Inclusion Is All About Respecting Each OtherJanuary 19th, 2021
It feels appropriate to start the new year focused on our core value of Inclusion. Only together, supported by an inclusive environment, will we be able to meet the many challenges that still face us—as a nation and an academic medical center—in 2021.
When we listen and respect each other within and among our individual departments, we build strong teams. When we bring all of our teams together, whether to take on a difficult challenge or debate differing views on an important topic, we build a powerful and valued community capable of caring for those who have not been cared for, whether patients or our colleagues.
Inclusion, built on mutual respect, will move us forward.
As we look at what transpired in the U.S. Capitol during the past week, we witnessed what occurs when inclusion is replaced with such severe polarization that people resort to hatred, destruction and violence. This was a sad day for our nation. I’ve talked with many who seriously worry that we may not be able to overcome the darkness that fell on the Capitol and the continued threats of violence.
But we can drive out the darkness. It starts with each of us. I’m inspired by a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King that I heard this week as people reflected on his legacy:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I strongly believe that “light” will be generated by coming together with genuine respect, caring and humanity. For this country, that may be a long road, but our leaders do not appear to be deterred.
At Michigan Medicine, I believe we, too, can come together where there are differences, and I’ve seen that repeatedly over the last year. Through our 10 months of dealing with COVID-19, there have been many difficult decisions to make. With different views, this is never easy. Think about it, though. In so many instances, we have achieved a mutual vision for our patients and ourselves.
I know that you have also experienced moments of inclusion and respect, both great and small. It is those images we should hold in our minds when the heavier national news begins to take its toll.
Here are some examples I think about.
I am grateful for the innovative strides we make in research to support diversity and reduce health disparities that existed among minority communities. The Michigan Racial Equality and Community Health (MREACH) Project, a racially diverse biobank, is one impressive project which will drive future genetic research and prevention strategies for minorities. A special thanks to Dr. Cristen Willer and her team of researchers, biostatisticians, and students, who continue this important work.
Small gestures can have a major impact and contribute to our becoming a more inclusive organization. The Office of Health Equity & Inclusion (OHEI) places mini-grants in the hands of several faculty members, staff and students who have made a difference. Diverse books were given to children at MOTT, while a children’s wilderness camp was provided with badly needed wheelchairs, to name just a few examples.
Inclusion can also mean partnering with our neighbors. Lead Police Officer Theo Chalogianis and several other security team members reached out to Canton police officers for tours and training at the Canton Health Center to be prepared for any further emergency and just to get to know one other.
Clinical Social Worker Jacinta Florek thought some school districts weren’t being inclusive enough when it came to the rights of her diabetic pediatric patients. Even though it took her outside her usual duties at University Hospital, Jacinta became an advocate for her patients’ families at this nearby district and at the state level to prevent others from facing similar barriers in the future.
There are many more stories like these but being inclusive is most often found in the simplest moments – those gestures and words of respect you share with your co-workers. We can’t always agree with each other but we can honor each other’s opinions and beliefs, and work together for a common purpose – finding ways to deliver the best health care. When we do that, we help to build that sense of belonging necessary for a great place to work and thrive.
Our Inclusion Core Value says “I will foster an environment where every individual has a sense of belonging, a voice that is heard and the opportunity to achieve and thrive.” How do you or your team live this value every day?