Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

Transgender Patients

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

This July Erin Vaught went to the Ball Memorial Hospital emergency room in Muncie, Indiana coughing up blood. Instead of treating her condition, the medical staff ridiculed her and taunted her because Erin is transgender.

As a result of the incident and subsequent publicity, Ball Memorial Hospital is now making lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sensitivity training mandatory for its employees. The restitution also included the hospital president apologizing to Vaught.

Ball Memorial Hospital’s response serves as a a model for other medical institutions. The hospital admitted wrongdoing, worked with community organizations to design a curriculum, and required training for all staff.

Of course, it’s better to avoid such offensive incidents in the first place. And LGBT patients are not the only ones with particular needs. The incident shows that at Boston Medical Center, where our mission is to provide “exceptional care without exception,” ongoing sensitivity training is still useful to put the slogan into action.

Hiring for Diversity

Monday, July 26th, 2010

After a year in which no faculty searches occurred, University of California San Diego leaders have authorized 33 new faculty searches for the coming year. Of the 33 searches, 12 have been designated for scholars who enhance the university's commitment to diversity. In addition, they established a pool of funding to hire seven more scholars during the year who promote diversity.

On the surface, it's heartening that a public university is hiring again and has devoted so many resources to making an inclusive work environment. It's also wise to reserve some funds for target of opportunity hires to take advantage of hiring circumstances throughout the year.

At the same time, UCSD--as any university--must approach diversity from a holistic perspective. What strategies do they have in place to identify promising candidates? What is their plan for retaining them? How do they see diversity fitting into the larger academic mission of the university? The press release is too brief to go into this detail, but it's important that the gesture not be a superficial one simply to boost numbers.

Dr. Diversity

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The security slogan for the post-9/11 age has been, "See something, say something." When it comes to insensitive remarks in the workplace, the motto could be, "Hear something, say something."

Karen Hoelscher, an education researcher who studies student identities, remembers being labeled "Dr. Diversity" by her older, male colleagues at the start of her career. Then, she was too bashful and too concerned about tenure to speak up when they made insensitive comments.

Even if a racial joke or discriminatory remark is humorous, it should not go unchallenged. The daily interactions are what make a workplace tolerant and supportive of everyone.

Too often, we laugh at the joke and then later wish we had said something. To avoid that regret, it helps to have a few stock replies at the ready. Hoelscher suggests:

  • “I’ve always thought of you as a fair-minded person, so I’m surprised to hear you say that.”
  • “Please don’t use that language when I’m around.”
  • “I’m sorry – what’s so funny?”

Even if the remark does not offend you, others will be glad that you had the courage to undermine the insensitive comment.

Mentoring in the Aftermath

Monday, May 17th, 2010

It has been several months since the news of Amy Bishop's attack on her colleagues at the University of Alabama, Huntsville made national news. Although Bishop's New England roots have kept the story in the Boston press, it wasn't until I read an article in a recent issue of Nature that I learned how her department is coping with the loss of key faculty.

When you see the portraits of her murdered colleagues, it becomes clear that the UAH biology faculty included several minority scientists. In turn, they mentored many minority graduate students, who were left without advisers. Retired faculty and area industry leaders have stepped in to help shepherd the doctoral students, but the loss reveals how much effort a mentor must expend to develop a cadre of future faculty.

The second insight from the Nature report is what happened to the deceased PI's grants. Government funding goes to the institution, not the faculty member, so the department was able to have surviving members take over existing grants. The NSF and NIH also gave extensions on all the grants except for Bishop's own.

Diversifying the Academy

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Yesterday the American Academy for the Advancement of Science released a handbook on the legal framework for increasing diversity in higher education.

While most universities understand the need for considering diversity in the recruitment process, the path to hiring can be lined with legal potholes. This comprehensive guide establishes what criteria hiring committees may take into account in their efforts to attract a diverse pool of candidates.

It's helpful to know that considering a job candidate's record in fostering an inclusive work environment falls within the bounds of appropriate behavior. All hiring committees can benefit from thinking of ways beyond the quantitative to measure candidates' value.