Bridging across difference: OHEI hosts sixth DEI symposium

October 18, 2019

Bridging across difference: OHEI hosts sixth DEI symposium

At the root of diversity is difference. It isn’t the acceptance of those differences that make diversity and inclusion efforts sustainable, rather the embracing of those differences that create a more dynamic institution. This year’s DEI Gratitude Symposium, hosted by the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion (OHEI), ignited conversation around this idea and explored how to further diversify thought and communicate across differences at Michigan Medicine. The theme of the sixth biannual DEI symposium was “Building Bridges Across Difference for Sustainable Change.”

Lenora Billings-Harris
Keynote speaker Lenora Billings-Harris

Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the U-M Medical School, executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of Michigan Medicine, and David J. Brown, M.D., associate vice president and associate dean of the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion and associate professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery, opened the event with remarks focused on gratitude and practical methods of infusing difference and diversity into the workplace.

“There is a lot going on at Michigan Medicine,” said Brown, “and it all comes together to help create a culture where we can best serve our mission to advance health to serve Michigan and the world.”

Bringing diversity to the table

Lenora Billings-Harris brought a wealth of wisdom and insight in both her keynote address and Q&A session. A U-M graduate, Billings-Harris is a diversity and inclusion strategist.

“You cannot get diversity of thought if you do not have diversity at the table,” said Billings-Harris during her keynote.

She highlighted the importance of a human being’s basic need for belonging and how inviting diverse voices into a conversation sparks innovative results. Her keynote magnified various thought-provoking issues within DEI, including micro inequities, micro aggressions and colorism. She also introduced audience members to techniques that effectively combat bias and reduce insensitive behavior in and out of the workplace.

Echoing the theme, members of a “Leading Across Difference” panel shared their professional experiences working with others from different backgrounds.

The panel was made up of Shon Dwyer, executive director of UH/CVC; Feranmi Okanlami, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of family medicine and director of Medical Student Programs in OHEI; Pedro Coracides, project manager in the Office of Patient Experience; and Sonya Jacobs, chief organizational learning officer. The group all shared unique perspectives on how inclusive collaboration strengthens the community.

With regard to collaboration, Okanlami implored members of the organization to always “Come in ego-less.” He and the other members of the panel agreed that entering into a collaboration without ego yields greater results, better working relationships and an overall greater learning experience.

Attendees were also given an update on the organization’s DEI 5-year strategic plan, showcasing accomplishments and outlining the path forward.

Celebrating champions

During the symposium, OHEI awarded six Champion for Positive Culture at Michigan Medicine awards. These departments all made significant progress in their DEI efforts, as measured by data points and/or recognition from faculty and staff.

“These teams should be proud of their exemplary leadership in moving this health system forward,” said Phyllis Blackman, M.B.A., director of the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion.

Recipients of the Champion for Promoting Positive Culture at Michigan Medicine were:

  • U-M Medical School Office of Research (DEI Lead: Sue Low)
  • Patient Relations and Clinical Risk (DEI Lead Karrie Schultz)
  • MICHR (DEI Lead: LaTonya Berryhill)
  • Patient Food and Nutrition Services (DEI Lead: Erica Raymond)
  • Canton Health Center (DEI Lead: Rusty Ward)

Finally, as it looked to the future, OHEI awarded eight mini grants to help implement new and creative DEI ideas. Mini grant recipients are:

  • Melinda Su and En Lee, Department of Pharmacy: The award will be used to translate anticoagulation education materials to Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin (Chinese) for patients with limited English proficiency.
  • John Runge, Department of Dermatology, Winding Roads student group: Winding Roads will use the funds to provide personal and professional enrichment through events and speakers for non-traditional students that are not readily available through other avenues on campus.
  • James Cech, Interpreter Services: The award will be used to create a series of short informational videos for Limited English Proficiency patients and their caregivers.
  • Maureen Fausone, Quintin Solano and Brandon Ellsworth, Department of Family Medicine: The U-M Adaptive Sports Student Group will develop adaptive roller-sled hockey at Michigan Medicine.
  • Alexander Reardon, Department of Pediatrics: Reardon will use the funds toward research on the gender disparity in the assessment of children’s pain.
  • Kristian Black, Department of Urology: The grant will be used to fund UroVersity, an innovative pipeline program aimed to increase the number of underrepresented students from the U-M Medical School applying for urology.
  • Candice Stegink, Fast Forward Medical Innovation: The funds will be used toward the Innovation and Entrepreneurship workshop, a three-hour session that focuses on social entrepreneurship and its implications.
  • Kiley Adams, Alec Bernard, Ali Herman, Jiwon Park, Becca Row and Kinsey Vear, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Funds will be used to purchase a Trail wheelchair to provide medical students access to CAMP, the student-led wilderness pre-orientation program.