Medical schools frequently experience challenges related to diversity and inclusiveness. In 2008, the SOM was surveyed to assess, from the student body’s perspective, the climate at our medical school with respect to diversity, inclusiveness and cross-cultural understanding.
Students in the M.D., Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant programs were asked to complete a survey consisting of 24 Likert-scale, short-answer and open-ended questions. Questions were designed to measure student experiences and attitudes in six domains about the school: the general diversity environment and culture; witnessed negative speech or behaviors; barriers to incident reporting; isolation of minorities; diversity and the learning environment; and campus leadership.
While most participants agreed that the SOM campus is friendly and welcoming to minority groups, less than half believed the medical school campus to be truly diverse. Many participants reported they had witnessed other students, residents, or faculty making disparaging remarks or exhibiting unprofessional behaviors. Despite this, few said they were likely to report offensive remarks, pointing out barriers of grading concerns, absence of a confidential reporting system, and a sense that change would not occur.
Ultimately, the investigators concluded that diversity and a culture of inclusiveness and respect are important to our medical school’s educational research, clinical care and service missions. And they called for our faculty, students, residents and administrative staff to embrace a broader definition of diversity, such that all minority groups are valued, including those with conservative viewpoints and strong religious beliefs.