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Diversity and Inclusion: It's Everyone's Responsibility


Ana Maria Lopez, M.D., M.P.H., is the associate vice president for Health Equity and Inclusion at University of Utah Health Sciences. But she says if people look to her alone for answers when it comes to diversity, they'll miss out. Here's what she says all institutions should know about establishing an inclusive environment. 

Host: We're broadcasting live at the AAMC in Baltimore 2015, and this year's conversation is about change. What needs to change in health care? I know there's a ton of things, but we're asking each person what specific thing is on their mind right now.

Announcer: Asking questions, seeking solutions. Algorithms for Innovation, live from Baltimore at the AAMC 2015.

Lopez: Hi, my name is Ana Maria Lopez and I'm the Associate Vice President for Health Equity and Inclusion at University of Utah Health Care.

Host: Ana Maria, what is something that needs to change? There are a lot of things, of course, but what's something that needs to change at University of Utah Health Care? What is something you're working on right now you're excited about?

Lopez: Something we're actively working on is really creating an environment that promotes inclusive excellence across the health sciences.

Host: And how are you doing that?

Lopez: The first thing has been to really engage more folks around this, so they're representatives from each school, from each college, each program. Then there are partners that we need to really help work so that everybody feels that inclusive excellence is part of what they need to do.

Host: I feel that I've heard from some offices of inclusion that the faculty thing, "Well, that's your job, so go do it," but that's not really the case. You're a resource to help, so the first part is to lay the groundwork like you mentioned.

Lopez: Right, and really so that everybody feels it's their responsibility. The faculty in medicine, the faculty in psychiatry, they all have specific goals for their faculty, so what's great for me is to be able to work as a resource, provide best practices, and then have the departments set the path out for themselves.

Host: So what barrier is in between you and change?

Lopez: There are so many. Some people might say, "Well, we have to attract people from the outside, growing your own takes time," all of these are true but we're in it for the long term. We know that in order to care for our patients we want to be more reflective of the population. The University of Utah is so committed to quality and excellence. In order to do that, we need to address inclusive excellence from all ends.

Host: So beyond just getting support from the different departments that this is a good idea, and convincing them of that, or educating and showing them why it's important, what's the next step?

Lopez: We're a learning community and during the past few months we've had the opportunity to learn. We've had visitors come and share their experiences. Scott Page gave such a wonderful talk where he talked about if you want to be a B institution then you have a homogenous environment. If you want to be A+ you want to have a heterogeneous diverse environment. So I think as speakers come and as we learn, we start to move the needle forward in all of the different constituencies so that we can begin to test.

It really is an evidence-based science so there are best practices. Then there are experiments that we can do, perhaps in reviewing candidates to blind, gender, race, ethnicity, and look and see what kind of selections are made when we're blinded. So to really address unconscious bias in a serious way may be one experiment that could be done.

Host: And what metrics would determine whether you're successful at what you're attempting to do?

Lopez: I think that the impact would really be seen in moving the institution forward from a quality and an excellence perspective so that we will really be better than we were.

Host: So it's more than just filling out those target numbers?

Lopez: Absolutely, absolutely. And it's really thinking that, you know, we are facing complex problems in health care, and to face and address complex problems we need everybody's voice.

Host: Along this journey, is there a mistake or something that you did that you thought, "Well, I could have done that better. Had I done that better, maybe there would have been a better outcome sooner?" Give us a little piece of advice or a sage word of wisdom.

Lopez: I'm early in the process, and I'm really trying to engage as many folks as possible. I am limited by the fact that there are so many waking hours, and the campus and the number of people, it's a lot. But yeah, so I wish I could do that more quickly, but I do think that that step-by-step meeting folks and engaging people at the one-on-one level is important.

Host: Even though you'd like to speed it up, you really just can't.

Lopez: Absolutely. Right, it's going to take time.

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