Toward a Culture of Inclusion: An Interview with Lisa M. McBride, PhD, Chief Diversity Officer, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Why are you passionate about diversity? At what point in your career did you know that you wanted to focus on diversity?

Passion is what drives you when you are the only one you need to please. It drives your spirit in spire of your schedule, obligations and external pressures.

As a woman of African American and Native American descent, I have had a personal connection with and passion for diversity. I've experienced what it is to be different and have proven that being different does not prevent one from achieving success.

From a career standpoint, I actually became involved in this work by default. During the late 1990s, I was asked by the chief executive of a Florida college where I served as an associate professor of criminology to head a campus climate accreditation subcommittee. A visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools indicated that diversity was a critical area that the institution needed to focus on. While the student population was diverse, fostering an awareness of that growing diversity and leveraging it was my challenge.

Later in my career, I accepted the role of special assistant to the president for EEEO [Equal Education and Employment Opportunity]/university ombudsperson at one of the universities within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. There I was recognized for my ability to infuse diversity into the most important academic issues of the institution. As chief diversity officer, I was responsible for guiding efforts to conceptualize, define, access, nurture and cultivate diversity as an institutional and educational resource. As an advisor to the president's cabinet, I had power to infuse diversity into discussions about budget allocations, new initiatives and future priorities of the university.

What attracted you to work at PCOM?

Historically, osteopathic medicine has been a welcoming profession. When PCOM graduated its first class of osteopathic physicians in 1900, the graduates included one man and one woman. The Class of 1921 included Meta L. Christy, an African American graduate. These were early "firsts" for women and minorities in medicine. Today, over 100 years later, PCOM continues its tradition of diversity and has grown to include graduate programs in pharmacy, psychology, biomedical sciences, physician assistant studies, forensic medicine and organizational development and leadership. And in 2005, the College opened a branch campus in Suwanee, Georgia, to help the South's growing need for physicians.

To know that I could continue to preserve this long-standing history of inclusiveness attracted me to the institution. …