Department Unveils New Cultural Competency Curriculum

July 22, 2020

The Department of Surgery has unveiled a new Cultural Competency Curriculum. The training is inclusive of all members of the department from clinical professors and residents to post-docs and administrative associates.

“The need for a formal curriculum for all members of the department became obvious after our town hall and discussions on Grand Rounds about the current situation and experiences of our faculty, trainees, and staff in our local environment,” said Vice Chair of Diversity Dr. Sherry Wren.

Wren collaborated with a team of faculty members including—Drs. Carla Pugh, Jim Korndorffer, Mary Hawn, Ron Dalman and Paul Maggio—to produce learning objectives and a class schedule.

According to Wren and her team, cultural competence is “the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures.”

So far, department members have participated in the first three seminars:

June 23: How to elevate concerns of bias or inappropriate behavior: Ombudsperson, Deans GME & Graduate/Post docs, Academic Affairs, Human Resources

June 30: UP(by)stander training: Dr. Magali Fassiotto, Assistant Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity Stanford University School of Medicine

July 7: Strategies to combat bias and increase diversity: Dr. Hannah Valentine Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity at the United States National Institutes of Health.

The curriculum committee also debuted a “cultural complications” segment as part of the department’s monthly Morbidity & Mortality series. According to Wren, the curriculum covers 12 core themes in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each data-driven module introduces the audience to key terminology, provides scientific evidence for the concept, and offers sample cases to spur discussion.

“I think it’s a great way to change the culture and help people to be both aware of bias and be able to deal with it more efficiently by ongoing practice through exercise like this,” said Dr. Daphne Ly, a Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of General Surgery.

Independently of the official curriculum, staff, faculty and trainees have participated in numerous other anti-racism activities including listening sessions, upstander roll-playing practices, and purposeful book club reading selections.

“For our June book club assignment, I sent out a list of books. Nobody had to read the same thing. People connect differently with different materials, and there are so many resources out there; I thought it was better if we had a diversity of perspectives from these different resources to help educate each other in our book club discussion,” said General Surgery Division Manager Blair Feldman. Linked here is a list of resources curated by Stanford Surgery staff member Cassidi Goll to continue personal informal education and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Vascular Surgery Division Manager Wajhma Massoumi Aboud, MD says she and her team are concentrating on education with the goal of clearly defining ‘white privilege.’

“On a weekly basis we each take a turn and look up a podcast, an article, a movie or a book, etc. We discuss it at our huddle and help each other understand the various scenarios where white privilege is highlighted. With our various backgrounds, we are able to contribute a great deal and now have a greater understanding of what it means to have ‘white privilege’,” said Aboud.

Aboud, who also manages the Division of Abdominal Transplantation, says that team is working on a proposal highlighting a structure within the department that needs improvement, which they will then pass on to department leadership.

“We are finding out more and more that our society is designed to cater to white males. Therefore, we want to dive a little deeper into our own systems and see if we can identify some of these mishaps. Our suggested plans will focus on negating any biases that may inadvertently be part of our systems and processes,” said Aboud.

Formal classes for the entire department will continue in the coming weeks. Denise Pines, MBA, who is the current president of the medical board of California, is scheduled to discuss issues of diversity from the medical boards perspective and Leslie Chin, MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is coming to discuss responding to being called out for bias.  

“We plan on having a departmental-wide discussion as to next steps; this is definitely an organic process, and we are open to suggestions,” said Wren.