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Michigan Medicine

A Minute with Marschall

We Must Do Better

January 26th, 2022

Guest Blog

by Dee Fenner

Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The events of the past week at the University of Michigan have angered us, shaken our trust in leadership, and forced us to examine our culture and values.  The stress and frustration we feel from the removal of a disgraced president comes at a challenging time.   Two years into the pandemic, families, faculty, staff and learners continue to struggle with work life balance, the negative impact on research and academic productivity, and all around burn out.

As a senior female leader at Michigan Medicine, many faculty members have approached me since the announcement last Saturday. After the initial anger and sadness, the most common response I hear is “I am not surprised. This behavior, ignoring the rules that apply to others, is how the privileged act.” 

For women and underrepresented individuals in medicine the actions of Dr. Schlissel unfortunately reaffirm the struggle that is felt throughout our careers and daily lives.  The structural bias, the micro and macroaggressions, the need to work twice as hard while getting paid less are the challenges that have been well documented for women and underrepresented individuals in academic medicine.    

The rapid pace that the Regents investigated and acted should give us hope that as an institution, we will no longer tolerate such transgressions. At Michigan Medicine, we must break this cycle at every level within our institution.  We cannot accept these stereotypes and patterns of behavior. 

Only we can define our culture and live our values.  Most importantly we must hold ourselves accountable to do the right thing and to stand up for what is right and fair for everyone.  The well-known saying: Culture is the behaviors tolerated divided by the behaviors not tolerated.  We must be clear that we do not tolerate aggressions of any sort. 

As we move forward together, I see a desire across the institution and our community to do better and be better. We must face the challenges ahead with an open heart and mind and insist this will be a turning point for our institution, working to create a community where we appreciate each other, celebrate the value of diversity, and treat everyone with respect. 

Share your thoughts in the discussion box below.


  • Janet Alma Deatrick

    Thank you Dr. Fenner for this post and for the life you have lived supporting women and their families. While you cite issues in your own University they are reflective of our soceity as a whole. Privelege is a hypnotic that can poison our souls and our systems. May your words take away the scales from our eyes so we can “eye.”

  • Thank you, Dr. Fenner, for speaking up! Bravo!

  • Dr. Fenner, well said. Thank you for having the courage to say publicly what many of us are feeling, including our ownership of the values and culture of our organization. This event will not deter the greater good of the University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine. It’s disappointing, but it will not and cannot define us. It will require leaders, staff, and faculty to have the conviction and the resolve to hold us all accountable to these values. Thank you for starting this important conversation.

  • This is an excellent post. It’s important to realize that our current toxic culture at Michigan Medicine extends down from our leadership, many of whom were, and and are, carrying out Schlissel’s agenda. That is the cause for our epidemic of “burn out” and these people are not being held accountable.

  • Dr. Fenner, Well said!

Comments are closed.