Spreading the Seeds of Change

Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Faculty and staff engaged in a diversity forum

Last week, more than 50 School of Medicine (SoM) faculty, staff and students – most members of the school’s Inclusion Council – attended a symposium, “Leading Diversity and Inclusion Change:  A Call to Action,” hosted by the SoM Office of Diversity & Inclusion.

“The goal of the symposium was to continue efforts to engage individuals throughout the school in activities that help promote a climate where everyone experiences a true sense of belonging, feel that they matter, and can thrive and contribute their best work,” explained Judy Seidenstein, chief diversity officer for the School of Medicine. “That emulates the mission of the school’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion.”

Established in 2014, members of the Inclusion Council help prioritize the school’s diversity and inclusion goals and strategies. They also serve as an advisory “think tank” for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and act as liaisons for their departments, institutes, and centers by helping develop goals and implement strategies that foster diversity and inclusion.

The council has grown over the past three years to include more than 50 members who share a rich diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, experience, and identities. Council members represent the majority of the school’s basic and clinical science departments, centers, institutes and educational programs. They focus their efforts by joining one of four key working groups: 1) Recruitment & Retention Strategies; 2) Education, Training & Communication; 3) Measurement Matters: Data Mining, Benchmarking & Best Practices for Assessing Climate; and 4) Building Bridges and Enhancing Relationships Across Traditional “Divides.”

Kimberly Johnson, MD, associate professor in the Department of Medicine and an original member of the Inclusion Council, explained that members of the council are given tools and knowledge that they can then take back to their units.

“Duke is a huge place,” says Johnson. “It’s like council members are planting little seeds throughout the school to grow, helping to spread the word about the importance and positive impact of a diverse and inclusive community.”

Faculty and staff engaged in a diversity forumRecently, the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) began efforts to establish its own diversity committee and explore opportunities to enhance diversity and inclusiveness efforts and activities in the institute. Kevin Saunders, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and member of the DHVI, is chairing the committee. Randy Grimes, human resources director for DHVI and a member of the inclusion council, was instrumental in the establishment of this group.

“This is a great example of the impact of the council,” said Seidenstein. “We are seeing council members working with their colleagues throughout the school to translate the knowledge, best- practice strategies and tools that they are gaining into their individual departments. There’s a ripple effect happening that is wonderful to witness.”