Commentary: A state of lazy collapse / Pittsburgh needs diversity to avoid downfall
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Why does diversity matter to Pittsburgh's future? It matters because any culture, when left in isolation, is subject to a comfort that soon becomes inertia and in some cases eventual collapse. History has illustrated this point time and again. A group of individuals with the same background and set of experiences are very likely to reach the same conclusions when addressing problems. It is imperative that diversity comes to Pittsburgh so we might have an opportunity to solve some of the persistent problems that plague our area.
What happens with a lack of diversity?
Suppose a young health care manager, accustomed to leveraging technology in her/his daily life, makes a decision that, for the sake of efficiency, patients should check in at a clinic using tablet PCs. Older patients may have difficulty with that technology. A "seasoned" staff member playing a part in that decision process could help the manager to avoid making a decision that ill-serves the population.
Suppose a clinic is staffed with clinicians, none of whom are able to speak a language often spoken in a particular community? Are translators available to assist in clinical interactions? Will patients who need care continue to seek it if no one can understand them? If those patients do not seek care, are they simply individually at risk or might the public health be compromised? If researchers study disease in only one segment of a population and ignore others, what is the chance that a cure can be found for all? Providing quality health care requires diversity in experience and perspective.
It is important to note that to pursue diversity without inclusion is pointless. It is all very well to attract a diverse body of highly qualified individuals, but if they are not included "at the table" for policy-setting and decision making and considered for opportunities for advancement and growth, we have done nothing to impact the organizations and communities within which we work, learn and practice. We will continue to have a revolving door of students and professionals who stay in Pittsburgh long enough to gain the knowledge and experience required for a top quality professional career, only to move on to exercise the benefit of our stellar training in other cities.
The Office of Health Sciences Diversity at the University of Pittsburgh exists to recruit and retain a diverse cadre of individuals in the health care and research workforce. We seek individuals who represent the full range of human experience including disadvantage, disability, racial and ethnic diversity, sexual orientation, etc., all of whom have a passion for treating patients or researching the causes and cures for disease.
Each has a perspective which, when joined with others, increases the likelihood that we will be able to increase access to care, address health disparities and help everyone to live longer, healthier lives. Once we've introduced those students, trainees and faculty to the riches of our medical and academic institutions, we want to keep them here, so we work actively with many partners including UPMC and the Gateway Medical Society to offer mentorship and community engagement opportunities. It is our hope that roots will grow and they will remain here to benefit us all.
I am one of those so-called "provincial" Pittsburghers who have not left the city. I am extremely proud of my hometown and grateful for the education and career it has provided for me. Yet I remain fully aware that newcomers may not find it as open and vibrant as other cities. Every new idea and viewpoint that arrives and thrives can contribute to both life and health here in Pittsburgh.
First Published October 27, 2011 12:00 am