Spring 2015

Fostering Diversity

Annual alumni survey now measures school’s degree of inclusiveness

This year’s alumni survey broke new ground by asking whether the School of Dental Medicine embraces diversity in all its dimensions. More than 96 percent of the 168 respondents from the classes of 2009 and 2012 replied with a resounding yes.

“We added the question so we could see for ourselves how well we had created an environment that fosters diversity and knowledge of different cultures”—both are important for health-care providers, says Mark Gonthier, executive associate dean.

300W_diversityISS_4695_00910Those surveyed were asked to use a “diversity wheel” as a guide to answering the question. It defined diversity as both who you are—gender, ethnicity, race and sexual orientation—as well as other defining characteristics, such as education, religious background, marital status and cultural and social factors.

“We believed the school embraced diversity in all of its dimensions, but we had no data to document our belief,” says Robert Kasberg, associate dean of admissions and student affairs. “But the results of the survey verify that our students consider our school to be very strong in its commitment to diversity. We will track the survey over time to maintain the most inclusive environment possible.”

Diversity, inclusion and cultural competency will remain a high priority for the school, Gonthier says. “So much of how health is perceived and understood is a cultural experience,” he notes. “How you establish a relationship of trust with your doctor, how you describe pain are all different culturally and are important for practitioners to know.”

Since 1996, the annual survey has been sent to alumni who have graduated in the last two and five years.  —Gail Bambrick

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