Black History Month: Profiles in Leadership

February 22, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

The third interview in this series dedicated to celebrating diversity is with Dr. Steven Gay, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and Dean for Admissions, University of Michigan Medical School.

Why is it important to celebrate/focus on Black History Month?

Black History Month is important because it provides an opportunity for people to focus on and appreciate how individuals that may look different from them and come from different backgrounds have contributed not only to society, but to the things that are important to our well-being and the fabric of our daily lives.  If we can understand how people that do not resemble us can change the world, we can begin to understand that we can all contribute and do great things regardless of the place from which we have started.

What does it mean to you to be a leader?

It is an honor to be considered one. Leadership to me is the possibility to choose how and where to serve. It allows you to identify issues which need to be addressed, work as a part of a team to develop innovative and unique ways to deal with the issue, and hopefully inspire and motivate the members of your team and the community as a whole to address the concern.  Leadership by definition requires collaboration with a wide range of people, who may not always agree with you on many issues, to find a way to improve our community and our society.

How has past history impacted or directed your career path?

I am here because of the efforts of so many others. I have been fortunate enough to attend great universities, to work and teach at Michigan, and to be a part of the problem-solving process.  These opportunities resulted directly from those people in my past that have inspired me, taught me, and motivated me. My parents instilled in me that it is more important to work to change the world rather than simply ride on top of it. They have taught me the history that has been a part of our reality. Through their own actions they always try and make the world better and they have led me to believe that it can be better. We can always say, “That was difficult, that was a mistake, and that should not have happened” when reflecting on the history of our society, but the necessary action should always be, “Now let’s make it better; now let’s make sure it never occurs again.” Every person around me who strives for change to make the world better, fairer and kinder inspires me. I am blessed to work with people who understand history, but more importantly, never believe for one instant that history defines our future.