Celebrating Differences Matter At One Year

prudence carter
Photos: Mark Wooding
Prudence Carter, MD, MPhil, PhD (center), professor and dean at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education, with Differences Matter Dean's Diversity Leaders Alicia Fernandez, MD (left), and Aimee Medeiros, PhD (right).

Posted: July 5, 2017

By Allison Savage

The Differences Matters initiative is one year old!  Faculty and staff from across the School of Medicine have identified existing programs and explored new strategies to advance our culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. At a recent event to recognize initial accomplishments of Differences Matter, Prudence Carter, MS, MPhil, PhD, professor and dean, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education, was interviewed by Dean’s Diversity Leaders Alicia Fernandez, MD, and Aimee Medeiros, PhD, at a gathering that included other Dean’s Diversity Leaders, Executive Advisory Board members, Action Group volunteers and friends of the initiative.

The School of Medicine has committed to admitting and educating a diverse group of students to engineer a workforce equipped to solve complex problems for our increasingly diverse patients and communities.  However, our remarkable students and junior faculty have helped us realize that our work must extend beyond the recruitment of diverse students, residents and faculty. 

Dr. Carter, whose research focuses on the origins of and solutions to inequities in education, echoed this idea: “Diversity is about getting people in the door; whereas inclusion is about deep, fundamental organizational and personal change.” 

Differences Matter group
(l-r) Vice Chancellor Renee Navarro, MD, Medeiros, Carter, Fernandez, and Executive Vice Dean Catherine Lucey, MD.

To move beyond being simply demographically diverse towards being truly inclusive, all students must feel equally attached and supported by their school. UCSF must actively work to achieve this so that all our students can flourish.

One barrier to full inclusivity that Dr. Carter highlighted is the concept of cultural capital. In medical education, this can be especially salient. A student raised by two physician parents will have more cultural capital—an almost indescribable knowledge of how the world of clinical medicine works. 

Consider the opportunities that student has over one who does just as well in college, scores just as high on the MCAT, but whose experience in a medical setting is more limited or even absent. For those who teach, mentor and advise students, awareness of this difference, and considering it when making judgments about students, can have an impact.

Differences Matter is working to foster an inclusive educational environment where all students succeed. To that end, nearly two hundred faculty and staff began day-long interactive training last month, with additional sessions scheduled this month. This type of deep cultural and interpersonal change is challenging, and UCSF’s School of Medicine is tackling it head on.