February 1, 2020

Message From the Chair: Updates on Cultural Initiatives

The "Culture Crew" has undertaken five projects that were reviewed at a recent retreat.

A monthly message from Department of Surgery Chair Justin B. Dimick


This past week our “Culture Crew” had its first retreat. This group, convened by our Vice Chair for Faculty Development, Erika Newman, has been charged with leading efforts to make our culture in the Department of Surgery more inclusive.

What does it mean to be more inclusive? It means creating an environment where everyone can succeed. It means respecting differences and understanding that diversity makes us stronger. It means collectively embracing the idea that excellence flows from allowing each individual to come to work whole.

The Culture Crew has undertaken five projects that were reviewed at the retreat. Each one is meant to move us toward our goals of advancing an inclusive culture. The time at the retreat was used to review each program and discuss what was working, and more importantly, what was not. The five workgroups are as follows:

  1. Vision and Mission: Justine Moe, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, presented a mission statement and objectives for this group. This is our working mission statement that was discussed:

“The success of the Department of Surgery rests on a culture in which individuals are supported to advance and thrive. Our goal is to intentionally promote and protect an environment which cultivates and supports academic and clinical excellence, discovery, and innovation; one that celebrates individual differences, honors our shared values of inclusion, collaboration, and wellness, and fosters a sense of pride and excellence in our daily work.”

  1. #WallsDoTalk: Chandu Vemuri, Vascular Surgery, presented work aimed to ensure that the pictures on our walls represent the current and future workforce in surgery, and also respect our past. The first phase of this work will be installed this spring in the surgical chair’s suite and the walls outside the surgery library and surgery education office.
  2. Culture Complications: Lesly Dossett, Surgical Oncology, presented the current state of our pilot program to discuss our culture complications, the same way we use clinical complications to learn and improve.
  3. Culture Assessment: Samir Gadepalli, Pediatric Surgery, presented several instruments to measure culture, so we can garner objective data about improvement. We will review the results of the new, more comprehensive, faculty survey this spring before adding new data collection. We will also use the recent SECOND trial results that can be tracked to assess culture among residents.
  4. First Responder and Bystander Training: Gurjit Sandhu, Surgical Education, presented a portfolio of strategies to ensure that we are preparing the Culture Crew members and department faculty more broadly to respond appropriately to events that move our culture in the right direction. This included a session led by a counselor from the Office of Wellness and Workplace Resilience on being a first responder and where and when to escalate reporting. Next we will move forward with robust bystander training. 

One of the key insights from our discussion was that it is incredibly important to have humility about this work. Positive culture change is a journey without a destination. We can never declare victory over building an inclusive culture, only try to continually improve. We will always fall short and we will always have areas to improve. I am thankful to this group of individuals and to all of you who are committed to guiding our department along this journey—helping us all build our cultural humility.

Justin B. Dimick, MD, MPH
Frederick A. Coller Distinguished Professor
Chair, Department of Surgery
University of Michigan Health System

Dr. Dimick

Justin B. Dimick, MD, MPH

Department of Surgery Chair
Frederick A. Coller Distinguished Professor of Surgery
Professor, General Surgery