The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine’s Class of 2026 learned more about the topics of diversity, equality, and inclusion in a fun, informative workshop on Tuesday.
Hosted by OUWB’s Diversity & Inclusion team, students gained insight into the topics while connected to each other – a key focus of the day and orientation week in general.
The day was led by Deirdre Pitts, Ph.D., associate dean for Academic, Faculty Affairs, and Diversity & Inclusion.
“We can’t have this attitude without this training, it’s so important,” she said.
During the day the students worked in groups and listened to different presentations.
In addition to Pitts, presenters included Angie Freeman, Coordinator, Diversity & Inclusion, and Diversity & Inclusion Assistant Deans Vonda Douglas-Nikitin, MD, Sheala Jafry, MD, Payal Shah, MD, and Tracey Taylor, Ph.D.
“It’s something we definitely need to learn more about and be remembered here and there,” Derrik Nghiem said. “A lot of places don’t put this kind of emphasis on diversity and inclusion.”
‘We are pursuing the same goal’
Pitts and Shah guided the first part of the workshop which focused on privilege and social identity, as well as unconscious and conscious prejudice. The students also reflected on their own experiences.
The presentation highlighted ways to reduce prejudice, such as introspection, self-awareness, building cultural awareness, practicing cultural humility, and controlling one’s behavior.
“I would really encourage you, especially if you perceive something about a patient that makes them feel uncomfortable, share a story with them, really try to personalize that experience,” Shah said.
“It only takes less than a minute and sharing your stories, even as caregivers with the patients you are about to see, will make a big difference in comfort level,” she added.
Another session led by Jafry and Taylor focused on racism and its impact on health. They discussed how internalized racism throughout history and today fuels mistrust and health disparities between different races.
|Pitts told OUWB’s newest class, “We can’t have this attitude without this training. It’s so important.”|
The session highlighted that more blacks than whites are distrusted in health care, as a result of previous studies and experiments such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Students were given ways to address these issues, such as advocacy, building trust in patients, and reducing unconscious bias.
Jafry left the group after the session with an inspiring message.
“Kindness is important, be kind to each other, bring goodness with you every day, whatever you put out in the world, comes back to you, people need more smiles and acts of kindness, we are all together in this life,” she said . “So remember that we are all a team. We are committed to the same goal of helping people and making this a better place.”
The next session was called “Enhancing Community Through LGBTQ+ Inclusivity” and was held by Freeman and Pitts. The session explored the differences between gender, gender and orientation, and how each should be used in the world.
“Go through that exploration yourself, because the more you understand about yourself, the more you can understand about others in your patients as well,” Freeman said.
“Remember, all of our patients are affected by this … especially within the medical curriculum and hopefully you just start thinking about gender as a spectrum,” she added.
The session also focused on some of the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, such as refusing health care because of being transgender, an unsafe school climate, and avoiding medical treatment for fear of bias.
The session offered three key ways to help everyone feel inclusive in their lives; alliance, advocacy and activism. The students were encouraged to participate in the OUWB Kaleidoscope Project.
“We want something to show individuals who our allies are,” Pitts said.
“I’m very happy with that project because it was student-led and we were able to give the students what they asked for.”
The last session focused on creating a respectful and inclusive culture. The students were given tools and guidelines to help them become more welcoming and inclusive to other students, as well as to professors and patients.
“This is what we’re trying to give you, the framework in terms of how to figure out what to do,” Douglas-Nikitin said.
The students learned to deal with difficult situations and conversations that can arise from people who unconsciously or consciously say something disrespectful.
Pitts emphasized the importance of holding this session and for the new students
“It’s just so important for people to understand the importance of difference and the impact it has on their experience,” she said.
Pitts said it was important that diversity, equality and inclusion include a full day of orientation.
Her hope, she said, is “that people can look around the room and say, ‘I’ve had the chance to meet someone else and now understand how important it is to embrace people who are different from me.'”
The students realized what this means for those involved in running the program and what it will mean for their careers as caregivers.
Ethan Dimock appreciated the experience, saying it was “very relaxed” and a “very friendly atmosphere”. He thought about how this will affect his future.
“I think, especially our third and fourth years if we work in a hospital, this will be crucial to help develop clinical skills that are more equitable and better able to treat patients in a respectful way,” he said.
Shafiul Alam said the whole session was “very interesting and informative”.
He said one of his biggest takeaways was a better understanding of “making sure you address people the way they want to be addressed.”
“I was really impressed that they put so much emphasis on[subjects related to diversity, equality and inclusion]and exposed everyone to them … whether they had been exposed to it before or not,” he said.
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