Emblazoned across the top of the MUSC Facebook page, the word “INCLUSION” expresses the Medical University’s strong commitment to diversity, one of President David J. Cole’s top priorities.
MUSC recently completed its first strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. Considered a milestone for the organization, the plan provides a framework for implementing enterprise-wide goals and strategies that address specific issues.
One priority of Cole’s that was quickly set into motion was the creation of the Advisory Council for Diversity and Inclusion, a community group that, along with MUSC representatives, comprises three distinct groups: elected officials, faith–based community leaders and leaders who are valuable resources for other diverse groups such as the black, LGBT, Spanish–speaking, and historically underserved communities throughout the Tri–county area.
The mission of the advisory council is to provide MUSC leadership with insight into efforts that may improve relationships within MUSC over time.
Sabra Slaughter, Ph.D., senior advisor to the president for diversity and community relations, serves on the council and said the group’s input will assist MUSC in its efforts immeasurably.
|Medical Center, University and MUSC Physicians employees, staff and students gathered at the Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan retreat.|| |
“The advisory council fosters communication with local civic, business, professional and elected leaders, provides a structure to champion diversity and inclusion and celebrate our accomplishments, and promotes opportunities for continuous improvement. These contributions will greatly aid the institution in meeting its goals and building stronger bonds with community constituents,” Sabra said.
The advisory council functions in a purely advisory and consultative capacity to support the efforts of the strategic plan. Serving as a resource for accountability in organizational change, the members do not have programmatic, administrative or legislative authority.
Members of the council will serve as allies and ambassadors, and in those roles they will:
●advise MUSC leadership on matters related to creating an organizational culture and climate of
inclusion for students, faculty, staff, patients, and their families;
●improve recruitment, engagement and retention of underrepresented minorities;
●increase access to resources for underrepresented minorities;
●improve external and internal communication with key stakeholders;
●and improve existing relationships while building new partnerships, which can enhance MUSC’s diversity, inclusion values and goals.
Willette Burnham, Ph.D., co–chairwoman of the planning committee for the university’s strategic plan for diversity and inclusion, works closely with the council. She said: “The council will essentially help us stay in touch with how we’re doing and how we’re perceived. They will serve as a second set of eyes and ears as we move forward. We are hoping they offer advice along the lines of ‘you may want to consider this’ or ‘here is a place we think you need to course–correct.’ Advisors such as these can do a great job informing us of where we might be missing opportunities for enhancement.”
The council aims to build strong relationships that will last for decades. While the council has members who are ambassadors of MUSC, the decision was made, while forming the council, to include those in the community who have been critical of the Medical University’s diversity efforts over the years.
Burnham said, “We didn’t shy away from that voice. We want to have conversations with advisors who represent a diversity of voices — the advocates and the critics — as that’s where you continue to be challenged. We have partners we haven’t always agreed with and sometimes we are able to educate one another and share a diversity of perspective, which sometimes means we have to agree to disagree. But that is the beauty of this work and one of the outcomes we seek from the advisory council. We can be advised about where we can do a better job and what we are doing well if we respectfully listen to all voices. To that end, we made an intentional effort to improve communication and create a council representative of our diverse communities and voices.”
Already the new council is making strides. One community leader said, “I can’t ever remember a time when we’ve been invited to participate in something like this with MUSC.”
According to Burnham, people are feeling heard, included and relevant. “Most importantly, they feel encouraged and optimistic. This isn’t going to be just talk. The council recognized there was going to be something different about this particular effort.”
Burnam also said that members of the council and the MUSC team want to ensure that every employee and community member feels they are a welcomed member of the MUSC community.
Patrick Cawley, M.D., CEO of the MUSC Medical Center, said, “Our most important asset in improving patient care across MUSC are our team members who are also part of the community. It is vital that we engage patients, families, and the community in our efforts to ensure our team is best prepared.”
South Carolina Representative Wendell Gilliard, one of the elected officials serving on the council, said, “At the end of the day, people just want to be respected and valued for the jobs they do in the organization regardless of where they fall in the continuum.”