Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | November 6, 2013

Strength in Diversity; why we celebrate our differences

Duke Raleigh Hospital’s diversity team wins recognition for celebrating our differences

By Hai Ly Burk and Barbara Upchurch

Duke Raleigh's Diversity Leadership Team Awarded at the Blue Ribbon Awards

Duke Raleigh’s Diversity Leadership Team at the 2013 Blue Ribbon Awards

“If patients and their families feel they are getting culturally competent care, that makes for a better experience for them and helps us to be good stewards in the community,” says Hai Ly Burk, a social worker in Duke Raleigh Hospital’s emergency department and co-chair of the hospital’s Diversity Leadership Team (DLT).

Duke Raleigh’s DLT was recently honored with the Teamwork Diversity Award – one of the annual Duke Blue Ribbon Awards. The team officially received the award at a ceremony on Nov. 5 for demonstrating respect and value for differing backgrounds and points of view and improving cross-cultural understanding. The team, comprised of members from many disciplines from finance to radiology to IT, has been in place for eight years, and Ly Burk has been involved for four.

“When you honor everyone’s different skill-set – their culture, their language, their life experience – it makes for a richer workplace,” Ly Burk says. Her co-chair, Barbara Upchurch agrees. “A diverse workplace is essential to both creativity and productivity within the organization,” says the Cancer Center’s service access manager who has been on the diversity team for three years.

That openness doesn’t just make for a better workplace, she says – although that is a fortunate result of the efforts. (“We attract better talent,” says Ly Burk.) But it makes for a better experience for patients and the entire community. “The more perspectives you take into account, the better patient care you can deliver.”

Upchurch says a diverse workplace leads to more opinions being considered – and better outcomes for patients. “By bringing together a group with different qualifications, backgrounds and experiences, it has fostered innovation in the workplace,” she says.

Honoring diversity also means honoring everyone’s unique attributes and viewpoints. “Each person has something to offer, and we as the DLT values everyone’s opinions and ideas,” says Upchurch.

For the diversity team, delivering culturally competent care starts with honoring and respecting all ethnic groups, minority groups, languages and more. “You’ve got to start by recognizing the potential in everyone,” Ly Burk says.

A few of the ways the team celebrates and promotes diversity:

  • In celebration of Black History Month, the hospital aired the CNN documentary “Black in America” for several days, and distributed it along with a Black History Month quiz.
  • In honor of Women’s History Month, we hosted a town hall with Raleigh’s first woman mayor, the Hon. Nancy McFarlane.
  • We hosted “Rethinking Political Correctness” and “Caring for the LGBT Patient” seminars with Robert Crouch from the Office of Institutional Equity.
  • In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage, Duke’s Chancellor Dr. Victor Dzau addressed employees in town hall and highlighted his Asian American heritage.
  • In recognition of Disabilities Awareness Month, speakers from Canine Companions and other therapy dog owners shared their knowledge about the benefits of therapy and service animals.
  • We sponsored “Caring for the Latino Patient” seminar with Dr. Rebecca Reyes from the Latino Health Project.

Another important component of the team’s efforts is acknowledging and erasing subtle biases, she says. Diversity, to this team and to the hospital’s staff, is more than just being cognizant of gender, race and age. It’s being respectful of every patient who enters the door. Patients who live with chronic pain, for instance, may not have their pain revealed on an X-ray. But their discomfort is real and has to be regarded and treated as such.

The diversity team works to make employees aware of subtle biases – ones they may not even be aware of – and then educate them on how to erase those biases.

Ly Burk says that none of their efforts would be successful, or even possible, without the enthusiastic support of Duke Raleigh’s leadership including the president and chief medical officer. “When senior leaders encourage this kind of work, that’s really the hallmark of a great diversity and inclusion climate,” she says.

“We are so excited and honored by this award from Duke University Health System,” she says. “But it’s not just for what we achieved last year. We feel like it’s in recognition of all the years we’ve been working to celebrate our differences.”


Hai Ly Burk and Barbara Upchurch are co-chairs of Duke Raleigh’s diversity committee.

Leave a Reply


%d bloggers like this: