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Legitimacy and discomfort in EDI leadership roles

What qualities does it take to be an effective leader in the equity, diversity, and inclusivity space? Does an equity, diversity, and inclusion leader need to have an identity rooted in a specific community—and do they need to have personal experience with prejudice and injustice? And what happens when a White male whose background has been marked by privilege is appointed to lead in an equity, diversity, and inclusion role? 

In this narrative essay, which first appeared online in Family Medicine, two leaders at the University of Utah explore these questions together. Bart Watts, DDS, the associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the School of Dentistry, and José Rodríguez, MD, the associate vice president of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion examine why some individuals might feel unwelcome and uncomfortable performing this work. Attending a longitudinal training in the Healthcare Executive Diversity and Inclusion Certificate (HEDIC) program at the Association of American Medical Colleges, Rodriguez and Watts examine what it means to lead in equity, diversity, and inclusivity and how concerns about legitimacy and identity intersect. Ultimately, the two equity, diversity, and inclusion leaders conclude that “when we talk about diversity [and inclusion], we mean there is a place at the table for everyone.”