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Samson College Alumni Share Thoughts on Workplace Diversity

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on December 13, 2021

A panel of alumni from Samson College gathered at a roundtable event “Yield Ahead: Merging into the Workforce” hosted by the Samson College Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee on November 30, 2021. During the hybrid in-person and virtual event, attended by approximately 140 people, alumni and faculty had an open discussion about challenges facing a diverse workforce in physical and occupational therapy as well as how to best meet the needs of a diverse range of clients and patients. 

In pursuit of his doctorate, Alaa Abou-Arab MOT’10, DrOT (Temple), examined racial bias in his profession for his dissertation. “The results are not surprising but uncomfortable,” he said. “It is foundational research that is missing in our profession… And our profession is not alone in missing the boat on that one; it is everywhere in the healthcare industry.”

Alaa Abou-Arab The panelists discussed not only how they handle being one of the few minority members of their care teams, but how they interact with patients, too.

“There isn’t much diversity in the patients that I see,” said Jayme Montes DPT’21, whose family is from Guatemala. “I try to chat and relate with them on some things. In a few instances, they get a little surprised by different cultures. I’ve grown to enjoy educating them about my culture and how I grew up.”

Asia PayneWhen speaking about how their employers are working to facilitate conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion, Asia Payne DPT’16 said things are changing from the prior mentality that it wasn’t something that is mentioned at work. 

“At my employer, we have created a platform to talk about racism, gender equality, cultural issues,” she said. For instance, some employees may want to take off for cultural or religious holidays like Juneteeth or Diwali. Managers are taking time to learn what those holidays are and how they can best support their employees, said Dr. Payne.

How can other practitioners best support a diverse workforce and diverse patients? Pooja Patel DrOT’17 said people should be open-minded, or, in the case of diverse employees, open to educating others about their lived experience, if they have the energy to do so. 

“It comes up in day-to-day hospital practice all the time,” she said. “People have different values, different beliefs, and things that are meaningful to them.”

She said being aware of the needs and advocating for patients and co-workers can make a better practitioner.

Samson DEI Committee Members: Theresa Rhett-Davis (OT), Sarah Corcoran (OT), Greg Thielman (PT), Allison Williams (PA), Lynda Lemisch (OT), Nicole Roberts (OT), Katherine Jackson (PA), and Karin Richards (Kinesiology), with the support of Dean Sinclair Smith, said they recognize that this event was a small step on a continuous journey and look forward to future opportunities to facilitate inclusion and belonging within our University community and professions. You can communicate directly with the Samson DEI Committee at samsondiversity@usciences.edu.

 Watch the full event here.

Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Physical Therapy, Department of Occupational Therapy, Department of Kinesiology, Department of Physician Assistant Studies, Alumni, Faculty, Event