Department of Pediatrics Breaks Down Bias with New Curriculum

Friday, September 8, 2017

September 8, 2017

Understanding the customs, values and behavior patterns of others is essential to providing excellent patient care. To improve the health of the individuals and diverse communities Rush serves, care providers first need to understand how our differences can affect the way they treat others. To increase that understanding, the Department of Pediatrics and Rush University Children’s Hospital have developed a diversity and inclusion curriculum to help residents, faculty and staff deliver culturally sensitive care. 

“The diversity and inclusion educational program is conceived as a journey of learning, understanding, celebrating, embracing and treasuring,” explains Anna Spagnoli, MD, PhD, chairperson, Department of Pediatrics and Rush University Children’s Hospital. “In creating the path for this journey, the program embraces the Rush I CARE values, fostering an environment that treasures diversity and promotes inclusiveness.”

The diversity and inclusion education program has been introduced to faculty and residents in the Department of Pediatrics. The ongoing program includes a formal curriculum that provides assessments of the climate in the department, cross-cultural competency and implicit bias training, monthly culture change workshops and events. The program later will be expanded to nursing, administrative and clerical staff within the Rush University Children’s Hospital.

Rush is among the first medical centers to develop a formal curriculum for residents and faculty. “Lectures and workshops are available elsewhere, but this is the first structured curriculum,” says Spagnoli.

“The developed curriculum is not only structured, but also targeted to address key aspects of conversations on diversity and inclusion, including but not limited to policies, operationalizing cultural competencies, racial and ethnic disparities in children and religion,” adds Susan Chubinskaya, PhD, co-chair, Department of Pediatrics diversity and inclusion taskforce.

Ability, age, culture, education, ethnicity, gender, race, religion and socioeconomic status are a few of the many factors that can alter our expectations and perceptions of others. The educational program will help participants identify their inherent biases and understand how they affect our attitudes towards others. Through assessment, conversation and education, participants will make connections between knowledge and behaviors.

“To provide excellent care, leaving bias behind is essential,” explains Sherald Leonard, MD, co-chair, Department of Pediatrics diversity and inclusion taskforce.

“We make assumptions about people’s histories,” she says. “At times, we are not as culturally sensitive as we should be, and it affects our interactions. As providers, we need our patients to know that we understand them.”

“We need to learn about each other in order to embrace our cultural differences and create a welcoming and supportive environment for our residents, students, staff, and faculty” adds Chubinskaya. “This is critical for our patients and the quality of care we provide.”

Inclusion and diversity educational program curriculum

The following activities have been built into this year’s curriculum. The program will be assessed regularly to determine if an improved culture shift has been made and adjusted as needed.


  1. Implicit bias
  2. Climate change survey: The survey is repeated every six to 12 months by the entire department to assess effectiveness of the program.
  3. Cross-culture survey

Cross-cultural competence training retreat

The program includes a cross-cultural competence training retreat and evaluation by seasoned diversity and inclusion trainer Linda DeLavallade of Cross Cultural Consultants. DeLavallade will introduce cross cultural competence as a crucial skill set through intercultural sessions and assessments. Nita Mosby Tyler, PhD, chief catalyst, The Equity Project, will provide the keynote. The retreat for faculty and residents will take place on Sept. 22.

Training sessions

Faculty and residents learn to remove bias during the interview process. Charles Herbert, MD, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry, Rush Medical College, will facilitate.

Ongoing events

Monthly activities are planned for residents, faculty and staff to learn more about each other. Programs include monthly one-hour workshops on race, gender, disability, and sex discrimination, and social events to share food and traditions of staff members.

“Rush has already been a leading medical center in promoting diversity,” Spagnoli says. “The purpose behind this curriculum is to embrace the culture of Rush and do more. We can never stop learning about each other, it moves us forward.”