By Wendy Sarubbi | November 13, 2014 11:54 am

Technology plays a role in every aspect of our world, from the classroom to the boardroom and everywhere in between. At the sixth and final College of Medicine Diversity Lunch and Learn, guest speaker Ken Beller — president of Nearbridge Inc., a workplace consulting firm — explained that technology also plays a major role in diversity, especially when it comes to being more inclusive.

“Technology is starting to create a different society profile,” Beller said of our modern culture, which has created a ‘tech elite,’ class that divides people into experts who make the technology, and those who use it. He added that people who are not tech-savvy, or who do not have access to technology can easily be excluded and left behind, which threatens inclusion in the workplace, and society as a whole. “Here’s a tip on technology: Use it for connection and inclusion, not for disconnection and exclusion,” he said.

One example of using technology for inclusion involves people with disabilities. Beller explained how prosthetic technology allows a person to walk without a wheelchair, and how motion-sensitive technology allows people who cannot type on a keyboard the ability to use eye movements or their voice to type. “This makes it easier for people to come to work and interact there, which helps to include them in that environment,” he said.

Beller introduced a diagram (shown at left) of the “Four Levels of Diversity,” a widely accepted standard from the book “Diverse Teams at Work” by Lee Gardenswartz and Anita Rowe. The illustration shows aspects of life that make us diverse, including age, race, gender, sexual orientation, marital and parental status. “These are thought to be the very standard dimensions that organizations use to understand diversity better and become more inclusive,” Beller said of the chart. “We’ve found that the vast majority of these dimensions are actually touched by technology in a way that will really affect diversity in the future.” For example, a person’s income, age and educational background are all factors in their access to and interest in technology.

Because many audience members were physicians, medical educators or physicians-in-training, Beller talked about how technology is affecting the medical profession in ways ranging from wearable health technology that tells patients how well they are exercising to robotic surgery that is better than humans in performing some complicated tasks. “There are surgeons who don’t cut the patients with their hands,” he said. “Is it possible that doctors could become ‘technicians’ and the actual machines will do everything?”

But he emphasized that as technology advances and perhaps changes the role of the physician, it must not be used to remove humanity from care. Technology should not replace human interaction, Beller said, and he suggested faculty, staff and students take a weekly “Cyber Sabbath” and put the cell phone, tablet and computer aside. “By the end of the day, you’ll be so relieved. It really does give you a break,” said Beller who makes every Sunday technology-free. As Beller closed out the event, he handed out phone stickers that simply said “Look Up!” and encouraged participants to step away from their phones, and remember how important  it is to be present for friends, family, colleagues and patients. “The biggest threat to inclusion is the loss of empathy and ability to see others’ perspectives,” he said. “We need to look at technology and make sure we use it to the best of our personal and social needs and desires—and don’t allow it to overrun us”

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