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UMass Chan departments developing diversity and equity action plans

Pilot program supported by Diversity and Inclusion Office supports strategic plan for a diverse, equitable, anti-racist and inclusive community

The Diversity and Equity Action Plan initiative is one of the deliberate steps UMass Chan is taking toward cultivating a truly diverse, equitable, anti-racist and inclusive community that is central to achieving its mission.

Fifteen departments, divisions and offices at UMass Chan Medical School are developing diversity and equity action plans in support of the IMPACT 2025 strategic plan, which calls for deliberate steps toward cultivating a truly diverse, equitable, anti-racist and inclusive community that is central to achieving its mission. With support from the Diversity and Inclusion Office, departments volunteered to participate in a pilot program in which they are developing the plans to align their work with the five priority areas outlined in the diversity pillar of the strategic plan.

Participating departments are gathering monthly as a community of practice to share progress on the development of their diversity and equity action plans. At a recent meeting, Lynn Hernandez, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, and lead for the implementation of the plans, explained the importance of the community of practice in doing this work.

“A community of practice is a group of people who share concern, or a passion, for something that they do, and learn how to do it better as they meet, or as they interact regularly,” Dr. Hernandez said. She noted that this definition comes from cognitive anthropologists who were looking to ground this concept into some kind of learning theory. 

Hernandez noted three characteristics of a community of practice, which include having a common goal, building a sense of community and honoring everyone as practitioners with a level of expertise to offer. 

Department leaders shared their progress in developing their diversity and equity action plans, including what has gone well and what challenges they were experiencing. An overall appreciation for the ways the diversity and equity action plans have caused a shift in the approach to diversity work was echoed by department leads.  They also reported challenges in recruitment and retention and considered some innovative solutions.

“I think it’s really interesting that several of you are echoing one another around issues of recruitment and retention,” said Marlina Duncan, EdD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. 

“I think that’s something for us to focus on as a team of practice and ask ourselves what is success? What is the point to take? Not just at the departmental level, but externally, what are we communicating to those communities and how do we amplify the messages that are important to us,” Dr. Duncan continued.

Duncan applauded the group for its honesty as a first step in moving toward the goal of increasing representation. She also encouraged them to aim for being an institution that also advances individuals from underrepresented backgrounds.

“One of the things that I love about the community of practice model is that it shares the mentality that none of us is as good as all of us. And that’s why we’re all coming together,” said Hernandez.

Once the diversity and equity action plans are created, the next step will be developing a mechanism to measure progress of the departmental action plans, assess and address cultural climate concerns, increase representation of groups historically underrepresented and excluded in medicine, and identify areas where there are still gaps and provide institutional leaders with tools to maintain this work.

Participating groups include the departments of biochemistry & molecular biotechnology, family medicine & community health, medicine, obstetrics & gynecology, pediatrics, population & quantitative health sciences, and radiology; the offices of communications, government & community relations, and public safety; the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing; Commonwealth Medicine; and the Lamar Soutter Library.

Related UMass Chan news story:
Diversity, equity and inclusion pillar added to UMass Chan strategic plan