Dell Med is rethinking everything — including diversity.
The school’s mission includes redesigning the academic health environment to better serve society and improve health in our community. As we work to achieve this mission, it’s crucial that we recognize the various needs of our diverse communities. We must create and support a community within Dell Med that is reflective of the population we serve.
This past June, I joined the Dell Med team as the inaugural Assistant Dean for Diversity. I’ve spent the last four months meeting with leadership, faculty, staff, students and residents as well as community members and leaders in Central Texas. By starting from scratch, we have the opportunity to create something special: a medical school unlike any other in the country.
The following are some themes that arose from these meetings:
- We must embrace a broad definition of diversity. When the word “diversity” is spoken, race and ethnicity often come to mind. It’s important to consider one’s race and ethnicity for many reasons — we are far from ending racism, discrimination and a historical legacy of oppression. However, it’s just as important to consider other forms of diversity. At Dell Med, this includes anything that makes us unique such as: abilities (mental/physical), age, ethnicity, first generation to attend college, gender, gender identity, immigrant status, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, veteran status and weight among other traits.
- Diversity is only part of the story. We must also embrace the concepts of equity (access to the same opportunities) and inclusion (creating an environment of connection, involvement and respect) if we are going to successfully achieve our mission to better serve society and improve health in all our communities.
- We must agree to disagree. With a diverse community comes a diverse set of attitudes and beliefs. It’s important that individuals have a safe space to share their beliefs, experiences and express their opinions.
- We must work hard to create a community at Dell Med that resembles the communities we serve. This includes supporting efforts to recruit and retain individuals from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine. The approach must be broad and multifaceted, from pipeline programs to faculty and leadership development opportunities for diverse individuals. Citing a lack of a diverse pool of applicants is not an acceptable response.
- We have lots to learn from our communities. We need to understand and acknowledge the struggles of Central Texas/Austin’s diverse communities. Community members, leaders and other key stakeholders need to be present at the table and included in the conversation.
So what have we at Dell Med done in response to this insight?
Diversity Dialogues: I’ve created a Diversity Dialogue series for members of the Dell Med community to gather and process national and local events in safe space. Faculty, staff, students and trainees are invited to gather every two months to have a conversation around issues relevant to our community.
Community Support: On Aug. 27, members of the Dell Med community marched in Austin’s PRIDE parade. More than 25 faculty members, staff and students marched with the UT Austin delegation to celebrate gay pride.
Community Engagement: On Sept. 17, Dell Med students attended “A Community Dialogue: Sickle Cell” held on the Huston-Tillotson University campus. Attendees learned about supporting and educating individuals that deal with sickle cell disease.
Diversity Mixer: Dell Medical School’s first annual Diversity Mixer was held on Sept. 28. More than 50 faculty members, staff, students and residents attended this networking reception to learn more about our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Outreach: Students from the University of Texas El Paso and Prairie View A&M University have visited Dell Med to learn more about the school, take a tour and meet students and leadership.
Unconscious Bias Trainings: I’ve given several presentations on the impact of unconscious bias on our work to members of the Dell Med community and will continue to do so.
Diversity Curriculum: I am working with members from the school’s Health Disparities team and the Department of Population Health to develop a diversity curriculum that will be available to the Dell Med community. Topics will include unconscious bias, microaggressions, privilege, power, health disparities among many others.
- Over the next few months, Dell Med will officially open the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which will be the central hub for programming and implementation.
- Our students are establishing the Making Equity Standard in Healthcare (MESH) group that is open to ALL members of the Dell Med community.
- A Dell Medical School Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council is being developed and will include staff and faculty members from each department as well as a student and trainee representative. The council will work with our office to develop a diversity and inclusion strategic plan.
- A diversity second look program will be held in January for residency program applicants interested in learning more about Dell Meds commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will work with the Health Disparities team and the Department of Population Health to connect with Austin’s diverse communities.
Several other activities are planned. Your ideas and suggestions are always welcome!