Surgery (SEEDS) initiative. 

Over the past year, SEEDS continued to grow as seen in increased participation of department members and ideation of new initiatives of varying impact.

Community section graphic

Duke Surgery is pleased to celebrate the founding of the establishment of the Akwari Society and the Onyekwere E. Akwari Professorship in Surgery, honoring the legacy of Dr. Onyekwere Emmanuel Akwari, the first Black surgeon at Duke. 

Learn more about the Society and Professorship Inauguration Gala, which took place on September 13, 2022.

DiLalla Named Vice Chair of EDI

In October 2022, the Department of Surgery announced the appointment of Gayle DiLalla, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology, to the newly-established role of Vice Chair of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI).

As Vice Chair of EDI, Dr. DiLalla will be responsible for identifying challenges and implementing solutions focusing on departmental goals for advancing equity, diversity, and inclusive excellence.

Dr. Gayle DiLalla

Gayle DiLalla, MD

Vice Chair of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Assistant Professor of Surgery


Established in 2021, Duke Surgery’s Sustaining Equity, Elevating Diversity in Surgery (SEEDS) initiative has gained momentum across the department. Over 50 departmental staff, faculty, and trainees became involved in the program’s seven areas of focus and their various projects.

Below are just a few highlights and exciting accomplishments from the most active areas of focus in 2022. 

Education: VESP Program for URiM Students

The Visiting Elective Scholarship Program (VESP) is a unique opportunity for fourth year medical students who are underrepresented in medicine (URiM) to take part in a four-week elective in Surgical Oncology during the fall semester.

In the fall of 2022, the department welcomed Aderinsola “Sola” Aderonmu from Drexel University as the 2022 Duke Surgery VESP Scholar.

Hear from Sola as she shares her experience and most important takeaways from the program in the video to the right.

Play Video

Environment: DEI Learning Module

Screenshot of a learning module component

Starting in 2023, Duke Surgery faculty, trainees, and staff will complete an annual learning module with a focus on understanding and overcoming unconscious bias, recognizing and addressing microaggressions, and emphasizing Duke Surgery’s core values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The online training illustrates real-life, candid experiences shared by Duke Surgery team members, and encourages personal reflection on the role each individual plays in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all patients, trainees, faculty, and staff.

Outreach: Partnership with Jack and Jill

In September 2022, SEEDS partnered with the Duke Center for AIDS Research on an outreach event with the Durham chapter of Jack and Jill America, Inc. The event provided hands-on-learning demonstrations for students ages pre-K to high school. Multiple stations highlighted various aspects of science at age appropriate levels.

Duke Surgery faculty in attendance shared about their own scientific careers, and assisted with the hands-on activities. The successful event will be continued annually, with the hope to form meaningful connections with Durham students and encourage exploration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and medical careers.

Photo of Duke SEEDS members supporting a Jack and Jill event

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