Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine recently launched a new program aimed at furthering the intent and efforts of the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.

Diversity Champions: OUWB bolsters diversity, equity, and inclusion via new program
Dee Pitts and group
The OUWB Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC) kicked off the new Diversity Champions program on February 5. This photo, taken prior to COVID-19, shows one of the many events OUWB has hosted to further its efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine recently launched a new program aimed at furthering the intent and efforts of the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.

The OUWB Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC) kicked off the new Diversity Champions program on February 5.  

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.

Deirdre Pitts, Ph.D., associate dean for Academic Affairs, Faculty Affairs, Diversity & Inclusion, said the ultimate goal for the Diversity Champion program is to train and develop a group of individuals who will actively work to create and nurture an inclusive environment within the OUWB community.

“The mission and vision of the Diversity Champions program can be summed up in one of my favorite quotes by author Liz Fosslien — ‘Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice heard,’” said Pitts.

“After training, Diversity Champions will strive to positively impact the culture surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

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

Robin Rivest, M.Ed., director of Curriculum Data Management, leads the Diversity Champion program with a team comprised of other DEIC members.

Team members are Pitts, Rivest, Tracey Taylor, Ph.D., interim assistant dean for Preclinical Medical Education, Berkley Browne, Ph.D., assistant dean for Student Affairs, Suzan ElSayed, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, Ann Voorheis-Sargent, Ph.D., director, Center for Excellence in Medical Education, and third-year medical student Kevin Roby.  

DEIC Goals“We needed the OUWB DEIC to branch out and help affect real growth in our community, respective to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Rivest.

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.

The team selected the first cohort of Diversity Champions that is comprised of 22 people from the OUWB community: 12 medical students; seven faculty members, and three staff members. They are:

  • Abram Brummett, Ph.D.
  • Suzan ElSayed, Ph.D.
  • Doug Gould, Ph.D.
  • Riya Kalra, M.D.
  • Trini Mathew, M.D.
  • Arthur Rosner, M.D.
  • Manveen Saluja, M.D.
  • Heidi Donnelly
  • Julie Strong
  • Katie Weyand
  • Kimberly Anyadike, M2
  • Kerrin Bersani, M2
  • Varneet Brar, M3
  • Mahmoud Hijazi, M2
  • Charlene Hsia, M2
  • Rachel Kalthoff, M3
  • Sandra Oska, M4
  • Mallory Peters, M4
  • Kevin Roby, M3
  • Manraj Sekhon, M4
  • Sukhmani Singh, M2
  • Monique Waltman, M3
  • Katie Wheeler, M2

Rivest said the cohort was limited to a specific size due to the capacity for training. However, she added, the Diversity Champions program is expected to have a new cohort every year and she encouraged those who are interested in the future to apply.

The program begins with several training sessions focused on topics such as social identity, unconscious bias, microaggressions, a history of race and racism, the importance of pronouns, and more. Following that, the group will meet monthly, and with representatives of the DEIC and, among other things, collectively represent the view of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and foster positive relationships related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.


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Rivest said she hopes the momentum for the program continues and that it has an impact — an impact that will be measured by metrics such as how many initiatives are driven via the champion program including future trainings, the number of events led by the cohort, and the number of people who apply for future cohorts.

Kevin Roby, a third-year OUWB medical student, said he hopes that the program helps him “effectively learn how to communicate concerns in the community to the proper outlets to promote change in the environment.

“I wish to graduate from OUWB having made a difference in establishing a more diverse and inclusive atmosphere that will benefit current and future students and doctors,” he said.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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