By Wendy Sarubbi | October 15, 2012 3:52 pm

Diversity and inclusion are more than counting the number of people in a medical school who are of different backgrounds. Diversity is at the cornerstone of providing health care to all, said Dr. Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Dr. Nivet spoke to UCF College of Medicine faculty, staff and students October 15 as UCF kicked off Diversity Week 2012.

Dr. Nivet said health care reform and demographic trends in America are requiring academic medicine to do more than just talk about diversity. “This time is different,” he said. “We can’t just talk about it. We have to animate it.” About 32 million people will be newly insured under the nation’s health care reforms and most of those new patients are low-income, under-represented minorities who have lacked coordinated care until now. Doctors will need to understand the unique needs of these patients, he said, and the fact that minorities now make up about 35 percent of the U.S. population and almost 50 percent of people under age 18.

“Ultimately, it’s not diversity for diversity’s sake,” Dr. Nivet said. “It’s a tool to achieve our mission of improving the health of the public.”

He said diversity is broadening from the historical perspective based on racial and ethnic makeup to a new view that includes the LBGT community, disabled people and people of diverse ages. As a new medical school, he said, UCF has the opportunity to create a diverse culture from the ground up and make sure the college has a culture where “every person here thrives as an individual.”

Dr. Nivet has visited 44 medical schools in the last two years to urge them to use diversity as a means to drive excellence and improve the nation’s health. Pipeline programs, such as the College of Medicine’s partnerships with Orange and Osceola under-represented high school and middle school students, can make a difference with individual students. Dr. Nivet said medical schools must also find ways to scientifically measure whether and how such programs are working.

“Diversity and inclusion are tools to be harnessed, to propel the mission of medicals schools and advance health-care quality,” Dr. Nivet said.

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