By Wendy Sarubbi | October 27, 2014 1:34 pm

Students, faculty and staff at the UCF College of Medicine put their culture on display at the annual Multicultural Day Celebration October 17. The event on the Piazza was modeled after nearby Walt Disney World’s World Showcase featuring music, food samples and traditional dress from across the globe.

“We wanted it to be a social atmosphere,” said College of Medicine librarian Natasha Williams, a member of the college’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). “It gives everybody a chance to hang out with each other and learn where their colleagues are from. When you understand that, you can be more inclusive of the people that you’re working with in your workplace.”

The celebration capped off a week of activities at UCF and the medical school, including a panel discussion with local healthcare providers that focused on underserved populations. Students expressed their various cultures through music, poetry and art during an event sponsored by the “Arts in Medicine” interest group and State Senator Geraldine Thompson visited the college to speak about the importance of continuing the mission of the civil rights movement into the 21st century.

Class of 2017 Vice President, Eileen Grigson helped plan the student events and said discussions of healthcare disparities helped M.D. students improve their cultural competency and better understand the social determinants of health. “My main goal for this week was to stimulate conversation about different ethnic disparities here in Orlando and also in the United States and worldwide” she said. “It’s important for us to be aware of the different cultural groups in our communities, and how to specifically treat them.”

As Diversity Week 2014 ended, College of Medicine participants enjoyed sushi from Asia, falafel from the Middle East, tiramisu from Europe and beef empanadas from the Americas. They received a “passport” stamp at each culture’s station. All of the dishes came from local Lake Nona restaurants or were were donated by faculty and staff. A large world map stood in the middle of the festivities, where attendees were encouraged to place a pin in their country of origin. By the end of the event, colorful pins spanned the map, from the far east of Asia, to the northeastern United States.

Increasing cultural inclusion and acceptance is a major goal of the CDI, and Dr. Lisa Barkley, assistant dean for diversity of inclusion, says she hopes the fun atmosphere and diverse foods, clothing and music helped bring that effort to life. “It shows that we’re all very much alike, even though we have a lot of differences.” she said. “This week has really shown that those differences make us stronger, and they make us unique.”

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