The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Diversity Lecture Series continued in February with a third speaker who helped further the overall mission of the program.
OUWB Diversity Lecture Series promotes ‘value of difference, importance of acceptance’
OUWB Diversity Lecture Series, 2020
Mary Hooker (left), office assistant, OUWB, talks to attendees of a presentation by Tonya Bailey (right), Ph.D., chief diversity officer, Lansing Community College, as part of an exercise on Feb. 12, 2020. Bailey visited OUWB as part of the school's Diversity Lecture Series.

The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Diversity Lecture Series continued in February with a third speaker who helped further the overall mission of the program.

That mission?

To introduce ideas and perspectives to increase understanding of the value of diversity and to enhance OUWB's efforts toward inclusive excellence across the OUWB community, said Deirdre Pitts, Ph.D., interim associate dean for Academic, Faculty Affairs and Diversity & Inclusion, and assistant professor of Foundational Medical Studies, OUWB.

Pitts said the lectures are intended to inspire dialogue among all members of the community surrounding controversial and compelling narrative specific to diversity and inclusion in the health care environment and in our everyday lives.

“When I look at the series as a whole, the message that we’ve been trying to get across is the value of difference and the importance of acceptance,” Pitts said.

“In order for everyone to feel comfortable in their skin, and for us to move toward being an environment of inclusive excellence, we have to learn to accept each other as we are.”

On Feb. 12, Tonya Bailey, Ph.D., chief diversity officer, Lansing Community College, addressed about 30 people at the third Diversity Lecture Series event of the current school year. Held on the campus of OUWB, the event focused on self-identity, being aware of other peoples’ cultures, and the importance of working collaboratively.

Bailey followed a Diversity Lecture Series presentation in November by Leon McDougle, M.D., MPH, chief diversity officer for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and an October session featuring V. Thande Sulé, Ph.D., Oakland University professor.

Nearly 100 people attended the three events held as part of the Diversity Lecture Series, set to wrap for the school year in April (plans are still being finalized).

As Pitts noted, each of the presenters had a unique way in addressing the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Three points of view

Sulé effectively conducted a workshop to help participants understand what she described as “normalized, taken-for-granted behaviors, and how those behaviors are informed by our discomfort with engaging in critical conversations about the intersection between social identity and access to resources, which includes equitable health care.”

“Oftentimes, comments are made by people who are not intentionally trying to be harmful,” Pitts said. “But intent is not an excuse for hurting someone’s feelings and I think that was the most important piece that came out of Dr. Sulé’s presentation.”

On Nov. 6, McDougle gave his presentation “Credentials Don’t Shield Healthcare Professionals from Bias.”

McDougle is the first African American professor with tenure in The Ohio State University Department of Family Medicine and the first chief diversity officer for the OSU Wexner Medical Center.

He focused on the concept of explicit bias and, in doing so, effectively used “real-life” scenarios to make his point by presenting several cases and have smaller groups discuss. In one case, for example, a patient had indicated he didn’t want his family treated by people of a certain dissent. McDougle led a discussion about how to best deal with that situation.

“Hopefully, people walked away with an understanding of how to initiate further conversation, or even think about things that they may not have previously realized, regarding things that occur in the workplace,” Pitts said.

Diversity Lecture Series 20, McDougleMcDougle called the discussion “robust.”

“(OUWB) has an enlightened and engaged faculty and staff,” he said. “It’s important to take part in events like this because it’s all about education, which is an important part of us being able to care better for our diverse patient populations that we serve.”

Bailey’s presentation centered on defining diversity and celebrating it through inclusion. Among other things, she had attendees identify what diversity looks like in their personal and professional lives.

“I hope that people take an opportunity to look at their own self-identity, consider the cultures of others, and then begin to work collaboratively to value everyone’s culture so we can move the diversity, equity, and inclusion needle much further,” she said.

Pitts praised Bailey for effectively pushing people to become more comfortable talking about issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“I always tell people ‘You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable’ because oftentimes when you feel uncomfortable, there’s a breakthrough coming,” said Pitts.

Bailey praised OUWB for hosting the event centered on diversity.

“It says that (OUWB) is a trailblazer,” she said. “It says that you are intentional. It says that your students and your employees matter. And it says that you’re committed to helping people understand the importance of the work and the importance of their role in the work.”


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Caryn Reed-Hendon, Ph.D., director of Diversity and Inclusion, OUWB, said to expect the Diversity Lecture Series to continue as the school works “to show multiple perspectives in regard to inclusive excellence, engagement, implicit bias and navigating the terrain of diversity as it relates to medicine.”

“My expectation is that the Diversity Lecture Series serves as a yearly benchmark moving forward, showing how far we have come as an institution becoming a model for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and actions,” she said.

OUWB has taken several steps in the last year to bolster diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Last July, it was announced that the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council has been reframed with new members and new leadership. The purpose of the council is to redouble efforts in ensuring OUWB is a safe environment where learning and engagement on all levels take place.

Two weeks ago, it was announced that the council had developed “Learning Environment Guidelines” aimed at “promoting an inclusive environment where students feel safe and supported — and have a sense of belonging.” The guidelines are posted in every OUWB class or breakout room, including those on the three Beaumont Hospital campuses.

Pitts said additional initiatives are in the works and will be announced when ready.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

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