Office of Faculty Development and Diversity

The Case for Diversity: Beyond Affirmative Action

Historically, diversity has been framed as social justice issue - the “right thing to do” that promotes equal opportunity for all. While these concepts remain essential, diversity should now be viewed with urgency as an imperative for the success of our institutions and our nation. Only by harnessing the entire and diverse intellectual capital of the US, will we ensure our nation’s competitive edge and leadership in innovation and economic success. Indeed a major determinant of this success will be how we educate the next generation of leaders, an issue directly relevant to academic medicine. Research clearly demonstrates that learning in a diverse environment results in measurable improvement the educational quality and outcomes for students from both majority and minority backgrounds.   Furthermore, there is compelling evidence that diversity of thought and perspective provides richer solutions to the complex challenges of 21st Century, including health, education, and environmental and sociological issues. 
The imperative and urgency for diversity is well demonstrated in academic medicine wherein fifty percent of graduates of medicine and biological scientists are women, and a growing number are from racial and ethnic backgrounds that are underrepresented in academic medicine. Yet less than 20 percent (eighteen) of full professors are women, and a woefully smaller number (in single digits), are from ethnically diverse backgrounds. These facts are occurring against a backdrop of the changing demographic of our nation, such that by 2050 current minority groups will constitute the majority of the US population. In the field of biomedical research, our ability to translate new discoveries so as to impact the health of all peoples will require that we recruit and retain trainees, faculty and staff that reflect the diversity in the populations whose health we hope to impact. This is directly relevant especially to tier one academic medical centers. To meet 21st Century challenges, diversity amongst students and faculty is essential for developing a new generation of trans-disciplinary researcher and teams. Not only is diversity essential for developing this new type of “team scientist and team worker”, it enables the realization of educational goals by providing role models and mentors; brings new kinds of scholarship and pedagogy; educates students on issues of growing importance to society and globally; and offer links to communities not often connected to our institution. Indeed, these exciting benefits of diversity are an integral part of Stanford School of Medicine’s Strategic Plan for Translating Discoveries

However, it is important to remember that fostering diversity in an institution is not only about the numbers. I would argue it is more about creating a culture of inclusiveness and one in which all feel valued for their individual and collective contributions. Indeed, creating such a culture is more difficult to achieve than ensuring proportional representation along dimensions of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic; disability, and sexual orientation. How often have we all observed that in many institutions, high schools and colleges alike, students, faculty and staff often separate into identity groups? Yet it is the work of getting these groups together and connecting them with core of the institution that I find most exciting and rewarding. I am simply thrilled when Stanford faculty upon completing one of the leadership and networking programs we offer, comment that they finally feel connected to the institution and have a sense of being part of it. The ongoing effort of the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity is making progress to create and foster a culture of diversity at Stanford, through effective partnerships between the multiple existing programs that address each stage of the academic pipeline. This work goes beyond the "right thing to do"; it is essential for enabling Stanford to maintain it excellence in educating the next generation of leaders, building diversity in pipeline for academic medicine, and advancing our nation's intellectual capital.


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