Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Healing Through Inclusivity

OUWB creates healthier communities through diversity, equity and inclusion council

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Photo by Robert Hall

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

icon of a calendarJune 22, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine is leading the way in implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that benefit students and educators alike — in both classroom and health care settings.

OUWB renewed its commitment to inclusivity in the classroom when recent survey data and focus group discussions identified potential areas of improvement that are critical to learning. 

“Students perform better when they have a sense of belonging in the academic environment,” says Deirdre Pitts, Ph.D., SCP-IPMA, interim associate dean for academic, faculty affairs and diversity and inclusion, and assistant professor in the Department of Foundational Medical Studies at OUWB.

Pitts says that all students need to feel confident in their place in the classroom — and that OUWB officials have taken steps to ensure that confident feeling exists. “OUWB is implementing best practices and programs to ensure that our educators can create a more inclusive environment for all scholars,” she says.

One step that OUWB is taking to improve inclusivity is the establishment of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council (DEIC). The mission of the council is guided by OU’s overall diversity mission, but further serves to unite all OUWB-specific initiatives under one umbrella to serve the school as a whole. A cross-representation of OUWB faculty, staff and students work together to evaluate DEI needs and then make recommendations for improvement.

One such recommendation is to establish a set of guidelines for inclusivity in the classroom setting. The plan is to post the “Ground Rules for the Learning Environment” in every OUWB classroom. These rules are:

  1. Listen with respect and an open mind, strive to understand others’ views and articulate your own point of view.
  2. Embrace differences with the intent to build community, not to criticize and separate ourselves from others.  
  3. Be mindful not to monopolize discussions and/or interrupt others. 
  4. Advocate for classmates who have not been heard.
  5. Do not demean, devalue or attempt to humiliate another person based on their experiences, value system, or construction of meaning.
  6. Respectfully, challenge myths and stereotypes about your own groups and other groups.
  7. Raise views in such a way to encourage open dialog.
  8. Call out assumptions and biases. 
  9. Be authentic when engaging with all members of the class.
  10. Create a safe atmosphere for open discussion among everyone.

In addition, a cohort of faculty and staff are being trained to facilitate a program that provides educators with tools to identify and address bias and microaggressions both in the classroom and in a health care setting. Participants will evaluate real-life situations and work together to formulate a response.

“When incidents of bias occur, faculty and staff need to be prepared to respond. This prevents the ‘bystander effect’ which is when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening to help a victim,” says Pitts. “Being ready to respond leads to positive change.”

Looking ahead, OUWB’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council will be implementing additional programming and initiatives to more fully ingrain DEI best practices into the OUWB curriculum and culture. 

“Our council is working to create an academic environment where all students and educators can thrive,” says Pitts. “The impact of these changes will reverberate beyond the walls of OUWB and positively influence the health care setting of all the communities that our students will serve.”

Learn more about the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

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