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Creighton University medical school pursues diversity, equity, inclusion

Jul 14, 2022
3 min read
Eugene Curtin
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Diversity and inclusion in medicine

The Creighton University School of Medicine is building equity, diversity and inclusion by pursuing four goals, according to Ronn Johnson, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and senior associate dean for diversity at the school. 

Johnson outlined the goals during a July 8 online session titled, “Report on Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging: One College’s Strategic Plan.” 

The four goals, he said, are: 

• Substantially increase the percentage of traditionally underrepresented students in the school’s education and training programs. 

• Substantially increase the diversity of faculty. 

• Support the promotion and tenure of female faculty, and of faculty drawn from underrepresented groups, and then provide opportunities for advancement into senior administrative positions. 

• Build a cross-culturally responsive culture. 

Johnson was joined during the presentation by Renuga Vivekanandan, MD, associate professor and assistant dean for strategy and accreditation in the School of Medicine, who spoke about progress made in building diversity and about the ongoing effort to battle “microaggressions,” which are small, often unconscious gestures of exclusion, either by word or deed, that Vivekanandan said can impair the ability of affected students to focus on their studies.   

The “microaggression” problem, she said, led to the creation of a series of presentations that incorporates Jesuit “humanistic” values into a process of restorative justice. The series is based on the “Microaggressions Triangle Model” created by Kupiri Ackerman-Barger, PhD, associate dean for health equity, diversity and inclusion at the University of California-Davis. The model permits recipients and sources of microaggressions to rebuild relationships and restore reputations. 

Vivekanandan cited statistics showing significant strides in diversifying students, staff and faculty at the Creighton School of Medicine. 

“We have made significant progress, and we have lots of opportunity to continue to do so,” she said. “If you look at academic year 2020 to academic year 2022, first-generation students, first year, has gone from 7% to 12%; all students have gone from 10% to 12%; female employed faculty, full time, has gone from 24% to 35%; and female senior staff from 20% to 25%.” 

Johnson began the presentation with a statement of his personal commitment to the EDI process during which he said, in part, “I have a strong interest in advancing a sense of belonging, particularly in those in our academic medical family that have been historically marginalized. And consistent with our Ignatian roots, I believe that all of us have a leadership role to play when it comes to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within the School of Medicine, or the University as a whole.” 

Johnson said Creighton needs to do more to further a culture of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging that fosters a sense of belonging among “marginalized members.” That reality, he said, was illustrated in the recent campus climate survey. 

Johnson urged commitment as the School of Medicine builds a more diverse culture and called upon students and employees to be “unvarnished truth tellers” as they relate what they see or do not see as Creighton progresses along the EDI path. 

He also urged patience. 

“There's an old African proverb that relates to what we're trying to do,” he said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion is like trying to eat an elephant. You must take it one bite at a time.” 

The full presentation may be seen here.