About Building Community

"Building Community isn't a project that will come and go. This is a fundamental transition in how we approach our working and learning environment."

Dean Robert N. Golden, MD

Why are we doing this?

White coat ceremony

Quite simply, it is the right thing to do. When we are at our best, our skills in interacting with each other are a source of strength for our patients and drive our discoveries and learning forward.

We are leaders in education, research, patient care and service, and yet we remain vulnerable to the challenges facing medical schools and academic health centers across the country, including burnout and incivility. While we know these issues are complex and pervasive, we simply will not settle for good enough. We aim to set the gold standard for professionalism, collegiality and inclusiveness.

We must create an exceptional culture in which our faculty, staff and learners feel empowered to reach their goals and be the best they can be. We must be able to recruit and retain physicians, scientists and students from diverse backgrounds. We must welcome them and make them feel valued. Moreover, we must take better care of each other and ourselves to address issues of stress and burnout.

This effort requires nothing less than total commitment from each of us. It will at times be difficult, and it will not happen quickly. Nevertheless, it is imperative to fulfilling our mission.

Building Community – our shared values

Student research forum

  • Integrity and Accountability – Every person, every action, every time.
  • Compassion – Treat all with kindness, understanding, and empathy.
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity – Advance health and health equity by respecting the rights, dignity, and differences of all.
  • Excellence – Strive for the very best in all we do.

Building Community priorities

Word cloud

  • Promote awareness, understanding and commitment to our shared values of integrity, accountability, compassion, diversity, equity, inclusivity and excellence
  • Ensure that the learning and working environments across SMPH are welcoming to all and allow all individuals to feel connected and to flourish
  • Continue to build a diverse community of faculty, staff and learners
  • Promote a culture in which there is zero tolerance for discrimination and harassment
  • Ensure individuals and departments have resources that will allow them to enact transformational change in our organization’s culture

Building Community process

Researchers forming a W

Since the beginning of 2018, the Building Community Steering Committee has conducted research and listening sessions to gather community feedback on ideas regarding the best ways to achieve our goals. Success in accomplishing the vision of Building Community in the School of Medicine and Public Health is dependent on the ongoing commitment and engagement of all members of the SMPH community and continued collaboration with UW Health, our statewide campuses and other partner institutions.

The steering committee developed several work teams to focus on issues such as professionalism and accountability and equity, inclusion and engagement. We are also collaborating very closely with UW Health on clinician wellness programming.

The groups have announced and worked toward specific goals, initiatives and strategies that will take this work deeper. As some work teams finish their tasks, others are created to carry on the work or put a proposed strategy into action.

We are building on a strong foundation, and we will continue to support existing initiatives that carry out these priorities.

Our Foundation

Building Community focuses and increases the resources devoted to enhancing the environment in which we work and learn. However, these aspirations are not new to the School of Medicine and Public Health. The underpinnings of Building Community include several long-standing programs and initiatives throughout the school that we detail below.

Many of these efforts are focused on building a diverse community of health care practitioners and fostering skills needed to tackle health inequities throughout society with tenacity, creativity and compassion.

These foundations reflect our values of integrity and accountability, compassion, diversity, equity and inclusivity, and excellence. As Building Community progresses to subsequent phases, working teams are identifying ways to deepen and extend areas of success as well as find new opportunities for improvement.

Health equity

Promote health equity throughout Wisconsin and beyond, and help prepare the next generation of health care providers to tackle health inequities throughout their careers.

People taking part in diversity summit.


Develop school-wide activities and resources focusing on supporting an organizational culture of wellness.

Women doing yoga.


Exemplify professionalism and accountability through activities, programs, and faculty and staff development.

Employees with Dean Golden.


Foster a culture of inclusion and respect among our patients, employees, learners, and the communities we serve. Through teaching, discovery and advocacy, promote equity in access to quality health care.

A group of people


Building Community comprises four phases:

  1. Discovery and pre-planning
  2. Building of plan infrastructures
  3. Communications
  4. Implementation

Completion of the implementation phase will simply mark the end of the structured work teams; our efforts toward Building Community across the School of Medicine and Public health are, and will be, ongoing and will be ingrained in our culture as we continuously strive to be the best place to work and learn.

Phase 1: Discovery and pre-planning
October 2017-March 2018

  • Conduct current-state analysis
  • Complete data scan
  • Hold stakeholder meetings
  • Hold planning retreat

Phase 2: Building of plan infrastructures
January-December 2018

  • Launch steering committee
  • Launch professionalism and accountability work team
  • Launch equity, inclusion and engagement work team
  • Launch learner subcommittee

Phase 3: Communications
January 2018-December 2020

  • Launch communications team (completed)
  • Hold SMPH town hall presentations (completed)
  • Conduct stakeholder survey (completed)
  • Finalize plan initiatives/language
  • Publish plan/launch website

Phase 4: Implementation
January 2019-December 2020

  • Form implementation work teams
  • Identify success measures
  • Work toward and complete tasks and deliverables identified by initial work teams
  • Track progress