From the Diversity & Inclusion Committee: An Update

07/22/2020 - Considering recent events, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee has been working intensively to listen to members and has adjusted its plan of work accordingly. In late 2019, the Academy’s Board of Directors appointed a seven-member Task Force, in addition to the D&I Committee, to work on a new D&I Strategic Plan for the Academy. The Task Force was then merged with the D&I Committee to streamline the work. Instead of producing a new D&I Strategic Plan, the now integrated D&I Committee will work on a series of Action Plans for the Academy’s Board for consideration.

The D&I Committee Vice-Chair, Chair, Past-Chair and Academy staff have been in daily communication since early June. Additionally, we meet weekly via web-conference call to accelerate the work. To date, the Chairs have spoken with many members, attended MIG-sponsored listening sessions and held calls with concerned groups to listen and learn. Academy staff has continuously shared letters and communications sent to Academy leadership with Chairs and D&I Committee members. Academy staff has been actively involved in research, data collection and identifying themes and strategies. This work includes synthesizing and grouping suggestions and sentiments expressed through letters, emails, phone calls and social media; benchmarking D&I strategies pursued by other organizations; and researching best practices to increase D&I in health professions.

In late June, the D&I Committee submitted to the Board a plan of action for the next 30/60/90/120 days. The first proposed activity is to work with an expert facilitator to conduct broad-reaching Listening Sessions with members, non-members, students, Academy organizational units and other stakeholders. These Listening Sessions will serve to continue to inform future Academy strategies to increase D&I in the profession, including its leadership.

In mid-July, the D&I Committee submitted a proposal to the Board that outlined the listening-session plan. The proposal requested financial support to hire an experienced facilitator to guide the D&I Committee and staff in their planning, implementation, data synthesizing and next steps. On July 20, the Board unanimously approved the plan and request. The D&I Committee is now reviewing proposals from individuals qualified to assist the Academy in broad reaching listening sessions and subsequent work. The facilitator selected will have experience in D&I, in addition to organizational change within groups as large and as complex as the Academy.

To further assist with the work that needs to be done, the D&I Committee Chairs and Academy Foundation have drafted a proposal for a Foundation Fellow who would be tasked with working on D&I priorities over a two-year period. The Foundation is currently soliciting funding for this fellowship.

The D&I Committee also will continue its usual work of co-sponsoring FNCE® sessions, working with D&I Liaisons, promoting D&I grants and awards, submitting names of diverse leaders to run for Academy office and supporting various Academy committees and organizational units with their needs related to D&I.

To provide additional support to our grassroots efforts, the D&I Committee has started working in collaboration with Academy Member Services to strengthen the D&I Liaison Program. Initial activities include forming a D&I Committee work group that will support D&I Liaisons through the year. An orientation for D&I Liaisons is planned for September, and an important priority is to empower D&I Liaisons with the tools they need to engage in committee activities at their localities and within their specialties.

As an evidence-based organization, our approach is thoughtful, informed and methodical. Whereas immediate action may be desired, we recognize that taking the time to fully evaluate our current status, work collaboratively with the many Academy organizational units and consider multiple approaches informed by data is essential. Just like a COVID-19 vaccine cannot be safely manufactured and distributed overnight, our pursuit of organizational change will also take time.

The D&I Committee wants you to know that we are listening and working continuously on your behalf. Our desire is to design action plans that stimulate ongoing, wide-reaching organizational strategies that produce positive movement in inclusion, diversity, equity and access. We echo member sentiments that call for an Academy and profession that more closely reflect the needs of an increasingly diverse population.

Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee (Mary Lee Chin, MS, RDN (Chair); Aida Miles, EdD, MMSc, RDN, LD, FAND (Past Chair); Sitoya Mansell, MPH, MS, RDN, CHES (Vice Chair); Deanna Belleny, MPH, RDN; Melinda Boyd, DCN, MPH, MHR, RD, FAND; Cecilia Pozo Fileti, MS, RDN, FADA, FAND; Samia Hamdan, MPH, RDN; Urvashi Mulasi, PhD, MS, RD; Judith Rodriguez, PhD, RDN, LDN, FADA, FAND; Jacqueline Tien, CHES; Jonathan Valdez, MBA, RDN, CSG, CDN, CCM, CDCES, ACE-CPT)