Being a part of the RFU community has been inspiring in many ways. Our history is rich with dedicated men and women who were intent on securing quality healthcare education for those who were historically denied. I feel profoundly humble to be able to help RFU carry on that tradition. As I meet alumni and hear their stories of being a student here and new students that share their dreams of making a real difference in the quality of life for their patients, I continue to feel that RFU is a very special community which has the capacity to change healthcare. However, it is a time of great change in healthcare that requires concrete steps by each of us in order to see that individuals who are underserved and underrepresented in healthcare experience a profoundly different outcome. For our patients, our students and our communities our dedication must be steadfast.
Since being appointed as the Vice President for Student Affairs and Inclusion in September, I have been asked often to explain the meaning of diversity and inclusion. While each of these terms has very specific meanings they also have context which cannot be separated from the RFU community and our mission of healthcare education. Diversity, at its core, is difference - differences in culture, personal attributes, social group membership, and circumstance. At RFU these differences also can be viewed through the context of healthcare and education and brings with it a history of disparities that have profoundly affected underserved and underrepresented populations. This view of diversity then requires specific attention to ensuring a truly diverse community with access to those traditionally underrepresented. It also provides a specific framework for the meaning of inclusion.
Through inclusion, our community enriches the educational outcomes of all of our students which is the core of the RFU mission. Inclusion also results in the individual sense of belonging and of being valued within this community. It is often characterized by actions that demonstrate respect and value of difference and a collective intolerance toward bias. However, when asked what actions actually demonstrate inclusiveness, each of us must look to our own experiences and responsibilities. What concrete actions do each of us take to include individuals and perspectives different than our own? Do we take the time and commit the energy to reaching out to others who are different in order to ensure that we do not have a single minded focus? To have a truly inclusive environment at RFU, each of us must embody the spirit of inclusiveness in our interactions, our priorities and ultimately our work and learning. It is a challenge that I know I start each day with and that I hope that you will join me in embracing. What will you do today to make RFU a more inclusive community?
Rebecca L. Durkin
Student Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion