November 18, 2019

Combating Isolation: The Creation of Community DEI Dinners

We held the first dinner on October 22nd, 2019 and we had an amazing turnout of over 75 faculty members, residents and students who gathered to share a meal, conversation and discuss the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The Michigan Promise Blog
Glenn Wakam at DEI Dinner

Building a Program

The University of Michigan Department of Surgery, like many others across the country, is working to make sure the racial and cultural makeup of its members adequately reflects the community it serves. This requires recruiting and retaining diverse students, residents, and faculty through targeted initiatives. The Michigan Promise encompasses a broad platform of programming dedicated to this exact purpose. Often institutions focus the majority of the effort on attracting a diverse talent pool. However, a part of the problem with retaining underrepresented minorities at the large academic centers that often goes overlooked is the sense of isolation minorities can feel once they arrive. It can be quite unsettling walking the halls interacting with no one that looks like you. Or staring at the framed portraits of esteemed past leaders along the hallways, without seeing any kinship.

Shortly after Dr. Dimick ascended to the chair of the department, he met with Dr. Sidra Bonner and I to discuss ways our department could support a diverse community. Dr. Bonner and I both attended medical school at the University of California San Francisco where we had a monthly dinner for underrepresented minorities. What made the dinner unique was it open for all students, house staff, and faculty throughout the entire university. This is important because similar to Michigan, each individual department may not have significant racial and ethnic diversity but the institution as whole has a sizable diverse community. The dinners are primarily focused on medical students receiving informal mentoring but a concomitant community is formed with residents and faculty from different departments, who may not otherwise ever interact.

Scenes from the first community DEI dinner
Scenes from the first community DEI Dinner

The First Community DEI Dinner

Modeling off of our previous experience we reached out to medical students, Fitz Tavernier, Olivia Bennett, Donovan Inniss and Aduara Nwaba who were all incredibly receptive and proactive about creating a program here. Together we drafted a proposal for monthly two hour dinners in the hospital. The first hour is informal mentoring and the second hour will focus on a topic chosen by the medical students based on their interest. We intentionally chose the hospital as the location in order to facilitate participants being able to attend right from the wards and operating rooms. The group took this proposal to Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami from OHEI, who has served as the institutional knowledge. In order to ensure longterm success and have institution wide reach the program would be best implemented through OHEI and Dr. Okanlami and his staff have been instrumental in bringing the program to fruition. At this point the collective group presented the proposal to Dr. Dimick and the Department of Surgery generously agreed to provide the seed funding for the event.

We held the first dinner on October 22nd, 2019 and we had an amazing turnout of over 75 faculty members, residents and students who gathered to share a meal, conversation and discuss the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The broad community was readily on display as a I sat at a table with the chief of general surgery, a plastic surgeon, a pathologist and 3 medical students. While the first event went better than we hoped, a community isn’t created with one dinner, it requires a sustained effort. My hope is that every single department joins the cause and funds a dinner and that 10 years from now we are still meeting for dinner once a month.

Article by Sidra Bonner, MD (Twitter: @SidraBonner) and Glenn Wakam, MD (Twitter: @DocWak)

Contact Us

Reach out to join the conversation or to learn more about how to implement the Michigan Promise. Connect with the Department of Surgery or our faculty on Twitter to share your ideas or get in touch with the Office of Faculty & Resident Life to schedule a Michigan Promise presentation at your institution. You can also fill out our Michigan Promise Inquiry Form with any questions or comments.

Department of Surgery Office of Faculty & Resident Life
2210F Taubman Center
1500 E. Medical Center Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Phone: 734-232-5528

Email: facultylife@med.umich.edu

Twitter: @UMichSurgery

Hashtag: #MichiganPromise

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