Education Forum

5 Ways to Integrate Diversity & Inclusion Into Your Education Forum Proposal

By Seán StickleMarch 24, 2016

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All sessions at the Forum have some relation to diversity and inclusion – it’s not a matter of “if” you include diversity and inclusion components, it’s a matter of “how.”

As you prepare your 2016 Education Forum session proposal for submission, take some time to ensure that you’ve incorporated relevant diversity and inclusion topics into your proposal. Diversity is a key element of PAEA’s mission and a major component of our strategic plan – from student and faculty recruitment to curriculum and assessment to research and policy.

Here are 5 ways to integrate diversity and inclusion into your presentation proposal.

1. Discuss how unconscious/implicit bias impacts your topic.

“Implicit bias occurs when someone consciously rejects stereotypes and supports anti-discrimination efforts but also holds negative associations in his/her mind unconsciously.” (Open Society Foundations) These kinds of unconscious biases are extremely common, and they can systemically influence the outcomes of student admissions and faculty recruitment and retention, as well as the quality of care delivered to patients. When these biases are unintentionally institutionalized through processes and procedures, they have a corrosive effect on diversity and inclusion.

If you’re presenting on a topic that involves someone making an assessment, judgment, or conclusion about another person, unconscious bias almost certainly will play an important role.

2. Address health disparities and social determinants of health within your topic.

Health is unavoidably bound together with factors such as race, age, wealth, and many other drivers – leading to a preventable difference in disease, health outcomes, and the quality of and access to health care for different populations. In order to reduce these health care disparities, it’s crucial to teach students about the prevalence, root causes, and consequences of these disparities.

Whether you’re presenting on how to educate students about a particular disease or pathology, talking about how to develop better health care research, or discussing the development of interpersonal skills during clinical rotations, health disparities and the social determinants of health would be applicable.

3. Discuss the role of underrepresented minority populations as related to your topic.

As PA programs and PAEA work together to make the PA profession more diverse — reflecting the diversity we see in our country’s demographics — consider how your topic works to include – or to exclude – underrepresented minorities. Minority faculty and students often experience the same events quite differently from the majority group. How does your topic address this difference in a way that can generate inclusion and equity in our programs?

Faculty retention, career development, learning styles, support networks, and similar topics would all benefit from a more nuanced presentation that explores how different groups might be affected by, and engage with, these topics differently.

4. Identify areas where your topic will deal with cultural competency.

We’re a country of many diverse cultures, but our educational systems don’t always prepare us to effectively engage with the social, cultural, and linguistic differences between groups. This is a particularly acute issue with medicine, as cultural misunderstandings or insensitivities can lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, ultimately driving significant health disparities between groups. And these same issues of cultural differences are present when teaching students and working with faculty from culturally diverse backgrounds.

If you’re presenting on any topic that ultimately involves interacting with patients, students, or faculty, then cultural competencies should come up. How does your topic address these cultural differences, rather than assuming everyone thinks and acts the same way?

5. Lead with diversity and inclusion as your primary topic.

Finally, we’d love to see more session proposals that focus primarily on diversity and inclusion. Whether it’s analyzing racial and ethnic trends in medical pipeline programs, recruiting underrepresented minority students, developing processes to build a more diverse faculty, proposing a framework for a diversity accreditation standard, teaching LGBTQ health topics, using universal design to develop a disability-inclusive clinical site, or something else entirely, we’re eager to receive and review your diversity and inclusion session ideas.

Final Word

Diversity and inclusion can’t be separated from the education sessions – it needs to be integrated throughout all of our sessions at the Forum. When you’re writing your presentation proposal, remember to make diversity and inclusion a part of it.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like to discuss how to integrate diversity and inclusion ideas – or others – into your proposal, I’d be happy to talk with you. You can reach me at sstickle@PAEAonline.org.

Note: The 2016 Education Forum Call for Proposals closes on Monday, April 4.

Seán Stickle
Seán Stickle

Seán serves as the chief communications officer and chief diversity officer for the Physician Assistant Education Association. He has worked in the nonprofit and association world since 1999 and has been with PAEA since 2012.