‘Facilitating a community dialogue’

Launched in 2019, OUWB Diversity Lecture Series has featured nearly 30 sessions

Two of the nearly 30 speakers to participate in OUWB's Diversity Lecture Series

Tonya Bailey, Ph.D., chief diversity officer, Lansing Community College (left) and Leon McDougle, M.D., MPH, chief diversity officer for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, have been just two of the nearly 30 presenters in OUWB's Diversity Lecture Series. (Photos by Andrew Dietderich)

icon of a calendarDecember 21, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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Facilitating community dialogue on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion is of utmost importance to OUWB’s Diversity & Inclusion team — and the school’s Diversity Lecture Series offers proof positive.

Started in 2019, the series has hosted 27 events, successfully transitioning from in-person to online as a result of the COVID-19.

Tiffany Williams, Ph.D., director, Diversity & Inclusion, says it’s been important to continue the events despite any challenges presented by the pandemic.

“Facilitating a community dialogue is what we want because if we’re not talking about issues, or they’re not even recognized, it’s not giving breadth to something that is important,” she says.

The Diversity Lecture Series is open to the entire OUWB community, free of charge. Sessions are generally held monthly.  

The series was developed by Deirdre Pitts, Ph.D., associate dean for Academic, Faculty Affairs and Diversity & Inclusion, and Williams’ predecessor, Caryn Reed-Hendon, Ph.D.

Diversity Lecture Series presentations are consistent with the OUWB Diversity & Inclusion mission — to facilitate and promote OUWB’s diverse and inclusive medical learning community through pipeline programs, student support and interest groups, educational programs, and community outreach events.

In the beginning, officials said the hope was that the lectures would inspire dialogue among members of the OUWB community surrounding controversial and compelling narrative specific to diversity and inclusion in the health care environment and in everyday life.

“We have to become comfortable having these conversations, otherwise we won’t move past it,” Pitts said when the series began.

Williams says that original intent has remained consistent during the course of the last two years.

An image of the very first speaker for the OUWB Diversity Lecture Series

V. Thande Sulé, Ph.D., Oakland University professor, and self-described “critical race feminist hip-hop scholar" was the first official presenter via OUWB's Diversity Lecture Series. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

The first official event in the series was Oct. 22, 2019, and featured V. Thande Sulé, Ph.D., Oakland University professor, and self-described “critical race feminist hip-hop scholar.” Sulé’s lecture was titled “Navigating Race and Equity in Health Care.”

The earliest sessions were held in-person on the Oakland University campus. In early 2020 — and like many other things — presentations moved online.

The most recent Diversity Lecture Series session was held Nov. 18. It featured Ez Rodriguez, Ph.D., safe and healthy schools coordinator – Pinellas, Equality Florida Action Inc. The interactive workshop presented LGBTQ+ terminology, reviewed current national data and statistics related to LGBTQ+ youth and mental health, and offered best practices for creating inclusive learning environments to support students, families, and staff.

Other speakers have come from all across the U.S.

Williams says topics for the series come from a variety of sources, including surveys attendees take after each presentation.

“We do ask if there are any areas that we can dig a little further into, or any areas that they would like to see that we haven’t covered,” says Williams. “We want the community to tell us what kind of projects they think we should be getting into.”

Williams says OUWB’s Diversity & Inclusion team also stays on top of issues in real-time.

“We know that we had a lot of civil unrest in 2020, so where would we be without continuing the Diversity Lecture Series highlighting some of these issues around inequity?” Williams asks. “One of the ways to do it is to have these platforms and thank goodness for them.”

Speakers are drawn from various sources, including professional networks and conferences. Williams says sometimes guests are found simply by reading their respective publications online.

Williams says the value of the series is measured by attendance — there are generally between 30 and 100 people per session — and, more importantly, by the dialogue that they generate.

“We’re still having this ongoing dialogue with our community and people are engaged while they’re there,” she says. “You can always learn something new by sitting in on a session.”

Williams says plans already are well underway to keep the series going into 2022 and beyond — and that OUWB’s Diversity & Inclusion team wants help from the community with regards to planning.

“OUWB is a growing community of diversity,” says Williams. “We want to hear from the people who make up that community…tell us what you want to hear, what you want to know.”

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