Investing in inclusion

At Wayne State University, we want each and every student to be successful in and out of the classroom. That’s why we are committed to fostering not only a multicultural student body, but a campus that is conducive to that diversity. One way we do this is by providing Warriors with tools that help them thrive — and their success is twofold, as a stronger workforce can better serve our diverse community. 
 

Building an inclusive medical community

Heart of the matter

Each year, the Wayne Med-Direct program recruits 10 outstanding students to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Irvin D. Reid Honors College, guaranteeing their admission to Wayne State University’s School of Medicine upon meeting program milestones and requirements.

The cutting-edge initiative ultimately embeds high-performing students in the School of Medicine community during undergraduate studies to help prepare them for a career focused on health equity. And thanks to interdisciplinary research, an enhanced curriculum and collaborative partnerships, Wayne Med-Direct scholars are improving the health of communities at home and across the globe well before graduation day.

Just look at junior Cedric Mutebi. The Wayne Med-Direct scholar recently led an effort to train 1,040 people in CPR as part of the university’s participation in the statewide Hands-Only CPR Challenge. The success earned the university first place in the competition.

My experience went from being someone who just wanted to do this work to someone who was now in it.

Cedric Mutebi

 

An aspiring physician, Mutebi recalls his experience at Detroit Receiving Hospital during his freshman year at Wayne State. It was while volunteering in an emergency department program that provided Detroit residents free testing for a variety of diseases where Mutebi had the difficult job of delivering unthinkable news to a young man barely a year older than him.

“He had come into the emergency department with some symptoms and was just trying to get treatment,” said Mutebi. “It turns out that the symptoms were from him being HIV positive. Looking at this young black man who looks like me, and having to tell him that he had HIV, my experience went from being someone who just wanted to do this work to someone who was now in it.”

For Mutebi, that experience was transformative. “The magnitude of that moment spoke to a lot of reasons why I do what I do because I know a lot of the health disparities associated with my community. And that’s really what I want to do: to change the culture of health, from an African American standpoint and from a global standpoint.”
 

The new face of nursing

To offer effective health care, the nursing workforce must reflect the diversity in the populations it serves. Barriers to effective care can include overt discrimination, but often include other factors such as language/communication limitations, lack of transportation, lack of insurance, cultural and religious differences, biases toward sexual orientation, and differences in socioeconomic status. A practitioner who understands a person’s unique life situation, traditions and beliefs can best offer solutions that promote healthy living and encourage adherence to prescriptions, medical tests and follow-up appointments. 

Change begins in education — and not only in the classroom. Diversity in nursing depends on colleges graduating a student body that represents the community. Schools must foster an atmosphere that minimizes obstacles and ensures that students from a variety of cultures have the tools to succeed. That begins with recruitment. To cultivate future clinicians, educators and researchers from diverse backgrounds, institutions of nursing must reassess everything from internal processes to opportunities available for clinical training and mentorship.

To cultivate future clinicians, educators and researchers from diverse backgrounds, institutions of nursing must reassess everything from internal processes and student recruitment to opportunities available for clinical training and mentorship.

Located in one of the nation’s most diverse cities, Wayne State is home to faculty and students from nearly every country, race and socioeconomic class. Crucial to the WSU College of Nursing’s work in understanding how to improve workforce diversity is providing a bridge between academic success and real-world experience. Several renowned hospitals, health care centers and clinics are at the university’s doorstep, providing countless opportunities for experiential learning in the care of a multicultural population. 
 
The College of Nursing has been the recipient of numerous grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, each designed to address the issue of diversity in the nursing workforce. Its most recent HRSA grant — a four-year, $1.8 million Nursing Workforce Diversity grant — is tackling that issue by supporting incoming freshmen from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds.

In year one of the grant, the Wayne State College of Nursing enlisted its community partner, Henry Ford Health System, to present a series of cultural competency and humility workshops, which were facilitated by Denise White-Perkins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Institute on Multicultural Health. During these workshops, College of Nursing faculty and staff worked to identify unconscious biases that might make them less aware of student needs. 
 
“Sometimes, we only see things through the lens of our experiences and fail to look at the story of the student, team member or patient we’re working with,” said Dr. White-Perkins. “If we understood their perspective, we’d have a better idea of how to work with them.”
 

Supporting our students

Where passion meets purpose

Wayne State University is devoted to developing learning communities that help our students feel a greater sense of belonging on campus and empower them to achieve success. 

In particular, two communities are committed to Warriors of color. RISE supports female students with a safe space for continued growth and celebration. Meanwhile, The Network champions male students with mentoring, brotherhood and the teaching of life skills outside the classroom. Both communities are led by staff in the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement. 

Learning communities like The Network and RISE provide connection to important cultural communities and create a greater sense of belonging for our students.

Marquita Chamblee

These initiatives reflect WSU’s efforts to foster diversity on campus while ensuring that students of color and other traditionally underrepresented students learn, thrive and graduate at the same rates as their peers. The university has seen a series of successes that herald a notable albeit nascent boost in achievement for students of color. 

For instance, the six-year graduation rate of African American students has increased 13 percentage points over the last six years, a statistic that has earned national recognition. Additionally, the graduation rate for first-generation students — many of whom are students of color — is up 18 percent. Moreover, the graduation rate for students who receive Pell Grants — a group that also includes numerous underrepresented groups — has jumped 15 percent in just three years. 

“Learning communities like The Network and RISE provide opportunities for deep and close connection to important cultural communities and create a greater sense of belonging for our students,” said Marquita Chamblee, associate provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “It says, ‘You belong here. We are here for you. We are committed to your success.’”
 

Making it happen

Organic Chemistry is a notoriously difficult class in which students must draw and interpret organic structures. The fact that Nicole Kada, a nutrition and food science major, earned an A last semester is certainly impressive. Her grade becomes even more remarkable, though, when you consider that she was born blind.

Student Disability Services provides appropriate accommodations for any student with a disability documented by a qualified evaluator, such as a medical doctor or psychologist.

“That was one of the most satisfying things to happen in my life,” said Kada, who found herself working on chemistry for seven hours a day. “I can’t even read the print versions of my exams, and I don’t want to throw them away.’”

As she pursues her dream of becoming a hospital dietitian, Kada is one of 1,500 Warriors who have received support from the Student Disability Services (SDS) office during the last two years. SDS works in partnership with the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons to coordinate support — which, in Kada’s case, meant tutoring with a student who had already completed Organic Chemistry. Additionally, SDS bought Kada a raised line drawing kit that allows her to feel the molecules drawn by her tutor so that she can do more than just imagine them. It also allows her to draw the molecules.

SDS provides appropriate accommodations for any student with a disability documented by a qualified evaluator, such as a medical doctor or psychologist. Located on the first floor of the David Adamany Undergraduate Library, the SDS office has three disability specialists, an exam coordinator, two testing technicians and an academic service officer to staff the front desk. It also has a part-time technician who fulfills student requests for alternate format textbooks, like the Braille math books Kada uses for Algebra and Trigonometry.  

As for chemistry? Kada is currently taking Organic Chemistry II.

“If I get an A in Orgo II, which I tell people I’m going to, I’m going to get a tattoo of a molecule and I’m going to draw it myself,” she said. “So, in the future when my kids tell me that they can’t do something, I’ll show them my tattoo and say, ‘Yes you can.’”