New diversity initiatives

May 06, 2013

Having spent the last two weeks writing to you about the state budget and its potential effect on our programs, this week I'm pleased to take a break from fiscal matters to talk about a subject that is equally important - and more refreshing.

Many of our colleagues have spent the last few months preparing to breathe new life into our diversity efforts. We strive for diversity because it is essential to each of our four mission areas. It strengthens our ability to recruit and retain talented faculty, staff and students; enhances the way we teach our students and conduct research; and fosters our ability to better serve our community. 

For example, on Friday, April 26, I had the pleasure of stopping by the School of Nursing atrium to see winning research projects by students from Garden City High School, who had participated in a program put on by our Area Health Education Center. If you don't know about our Area Health Education Centers, these four offices in Garden City, Hays, Kansas City and Pittsburg offer programs, continuing education and services to medicine, nursing and health professions students and to rural providers. The students I met presented posters on the effects of caffeine, smoking and high cholesterol. And they were a true representation of Garden City, a southwestern Kansas town where, as the Convention and Visitors Bureau boasts, "diversity and acceptance is practiced daily." These young scientific collaborators represented a variety of races and ethnicities. If they go on to careers in the health care field - which I encouraged them to do - they're the future of the health care workforce.

Then, this last Friday, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and I were among those joining Mexico's director of international health in renewing our agreement with the Mexican government to conduct research, teaching and information exchange. On Saturday, I attended the American Indian Research Health & Education Alliance's 7th Annual Health & Wellness Pow Wow at Johnson County Community College. Our faculty, staff and students provided free health screenings amid dancing and drumming, food and other festivities.

These events don't come close to covering everything we could cite as examples of diversity during a week in the life of KU Medical Center.

And we want to do even more. Our strategic plan challenges us to increase diversity, cultural competence and professionalism across KU Medical Center. To that goal, I want to update everyone on the incredible amount of work that's already been done under the leadership of Karen Miller, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, and Dean of the School of Nursing and the School of Health Professions.

At the end of last year, Dean Miller convened a "Think Tank," comprised of more than 80 faculty and staff representing all areas of the campus. This group took an inventory of past and current activities and initiatives related to diversity, cultural competence and professionalism. The inventory, along with deep discussions, helped identify opportunities for collaboration and areas where we've been effective and where we could improve.

From that groundwork, a Diversity, Cultural Competence & Professionalism Strategic Plan Workgroup was created to focus on four key areas identified by the Think Tank: recruitment and retention; organizational structure; educational curriculum; and research. The full workgroup is in the process of defining what diversity means at KU Medical Center, and each subgroup is studying the strengths and weaknesses of their respective areas and identifying recommendations.

Here is a general breakdown of what the subgroups are focusing on:

Recruitment and retention - determine current best practices and how we measure up; identify diversity-related issues that our faculty, staff and students face and address these issues; and make overall recommendations for improvements that build on our past successes.

Organizational structure - determine how to structure and/or assign staff and where the reporting lines will fall so that efforts can be centralized while preserving grassroots efforts.

Educational curriculum - determine what and how we're doing relative to other schools; identify issues our students, including international students, face and find ways to make them successful; improve documentation for accreditation purposes; incorporate interprofessional recommendations.

Research - determine gaps in recording, reporting, data access, and health disparities; and meet with key personnel in each school and throughout campus to plan for improvements.

I am encouraged by this progress and fully support the efforts by Dean Miller and the workgroups to incorporate meaningful improvements in our approaches to diversity, cultural competence and professionalism. These are core values at KU Medical Center, and I plan to play an active role to promote our efforts across all campuses. 

I'd like to close by thanking each of you for your unique contributions. It is through our varied experiences, credentials, views and background that we have advanced our mission thus far. Multiple and diverse perspectives are the differences that will launch us successfully into a more inclusive and informed future. Stay tuned for updates.

Last modified: May 06, 2013