GRATITUDE AND DIVERSITY

First, thanks….

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Even in a difficult year, there’s a lot for which to be grateful. I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to be dean of this outstanding School, for my family’s health, for a wonderful leadership team in the School, and fabulous faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors. I am really grateful to the people who work in my immediate office and how often they go way above and beyond, because they really care about quality and service. I am also grateful that so many people in this School have borne the year’s pain with grace and fortitude. What could be better than living in Chapel Hill where we have had three magnificent days of sunshine! And while our football team lost by a heartbreaking one point Saturday, the basketball team made up for it Sunday!

Diversity

It is ironic that while diversity is central to public health, most of the top schools still are far behind some of the country’s top businesses in creating truly diverse environments. I’ve learned a lot from watching and interacting with Dan Amos, CEO AFLAC, and observing the way he has made diversity a central value and integral to how the company operates.

He rewards and incentivizes diversity, trains for it, hires for it and celebrates it. While diversity encompasses the full range of individual characteristics on which people differ (e.g. age, gender, culture, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability), I mean, particularly, race/ethnicity. UNC has an excellent diversity plan and an outstanding leader in Associate Provost Archie Ervin.

To understand problems facing people around the world, including in our own state, we must have more faculty, staff and students who represent the populations with whom we work-and this, increasingly, means ethnic diversity. Our state is 21.6% Black and 7.4% Hispanic. We’re not there, and it’s not for lack of trying, caring and wanting.

Still, what we have done to date hasn’t gone far enough, produced enough change, or made enough of a difference. So we are going to enter a new phase. Unfortunately, we don’t have the kind of dollars to put into this that Fortune 200 companies can commit (if they make the choice). I want to engage our School, including our extended network, in figuring out together what we can do to change the status quo. We’ll all be better for it!

Martin Fishbein

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Over the weekend, Martin Fishbein, PhD, Harry C. Coles Jr. Distinguished Professor in Communication and Director of the Health Communication Program at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, U Penn, died of a heart attack in London while traveling. Marty and his colleague Icek Ajzen developed the Theory of Reasoned Action, one of the most widely-used theories of health behavior. Their new text was just published in September, 2009. I got to know Marty when we served together on an Institute of Medicine committee. He had a wonderfully impish personality, and the ability to see the limitations of his own theory while improving it. I’ll miss him!

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