Hello! My name is Niki Delis, and I am the chair of the University of Lynchburg PA Medicine program’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. Prior to becoming a PA, I worked as an intern with the Office for Inclusion and Diversity in my undergraduate career, and as the Diversity chair for my PA school’s student society. I also serve on the DEI Initiatives Task Force at the University level, and I serve as an Equity Advocate. In Spring 2022, I will serve as the committee chair for the University’s IEC College Action Plan committee, and I serve on the Virginia Academy of PAs DEI committee. During my career as a PA, I have seen firsthand the disparities in care and outcomes across different races, ethnicities, and social determinants of health, and this became a call to action.
Here at the University, the PA Program’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee works to foster and promote an inclusive environment for our students, and to train PAs who hold the tenet of providing inclusive and affirming care to all patients at the forefront of their practice. We also work to recruit students from a variety of different backgrounds. Representation matters in all things, and exponentially so in health care. If you are a prospective student, we hope you will join us and become the provider you had that made a difference to you in a time of frailty, fear, and need; and if that is not your experience, we hope you will join us and become that provider for your future patients.
My name is Leith Ashkar, and I am a first-generation Palestinian-American studying PA Medicine here at the University of Lynchburg. A minority myself, I am always seeking to diversify the healthcare system, both within and beyond the boundaries of the PA profession. As Diversity Committee Chair, I work diligently with the committee to implement ideas and projects that embody diversity, whilst making change here locally in the community.
We have had a busy year thus far as a committee, hosting an International Food Potluck at the PA Medicine building, sending out emails on days of observances to the students and faculty, as well as applying for and winning the Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Grant from the University. Some projects we are currently working on include a donation drive for thousands of Afghan refugees that were recently displaced to Fort Pickett here in Virginia, and planning a block party event in the Spring for the underserved community in Lynchburg.
The Diversity Committee will continue to work hard in making a difference here in the local community, putting our best foot forward in the right direction on a daily basis.
“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.” -William Sloane Coffin Jr.
“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common…Celebrate it everyday.” -Winston Churchill