Diversity Workshop Offered at LSUHSC

Lisa Harrison-Bernard, Ph.D. (Department of Physiology) 

To promote the development of a more diverse biomedical workforce, academic institutions of higher learning are encouraged to educate faculty and staff on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Hence, developing and promoting more positive, respectful behaviors and environments through the avoidance of using stereotypes and understanding the negative impact that implicit bias can have in decision-making in the educational environment are paramount key steps.  

Drs. Lisa Harrison-Bernard, Allison Augustus-Wallace, Gregory Casey, Flavia Souza-Smith, and Fern Tsien have developed an interactive workshop for faculty and staff at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans.  The workshop was offered on five occasions this year with 53 attendees in total, inclusive of deans, professors, postdoctoral fellows, and staff.  The 3-hour workshops included didactic and teaching modules, in addition to active attendees’ participation focused on the understanding, recognition, and development of strategies to overcome stereotypes and unconscious bias in teaching, mentoring, and decision-making processes.   

To determine levels of diversity and implicit bias awareness, a quantitative assessment was made using a Likert scale (1-strongly disagree, 5-strongly agree) and multiple-choice quizzes given in pre- and post-surveys.  Thus far, our data indicate that the workshops have accomplished the major goals with significant improvement of the attendees’ understanding of terms such as status leveling, color-blind racial attitudes, tokenism, and failure to differentiate.  By the end of the workshop, participants had an increased awareness of the need for a welcoming academic environment, improved recognition of their biases and use of stereotypes in graduate education, and better understanding of the obstacles that many underrepresented/underserved students encounter in the biomedical sciences.    

Most importantly, participants felt more confident in their ability to recognize and mitigate their own implicit biases, thereby improving their mentoring skills and the mentoring experiences for all students, especially students from underrepresented/underserved backgrounds.  As workshop participation increases, it is hoped that more faculty and staff will develop an expanded and deepened understanding of and appreciation for the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and promote a more positive experience for all involved.  Diversity workshops are offered on an ongoing basis at the LSUHSC.  Please contact Dr. Harrison-Bernard at lharris@lsuhsc.edu for further information.