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UF Health chief diversity officer named, begins Aug. 22

Lakesha Butler, Pharm.D., a professor of pharmacy practice and director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Southern Illinois University deeply trained in facilitating diversity-related discussion and policy change, has been named UF Health’s associate vice president for inclusion, diversity and health equity and chief diversity officer. She starts Aug. 22.

Butler comes to the university’s academic health center from Southern Illinois University’s Edwardsville School of Pharmacy.

In her new role, Butler will collaborate with diversity liaisons in the six health colleges, the UF Health hospitals in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Central Florida, and the Lake Nona campus in Orlando. She will also work closely with the university’s chief diversity officer.

Butler has nearly 20 years of experience as a pharmacy professor, during which time she has published academic papers, textbooks and other research related to pharmacy education and diversity-related topics. She is a frequent invited speaker at national conferences and meetings sharing inclusive best practices with health care practitioners and educators.

At Southern Illinois University, Butler developed and implemented the pharmacy school’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan. As a result of her collaborative work: Underrepresented minority students rose by 4% to 6% each year from 2014, inclusive educational strategies and new community outreach partnerships have been established and sustained resulting in decreased disparities among various groups.

Butler said she felt compelled to undergo extensive training to become a Certified Diversity FaciliTrainer to learn to lead individual and institutional transformation and for her personal growth. The training is given by the National Conference for Community and Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis, an organization that has been working since 1930 to promote understanding between all races, religions and cultures.

“There are many individuals who’ve been dealt a hand that they do not deserve,” Butler said. “My ‘why’ is that I want to do my best to create a different experience than I had for others including my children and to ultimately leave this world better than I found it.”

At UF Health, Butler will develop a strategic plan for inclusion, diversity and health equity; promote inclusive excellence for faculty, students and staff; facilitate the sharing of best practices and identify opportunities for greater alignment across UF Health.

She graduated from Mercer University with a bachelor’s in biology before earning her doctorate of pharmacy from the Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy. She completed her pharmacy practice residency at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

“She has a strong track record of leadership, clinical expertise and excellence in academia, along with a deep dedication to diversity and health equity,” said Dr. David R. Nelson, senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “These attributes will allow her to guide a large organization like UF Health in this space, as we look to fulfill our own commitment to these values.”

Media contact: Doug Bennett,, 813-786-2164

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