2019 Goals for Diversity and Inclusion – Cultivating Equity and Building Community

By Rachel M. McCommon, M.A. Ed.
Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Initiatives, School of Medince

The Diversity and Inclusion office in the UMKC School of Medicine is charged with cultivating and managing diverse learning and professional environments. In 2018, we were recognized with the 2018 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award (HEED) and instituted the Thomas Principles through the Students in Medicine, Academia, Research, and Training Mentoring program (SMART), plus received a 3.2 million dollar grant, with the office of Admissions, to expand both our admissions and retention programs in partnerships with the School of Pharmacy and School of Dentistry.

There are numerous studies that have specifically identified the impact support programs and offices of diversity and multiculturalism have on student persistence and graduation. In our persistence programming we desire that students have a sense of belonging. We are creating new initiatives that are taking us toward an inclusive, welcoming, and equitable environment for all. The Pritzker School of Medicine shared a “Study [that] identifies strategies to help minority students in med school,” that resulted in themes for how a “non-white” student can be more likely to have “academic withdrawal or dismissal, or graduate without passing key exams on their first try” (Kirsten, 2013).  This year we have created a multicultural community much like the Pritzker School of Medicine described in their study. Our goal is to enhance our learning environments by educating individuals in diversity, equity, and inclusion teaching that is transferable to our diverse populations who are served by these growing professionals and their faculty.

In creating this new community, SOMMA (School of Medicine Multicultural Affairs) has been established. This initiative encompasses all things student and resident focused and driven. This includes recognizing that diversity is more than the binary view of gender (man and woman) and more than race (binary lens of Black and White). It truly is supporting students and residents in all their identities and layers through their race and ethnic heritage and background, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, differently abled, military, non-traditional student perspective, age, socio-economic status, first generation college student and/or a first generation medical student and more. More specifically, we support students and residents through: 1) SMART mentoring program 2) Creating of leadership and diversity workshops for the classroom and club meetings while supporting faculty and students. 3) Supporting the Critical Mass Gathering event where we engage medical professionals of all levels and of various medical affiliates in Kansas City 4) Working to bridge the gap between the current student and the prospective student through our pipeline programs in providing tutors, mentors, and guest speakers to share their experience and advice 5) Support and advise our multicultural medical student organizations. Lastly, we’ve established a campaign to Expect Respect. This ascribes to our Mistreatment Policy that recognizes that equitable treatment in the medical learning and professional environments is expected and valued. As stated by Stephen Covey, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” We hope to move us forward in our culture to embrace our differences and empower growth together.


Kirsten, D. (2013). Study identifies strategies to help minority students in med school – UChicago Medicine. [online] Uchicagomedicine.org. Available at: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/news/2013/january/study-identifies-strategies-to-help-minority-students-in-med-school [Accessed 25 Jan. 2019].