Annual Celebration of Diversity Engages, Even in a Virtual Format
Jessica White, MD Program Class of 2024, contributed a piece called "For my Father" to a student art showcase during Diversity Week 2021.
February 5, 2021
By Lisa Ryan
Diversity Week 2021 marked the first fully-virtual iteration of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s annual event promoting diversity in medical education and in the health care field. MD Program students from different student organizations came together to ensure that the week’s events – from trivia to panel discussions – provided education on diversity and championed equity and inclusion, even without the benefits of in-person participation and conversation.
“Diversity Week as a whole was organized as a collaborative effort between students, faculty and staff from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” said Alena Nixon, Class of 2023. “We basically discussed what we wanted to get out of Diversity Week and what events would execute that.”
Nixon and her classmates began preparing early in the month for the January 25 to 29 slate of events, which included:
- Monday-night trivia, with a round on the College of Medicine’s diverse history;
- Student-submitted, diversity-themed artwork and community conversation about diversity and its role in health care – all playing out on the College of Medicine’s Instagram;
- A discussion of the film “The Farewell,” chosen for its themes of culture and medicine interacting in the face of a family’s loss.
On Tuesday night, students heard from peers, residents and faculty physicians about their experiences with diversity and inclusion in health care settings during a panel discussion organized by the College of Medicine’s chapter of the South Asian Medical Student Association (SAMSA). SAMSA president Jahnavi Meka, Class of 2023, and SAMSA member Samhita Nanduri, Class of 2024, planned and co-moderated the Tuesday night panel.
Ahead of the event, Nanduri wrote questions prompting panelists to speak on their experiences in the workplace before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the discussion, she and Meka also opened the floor to student questions on such topics as cultural humility in medical care.
College of Medicine students and faculty play a virtual trivia game during Diversity Week 2021.
“We got good feedback after the panel from students who told us how welcoming and engaging it was for them,” Nanduri said. “Our panelists – Drs. Corbin, Guevara, Novack, Rushdan and Verma – were vocal, enthusiastic, honest and engaging, which drove our conversation forward.”
“Coordinating and putting together the Diversity Week events wasn’t hard,” said Shu Zhao, Class of 2023. “The harder part was advertising and promoting in a way that makes people want to spend their time and come out despite Zoom fatigue.”
Reflecting on the week, student organizers were gratified to see the same audience engagement across events as Nanduri did Tuesday night.
“I think my favorite part of the week was seeing how despite virtual barriers, we were still able to bring awareness to diversity and inclusion within the College of Medicine,” said Raidizon Mercedes, Class of 2023.
Alena Nixon, MD Program Class of 2023, leads a virtual scavenger hunt related to the first generation student experience during a Diversity Week 2021 event.
Thursday night’s Around the World showcase is a Diversity Week staple several years running, with diversity-focused student groups presenting different topics to attendees. Mercedes said he and his fellow organizers focused on using the event to provide the same learning opportunities as always, with people gathering in Zoom breakout rooms instead of around a presenter’s table.
“I think we wanted to keep the same feel that students can go visit different groups and get to learn from them,” he said. “I am very glad that we were able to keep that, and students got to experience different clubs.”
Mercedes and some of his classmates took part in a cooking lesson with members of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) during the Around the World event. In other breakout rooms, students competed to answer geography- and culture-based trivia questions, learned origami from members of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association, and participated in activities with the First Generation Student Organization and the LGBTQ Professionals in Medicine (LGBTQ-PM) group.
“My favorite part of Diversity Week 2021 was being able to work with and attend events with students from the different cultural organizations,” said Brett Mitchell, Class of 2023. “We really got to see the beauty of diversity of people and of thought at work.”
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