Azziza “Kemi” Bankole, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and geriatric psychiatrist for Carilion Clinic, will serve the medical school in a new role as chief diversity officer. She officially begins in the position at the start of the new calendar year.

“We are happy to welcome Dr. Bankole into this new role,” said Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “She has served the medical school over the last decade, teaching our students and mentoring them in research. Dr. Bankole is a highly respected clinical and educational leader, and I look forward to working with her as we continue creating an environment of inclusiveness and equity for our increasingly diverse medical education community.”

Bankole has been an associate professor for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine since 2016 and was an assistant professor from 2010-16. Beyond her clinical role in Carilion’s Center for Healthy Aging, Bankole is the geriatric psychiatry fellowship program director and a clinical researcher. She serves the medical school as a member of the InclusiveVTCSOM Task Force on the community engagement working group,  a member of the VTCSOM scholarship committee, and a department representative to the Virginia Tech Faculty Senate.

“I believe we learn best when surrounded by people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, and this is especially important for our future physicians, who we want to be advocates for their future patients and serve them to the best of their abilities,” Bankole said. “I look forward to this exciting new role while also continuing my clinical passion as a geriatric psychiatrist in the community.”

In this role, Bankole will work collaboratively with NL Bishop, senior associate dean for diversity, inclusion, and student vitality, as well as other leaders in the medical school, Carilion Clinic, and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC to advance key diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives. She will also work with the school’s diversity team, which includes Karyna Navarez, inclusion coordinator; Angelica Witcher, director of student affairs; and Carrie Knopf, accessibility coordinator.  

Bankole will assume the role on Jan. 1, 2021, and will follow Karen Eley Sanders, who has been the medical school’s chief diversity officer since 2014 – the first to hold this role at VTCSOM. Sanders split her time between the medical school and her primary role at Virginia Tech as associate vice provost for college access, but now needs to transition to her role on main campus full time.

“Getting the diversity program off the ground at the medical school has been an incredible blessing,” said Sanders. “During my time at the medical school, we’ve really moved the needle. Diversity and inclusion are not just priorities for the person in this position, but they are infused throughout the college. I’m proud of the hard work that has been accomplished and look forward to continued collaboration on behalf of the entire university.”

Sanders will help with Bankole’s transition into the position and will still be involved through some of the joint programs between the university and medical school, particularly to attract diverse students currently in kindergarten through college to the health care field.

Bankole received her medical degree from the University of Ibadan College of Medicine in Nigeria. She interned there as well as Dorset County Hospital in the United Kingdom prior to a psychiatry residency at Hull and East Riding, Cottingham in East Yorkshire, United Kingdom. She then came to the United States for a psychiatry residency at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Bankole completed a geriatric psychiatry fellowship at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Systems, Zucker Hillside Hospital. After her fellowship, she came to practice as an attending geriatric psychiatrist for Carilion Clinic.