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Celebrating the launch of the faculty's EDI initiative

Celebrating the launch of the faculty's EDI initiative

It’s a big day at the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) as we mark the official opening of an Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and launch the Dean’s Action Table on EDI (DAT-EDI).

What is an Action Table and why do we need one?

We are experiencing a period of unprecedented awareness about systemic racism and other forms of oppression. Our approach to addressing these matters must be more than notional. We need action. We need to meaningfully demonstrate our commitment to the principles of EDI in our workplace as well as our teaching, research, and care.

As the Dean of FHS, I am in a position of immense privilege. I know that unearned advantages are derived from society’s patterns of injustice and we share an obligation for changing those patterns. In a recent article on the topic, Dr. Stephanie Nixon notes that “The obliviousness of people about their positions of privilege is a key strategy required to sustain the hegemony of systems of inequality.”[1]

Conversations about racism, sexism, and discrimination can make people uncomfortable. But the correct response to recognizing privilege is not denial or guilt, it is self-reflection and informed action. Last year, Dr. Barry Lavallee told us, “when you feel the discomfort, move into it, because that’s where the learning occurs.”[2]

Taking on systemic patterns of injustice should be in the core mandate for academic institutions dedicated to the training of health professionals. Significant health outcome gaps continue to be fueled by systemic racism, colonialism, and other kinds of structural harms. This is widely documented, including in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.[3] Since the tabling of that report, the response from institutions that train health professionals has been variable. But it is abundantly clear that we need to stop thinking of EDI as an optional topic, left to the discretion and good will of the leadership of each school. We are all obliged to ensure an equitable, diverse, inclusive, accessible, and culturally safe approach to teaching, research, and care.

When I put out the call for volunteers to be part of this collective work at the FHS, I hoped at least a dozen people would respond. Instead, we have more than 150 learners, staff and faculty who want to be part of the DAT-EDI. In messages that accompanied the applications to be part of this work, I received heartfelt stories explaining why people want to be involved. There is a groundswell of enthusiasm for ensuring the FHS is a fair and inclusive place to work and learn.

So how do you engage 150 volunteers? In the spirit of inclusivity, we will find a role for everyone who wants to be involved. We need a comprehensive and systemic approach, so we have decided to have an executive as well as seven working groups, each tasked with a portion of the work. The working groups will cover these themes:

  • Outreach and Summer Programs
  • EDI for Admissions
  • EDI Curriculum across the FHS
  • Recruitment, Retention and Mentorship
  • Professional Development
  • Research and EDI
  • Culture and Community

Working groups will be asked to conduct an environmental scan of current FHS activities relevant to the group theme, study best practices and develop recommendations and metrics – all leading to the development of an EDI Strategic Plan for FHS. They will explore opportunities for educational scholarship, writing, and other forms of communication based on their work.

The work ahead is not easy. Addressing EDI is not a one-step journey. It involves cultural transformation and will require permanent attention with iterations of evaluation and adaptation.

We will need to ask hard questions. And we’ll need to listen well to people whose voices have been barely audible. We should be prepared to hear anger, hurt, and pain. We should be prepared to hear that anger repeatedly. When people who have experienced sexism, racism, and oppression share their stories, we must be prepared with mental health supports, including Indigenous Elders who can offer their wisdom and healing circles.

Our collective success will require personal, organizational and cultural humility. We will all need to study, to learn and unlearn about history and culture. When it’s safe to do so, we should visit communities outside our usual routes. Regarding Indigenous history and culture for example, most of us have more to learn more about the distinct peoples who are First Nations, Inuit, or Métis.

There will be an obligation to act on what we learn, with cycles of self-reflection, recognition and informed action. Increasingly, we should learn safe and effective ways to speak up when we recognize bias, harassment, and micro-aggressions. Speaking up is the minimum response. Changing patterns of injustice is the goal.

We will make mistakes. But we will also make friends and we will make an even stronger FHS.

Additional Announcements

In addition to launching the DAT-EDI, we are opening an Office of EDI. I am pleased to introduce the following individuals as part of that office:

  • EDI Project Manager – Giselle Valarezo
  • EDI Senior Advisor – Celina Caesar-Chavannes
  • Elder-in-Residence – Wendy Phillips
  • Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator – Cortney Clark
  • Faculty Lead for School of Medicine – Dr. Mala Joneja
  • Faculty Lead for School of Nursing – Dr. Mary Smith
  • Faculty Lead for School of Rehabilitation Therapy – Dr. Vincent de Paul

Finally, I am excited to announce that we have launched the FHS EDI Fund to support this work and to assist in recruitment and support for learners from under-represented groups. We are very grateful for the inaugural contribution to the fund from the Carrick Family who have committed $200,000 in support over the next two years. Thank you to Kathleen, Kelly and Sarah Carrick for this very generous donation. The EDI Fund is now ready to receive additional contributions that will be essential to the success of our work. To donate, please go to: healthsci.queensu.ca/edi

More than 60 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about how our commitment to human rights links to our academic mission. He said this: “Whatever career you may choose for yourself—doctor, lawyer, teacher—let me propose an avocation to be pursued along with it. Become a dedicated fighter for civil rights. Make it a central part of your life. It will make you a better doctor, a better lawyer, a better teacher. It will enrich your spirit as nothing else possibly can. It will give you that rare sense of nobility that can only spring from love and selflessly helping your fellow man. Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”[4]

The message of those words is no less relevant in the work we launch today.

