Mitigating disparities in health and eradicating disparities in health care will bring us closer to the ideals at the foundation of our profession.
The students, residents, faculty and administration of the University of Colorado School of Medicine (SOM) believe that diversity is a value that is central to the School’s educational, research, community service and health care missions. Therefore, the SOM is committed to recruiting and supporting a diverse student body, house staff, faculty and senior administration. The SOM has adopted a definition of diversity that embraces race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, political beliefs, rural upbringing and socioeconomic status.
In 2015 the School of Medicine revised its comprehensive Diversity Plan. In the 2015 Plan the SOM articulated these 6 strategic goals. 1) admit qualified students and appoint qualified residents, fellows, faculty, staff and senior administrative leaders who represent diversity, focusing on the specific diversity categories outlined in the Plan; 2) promote the academic advancement and success of minority students, house officers and faculty; 3) enhance cultural, bilingual and diversity instruction throughout the curriculum; 4) break down racial, gender and ethnic stereotypes and promote cross-cultural understanding and an inclusive climate; 5) strengthen outreach to underserved communities, through service and learning projects, health care outreach and community-based participatory research; and 6) promote unexplored research agendas and new areas of scholarship related to cultural and racial inequities in health and health care. The SOM’s diversity programs seek to enhance diversity and cultural competency in the health care workforce, improve access to health care for poor, minority and under-served populations and, ultimately, eliminate racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in health and health care services.
There is strong evidence that achieving diversity of the health care workforce translates directly into improved delivery of health care services to underserved and minority populations. As summarized by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in its 2014 Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Planning Guide, “the climate enhanced by a diverse learner and teacher body ultimately increases students’ awareness of health and health care disparities in nearby populations and increases students’ interest in service to underserved communities and overall civic commitment.”
The SOM’s 2015 Diversity Plan is also driven by a heightened awareness that diversity and inclusion strengthen teamwork and communication in patient care settings and are directly linked to improved treatment outcomes.
The SOM pledges to work with all departments and programs within the SOM, and with other University of Colorado campuses and their leaders, to achieve the goals outlined above and to promote a culture of inclusiveness, respect, communication and understanding. The students, residents, faculty and administration of the SOM agree with Dr. Marc Nivet, AAMC Chief Diversity Officer, that diversity and inclusion are strategic imperatives and drivers of academic excellence. (AAMC. Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Planning Guide).
More than a decade ago, the 2004 Sullivan Commission report, Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions, emphasized the importance of an unambiguous, written institutional commitment to diversity. The Commission declared,
Diversity should be a core value in the health professions. Health professions schools should ensure that their mission statements reflect a social contract with the community and a commitment to diversity among their students, faculty, staff and administration. [i]
We agree. And with this 2015 Diversity Plan, we commit to working even harder to achieve our diversity goals and to ensuring that our institutional practices are aligned with our stated goals.
On December 15, 2015 University of Colorado President Bruce Benson issued a call to action, reminding the entire community that the individual campuses, schools and colleges must develop flexible, multi-faceted plans to promote diversity. Schools and colleges must be deliberate and active in implementing their plans. And the plans must deliver results. Benson reminded the entire university community, “Diversity makes our university stronger. It reflects society. It is one of our values. It is the right thing to do.”
 Missing Persons: Minorities in the health professions. A report to the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the healthcare workforce. The Sullivan Commission. Washington, D.C., 2004