Office of Inclusion and Diversity

Recruit, Retain, Reaffirm

Keeping Efforts to Build a More Inclusive Culture in the Forefront

Keeping Efforts to Build a More Inclusive Culture in the Forefront

Eve J. Higginbotham SM, MD


A recent editorial written by former Treasury Secretary James Baker and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young in the Wall Street Journal, reminded us about the fundamental core values that we share as Americans. The authors provided a few historical touch points in addition to suggested paths forward as we aim to rekindle our shared purpose as a nation.  There was one specific phrase that stood out in particular: scripted more than 200 years ago, the enduring Latin phrase, “e pluribus unum”, out of many, one, reminds us that although we live in our communities as individuals, we are in fact one society with shared core values.  Recently, we were reminded about the goodness within our community as we witnessed brave rescues during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.  As Baker and Young pointed out in their editorial, this is the goodness that Abraham Lincoln noted, as we must appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”  While it is unfortunate that we had to experience another natural disaster to witness these generous moments, the timing was critically important, as the country experienced, just a week prior to Hurricane Harvey, divisive words and actions in Charlottesville, Boston, and other communities in the United States, grappling with the clash of our historic past bleeding into the present and hope of a future where inclusion will be appreciated as a core value.  The actions of the first responders in Houston are reminders how important our own individual behavior and choices can make a difference in the lives of others.  However, in the absence of a shared emergency, how can we as individuals seek to counteract the divisive tension currently overwhelming the nation? 

Recently, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) put forward 10 ways to fight hate, a prescriptive set of steps that each of us can embrace as we collectively move towards a more inclusive community. These are the principles as outlined by the SPLC:

  1. Act – when confronted with an act of hate, do something or say something;
  2. Join forces – create allies and form a coalition to create change;
  3. Support the victims – even in circumstances when there is something that is said or done that inappropriate, speak up;
  4. Speak up – seek ways to create a focus on unity and rational expression;
  5. Educate yourself - understand the perspectives of others;
  6. Create an alternative – participate in constructive action;
  7. Pressure leaders – inform those who can create change and support their efforts;
  8. Stay engaged – continue to promote acceptance and see the necessary changes in policy to the end;
  9. Teach acceptance – be aware of your own bias and support others in their efforts to understand other perspectives;
  10. Dig deeper – commit to making a difference, both personally and in professional interactions.

While some of these concepts may not directly apply to everyone’s circumstances, they do provide a starting point for creating change.  After all, as health professionals we face our own moments of urgency everyday as we strive to deliver the best care to our patients.  Our shared common purpose may be considered the health inequities within our community.  However, as we develop strategies to address inequities that disproportionately impact segments of our society, we must also recognize that those strategies must first escape our own biases.  Addressing our own challenges with diversity and inclusion can best position us to address health equity.

As members of a university community, each of us can do our part to enhance the inclusiveness of our shared culture.  In the Spring of 2016, The Office of Inclusion and Diversity asked members of our health professional, educational and clinical enterprises to share with us their stories of inclusion.  We received over 300 responses which overwhelmed us with  expressions of concerns, painful experiences, and a few recommendations for moving forward.  These recommendations have contributed to shaping the agenda for our Office for this next fiscal year:

  1. Campaigns encouraging kindness, respect for others, and advocacy for those who are subjected to less than ideal behavior and actions on behalf of others;
  2. Implicit bias workshops in the fall and spring, sharing tools for all of us to address our own biases;
  3. Launch of a new online cultural competency tool for faculty, staff, and students;
  4. Invited speakers throughout the year who will raise our awareness and educate all of us about the challenges our nation faces in the healthcare;
  5. Continued partnership with Graduate Medical Education to continue growing the programming and foster research related to health equity for Health Equity Week, April 2nd to 6th, 2018.
  6. Continue to partner with key anchor programs to support their programming and advocacy efforts;
  7. Work with the FAPD and departments to advance the work of the Diversity Search Advisors;
  8. Repeat the Diversity Engagement Survey in the Spring of 2018 to assess where we are currently in our progress towards a more inclusive community.

We will continue to work with departments, divisions, and other groups to assist with more specific efforts.  If you have additional ideas and comments you would like to share with us, please contact us at the OID mailbox.  We would love to hear about your specific programs that you are implementing in your own units. Regardless of your role at Penn Medicine, keep in mind that on a daily basis, each of us can make a difference.  Our collective efforts will move the needle toward a more inclusive culture.

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