Building Community Equity, Inclusion and Engagement Work Team efforts shape strategic planning

This story is part of a series that focuses on different committees and work teams in the Building Community program. Read more Building Community stories here.

Months before the UW School of Medicine and Public Health published its five-year Building Community Strategic Plan in November 2020, the Building Community Equity, Inclusion and Engagement Work Team had already fulfilled its charge: to “identify initiatives that ensure the learning and working environments across SMPH are inclusive and not only welcoming to all but also allow members of the SMPH community to feel connected and to flourish.”

Co-chaired by Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, MA, vice president and chief diversity officer for UW Health, and Nancy Raymond, MD, associate dean for faculty affairs and development, the 25-member work team included SMPH faculty, learners and staff who convened in November 2018 and met over the next nine months. Together, they defined their vision—”an SMPH in which positive health and well-being are fostered by valuing, promoting, and supporting innovation from everyone throughout the entire organization”—and developed specific recommendations to achieve that vision:

  • Recommendation #1: Instill shared valued and a common understanding to transform SMPH to an equitable, inclusive, and engaging community.
  • Recommendation #2: Create, implement, and enforce organizational and individual expectations and accountability for equity, inclusivity, and engagement goals.
  • Recommendation #3: Integrate equitable practices into our internal and external infrastructure to advance our equity, inclusivity and engagement goals.

“Implementation of these recommendations is an essential next step in this work, and I look forward to collaborating with the steering committee and CDIOs (chief diversity and inclusion officers) at SMPH in order to continue aligning our efforts across the system,” said Bidar-Sielaff.

These recommendations—as well as short-term goals, challenges, key partners, and necessary resources—culminated in a report presented to the Building Community Steering Committee in June 2019 and eventually became integral components of the strategic plan.

“Our conversations contributed to the important process in beginning to reframe dialogue across SMPH sectors to engage intentionally in equity, inclusion, and engagement work with our health care system partner at the table too,” said team member Jennifer Edgoose, MD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and director of the SMPH Diversity and Inclusion Advocates Program. “I appreciated the iterative process of our work together.”

For team member Sue Carlson, director of operations for the Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, that process was very rewarding.

“One of our department goals is increasing diversity at all levels. We know that succeeding in this goal will benefit the department, will benefit the research, will benefit the school, and will ultimately benefit the patients. If I could contribute to that in any way, I wanted to take the opportunity to do that,” Carlson said. “And selfishly, this was an opportunity for me to learn and to really try to get an understanding—intellectually at least—of what people experience who don’t look like me. I learned a tremendous amount and continue to learn to this day. It’s going to take a lot to shift the culture, and everyone’s lives will be better when everyone is included.”

In addition to shaping the strategic plan, the EIE work team’s recommendations—combined with those from the Professionalism and Accountability work team—laid the groundwork for next steps. This includes the development of the Shared Understanding workgroup, which recently completed the Shared Guidelines for Professional Development, and the Policy Assessment team, which convened in February 2021.

“The importance of developing shared language as much as shared values and vision is critical grounding work,” Dr. Edgoose said. “Although still at an aspirational stage, our work provides an important framework for our institution as it seeks to commit resources to bring best practices and develop new innovations to become a school committed to social mission.”