As health care providers in hospitals, outpatient offices, clinics and at home, allied health sciences students will encounter many different patients in their careers. To help prepare these students for positive interactions with patients of all different backgrounds, the College of Allied Health Sciences has launched a new diversity and cultural awareness campaign.
Led by director of diversity initiatives Monica Wilkins, the campaign launched with a speaker series in February on health promotion/disparities and cultural stereotypes. The campaign included a poster series which was on display throughout French East for three weeks.
Posters focused on a variety of cultural traditions that can affect health and interactions between health care providers and patients, involving everything from cultural foods to attitudes toward touching and expressing emotion among different cultures.
"The whole idea is to tweak students’ awareness of how to interact with patients and how cultural influences have an impact on what we do as health care providers,” says Wilkins. "Some cultures have religiously based views on health and alternative remedies, or some may express pain differently or focus differently on nonverbal communication. Cultural misunderstandings can happen very innocently, but they can and do lead to health disparities and even result in negative outcomes.”
Wilkins came to the college in 2011 to focus on diversity programs, recruitment and mentorship. She hopes this latest campaign will expand the college’s diversity efforts to bring non-minority students into the conversation about diversity.
"We want to make an impact with all the students in our college,” she says, "for them to better understand the importance of diversity and the issues surrounding it.”
Third-year dietetics student Jalisa Holifield attended the program as part of her involvement with the Connections Mentoring program for minority students in Allied Health. She is also a member of RAPP, UC’s Racial Awareness Program.
Holifield believes that UC, as a predominantly white university, can benefit from more diversity campaigns.
"Chances are most of the incoming students do not have experience with cultures that are different from theirs and college is really the best place to experience that,” she says. "Being in a safe space and having programs such as RAPP and workshops really helps a student grow into a more socially responsible person.”
She thinks next steps could include recruiting minority men to come to the college and speak about their experiences in health care fields.
Wilkins is formulating a CAHS diversity council with the intent to do more broad-based programs: "We didn’t want people to think of the campaign as one day for diversity—that we go to this one event and we’re done.”