As we step into Black History Month, this is an opportune time to reflect on the vital importance of diversity and inclusion.
For the Medical University of South Carolina, diversity and inclusion are not bounded by ethnicity alone. Our focus encompasses all aspects that make us unique — differences in skills and abilities, gender, rural versus urban upbringings, cultural heritage, sexual orientation, world views, geographic genesis, and so much more.
As the chief diversity officers for MUSC, we have been engaged in diversity and inclusion initiatives for a combined 56 years.
A wholehearted commitment to diversity and inclusion requires serious, ongoing, strategic thought, plus planning, action and vigilance. It starts at the top where strategic priorities, resource allocation and ultimate accountability live.
Leadership, vision and a no-excuses attitude are hallmarks of substantive diversity and inclusion programs.
We are proud to report that our diversity and inclusion efforts have attained the right level of priority under the leadership of MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., MUSC Health Executive Director/CEO Pat Cawley, M.D., and with the stalwart support of the Board of Trustees.
Through our President’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, convened nearly 18 months ago, we have renewed our commitment to welcoming the voices and viewpoints of diverse members of the Charleston community, enhancing communication and promoting engagement.
Like any group with differing life experiences and perspectives, we don’t always agree; however, at MUSC we strive to remain reasonable and open to civil discourse, and to the respectful airing of opposing views.
And while there is still work to be done on our campus and in our institution in the area of diversity and inclusion, our leadership team continues to move our organization forward toward measurable change that more accurately reflects the rich fabric of our society.
Every member of the community is accountable for contributing to the work, and our progress is palpable. A few days ago, we were notified that MUSC has been named an honoree for our work in diversity and inclusion by PR News. We were also recently named a leader in LGBT healthcare equality by the National LGBT Healthcare Quality Index for 2016.
MUSC continues to seek out the brightest minds and most talented professionals available to join our academic, clinical and research enterprises.
Each member of our community is valued and respected for the uniqueness of thought and richness of life perspective that he brings to the classroom, laboratory, boardroom and clinical setting. Each person must strive to understand and be understood in a culture that revolves around MUSC core values — compassion, collaboration, respect, integrity and innovation.
Roy Disney said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”
And Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”
The MUSC family will continue to advance our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
To achieve the full measure of success that our institution and the greater Charleston community deserve — it’s the right thing to do.
Willette S. Burnham, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and university chief diversity officer at MUSC. Anton J. Gunn, MSW, is chief diversity officer and executive director of Community Health Innovation for MUSC Health.