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Diversity Matters
Low participation rates in diversity surveys make it difficult to test the waters for signs of success.


Brian Gibbs
Brian Gibbs, associate dean for diversity and inclusion, has been on the job since January.

When Brian Gibbs looks at the results of the institution’s two diversity surveys, the associate dean for diversity and inclusion prefers to find what the numbers are saying, rather than what they measure. And for good reason.

The low participation rate in the 2006 survey, which came about a year after Johns Hopkins Medicine launched its diversity initiative, is considered by data analysts as statistically invalid for comparison against the survey conducted this past spring. And, although the participation rate for the recent survey doubled from the initial one three years ago (to approximately 36 percent from 18 percent), it’s difficult to determine whether the needle has moved in improving the climate of diversity and inclusion.

Still, Gibbs says, "even with a limited participation rate, it can be enough to get us started down the path of inquiring a little bit more deeply and acting more precisely around what the survey and the participants have told us.•

And the telling has illuminated areas that need work, including the still troublesome disparity between how underrepresented minorities view the institution versus the picture as seen by others. For example, in the 2009 survey, 54 percent of African-American respondents from the School of Medicine thought that leadership was committed to diversity and inclusion, while nearly 79 percent of whites participating felt that statement was true.

About 57 percent of African-American Health System survey participants felt that leaders who valued inclusion was part of the institution’s culture, compared with nearly 64 percent of white respondents who agreed with that statement.

Gibbs, who has been on the job since January, believes the key to addressing the issues inherent in the survey message is articulating and consistently maintaining a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion, measuring progress, reporting results and ensuring coherent translation of that plan throughout Hopkins Medicine.

He’s interested in naming the institutional effort Diversity Matters and embedding that theme in every aspect of the core mission. Diversity Matters activities will take place primarily at the department level, as well as in shared activities across the system. For example:

• Working with Pamela Paulk, health system vice president for human resources, to bring together all diversity specialists from around the enterprise to start sharing best practices, coalescing resources and potentially engaging all interested employees within Hopkins Medicine.

• Cosponsoring with Medicine a diversity lectureship in October that will include a number of community health providers and elected officials. The goal is to broaden awareness of the school of medicine’s diversity efforts to boost underrepresented minority faculty recruitment and retention, and to strengthen the commitment to health disparities elimination research.

• Working with Pediatrics on a September retreat for fellowship training directors who will be responsible for developing a curriculum on cultural competency for trainees.

These efforts, combined with many others, are geared toward reaching the ambitious goals set by the Johns Hopkins Medicine Diversity and Inclusion Vision 2020 Plan, which sets concrete goals for recruitment and retention, cultural competency in patient care, and eliminating disparities in quality of care and outcomes.

– Patrick Gilbert



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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