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Lessons from Industry: Diversity and Inclusion Are Good for Business and the Academic Health Mission

Linda Chuadron

By Linda Chaudron, Member at Large of the GWIMS Steering Committee
Senior Associate Dean for Diversity, Professor, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Ob/Gyn, Vice Chair for Clinical Services, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine

On the final day of the conference, four phenomenal speakers provided a variety of perspectives on how to create the business case and metrics for academic medical centers to advance their diversity and inclusion efforts. Critical “take away messages” included a reminder that we must have a business case for diversity, we must be fiscally responsibility and we must also “do the right thing”.

Dr. Andre Churchwell of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine emphasized the need for a clear foundation for diversity and inclusion efforts based on an institutional diversity plan. Linking health profession diversity to health outcomes, including patient satisfaction, provided an important framework for beginning the case. Dr. Greer Jordan of University of Massachusetts Medical School highlighted a second important infrastructure recommendation was the active and effective engagement of diversity groups within an institution. By understanding the crucial roles that these groups might play, including as resources to help 1) advance engagement and employer reputation, 2) promote recruitment and retention, 3) be a source of innovation and an opportunity for leadership development, is another way to construct an organizational structure that can broaden the message. This topic led nicely into the third topic in which Lynn Gordon, Chair of GWIMS, spoke on behalf of Dr. Lisa Abbot of Penn State University, to reinforce the important point “changing an organization culture requires re-engineering business processes and deconstructing silos”. Indeed, the need to break down the silos and change from the traditional approaches of recruitment, mentorship and advancement was the final topic. Using examples from the Silicon Valley provided a helpful analogy for academic medical centers.

Lessons learned included the need to not only think big and start small (i.e. pilot) as we often due in academic medicine, but also scale up fast, which we do not always achieve in our large systems. The repetition of the theme that “leadership matters” and that accountability is necessary for our systems to change brings us full circle to the need for a framework, an institutional diversity plan and identified metrics. All of these components are necessary to change a culture and move an institution forward. Finally, the session ended with a robust discussion of three important questions that each of us must answer if we are to develop our institutional business cases. 1) With your institutions’ business drivers in mind, what else do you need to make the case for diversity and inclusion to a driver of your institutional mission 2) What are the numbers or data you would need to do this? 3) What do you need to measure over time? The discussion only just got started when the session ended but it is clear that it will continue in the future.

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