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Diversity Council reports progress on building more inclusive environment

Faculty members and staff in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology gather for a grand rounds on diversity.

Information Services leads an option for patients to include their preferred name in the Electronic Medical Record, a move that benefits the transgender community.

Other departments examine workplace bullying, unconscious bias and diversity recruitment.

Inclusivity and diversity are continuing to permeate the culture at Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine, thanks in part to efforts like these from 32 different departments that have come together as the system’s Diversity Council, through the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Council members meet each month to discuss their initiatives and learn about resources to support diversity and inclusion.

In January, the Diversity Council members met with Penn State Health CEO Steve Massini and Hershey Medical Center President Deborah Berini to update him on their initiative outcomes. The work is part of a systemwide effort to build a more inclusive and diverse work, educational and patient care environment.

Examples of the initiatives they presented

  • The Department of Dermatology launched a journal club that focuses on transgender inclusion. Faculty members and residents read articles and discuss them. Before and after they read the articles, the participants completed a survey to determine how comfortable they were interacting with patients from the transgender community. The group found a significant shift in comfort level after reading the articles. At the beginning, 30% of the participants felt comfortable asking patients which pronoun they preferred to be called. Afterward, the number rose to 82%.
  • Last year, the Department of Comparative Medicine hosted a session about compassion fatigue and microaggressions. A microaggression is defined as a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.
  • Like the Dermatology study, Comparative Medicine’s participants completed a survey before and after their discussions. The group presented their initiative at a national U.S. veterinarian conference. This year, Comparative Medicine is focusing on transgender awareness and how to address microaggressions.
  • The departments of Neurology, Information Services, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health departments will address bullying in the workplace.
  • Family and Community Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Public Health Sciences, Government Health Relations, Human Resources and Nursing will implement unconscious bias training.
  • Penn State Cancer Institute, Emergency Medicine, Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Neural and Behavioral Sciences, Pharmacology, Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute and Surgery will address diversity recruitment.
  • Humanities and Medical Education will address diversifying the medical student curriculum.

Employees who want to find out more or learn how to contribute to a more inclusive environment at Penn State Health or the College of Medicine, should check with their department director.

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