March 27, 2018

The Common Thread introduces learning modules related to diversity and inclusion

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Common ThreadThere is more that unites us than divides us, and these commonalities provide crucial starting points for building strong, resilient communities within UAB. This is the foundational premise of “The Common Thread: Find Yourself in Everyone,” a toolkit of resources designed to facilitate the creation of a healthy environment. Dealing with essential topics in cultural inclusion, the initial materials of this toolkit will be available to departments and schools within UAB beginning in April.

The Common Thread was developed thanks to a grant from the UAB Health Services Foundation, P.C., which was awarded to UAB School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, and School of Health Professions in order to create practical, concrete mechanisms for dealing with pressing issues related to diversity and inclusion. The toolkit will ultimately contain four modules: Building Belonging, Understanding Bias, Cultivating Self-Awareness, and Resolving Conflict. These modules will be released at the rate of one per month, beginning in April and concluding in July.

Each module will contain a short introductory video, a PowerPoint presentation, downloadable print materials to facilitate discussion, and a series of TED Talk-style videos presenting the PowerPoint materials to facilitate ease of delivery. These materials will be available through the website,

The Common Thread takes a revolutionary new approach to questions of diversity and inclusion—proposing that diversity efforts by themselves are insufficient and that inclusion is not only necessary, but must also be active and intentional.

While a wealth of research in both the private and public sectors support the reality that diverse teams consistently yield more innovative and meaningful outcomes, simply recruiting diverse members isn’t sufficient. Diversity in the absence of intentional inclusion results in high levels of attrition and dissatisfaction among all team members.

“Diversity and inclusion isn’t a numbers game, and diversity covers a greater wealth of backgrounds and personalities than we’ve traditionally conceptualized,” says Mona Fouad, MD, MPH, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion for the UAB School of Medicine. “A diverse perspective may be the one offered by an international faculty member or student, or by someone who comes from a rural environment who is the first in their family to attend college. Inclusion means actively seeking out and incorporating the insights of all people, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, orientation, country of origin, gender, disability, or educational background.”

The modules within The Common Thread are not intended to be conceptual in nature. Rather, they provide real-world, practical tools for approaching building, sustaining, and growing diverse and inclusive groups—whether those groups are a department, a division, a unit or a student-based learning community.

“It is essential for UAB’s institutional excellence that we embrace a paradigm where our differences along with our similarities are embraced and celebrated,” says Selwyn Vickers, M.D., FACS, Dean of UAB School of Medicine and Vice President, UAB Medicine. “In order to move effectively into the future, we must leverage the strength in our diversity. This toolkit offers practical and meaningful tools to realize this vision.”

More information about this project can be found on the website for the UAB School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion, at