The College of Health Professions prioritizes the core value of individual dignity. We strive to promote a culture of diversity, inclusivity, and equity in a supportive learning and work environment. We are committed to creating a community that embraces and honors students’, staff, and faculty members’ diverse backgrounds, identities and lived experiences. We aim to reflect the full breadth and depth of diversity of the Commonwealth of Virginia in terms of race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic class, religion, creed, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, and disability identity.
Every student deserves an exceptional education that includes learning to effectively serve individuals and communities that reflect the rich diversity of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Faculty and staff are responsible for creating an educational and research environment that is welcoming and inclusive of all students. Faculty and staff use instructional approaches that foster intellectual contributions while encouraging critical thinking and freedom of expression. Our faculty have the expertise to lead efforts in ensuring patients, consumers, community members, families, and communities receive high-touch, respectful, and humanizing support within the context of evolving health care technology.
We commit to this statement because it is consistent with the values of both the College of Health Professions and of Virginia Commonwealth University. A climate of inclusion and diversity aligns with an overwhelming body of evidence-based health care and decades of health and workplace research. Finally, a culture of inclusivity and diversity is imperative to meet our College’s responsibility to train effective health care professionals and generate the highest quality scientific research that advances health.
The College of Health Professions Department of Nurse Anesthesia recently hosted the inaugural Nurse Anesthesia Faculty Associates (NAFA) RVA conference. The four-day event featured continuing education activities on diverse and clinically-relevant anesthesia topics. At the culmination of the conference, faculty participants had the opportunity to engage with students, alumni and CRNAs.
On the heels of the NAFA RVA conference, more than 200 critical care nurses of color from across the country interested in nurse anesthesia, came together as part of the Diversity CRNA information session and airway simulation lab workshop. The mission of the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program is to inform, empower, and mentor underserved diverse populations with information to prepare them for a successful career in Nurse Anesthesia.
Richard Lui has been on national TV for 15 years. And it took him a while to get comfortable with that.
Perhaps it is due to the fact viewers paid more attention to the color of his skin, or the way he looked: He’s the first Asian American man to anchor a daily national cable news program.
For a long time, Lui second-guessed himself: “Am I smart enough? Am I doing the right thing? Is it what I’m wearing?” Maybe he’d change his voice to sound more like previous generations of older white anchors.
“I was questioning everything at the beginning of my career 15 years ago. And I felt I was always behind because of that,” he told a group of about 100 students and faculty in April at the VCU College of Health Professions. The news industry, he said, wasn’t looking for Asian Americans when he started in the business. “There is no call from the corner offices of the network saying, ‘Hey, you know, we really need [an Asian American person on our channel].’ And that is why I've depended on not waiting for that call, but instead, I know I have to make that call myself. I've got to do it. We must all make that call together.”
It was that message — advocating for equality and inclusivity not only in the news business, but in healthcare and in society at large — that Lui, an award-winning journalist for MSNBC and NBC News, shared with students and faculty mostly from the College’s Department of Health Administration.
In a series of examples, Lui encouraged the nation’s future healthcare leaders to build teams with clinical providers and leaders who look like and share similar lived experiences as the people in the communities they serve, and develop creative ways to ensure care is equitable to all by reaching out to patients. Compared to the overall U.S. population, healthcare providers who identify as Black, Asian, or Hispanic represent a small portion of the doctors, nurses, and leaders in clinical settings. It’s widely accepted that leaders and clinicians who share experiences and backgrounds with their patients play an essential role in reducing health disparities and improving the patient experience.
“Closing that gap is a collective effort across all of our communities,” Lui said. “We know that outcomes are improved when we increase [the diversity of] the faces in healthcare.”
Lui’s talk comes as the Department of Health Administration has placed a top priority on incorporating inclusive leadership into its programs and curricula.
Lui recalled a story of the HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco. In 1983, the overwhelmed San Francisco General Hospital set up ward 5B for AIDS patients — mostly gay men, many of whom had been ostracized from their families. They were sick, dying, and alone.
But nurses of many backgrounds, and many of them also in the LGBTQ community, stepped in to help and provide patients with compassionate care — even if it meant risking their own lives, as no one fully understood how the sexually transmitted virus spread at that time.
“Those caregivers in 5B had a different perspective on how to care for people. They knew they weren’t there to bring patients back to health or to life,” Lui said. So the nurses broke protocol: They held patients’ hands without gloves, rubbed the patients’ foreheads, even crawled into beds to give them comfort.”
Lui noted the media failed at accurately telling the story of AIDS in the early years of the epidemic, in particular by not getting close enough to the community suffering from the virus due to fear or gay stereotypes at the time.
