Jan. 27, 2010 | The UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs creates a “center of gravity” by allowing the institution to focus on finding the best talent for making the state a healthier place, Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., told those attending a Jan. 21 open house at the center’s new location. “We need to be more diverse as our population becomes more diverse,” he said.
The center consolidates diversity activities across campus under one roof. Billy Thomas, M.D., MPH, newly named UAMS assistant vice chancellor for diversity, said the center’s programs will focus on creating an inclusive institution supportive across racial, ethnic and gender lines.
“The difference between good organizations and great organizations really isn’t reflected by their strategic plans or their structure,” said Rahn. “It’s reflected by their ability to act on stated intent. I believe that focusing on the diversity of our talent is a very important thing for us to do.”
Rahn said UAMS exists as a public asset for creating a healthier population. The public invests in UAMS, he said, because it trusts the institution to deliver on its patient care, education and research missions. Thus finding, promoting and growing the best talent for success is crucial, meaning UAMS must be welcoming, inclusive and diverse.
Thomas reflected on recent events, the Jan. 18 holiday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and relief efforts following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. He said it reminded him of the call to be humane, kind and inclusive to all, something he said the center aspires to do in its work.
“We do want to change the institutional culture. We want to do that with activities that enhance trust, cooperation and communication so that in the end racial, ethnic and gender differences are reduced resulting in an environment that is not only diverse but also sensitive, nurturing and inclusive,” said Thomas, who directed the previous incarnation of the Center for Diversity Affairs when it was a part of the UAMS College of Medicine.
Hosea Long, UAMS associate vice chancellor for human resources, said he saw the importance of diversity following his 2000 multiple myeloma diagnosis. He credited the diversity of UAMS researchers and clinicians from around the world in the UAMS Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy for successful treatment that has him nearing the 10th anniversary of his diagnosis.
Center activities have previously included summer programs promoting careers in health care targeting high school and undergraduate students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. As an expansion of its activities in 2009, the Center along with the UAMS Graduate School received a four-year, $1.6 million grant to increase the number of minority students enrolling in and receiving a doctorate degree in biomedical research. That was part of more than $3.1million in grant funding the center received last year that also included a $1.2 million Health Careers Opportunity Grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration and a $223,224 grant toward the center’s summer research internship program.
The center’s offices are located in the Administration West building on Hooper Drive that formerly served as the administration building for the Arkansas State Hospital. The Arkansas State Hospital moved into a new facility in June 2008, with UAMS receiving several of its former buildings that were renovated to house the UAMS College of Health Related Professions.
In addition to the Center for Diversity Affairs, the Administrative West building houses administrative offices for the College of Health Related Professions as well as offices for the Graduate School, Student Financial Services, Academic Affairs and Financial Aid.