. "5 Transforming the Institutional Climate to Enhance Diversity in Health Professions." In the Nation's Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health-Care Workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004.
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In The Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health-Care Workforce
and White, this volume). Each of these elements of diversity must be carefully considered as institutions assess their diversity goals.
The institutional climate for diversity is influenced by several elements of the institutional context, including the degree of structural diversity, the historical legacy of inclusion or exclusion of students and faculty of color, the psychological climate (i.e., perceptions of the degree of racial tension and discrimination on campus), and the behavioral dimension (i.e., the quality and quantity of interactions across diverse groups and diversity-related pedagogy; Hurtado et al., 1999). Each of the dimensions of the institutional climate may influence diversity efforts, in both positive and negative ways. More importantly, the institutional climate is malleable and can be altered through systemic intervention efforts aimed at each of the elements of the institutional context.
Research on Diversity and Learning
A growing body of research demonstrates that college students, of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, benefit from interaction with a diverse group of college student peers (see also discussion in Chapter 1). Gurin and colleagues (2002), for example, found that college students’ informal and classroom interactions with students from diverse racial and ethnic groups were associated with students’ subsequent learning outcomes (defined as the use of active thinking, intellectual engagement and motivation, and academic skills) and democracy outcomes (i.e., citizenship engagement, belief in the compatibility of group differences and democracy, the ability to take the perspective of others, and cultural awareness and engagement). While the majority of this research has been conducted with undergraduate students, recent research has extended these findings to medical students (Whitla et al., 2002), and many of the principles regarding diversity’s benefits extend to health professions training settings (Tedesco, 2001).
How Can Health Professions Educational Institutions Ensure the Success of Diversity Efforts?
Building on this research and theory, Hurtado et al. (1999) outline 12 strategies to achieve an improved climate for diversity. More importantly, these strategies can help institutions to maximize the benefits of diversity. The first four principles (i.e., affirm the value of diversity, systematically assess the climate, develop a plan of action, and institute ongoing evaluation of the plan) are “core” to any institutional efforts for change, while the remaining eight offer guidance for the development of new programmatic initiatives and policies. Hurtado and colleagues stress that these principles represent a comprehensive, “holistic” approach to institutional change and