UF College of Medicine’s first annual Celebration of Diversity Week sparks discussion on interaction and identity in medicine
Celebration of Diversity Week, held April 3-8, featured more than a dozen events and speakers
April 11, 2017 — The UF College of Medicine’s first annual Celebration of Diversity Week, held April 3-8, was created to honor inclusion and multiculturalism in the field of academic medicine. More than a dozen speakers addressed the roots and impact of health care disparities and biases.
A common thread running through the discussions was the impact of implicit biases — how these subconscious expectations and judgments based on one’s sociocultural identity negatively impact quality patient care, the relationship between health care provider and patient, as well as access to education and care for minority populations.
The week’s events kicked off with the dean’s grand rounds, during which Kate Ratliff, a UF assistant professor of psychology, spoke about her work as executive director of Project Implicit, an international initiative that collects data on the persistence of implicit biases.
She said since implicit biases exist under our mental radar, they’re less controllable.
“Our perception isn’t subject to reason. It’s a construction of our environment,” she said. “The biases we carry with us, based on our past experiences and expectations, have the potential to influence our hiring processes, how we treat others, all our decision-making.”
Jeannette South-Paul, M.D., chair of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and first vice president for minority affairs at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, spoke about the challenges and rewards she’s experienced in leadership roles within academic family medicine. She spoke about the impact of microaggressions, which can manifest in hateful language, a particular tone or cadence of speech, or non-verbal cues.
“Receiving these messages changes the way we perceive our space in our environment, and it hampers our ability to build strong, diverse teams,” she said. “Health care is a cross-cultural exercise. We have to constantly work at melding together cultures and staying humble in the process.”
Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., an assistant professor of African American history at UF and 2016 National Book Award winner for “Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” outlined American medicine’s racial history. From a 1797 medical paper explaining the cause of black skin as an infectious disease to scientists of the new millennium intent on using the Human Genome Project’s findings to prove the races’ biological inequality, Kendi provided examples of how racist ideas create policies that lead to inequity through inferior care and a lack of resources for minority populations.
“The only place for race in medicine is as a tool to identify health disparities,” he said.
Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., named dean of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville this January, participated in a panel discussion at the emergency department’s grand rounds on diversity. Looking forward, he said, in addition to an overall focus on diversity, he will have a particular focus on examining if there are gender inequalities in pay and the uneven proportion of leadership positions held by women in Jacksonville.
“Getting rid of these inequities and promoting diversity and inclusion is an active sport,” he said.
Marcus Martin, M.D., senior vice president and chief diversity officer for the University of Virginia, also participated in the emergency department panel discussion. Martin was named the first African-American chair of an academic emergency department in the nation. For decades, he’s worked to make the University of Virginia an inclusive environment. He’s accomplished this through improving admission practices, starting an alumni fund centered on equity and access, and co-authoring works like “Diversity and Inclusion in Quality Patient Care,” published by Springer last year.
“Medical education must address the attitudes and knowledge gaps that perpetuate cultural barriers,” he said. “We found diversity equals excellence.”
Adrian Tyndall, M.D., chair of the UF College of Medicine department of emergency medicine, organized Celebration of Diversity Week with the Office for Diversity and Health Equity to stimulate conversation and action across the college.
“How does our institution truly value diversity? It was a week to start crucial conversations,” he said. “We know disparities in health care persist, regardless of our best efforts. When we look at the workforce in academic medicine, there has been progress, but it’s still lacking in terms of numbers of unrepresented faculty. It’s important to make people aware of how diversity, or the lack thereof, impacts equity and outcomes.”
Celebration of Diversity Week culminated Saturday evening with the College of Medicine’s annual Emerald Ball, which was established nearly 15 years ago by UF medical students to provide accepted minority students an opportunity to learn more about the college in an effort to encourage their enrollment.
UF College of Medicine Dean Michael L. Good, M.D., welcomed the college’s potential students and others, including special guest speaker Freeman Hrabowski III, Ph.D., president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Hrabowski’s work with the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, a pipeline to increase diversity in science and engineering undergraduate programs, has produced more than 1,000 graduates. The College Board’s National Task Force on Minority High Achievement called Hrabowski’s program a model for campuses across the nation.
“As we prepare the health care leaders of tomorrow, we must create a climate that fosters belonging, connection and value for all,” Good said.
Photos by Jesse S. Jones
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