Forum Message from the Dean
This fall, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel formally announced the campus-wide strategic plan for increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, or DE&I. This five-year roadmap, entitled Many Voices, Our Michigan, outlines our goals and aspirations to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate; to recruit, retain and develop a diverse community; and to support innovative and inclusive scholarship and teaching.
These three strategies couldn’t be more closely aligned with our thinking at the Medical School, particularly as we focus on our evolving curriculum and vision for training tomorrow’s health care leaders. We all know that patients often relate best to physicians who understand them as unique individuals. What you may not know is that a vast body of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers demonstrates diverse groups simply perform better than non-diverse groups.
In 2003, researchers at the University of Texas surveyed 177 national banks in the U.S. and compared financial performance, racial diversity and the company’s emphasis on innovation. For innovation-focused banks, increases in racial diversity were clearly related to enhanced financial performance. In 2015, the same team of investigators collected demographic and financial performance data from a large retailer with 200 stores across the Midwest and West. The study found that the highest-performing stores had highly diverse employees, and this effect was magnified if the surrounding community was also racially diverse.
Diversity also helps us be more creative in our thinking. In 2004, a Stanford University researcher collaborated with several West Coast universities to study 350 students as they discussed prevailing social issues, such as child labor practices or the death penalty. The researchers wrote dissenting opinions, which were presented by both black and white students. When the same argument was given to a group racially different from the presenter, the perspective was thought to be more innovative and led to more robust and creative discussions. The same information, coming from someone unlike ourselves, spurs more thought and broader perspectives. Research on similar topics shows that generating “high quality ideas” that lead to innovation occurs more often in diverse groups of investigators than in homogenous groups.
During my first year as dean, I have seen many foundational activities already underway that will drive diversity across the Medical School. My hope and aspiration is that the president’s DE&I strategic plan will be a catalyst for our community to recognize how greater connections can make us better. My goal is that our academic medical center renews our effort and dedication, both short and longer term, to specific activities and behaviors that will result in a diverse and inclusive campus. My commitment is that we will create the best environment and culture we can, one that values and supports everyone within the Michigan Medicine family and community.
Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, U-M Medical School
Illustration by Bruce Morser