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Special Diversity Message from the Dean

November, 2016

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

The most recent AAMC Mission Management Tool ranked the SIU School of Medicine at 93rd percentile among US medical schools for the percentage of African American graduates over the past five years. Regarding our faculty, the SIU SOM ranked at 88th percentile for the percentage who are women and at 48th percentile for the percentage from underrepresented groups in medicine. These statistics are commendable, and we thank those now and before who have promoted this diversity, and for the programs (e.g., MEDPREP) and the committees (e.g., admissions and searches) that have actively provided us matriculants and candidates who represent the great diversity of our region, the nation, and the world.

But this is not enough. These are just numbers, raw data and statistics, which may or may not reflect the relationships that truly indicate equity, diversity and inclusiveness, particularly in difficult times. Our historical and present foundation of diversity likely will be put to the test in the circumstances that face us right now. 

Given recent national and world events, the importance of human rights, equity, diversity and inclusiveness has come to the fore. We now face a time of acceleration of intimidation, targeting, and outright hate crimes in the US and in the world. It is imperative that we not tolerate any such activity at the SIU School of Medicine or in our clinical practice at SIU HealthCare. It is essential that all feel safe in the academic and practice environment at SIU.

At SIU, we value diversity – cultural, ethnic, gender, lifestyle. We value inclusiveness and we respect all opinions in our daily work and in our vision for the future. And above all, we value equity. Equity, by its essence, expresses an inherent fairness and justice. But, unfortunately, all of us know neighbors, patients, staff members, learners, and faculty members who have experienced unfairness, injustice, and inequity. Many at SIU have themselves had such experience.

We already have a rock-solid policy regarding these issues. Here is an excerpt from the official SIU Carbondale policy on non-discrimination and non-harassment: “It is the policy of SIU that all students, faculty, staff and guests should enjoy and work in an environment free from discrimination and harassment. Discrimination against any person or group of persons based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age, physical or mental disability, or military status…is specifically prohibited by the SIU community. [We are committed] to maintain an environment in which ideas are pursued free of intimidation or fear, and applies to admissions, employment, access to and treatment in all programs and activities… Harassment of any kind is strictly prohibited…”

These are strong words. But this is a correct, fair and just policy by which we must abide. These are the attitudes that will help us care for those who are most vulnerable, help us train the next generation of culturally competent physicians and physician assistants, and help us fulfill our own Triple Aim + 1: healthcare, education, research and personal relationships that are effective, efficient, equitable and enjoyable. 

We must adhere to our behavioral standards. Each of us must accept and respect those who differ from us. Plainly stated, the administration, faculty, staff and learners of the SIU School of Medicine must not tolerate racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, or any other such bias. This is an active process. We must listen to each other. We must learn from each other. We must respect and value our varied experiences, backgrounds and knowledge. And, as part of our mission, we must be leaders and extend these attitudes and actions beyond our walls to the communities and people to whom we are accountable.

Several new initiatives reflect our organizational commitment to these principles:

  1. As we name a new Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion: 
        • we will commit to train a diverse and inclusive healthcare workforce, 
        • we will commit to have a diverse and inclusive staff, faculty and student body, 
        • we will improve our collective cultural competence, and 
        • we will engage our community partners to eliminate inequities in healthcare access and delivery and to reduce disparities in healthcare outcomes.
  2. Engagement of our community partners will occur in a group whose name will reflect the issue that it will address: Race, Racism, Health and Healthcare. That group will meet this evening.
  3. As an organization, we will continue to address systemic racism in March 2017, when 40 members of our SIU community will engage in a three-day seminar led by Crossroads and sponsored by the Springfield Coalition to Dismantle Racism.
  4. On December 6, 2016, at 4:30 pm in the South Auditorium, we will convene a Diversity Forum, with an SIU panel that will begin an organizational discussion of these issues. This forum will allow us to share feelings, express concerns, process current events, develop a system of mutual support, and discuss the SIU role in community leadership for issues of diversity and inclusion.  All of you are invited to participate in this discussion next Tuesday. I will reiterate this opportunity again in a message that immediately follows. 

 

Thank you for your attention to these issues. It is now time for SIU to lead the community forward in issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion.

Jerry Kruse, MD, MSPH
Dean and Provost, SIU School of Medicine
CEO SIU HealthCare
Professor of Family & Community Medicine
Professor of Medical Education

 

View Dr. Kruse's video message on diversity.