UAMS Celebrates Diversity with Week of Events 2017-01-28T09:39:25+00:00

Andres Chao, consul general of Mexico in Arkansas, (center) prepares to speak during UAMS Diversity Week.

Judge Wendell Griffen (center) visits with UAMS’ Carmelita Smith and Hosea Long.

 UAMS student samples Indian food at International Fest.

Oct. 13, 2008 | A slate of speakers including the Mexican consul to the region, an appeals court judge and a Little Rock cardiologist highlighted the 12th Annual Diversity Week, Sept. 22-26, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).


The annual celebration of diversity, which UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D., emphasized means more than race, includes gender, age, nationality and other factors. Wilson welcomed the audience to the week’s events by pointing out that in 1948, the first African-American student, Edith Irby Jones was admitted to the College of Medicine.


Today, he noted, UAMS recently had an African-American dean in the College of Medicine and has three women now serving as deans (Debra Fiser, M.D., in the College of Medicine; Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., in the College of Pharmacy; and Claudia Barone, Ed.D., R.N., in the College of Nursing).


In his Sept. 23 speech, Andres Chao, consul general of Mexico, discussed issues of immigration between the United States and its neighbor to the south. Fences and walls between the countries are not the answer to the problem of illegal immigration, said Chao, who protects and defends Mexican nationals in his jurisdiction of Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma and western Tennessee.


“Mexico is in favor of immigration that is lawful, orderly and beneficial to all parties involved,” said Chao, adding that migrant workers are not a threat to the security of the U.S.


Mexican workers come to the United States to support their families, he said. They pay state and local taxes and contribute to the country’s economic output. Some even pay into a Social Security system that they will never use, he said.


Comprehensive immigration reform in the United States starts in Mexico, Chao said.  “We need to generate good jobs in my country so that people want to stay,” he said


Cultural diversity is critical to the future of health care in America, said Judge Wendell Griffen of the Arkansas Court of Appeals, speaking on Sept. 24.


He used a reference to the Starship Enterprise from science fiction’s Star Trek in emphasizing the need to address health care disparities across racial, ethnic and socio-economic divides.


“The mission of the Enterprise was not to talk about going places or even to hold meetings on going, but …to go where no one had gone before,” he said, adding these health disparities issues must be addressed with “warp speed” because of looming demographic changes in the country.


Griffen pointed to a recent article in the journal Pediatrics that stated all patients have cultural-based concepts of health, disease and illness that may vary from those of the doctor’s. Those differences may impact treatment and become barriers to care, he said.


Addressing cultural differences includes changes in medical residency programs, continuing medical education, medical school curriculums and research, Griffen said. With the growing minority populations, health care professionals must be more culturally aware.


Part of the answer is funding, he said. “If you know there will be more Spanish-speaking patients and you know most health care providers are not, then are you going to fund more language training?,” Griffen asked.


David Smith, M.D., a cardiologist with the Heart Clinic of Arkansas, spoke Sept. 25 on his experiences in medical missions to foreign countries.  He focused on his experience in Haiti as an example of how long it can take to establish trust relationships with local leaders and people so that they will buy in to and make the proposed projects their own. This is important because they must sustain the projects after the medical missionaries leave.


“It is devastating to get a call 2 in the morning informing you that all you have worked for over 25 years is gone – washed away by the hurricanes of 2008.”  Haiti has been hit by four this year.


The week culminated Sept. 26 with International Fest, featuring informational displays by UAMS employees about their native countries. UAMS faculty and staff on work visas or permanent residents represent 70 foreign countries.


The concourse in the Education II building was filled with colorful dress, examples of art work and samples of food for countries ranging from China to Ghana to Israel to India to Hungary.