October 02, 2019

Dean's Message: Diversity helps drive success

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As an academic medical center, diversity is absolutely essential for driving innovation, belonging, and success. In fact, it would be difficult to overstate the value that the many different types of diversity convey to our community or the importance of developing a culture of inclusion that gives our diversity scope. Every piece of identity that each of us brings to the table at UAB Medicine is not only valuable, it is also vital because it gives us a wider pool of experiences from which to pull. 

Birmingham has a long and often painful history when it comes to diversity, especially racial diversity. But living in this city—which grows more diverse with each passing year—gives us the opportunity to be inspired by changemakers who have come before to build an even better Birmingham. And the truth is that we must. As the dynamic force at the heart of Birmingham’s growth and development, it is paramount that UAB Medicine lead the way in the pursuit of diversity and inclusion. In order to attract and retain diverse talent, we must set the example for what it means to build an inclusive environment that embraces all. 

Studies have shown that patients often encounter better health outcomes when they’re matched with a physician who looks like them or who has a shared cultural experience. This is not to say that every single patient should be paired with the doctor who shares the most similarities, but it does point to the undeniable benefit of having a physician base who reflects the appearances and experiences of the general population. When it comes to scientific research, diversity also nurtures discovery

I’m proud that our Office for Diversity and Inclusion (ODI)—led by Dr. Mona Fouad—is constantly finding new and innovative ways to bring the topic of diversity to the forefront of our conversations and is helping support the members of minority groups in our community. The Common Thread toolkit is a practical, useful tool that helps facilitate a better understanding of the concept of inclusion and shows us how to recognize and address inherent biases that we may carry with us. I applaud the ODI’s efforts and hope all of you will make the most of the materials they have created by utilizing them in your areas. The ODI also continues to perform groundbreaking research in order to develop initiatives to help with recruitment and retention while recognizing and celebrating our current diversity through events like the annual Diversity Fair. 

It is of the utmost importance to me that we fully establish an environment in which any issues that do arise in relation to diversity and inclusion are thoughtfully and thoroughly addressed. I want us to work to understand and celebrate one another’s differences while also discovering the vast amount of shared experiences we have, too. For these reasons, we will continue to annually sponsor a performing arts event with a human rights theme. I’m also very open to other ways we can extend our leadership beyond the UAB campus and throughout the city, and I welcome your input on the topic at any time.

I hope you’ll help me spread the message that there is and always will be space for everyone at UAB Medicine.