University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Chan Division News

DEA Committee brings fresh perspective to the issue of diversity in the Chan Division

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By Evan Nicholas

It’s widely accepted that institutions of higher learning have an ethical obligation to promote diversity, but a growing body of evidence suggests that, within healthcare professions, diversity is much more than a moral issue.

In the United States, people of color still die most often from chronic disease.1 African Americans, Latinos and Disabled people are less likely to feel heard by medical professionals, have less access to care and are more likely to experience unemployment due to their conditions.2 On the healthcare provider side of the coin, people of diverse backgrounds are more likely to work in underserved populations, are more likely to empathize with those who may be medically underserved and, subsequently, are more likely to advocate on their behalf.3

So it makes sense that increasing diversity in the healthcare workforce is one way to help end health disparities for underrepresented groups, and our society cannot achieve greater diversity in healthcare professions until it is first achieved in higher education. This is a central challenge of higher education in 2019; a challenge that the newly sanctioned DEA Committee of the USC Chan Division is uniquely positioned to address.

USC Chan Division Diversity, Equity, and Access Committee

USC Chan Division Diversity, Equity, and Access Committee

What is the DEA Committee?

DEA stands for Diversity, Equity, and Access. The committee is a group of faculty, staff and students who have a particular interest in, and commitment to, improving the climate, curricula and increasing diversity of representation in our division and the greater profession of occupational therapy. Goals of the committee include:

  • Develop and maintain an accessible, inclusive, diverse, equitable and supportive climate within the Chan Division for all students, staff and faculty.
  • Support faculty in the development and use of resources to competently deliver curriculum which facilitates students’ growth as culturally responsive practitioners.
  • Support in the development and implementation of initiatives to recruit, select and retain highly qualified students, staff and faculty from underrepresented groups.

As a functioning body, the committee identifies priorities towards its goals and works to address them utilizing subcommittee structures.

“We strive to ensure all faculty, staff and students feel valued and supported, and are prepared to meet the diverse needs of individuals, populations and the profession,” explained Karrie Kingsley, chair of the DEA Committee. Kingsley, an associate professor of clinical occupational therapy, has been an advocate for these principles for many years.

“The more I do it, the more I’m committed to it. It’s important for both individuals and institutions to continuously confront their shortcomings,” Kingsley said. “I’m confident that we can design a thread of content that will prepare students to address difference and bias in their future practice.”

Read more about the DEA Committee at USC Chan.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Finding solutions to health disparities at a glance 2016. Atlanta, GA: Author. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/reach.htm

2 Brown, Z., & Poindexter, S. (2017). Strategies to increase diversity and inclusion in your occupational therapy or occupational therapy assistant programs [Pamphlet]. Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California.

3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions. (2006). The rationale for diversity in the health professions: A review of the evidence. Rockville, MD: Author.

Special thanks to alumni Shari Poindexter OTD ’17 and Zipporah Brown OTD ’18, whose pamphlet, “Strategies to Enhance Diversity and Inclusion in Your Occupational and Occupational Therapy Assistant Program,” illuminated some of these facts and provided resources to the author.