By: Thomas Schwenk
A culture of diversity, equity and inclusion is vital to the success of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine as we train the next generation of physicians and health care professionals. I want you to know how important that culture is to the leadership of UNR Med and to me personally.
We are not creating, supporting and enhancing a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion because it is a trending topic, or a topical statement of the moment. A diverse culture is one of our most defining values, because it is who we are and what we do.
We strive to become a better school of medicine of greater breadth and depth and to achieve the highest level of excellence in education, patient care and research. We strive to drive innovation and becoming an employer of choice as a result of our culture and values.
- Training a more diverse and culturally competent workforce will meet the needs of an increasingly diverse patient population, and address disparities and inequities in health.
- Asking research questions that are broader, more important, of higher impact and address the critical issue of health care disparities will lead to a higher quality of medical care.
- Breaking down stereotypical thinking and biases, challenging assumptions and broadening perspectives makes us accessible to patients and learners, and more comfortable with the breadth of human experiences beyond our own.
A wide range of rigorous research studies support the relationship between diversity and academic and clinical excellence.
The profession of medicine is inextricably linked to diversity in all its forms, and cannot escape its responsibility to care for a diverse population. Disease and suffering know no boundaries, whether characterized by differences in race, ethnicity, gender orientation, income, disability or any other human trait, yet patients with these characteristics fare less well in our current health care system. Disease processes are at one and the same time blind to all differences and entirely influenced by these differences. Disease and suffering lead us all to a state of human vulnerability that is in many ways the same for all, and in other ways unique to each person.
As physicians, scientists and health care professionals, we take seriously our training responsibilities to address the clinical implications of diversity. We need to embrace and understand the breadth of humanness so as to be as expert as possible in curing and caring. One only has to reference the Physician's Oath, recited each spring by graduating medical students, to fully embrace diversity and inclusion as the very core of our ethical practice of medicine. Here are some of the meaningful words from Hippocrates in the 4th century BC:
"I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
"I will maintain the utmost respect for human life."
It is for all of these reasons that UNR Med's mission makes unequivocally clear our responsibility as an institution to improve the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through an "institutional culture of respect, compassion and diversity."
Through our Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with senior leadership from Dr. Nicole Jacobs, our Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, a culture of diversity and inclusion is promoted through a wide range of initiatives, policies and programming. For example, all members of a faculty search committee are trained in awareness of the impact of implicit bias; we require faculty candidates to describe how they will contribute to our diverse culture and values; our admissions process for medical students takes a holistic approach to evaluating applicants, including their approach to a diverse health care workforce and patient population; we host difficult and revealing conversations during monthly Diversity Dialogues; and many of our leaders, faculty and staff members are actively engaged in ongoing diversity and inclusion training.
We are all aware of recent incidents, both local and national, that are hurtful, harmful and hateful. There will no doubt be more in the future. The commitment of UNR Med to a diverse and inclusive culture is our small contribution to changing the larger culture that leads to these events, a small pebble whose ripples we hope will spread this change to the world around us. We have made great progress, but have much yet to go.
I will defend and support UNR Med's culture of diversity, equity and inclusion with all my energy, for as long as it is my responsibility. It is, in fact, my responsibility for as long as I am part of UNR Med, in whatever role, as it is for all members of UNR Med.