‘Honest and open’

Second cohort graduates from OUWB Diversity Champion program

A collage of the second cohort of Diversity Champions.

The 14 members of the second cohort of graduates from OUWB's Diversity Champions program See box below for list of names.

icon of a calendarMarch 22, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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The second OUWB Diversity Champion cohort graduated in February, reaffirming the school’s commitment to being a diverse learning community.

 The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC) kicked off the new Diversity Champion program in early 2021. 

OUWB DEIC was created in 2013 as a means to give a voice to medical students, faculty, and staff. The purpose of the council is to redouble efforts in ensuring OUWB is a safe environment where learning and engagement on all levels take place. The council was reframed in 2019 with members from staff, faculty, residents, and students.

In 2020, DEIC recommended creation and implementation of the Diversity Champion program to extend and deepen the commitment to OUWB’s diverse learning environment.

The inaugural cohort consisted of nearly 30 graduates representing various aspects of the OUWB community. Fourteen people graduated as part of the second group, during a Feb. 1 virtual ceremony.

Deirdre Pitts, Ph.D., associate dean, Academic, Faculty Affairs, and Diversity & Inclusion, said she views the program “as a reaffirmation of the school’s commitment to the mission of diversity and inclusion.”

“The name of the department that this falls under is diversity and inclusion for a reason,” she said. “Diversity to represent our pledge to build an environment where the diversity of all students, faculty, and staff is embraced, accepted, respected, and celebrated.”

The idea behind the Diversity Champions program was first proposed by Pitts in late 2019.

To develop a framework for the program, the Diversity Champions program team sought input from experts in the fields of race, cultural competency, LGBTQ, and more.

That input led the champion planning committee of Suzan Kamel-ElSayed, Ph.D., Robin Rivest, Ph.D., Kevin Roby, M4 student, Tracey Taylor, Ph.D., and Ann Voorhies-Sargent, Ph.D., to create programming focused on topics such as social identity, unconscious bias, microaggressions, a history of race and racism, the importance of pronouns, and more.

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“Participants learn from each other and lean on each other in order to make the most of their valuable training time together,” said Pitts. “Interactions…were honest and open, leaving their experiences hopefully unforgettable.”Pitts said training to become a champion is “an intense process that is completely immersive.”

“I believe these champions will have a positive impact on OUWB as they carry out the pledge to nurture an inclusive environment,” she added.

As part of the graduation ceremony, graduates together recite the Diversity Champion Oath. Through the oath, graduates pledge to listen with respect, embrace differences, advocate for others, and more.

Some graduates also spoke about their experience during the ceremony.

Sarah Lerchenfeldt, Pharm.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, was one of the speakers.

“Throughout the program, I was inspired by the honesty and bravery of our faculty, staff, and students, and encouraged to be more mindful in everything I do, whether helping improve the curriculum or participating in community events,” she said. “(The program) provided me with many necessary tools and strategies to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for our community.”

Trixy Hall, coordinator of Graduate Program and Community Outreach — and also a Diversity Champion graduate — spoke on the importance of “the authentic self.”

“The whole training really gave us an opportunity to really see how we’re different, and how we’re the same,” she said. “It also makes you feel like you have to be a little bit more understanding and you have to have patience when it comes to understanding what another person goes through.”

 Rachel Harvey, M4, said she was “inspired and moved” by the other members of the cohort.

“Each and every individual brought their own unique experiences and perspectives,” she said.

Harvey said she feels confident that the experience “will make me a better physician and team member.”

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