New Year Brings New Opportunities for Diversity and Inclusion

Twitter recently hired a new vice president of diversity to address the lack of inclusion within its company. They along with many other businesses, including universities, are working to address the issues of diversity and inclusion.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion was created to provide assistance to each of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) five schools in planning for diversity initiatives and reaching their diversity and inclusion goals.

Kim Peck, M.D., TTUHSC vice president of Diversity and Inclusion, said research has shown that learning is improved when a group of students is diverse. All students benefit, including students from minority and majority populations.

Yet, Peck said diversity also can be easily misunderstood.

“When we talk about diversity, we are talking about differences in individuals,” Peck said. “Diversity isn’t limited to just race, culture or ethnicity. Diversity includes many variations between individuals. For TTUHSC, that could include students from rural areas, students who are the first in their family to attend college and students who are part of the LGBTQ community.”

Inclusion means respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, religion and other characteristics. Peck said each person brings diverse perspectives, work and life experiences. Inclusion is the feeling of being valued and supported. Peck said it’s about ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion was established in September 2015 and hosted a kick-off conference directed towards health care professionals addressing why diversity is important in health care.

“Whether it is in our health care workforce by meeting the needs of a diverse patient population, or in the health care educational environment, maintaining a level of inclusion is important,” Peck said.

The office will continue to provide other educational opportunities such as the Unconscious Bias Training Workshop that helps a person increase awareness of their own personal biases.

Kim Peck, M.D.

“The two-hour workshops help a person recognize their own, often unconscious, biases toward others and how those biases can impact decisions made regarding recruitment, student selection, hiring and firing,” Peck said. “Our brain can and does “fill in blanks” based on these unconscious biases when we don’t have all the details about a person and this can result in decisions that would have been different if the unconscious biases were recognized. Understanding biases you have can help you make better choices.”
Peck said the Office of Diversity and Inclusion also will collaborate with other organizations such as the TTUHSC Office of Global Health and Texas Tech University departments to bring related activities and educational events to TTUHSC.

Although still in its early stages, the response from TTUHSC students, faculty and staff has been positive. Peck said the kick off conference demonstrated how receptive TTUHSC is of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

“One of our approaches as we learn more about inclusion is that we are happy to see participation from all levels engaging,” Peck said. “The programs are already doing well. We have received feedback that is very positive and suggests that TTUHSC needs more activities and educational opportunities on how to attain an inclusive climate. Our TTUHSC family is desiring more about these topics.”

The office recently completed a survey last fall that will help in developing a strategic plan for upcoming events. The data will show areas where there are opportunities for improvement. Peck hopes the office will help all the schools deliver health care benefitting from diversity in an inclusive environment and working best as a team.

"By providing education and tools to recognize diversity and a person’s own bias, we can help administer and deliver great health care,” Peck said. “Our goal over the next few years is to reach all TTUHSC from students, faculty and staff exposing them to these concepts.”

Upcoming events
Presidential Diversity Speaker Series

Noon to 1 p.m.
Wednesday, February 10

Noon to 1 p.m.
Wednesday, March 30

Noon to 1 p.m.
Wednesday, April 13

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