January 19, 2022

MLK lecture explores benefits of maximizing of diversity

Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing hosted the 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture on Monday, Jan. 17.


by Kathy Whitney

On Monday, Jan. 17, Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing hosted the 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture.

Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Senior Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence and professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, hosted the virtual event and welcomed those who joined via Zoom.

Hope Collins, MPA

“Dr. King was an iconic civil rights leader, someone whose legacy runs very deep in American history, but his vision has yet to be fully realized in our country,” Wilkins said. “As we pause and remember Dr. King and the amazing things that he’s done, I’ll share one quote … ‘true peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.’ We must still move forward with action.”

Wilkins announced the recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award.

  • Hope Collins, MPA, director of Interpreter Services for VUMC, who has been in the role for 10 years and hopes to expand language lines for those for whom English is not their first language.

    Christian Ketel DNP, RN
  • Christian Ketel DNP, RN, assistant professor of Nursing, and Carrie Plummer, PhD, ANP-BC, assistant professor of Nursing, who were recognized together for their work to coordinate COVID-19 vaccinations for 6,000 individuals in the Nashville community through mobile efforts.

Co-host of the lecture, Rolanda Johnson, PhD, MSN, RN, associate dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the School of Nursing, introduced the keynote speaker, Martha Dawson, DNP, RN, president of the National Black Nurses Association.

“I am excited that we could join together today to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Johnson said.

Carrie Plummer PhD, ANP-BC

Dawson presented “Beyond diversity: Achieving organization excellence through a conceptual lens.” She discussed how organizational leaders must embrace new approaches and take charge of their organization’s climate and culture in order to create an environment that sees diversity as a building block toward achieving excellence.

“When I look back 20 years ago, I think we’ve done a pretty good job achieving diversity in organizations, not just in the health care space, but in other industries … but diversity is really just the low hanging fruit,” she said.

Martha Dawson, DNP, RN

Organizational leaders need to maximize the unique contributions employees bring, Dawson said. Leaders have to focus not just on diversity but also on justice and the environment they create.

“Employers must put their employees at the forefront. To do that they must practice both equality and equity,” she said.

Diversity is a company’s workforce dashboard. “We have this nailed down,” Dawson said. “Are you getting a return on your investment with diversity? How are you going to take advantage of diversity to achieve your organization’s vision? How effective are you at taking diversity and creating a workforce picture?”

Equality, she said, dismantles the ‘in and out’ club. Leaders need to look at laws, practices, policies and procedures. Equity — leadership fairness — can be harder to practice.

“Step out of your comfort zone. Look at your system and see where the hidden practices are when it comes to inequity. Create accountability from the boardroom to basement,” Dawson said.

“Diversity, plus inclusivity, plus equality and equity equals liberation, and that equals a high-performing organization. If you want your organization to be at its best, you have to move beyond diversity.”