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Storytelling is central to honoring diversity in Rogel OCTSU

Date Visible: 
11/29/2023 - 11:15am
Graphic representation of a ZOOM meeting with a diverse group of people
Credit: Michigan Medicine

Everyone has a story. And those stories help show the different influences on each person’s life, helping to build empathy, challenge stereotypes and create a more inclusive environment.

That’s the basis of a new DEI initiative the Rogel Oncology Clinical Trials Support Unit, or OCTSU, has started. DEI Storytelling gives a platform for team members to share their personal journey, anecdotes or reflections, with an emphasis on topics that may not be widely understood by all staff.

“The topics of DEI are sometimes heavy and deep and burdensome. When it’s approached in a way where we’re mindful and thoughtful about how they are presented, it helps everyone feel included and that everyone matters. That’s important for our staff, especially when we’re so spread apart,” says Bethany Dupont, research administrator in OCTSU who co-leads the department’s DEI committee.

So far, the team has sponsored three speakers in virtual sessions. One shared her journey immigrating from Iran, another spoke about being the first of his Polish family born in the United States, and a third speaker talked about her experience going through cancer treatment.

The sessions, held quarterly, conclude with questions and discussion, which allows team members to connect over similar experiences or reflect on different perspectives.

“We have to be mindful that everyone is different, but everyone is also the same because we’re all human. It’s important that we treat everyone that way,” Dupont says.

In addition to the storytelling sessions, the OCTSU expects all staff to complete one required training course and one elective course each year. The required courses align with Michigan Medicine’s mandatories, including unconscious bias and LGTBQ+ inclusion.

Dupont and Lauren Sundquist, a research compliance specialist, co-lead a seven-person DEI committee that spearheads the department’s initiatives. Committee members are Maurice Chojecki, Rhiannon Crawford, Cherie Donze’, Muneez Patel and Nahid Hemati Schroat. They’re connected to the larger Office of Health Equity and Inclusion, as well as Rogel and the Medical School Office of Research DEI efforts.

“There are so many resources at U-M,” Dupont says. For units interested in implementing DEI initiatives, she suggests OHEI’s DEI implementation leads as a starting point, as well as LinkedIn Learning’s DEI courses, which are offered on-demand – and some are as short as 10 minutes (Dupont recommends Diversity, Inclusion and Belongs: The Foundation of DIBs).