Healthcare and Academic Leaders Unite for Diversity Week Inclusion Panel

Published on 04 October 2019

On Sept. 11, leaders from the Washington University Medical Campus and BJC HealthCare gathered at St. Louis College of Pharmacy for a panel discussion where they shared their perspectives on the meaning of inclusion and the organizational journey to reaching inclusion at its highest peak.

The event was held as part of Diversity Week 2019 on the Washington University Medical campus, which took place Sept. 9-13. Hosted by Washington University Medical Campus partners BJC HealthCare, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College and the College, Diversity Week 2019 featured a variety of events and activities designed to help attendees explore how a sense of belonging is one of the pivotal building blocks of healthy, vital communities, organizations and people.

The Inclusion Panel featured representatives from institutions across the Washington University Medical Campus, including:

  • Alexis Elward, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer of St. Louis Children’s Hospital;
  • June Fowler, senior vice president of communications and public affairs at BJC HealthCare;
  • John Lynch, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital;
  • John A. Pieper, Pharm.D., FCCP, FAPhA, president of the College;
  • Michael D. Ward, Ph.D., RTR, FASRT, vice dean for student affairs and diversity at Goldfarb School of Nursing; and
  • Sheree Wilson, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor and associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the School of Medicine.

The event was moderated by Rebeccah Bennett, founder and principal of Emerging Wisdom LLC, an organization that helps individuals and leaders bring about positive change for themselves and their communities.

Panelists began by introducing themselves and sharing what brought them to the panel.

“I wanted to be here to hear from my colleagues, because we can learn a lot from each other, but also because the topic was inclusion,” Wilson explained during her introduction. “I read a quote that said diversity means you are invited to the party, and inclusion means you get invited to dance. I think sometimes diversity and inclusion are used interchangeably when they are actually really different terms.”

Bennett asked a round of questions, encouraging each panelist to speak further about the distinction between diversity and inclusion from an institutional perspective and how that distinction appears in what they do. The panelists discussed the importance of being intentional and not overlooking certain populations because they appear to be overrepresented, and explained how this can also translate into ensuring that patient populations feel included and avoiding potential treatment gaps.

“We can look at our team members and perhaps feel we have a balance as far as diversity, but we want to be sure we are intentional in how we fill rooms and positions and think about who we employ or who we are leaving out,” Fowler said. “Inclusion is feeling like you can bring your whole self once you are in the door and have accepted the job.”

Panelists also discussed their vision for diversity and inclusion in the institutions they serve and across the partnering systems and how to operationalize their knowledge in order to sustain change.

“As educators, as well as clinicians, I think that some of our largest impact is on the students, residents and trainees who we interact with every day,” Pieper explained. “I think we have a responsibility to expose our students to the importance of recognizing and developing strategies to address health disparities in their communities so they have those tools to continue that work once they leave us.”

The event concluded with a question and answer session, giving attendees the opportunity to address the panelists on a variety of topics including how to get diversity and inclusion understanding to trickle down from leadership and how to involve internal and external communities in diversity, inclusion and excellence efforts and conversations.

“[The organizations on the Washington University Medical Campus] are an integrated system, and the fact that we are all sharing this moment together is vital,” Ward said. “I look forward to finding ways to bring these organizations together to improve the culture we are in the middle of and share, on an ongoing basis, in order to work together purposefully.”


Through events like Diversity Week, and throughout the year, the College works collaboratively to promote diversity and inclusion in health care across the St. Louis region through partnerships with its neighboring institutions. The College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion continues to work diligently to build and cultivate a robust diversity and inclusion program, focused on fostering a culture where everyone is committed to helping one another to succeed as well as embracing and leveraging the campus’ distinct cultures, abilities and worldviews in order to maximize individual and institutional success.

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