Advancing diversity within Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine is an essential part of our vision to grow a more inclusive culture working to eradicate health disparities in our communities. Building our team with the right leaders is fundamental to foster faculty, staff and student equity and shift health care inequities.
That is why I am very pleased to announce that Blanton S. Tolbert, PhD, has been appointed as Vice Dean, Diversity and Inclusion for the School of Medicine, effective July 1. His leadership in university academics, passion for research and long history promoting diverse perspectives in teaching and mentoring students align seamlessly with our goal to improve inclusion, increase equity and expand diversity at the school.
Since 2012, Tolbert has served on the faculty at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) College of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Chemistry, as professor since 2019, and as a member of the Center for RNA Science and Therapeutics and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. His broad research interests include the application of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and other biophysical techniques to study the mechanisms by which pathogenic RNA and related retroviruses replicate within the cellular environment, and to leverage this knowledge to identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention. He received the Morton L. Mandel Award for Excellence in Research and Service in 2016. Prior to joining CWRU, he served as assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
As principal investigator on several NIH grants including the U54 Center for HIV RNA Studies, Tolbert was appointed Chairperson of the NIH Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council (OARAC) in 2021. He is also a member of the NIH Human immunodeficiency virus molecular Virology, Cell biology and Drug development (HVCD) study section and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Postdoctoral Enrichment Program Advisory Board, and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.
“I’m delighted with the opportunity to foster a culture that realizes the significant contributions of diverse perspectives,” Tolbert said. “I am most excited about building new relationships with people in the School of Medicine as we work towards a shared goal of creating inclusive environments for faculty, staff and students that support their ambitions to achieve personal excellence.”
Tolbert completed his doctoral studies at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Biophysics and Structural Biology. He was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland Baltimore County where he developed NMR spectroscopy methods to study retroviral genome packaging. He earned his BS in Chemistry from the University of South Carolina.
I am also pleased to announce that Monica Yepes-Rios, MD, has been selected to serve as the inaugural Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Students, reporting to Lia Logio, Vice Dean, Medical Education, and Bud Isaacson, Executive Dean, Department of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM).
A passionate advocate, Yepes-Rios seeks to build a broad community that will mentor and engage students and advance programs toward a more inclusive culture across the traditional University Program and the physician-investigator CCLCM Program, also known as the College Program.
A thoughtful collaborator who aims to partner with our complex enterprise toward sustainable change that will benefit medical students, she will work with Blanton Tolbert and Tina Lining who recently joined us as Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the School of Medicine. Yepes-Rios is well known to students as a steadfast mentor, educational innovator and advocate to recognize and address social determinants of health.
Yepes-Rios has spent part of her career in the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences with experience in many different areas of the country. In 2017, she joined Cleveland Clinic Community Care in Internal Medicine and has served in key leadership roles including Medical Director of Community Health West Region, Director of Longitudinal Didactic and Learning Groups, Physician Advisor, and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Lerner College. She is an internal medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic Ohio City Hispanic Clinic where she mentors students and residents to deliver culturally sensitive care.
Yepes-Rios earned her undergraduate degree in zoology at Duke University before attending George Washington University Medical School, remaining there for her residency in internal medicine including an additional year serving as Chief Medical Resident. Additionally, she is a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar from Yale University.
Please join me in welcoming Blanton Tolbert and Monica Yepes-Rios and work together with them to nurture diversity and inclusive excellence at the School of Medicine.
Interim Dean, School of Medicine, CWRU
Director, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
Director, National Center for Regenerative Medicine