Seeing Eye to Eye: Developing Programs to Foster Identity and Inclusion (i2i)

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The i2i initiative has enriched our community by allowing students to engage in meaningful discourse on potentially divisive topics in order to foster inclusion and celebrate diverse viewpoints.

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The views and opinions expressed in this collection are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Dr. Wei Wei Lee

Dr. Wei Wei Lee is an Associate Professor of Medicine, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Wellness Initiative at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She earned her medical degree from New York University, a Masters of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health and completed her internal medicine residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell. At the University of Chicago, she leads innovative programming to improve physician and trainee well-being.

Under both the national and local backdrop of systemic police misconduct and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, medical students at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine expressed their desire to talk about these incidents in a more formal setting. In 2015, our Dean for Medical Education convened a working group consisting of our fourth-year student leaders (Pritzker Chiefs), representatives from our student government and Student National Medical Association (SNMA), faculty deans, and staff to assess the climate and brainstorm strategies and initiatives to support students. As a medical school serving the South Side of Chicago, a historically underserved and majority African American community, Pritzker students and faculty came together to celebrate the diversity of our student body, foster civil discourse, and cultivate an inclusive school environment.

In 2016, we conducted a climate survey and presented results at an all-school town hall meeting, where we launched our Identity and Inclusion (i2i) initiative to foster an ongoing dialogue on issues related to identity (i.e., race, gender, religion, LGBTQ status, disability, socioeconomic status, etc.) and inclusion. This robust conversation at the town hall allowed us to identify both challenges and opportunities and resulted in the development of the i2i Steering Committee, which was comprised of faculty deans from multicultural affairs and student affairs, student leaders, and representatives from student affinity groups. The i2i committee was charged with providing direction for programs and/or curricula to support an inclusive learning environment and promote respectful communication with diverse patients and colleagues around issues of identity.

Since 2016, the i2i Committee has developed a host of interdisciplinary programs to help students develop skills to interact as professionals with people who have different views or backgrounds though discussions, workshops and events that focus on civil discourse, comfort with complexity and ambiguity, and managing differences of opinion. The i2i committee has helped to integrate inclusion-based training (i.e. safe space and cultural competency training) into existing courses, created a set of easily accessible resources regarding identity, inclusion, and civil discourse for the student body, and established a new student research project award for research that addresses issues of identity and inclusion in patient care. Programming includes events such as civil discourse discussions, where attendees engage in respectful discussion and debate around real-life topics such as treating unvaccinated patients, inviting potentially controversial speakers to campus, or free speech and physician duty.  The i2i initiative also includes art salons to allow students to explore identity through 2D media and poetry, and i2i grants give students funding to create their own programming around issues of identity.

The i2i initiative has enriched our community by allowing students to engage in meaningful discourse on potentially divisive topics in order to foster inclusion and celebrate diverse viewpoints. Our annual climate survey data show that 95% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their “knowledge or opinions are influenced or changed by becoming more aware of the perspectives of individuals from different backgrounds,” and that “the diversity within my medical school class enhances my education and ability to work with individuals from different backgrounds.” While we are still building the initiative’s assessment strategies, initial data from our civil discourse events so far show that students’ understanding of the topic up for debate benefitted from the event.  We will continue our efforts to create a learning environment that is responsive to the changing needs of our students as they navigate local and national tensions around identity and equip them with tools to learn and grow as future physicians.

Jim Woodruff, MD
Dean of Students
Professor of Medicine
Pritzker School of Medicine

Wei Wei Lee, MD, MPH
Assistant Dean of Students
Associate Professor of Medicine
Director of Wellness Initiatives
Pritzker School of Medicine
Twitter: @WeiWeiLeeMD

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