[1] https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7884-9

[2] https://meds.queensu.ca/ugme-blog/archives/4468

[3] http://www.trc.ca/

[4] https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/address-youth-march-integrated-schools-18-april-1959

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Kris Bowes

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 06:54

Wonderful and timely initiative, and an incredibly inspiring launch. Well done FHS.

Kris Bowes

Kathleen McGrath (FHS staff)

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 08:36

I virtually attended yesterday's launch event and was very moved. Looking forward to seeing the work from this initiative!

Kathleen McGrath (FHS staff)

Michelle Kasaboski (DFM Staff)

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 10:47

I am proud to be part of a community that is putting this necessary work into action. The words from Dr. Matin Luther King Jr. are very powerful and an important reminder of how interconnected our work all is in making careers of supporting one another as humans. I look forward to learning more about this initiative!

Michelle Kasaboski (DFM Staff)

Geraldine MacDonald

Tue, 09/29/2020 - 10:59

Thank you for this much needed attention to pervasive problems in our local and broader societies.

Geraldine MacDonald

Dr Gordon Francis

Tue, 09/29/2020 - 11:11

Congratulations on an important initiative and thanks for the pointer to the TRC reports. Stunning and sobering at how systematized the industrial school concept was in Canadian society and how it inculcated such biased representations of aboriginals in us as children growing up in Canada. It adds new meaning to "let he who hath not sinned..." when viewing racism in US with Canadian eyes.

Dr Gordon Francis

Hi Dr. Francis,
It is so true that bias was introduced to us all in such a systemic manner. Thank you for your reflections.

Jane Philpott

Dr. Heather Clarke (alumna)

Tue, 09/29/2020 - 12:56

Thanks to Dr. Philpott for her insight, vision and early action....and thanks to all the students, staff and faculty who have demonstrated their commitment to the EDI focus - so proud to be Queen's Alum! I might also suggest that among the concepts and themes being addressed, trauma-informed care would be included - perhaps it is an overarching theme...I look forward to learning about the progress of the working teams - and the whole is greater than the parts...Dr. Heather F Clarke, BScN 1966

Dr. Heather Clarke (alumna)

Hi Dr. Clarke - It is indeed wonderful to see the grassroots support for this work. Thanks for the reminder that trauma-informed care must be part of this educational journey, even an overarching theme. We will keep you posted. - Jane

Jane Philpott

Jenn Carew Nur ‘05

Tue, 09/29/2020 - 15:02

I am proud to be part of the Queens alumni community and fully support these actions of the faculty of health sciences.

Jenn Carew Nur ‘05

Patricia (Trish) Robinson

Wed, 09/30/2020 - 00:13

I too attended the launch.
This does indeed promises to be a wonderful initiative!

Patricia (Trish) Robinson

Rob Sides

Tue, 10/13/2020 - 15:50

Hi Dr Philpott, I was glad to hear that health/death data is getting a face lift. I've been working for the last two years bringing the importance of full and accurate death certification to the mainstream. It's a pity the area of death certification (Form 16) has a boring or "paperwork" connotation because very useful data is is getting lost through the cracks. About 10 years ago, Stats Canada put out the call to physicians, nurses, coroners to pay more attention to this task so that the death trajectory for individuals can supply data banks and research needs with lots of robust data. Stats Can made a compelling case for taking the time to fill out the Part 1 antecedent lines on the Form 16 so that research could also be directed to preventing those contributing causes of death right up from the underlying condition to the immediate cause of death. In order for this to happen, these intermediate factors would have to be acknowledged in the death timeline and recorded. Needless to say, it is unlawful to produce an inadequate death certification since bad actors can hide crimes or negligence this way. The case was made during the Wettlaufer inquiry that this nurse was able to hide her crimes through omissions on the Form 16. I would like to share my orientations around this issue with you should you ever be interested in doing so. i really believe the Form 16 is a major tool of death prevention and public safety. Thank you

Rob Sides

Jane Philpott

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 15:15

Thanks for your helpful comments. This is an important issue and I believe it has the attention of the Chief Coroner's Office in Ontario. I appreciate your encouragement of the work to improve health data quality.

Jane Philpott

Jason Pennington

Sun, 11/01/2020 - 11:44

As an Indigenous Surgeon I fully support your initiatives in EDI. It must be recognized that Indigenous Peoples are in a unique and distinct relationship with Canadian society and institutions that will require innovative, meaningful and responsible responses WRT the TRC calls to action.

As an educator and advocate for Indigenous Health must congratulate you on your public stands and actions around Honesty, Transparency, Indigenous Issues and Public Health. I truly believe that, with your leadership, this is the perfect time for Queen’s FoM to make great strides and become a leader in recognizing and addressing Indigenous Health issues and concepts throughout medical education, research and practice.

I am already involved with teaching the Queen’s Family Practice residents from Oshawa & Peterborough. At UofT I have advised their strategic plan WRT Indigenous Health, helped establish the Office of Indigenous Medical Education, and develop the MD program Indigenous Health curriculum.

It would be an honour to contribute, in any way required, to Indigenous Health initiatives at Queen’s FoM going forward. Thank you.


Jason Pennington

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