“That story is a story of failure to me, because we didn't get it right as journalists. So those healthcare workers were the ones who were telling the stories of those ignored groups,” Lui said. “And they were of all different backgrounds…of color, of different gender identities, of different orientations.”
Lui also drew a comparison of journalism to healthcare and showed why having reporters — or healthcare providers and leaders — with backgrounds that reflect the communities they serve is so important. On March 16, 2021, a shooter killed eight people, including six Asian women, at spa parlors in Atlanta. Lui called it “a dark day” for the Asian American Pacific islander (AAPI) community.
Lui covered the spa shootings, which came after a year of thousands of AAPI hate and harassment incidents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a breathless moment. The [AAPI] community, me included, felt like we weren't human for that moment,” he told the diverse room of students at VCU. “And perhaps many of you had those moments before. It's not a fun moment.”
Typically journalists do not get involved in the story, he said, and simply report on what they see. But nearly immediately following the event, the Asian American Journalists Association broke rank and put out guidance to newsrooms nationwide to ensure reporters and editors got the story right and respected the victims. They explained how full names of the victims should be printed and pronounced, worked to make sure newsrooms did not perpetuate Asian stereotypes, and offered insights into the hyper-sexualization of AAPI women.
“If it weren't for [the AAPI community] being there to tell the story, to bring it home and say, ‘This is wrong,’ then we may not know about it,” he said. “When we think about inclusion, and the dynamics around it, it does count that we have workers who look like those who we serve. It works.”
Lui’s late father, Stephen, died in December after an eight-year struggle against Alzheimer’s disease. Richard has spoken publicly about setting aside his career to care for his father and family and recently published a book, Enough About Me, that documents his time as a caregiver and offers tools to find meaning and compassion in everyday choices.
That same month, Lui interviewed U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, and was able to connect with him not only as a journalist, but as a fellow caregiver — both are one of 53 million people who serve as caregivers (in Becerra’s case, both his mother and father). Becerra and Lui shared their personal stories as they discussed nation’s plan to address Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
“I am grateful for the Secretary to come forward to share that, because I think he probably helped two or three caregivers across the country say, ‘I gotta take care of myself. This isn’t easy. It’s okay. I can say that word: I am a caregiver.’”
As his dad’s caregiver, Lui noted that while he is not a healthcare provider, “I am an expert in my father.” Whenever they visited a doctor or ER, Lui and his family could clearly explain to providers what was happening with his dad.
And it’s important to advocate for yourself or others who cannot speak for themselves, he said, because “I cannot expect any healthcare professional will be a walking encyclopedia.” That’s especially true, Lui said, in advocating for patients of color. “We’re all leaning in to understand these layers of what it means to be a person of color — as a journalist, as well as in healthcare,” he said.
Finally, he encouraged students to go to “No Go Zones” — whether those communities are figurative or literal, but places where society believes one should not visit or discuss.
“I must continue in my work to go to No Go Zones. And all of us need to do that. We must always go towards what we think might be No Go: either an idea, a physicality, or an appearance,” he said. And when a person goes to a No Go Zone and experiences another person’s story, “you are now smarter for it, and you can tell their stories better, you can see other people's stories better.”
View the Q&A portion of Richard Lui’s talk with VCU College of Health Professions students.
On their first day of spring break, VCU science, technology, engineering, arts and math students showed off science experiments to students at Patrick Copeland Elementary School.
Samantha Dua, a senior majoring in medical laboratory sciences at the VCU College of Health Professions, and her friend Sarah Plutkis showed off their “magical dancing corn” experiment with baking soda, water and vinegar as one third-grader exclaimed, “Why are the bubbles picking up the corn? That’s so weird!”
Wednesday, April 5, 2023 at 12:00pm - 1:00pm in the CHP Auditorium
Terrell Strayhorn is known as a thought leader, speaker in high demand, and the "public's professor" given his unapologetic commitments to broad outreach and engagement. Dr. Strayhorn is Professor of Higher Education and Women's Gender & Sexuality Studies at Illinois State University. He serves as Director of the Center for the Study of HBCUs at Virginia Union University and Visiting Scholar in the VUU School of Education and Department of Psychology. Author of 12 books and over 200 scholarly publications, he's one of the most prolific scholars in the country. He owns a successful consulting business, Do Good Work, that helps hundreds of colleges and businesses with DEI efforts annually.
The College of Health Professions Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee provides access and opportunities to platforms for learning, engaging and sharing around issues of social justice, equality, equity, and access.
Creating an equal and welcoming learning environment is the responsibility of all of us. The College of Health Profession is committed to providing opportunities and resources to promote changes that impact our students, staff, faculty, and learning environment. The CHP diversity statement echoes this call.
The DEI committee is composed of VCU faculty, staff and students who foster a supportive and welcoming workplace environment in which employees and students of all backgrounds and demographic characteristics can work together.