In response to student concerns as well as current events, President Sherri Green met with student leaders on June 18, 2020 to discuss a range of issues related to inclusion, bias, racial literacy, our curricula offerings on public health, and other critical issues that address health disparities.
OCOM as an institution serves BIPOC and gender and culturally diverse students, staff, faculty, and patients. The OCOM Community is committed to health, healing and social justice. Yet, not all our community members experience the safety and inclusion we aspire to as a college. While OCOM faculty, staff, students and alumni have continually served and done important work with vulnerable and marginalized communities in our clinics and across the country, we are listening closely as an institution to how we have come up short for BIPOC students. No matter the intent, we must look at impact. OCOM is responding to the call for action as a whole community.
Any path toward equity and justice requires that we see fully the roots of racism in America that go back to the very founding of our nation. We also must look clear-eyed at our own institutional shortcomings.
In particular, the recent conversation with students highlighted the importance of:
- Making more of the inclusion, bias, and trauma-informed events and conversations on campus mandatory for students, staff, and faculty
- The need to pull forward and expand classes that address critical public health topics to earlier in the curriculum
- The need for racial literacy and cultural competency across all aspects of our campus community
- The importance of looking at inclusion broadly to account for our diverse community, and
- Safe conversations skills are needed to do the important work for equity and justice
Through meetings with staff, faculty, and students over these past weeks, OCOM has recommitted to dialogue that is informed by these root concerns. Working together we can courageously improve as an institution of higher learning and lean-in together for the important work to assure a healing environment for our students, staff, faculty, and patients.
This announcement has taken some time, as we decided to slow down and listen to those most affected before planning. We can do better as an institution, and our reaction to this moment should not be superficial or fleeting. Below is a framework to guide our efforts. We will collaborate as a community and with our Board of Trustees to refine and firm up a strategic plan to move this work forward.
Institutional Change Will Involve Everyone
- Grow our mission to transform health care through excellence in education. This means looking at our curriculum and finding new and better ways to include instruction around bias, race, body shape and size, gender and gender identity, and trauma-informed care.
- Create safe spaces for dialog. The past week we began with a student focus group. More will follow across campus to facilitate restorative conversations. Over the coming months we will continue to meet with students, faculty, staff to identify implicit bias within our community and facilitate safe conversations to create a more inclusive college environment.
- Review institutional structures such as our handbooks, policies, admissions processes, and other places where we can lift barriers for full participation of BIPOC members of the OCOM community.
- Open dialog about the historical and current biases that our Asian community members face, including new waves associated with the pandemic that are perpetuated by ignorance and fear.
- Continue to consider the diverse religious and spiritual practices in our community and find ways to be mutually supportive.
- Revisit the conversation on the use of the word “Oriental” in the college's name and in the profession in general.
- Ask BIPOC community partners to engage with the college to deepen the conversation over time and provide input for training on topics ranging from equity in the classroom to equity at work.
- Look for ways to make instruction of Chinese medicine more inclusive of BIPOC bodies through faculty training, teaching materials, and curriculum mapping.
- Add to our public health course offerings and bring some of the important health disparities data and instruction to earlier in our curriculum.
- Consider issues of inclusion widely so that our diverse campus community can grow in mutual understanding and support.
Our goals for this next phase of growth for our learning community are still forming, but at the core we are looking for transformation. Classes alone do not get us there, but rather full engagement of our community over time will be required.
The OCOM Library has gathered a resource page for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to use in considering ways to inform themselves on issues of bias in health care, anti-racism, and BIPOC experiences. Find the full reading and media list here.
OCOM is a member of the Coalition of Community Health Clinics, whose mission is to support a safety net of health and preventive services for low-income, uninsured, and under-served community members. They recently published resources addressing systemic racism as a public health crisis. Click here for the full list of health resources.
None of these resource lists are exhaustive, but a starting point. We will continue to update them and offer online updates.