Volume 36 Number 1 | February 2022
Lindsey Clark, MPH, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS-Arkansas President-Elect
It’s no secret that STEM fields in the United States need a major overhaul when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and the clinical laboratory is no exception. If you’re like me, you spend plenty of time thinking about how you, as an individual, can have a positive impact on DEI in your lab, on your campus, in your department, and for those of you who are educators, in your classes. As a junior faculty member, I often feel overwhelmed at tackling DEI issues because they are complex, vast in number, and deeply rooted in history. I remind myself, though, that change does not come all at once; therefore, even relatively small changes can lead to progress.
I am one person, but as an early career educator I do have the ability to make changes in support of myself, my students, and my colleagues. After spending countless hours reading current literature and combing the internet for resources, I have identified some actions I can take that will, at the very least, stimulate discussion and, at most, be the change that inspires others to join the movement.
“We need to be open to having the hard conversations, willing to truly listen to our students and our colleagues, and put in the work to achieve success.”
Education is Key
Diversity, equity, and inclusion—these terms encompass complex concepts that are necessarily intertwined. You can’t achieve success in one of these areas without success in the others, and it takes understanding the terms and concepts to begin working toward positive change. Recognizing we have room to improve our own knowledge and understanding of DEI and DEI issues, then finding educational resources to do so is an essential first step to being informed. These resources exist in many forms, and I have found several that I consider valuable sources of information, such as the ASCLS Diversity Advocacy Council community and website, TED Talks, Coursera or Open Culture online courses, and various podcasts on the subject.
Because the state of diversity is ever changing, it is imperative to refer to trusted sources often and stay up to date on DEI issues. Knowledge of current issues is what allows us to continue working toward meaningful change both within and beyond our field.
Supporting Others and Creating Safe Spaces
Aside from educating myself on an ongoing basis, I made a conscious decision to start making changes in my courses that will help support my students and encourage open and honest discussion. My hope is that I am able to create a safe space for my students, whether that is in class or in my office. I started with my syllabus, which I modified to include language that promotes value and respect for differences among students, staff, and faculty and added a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. Additionally, I have worked to make course materials as accessible as possible to as many students as possible.
These are things educators can do quite easily to improve their impact on DEI in the classroom. But what about DEI in the clinical lab? Many of these same strategies can have a positive effect in the lab just as they do in the classroom. For example, you can come together as a team and write a DEI statement for your lab or change the language in your emails to be more inclusive. As a team, you can also work to make all policies and procedures accessible to all employees, no matter what their needs may be. Sharing trusted DEI resources with colleagues can also help everyone better understand the issues and the need for change.
Advocating for and with Colleagues
Diversity among clinical laboratory staff is just as vital as diversity among students and faculty, if not more so, and support for colleagues from differing backgrounds is critical to retention efforts. We can advocate for our colleagues with diverse backgrounds by acknowledging differences between us and appreciating everyone on the team for what they contribute. Nominating each other for awards or recognition when those opportunities present themselves is a great way to show gratitude to your colleagues. It is also very important to recognize that implicit bias exists in all of us to some degree, and we need to be open and honest about it to reduce that bias.
This brief overview of how we can positively influence diversity, equity, and inclusion as an educator or clinical laboratory professional is but a drop in the proverbial bucket. The change that is needed will not happen overnight, nor will it be easy. We need to be open to having the hard conversations, willing to truly listen to our students and our colleagues, and put in the work to achieve success.
Rethinking the Course Syllabus: Considerations for Promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0098628320959979.
Lindsey Clark is Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science in Little Rock, Arkansas.