Since its founding in 1898, Des Moines University has emphasized respect for all persons, meeting the health needs of underserved populations and giving students opportunities to learn from and serve people of different backgrounds. In more recent years, it has incorporated inclusiveness in its key values and greatly expanded programming to enhance students’ cultural competency.
For its ongoing commitment to diversity and contributions to promoting civil rights in Iowa, DMU was among the recipients of the 2015 Friends of Iowa Civil Rights Award who were honored on Oct. 30 in Des Moines.
“With our focus on quality and excellence, it is our goal to prepare our students to embrace and respect a very changing demographic, with a focus on enhancing the cultural competency and cultural sensitivity of not only our students but our staff and faculty as well,” says DMU President Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D. “We are very much aware that there are health disparities, with minority and disadvantaged populations experiencing greater negative health outcomes, and we are also aware of the challenged communities who need greater access to health care.”
Friends of Iowa Civil Rights Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization established to educate individuals and groups on civil rights, assist civil rights efforts statewide and recognize individuals and groups who have championed the cause of civil rights. Its Civil Rights Awards are given in the categories of individual, business, non-profit/community organization and youth/young adult.
DMU’s nomination for the award was supported by Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, the state’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization; Linda Carter Lewis, a central Iowa NAACP leader; and Des Moines physician Joe Freund, M.D., an advocate on LGBT issues.
In 2012, DMU established an office of multicultural affairs and the Multicultural Affairs Student Advisory Committee, both of which have created numerous ongoing opportunities for the university community to learn and share frank dialogue about a wide variety of cultures and cultural issues. DMU also became a member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), which offers resources relating to inclusiveness to higher education institutions. Richard Salas, Ph.D., DMU’s director of multicultural affairs, was selected by NADOHE for the 2015-2016 academic year as one of two chief diversity officer fellows, a program that provides mentoring and guided professional development opportunities.
“It is an honor for DMU to be recognized and receive the Friends of Iowa Civil Rights Award,” Salas says. “The award is a reflection of our students, faculty and staff commitment of being proactive in learning how to deliver culturally responsive for every individual in our society.”
The University’s programs to heighten cultural competency will help enhance health care through its students and graduates.
“The greatest impact is the impact that the training of our students, as future health care providers, will have on shaping the health outcomes of those they will serve for generations to come,” President Franklin says.