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Office of Diversity and Inclusion in Medicine

School of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion

The Creighton University School of Medicine embraces a strategy rooted in a well-documented institutional mission-driven commitment to Jesuit values inclusive of education and social justice. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is committed to creating a vibrant academic environment that reinforces those value with people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. In fact, research indicates that interacting in a setting where diverse thoughts flourish yields higher decision making and problem-solving outcomes for individuals coming from different backgrounds. Our strategic vision is to create an academic culture that recruits and retains people from diverse backgrounds who aspire to serve in leadership roles in global healthcare settings. Equitable access to healthcare for many underserved communities demands that we attract and support a diverse group of talented people who share this same vision.

In operationalizing Office of Diversity and Inclusion at CUSOM we rely on the elements of a tripartite system that includes:  is based on Research, and is characterized by Responsiveness.  Collectively, we refer to these as the Three R’s. Our efforts are guided by elements of a tripartite system that includes: Research, Relational and Responsiveness. Discover more about these elements under the tabs below. 

Research in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion functions as an evidenced-based force for how we approach retention and recruitment. Glaring health care disparities can have a reverse psychological motivating effect on underserved people or underrepresented groups in medicine (UUIM) (URMs).  Individuals arriving at medical school as UUIM are often quite aware of poorly sourced communities or have firsthand experiences with health care that may be essentially invisible. The existing Research lays bare the profound disparities in access to health care resources in these diverse communities, particularly since research indicates that ethnoracial concordance during patient-physician communication is statistically associated with positive outcomes for diverse patients.  The research also points to the necessity for faculty and staff to remain responsive when it comes to the needs of diverse students because responsiveness is an essential element in retention. To achieve desirable diverse and inclusive empirically-based outcomes, all faculty must participate in qualitative and quantitatively measured efforts (e.g., develop individualized diverse and inclusive plans). 

The Relational aspect of recruitment and retention strengthens academic persistence of diverse faculty and students through the creation of a face-to-face personal connections. The relational factor constitutes an unfolding process that is related to our success in recruiting and retaining URMs. The relationships between URMs, administrators, faculty and staff is a special one. That is, for persistence to occur, URMs must trust that the program is genuinely concerned with their wellbeing. The strength of the relational pillar is an immediate outcome stemming from intentional efforts at affiliation, bonding, collaboration and anticipating the needs of URMs. These inclusion efforts may be viewed as empathic responses to URMs. In the final analysis, relational is an affirming experience that bolsters URMs gains in confidence that indicates our program is trustworthy.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion crafts an academic medicine environment where diverse people feel a sense of connection to others and the School of Medicine. Cross-cultural success in this area allows us to recruit and retain a dynamic core of remarkable people.

From a Relational standpoint, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion efforts include:

  • Nurturing inclusion so that people are invested in actively engaging with others in the SOM School of Medicine and feel a sense of connection as they pursue their academic goals.
  • Connecting with and empowering leadership direction and support across the School of Medicine that promulgates the desired diverse and inclusive climate  
  • Work personally with administrators, faculty, staff, residents, and students to develop diverse and inclusive profiles 

Responsiveness is signaled by behaviors and dispositions that are assessed as attentive and cross-culturally appropriate given the context or demands at the time. There is a general sense of feeling encouraged and supported.  Responsiveness may function as a critical factor in the success of URMs, especially when a negative cross-cultural experience may have occurred.  For example, when a URM reports a troublesome incident or situation, it is first a signal of trouble. The program must exercise at least a bifurcated response that conveys the concern for the issue (s) being presented but also sensitivity to the URMs reaction to it.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the School of Medicine is led by Dr. Ronn Johnson who is the Associate Dean for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan is Assistant Dean for Women in Medicine (WIMS). Dr. Jaya Raj at the Phoenix Campus is chair of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Committee. 

Robert ‘Bo’ Dunlay, MD’81

Dean, School of Medicine
Robert ‘Bo’ Dunlay, MD’81

As a Jesuit medical school, Creighton is devoted to globally reducing health care disparities.  To achieve this lofty goal requires ongoing efforts to recruit and retain diverse administrators, faculty, students, trainees, and staff.  We seek to operationalize an experience that reflects an inclusive academic medical environment.

First Generation College Student: Any applicant to the Medical Education Program whose parents have not completed a 4-year degree (bachelor’s degree) at an institution within the United States or Canada.  The decision to use First Generation Diverse Medical Students (FGDMS) is consistent with our medical education history with respect to first generation college students and URMs. For example, Dr. William Gordon was the first African-American to graduate from the John A. Creighton Medical College in 1902. Although, the details of his personal life and experiences are not available, it is safe to say likely that he was a first generation college student. Given that there were probably few support resources available to him at that time, along with cultural stressors such as acculturative stress and racial/ethnic discrimination of the day, his accomplishment is all the more impressive. 


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Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

Each of us must become motivated to actively navigate through the imperfect psychosocial storm caused by racism.

— Ronn Johnson, PhD

Ronn Johnson, PhDAssociate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

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