Cultural Communication

Special Programs

SCOOP Program Information

 In order to support shadowing opportunities on campus, we have a Student Clinical Observer Opportunities Program (SCOOP) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  This program is coordinated by Ms. Amaris Thurston who will be able to walk you through the application process.  Ms. Thurston’s contact information is included below:

 Ms. Amaris Thurston

Office: 301-400-3995

Email: or


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Cultural Communication: Brown Bag Discussions “Understanding Through Dialogue"

USU SOM Diversity Committee Presents:

Brown Bag Discussion “Understanding through Dialogue”

See past discussions and highlights below:


Highlights of Past Discussions

On 19 April 2018  we discussed Death and Religion

We walked away with the following take away points: 

Death and Religion lessons learned:

  1. Saying “I don’t know” is both acceptable and powerful
  2. Be respectful especially when dealing with other cultures
  3. Reflect on you own values, doubts and beliefs
  4. Our presence with those dying is important
  5. You are a part of a team and don’t have to provide all of the support yourself


On 19 Jan 2018  we discussed How clarity, compassion, and empathy relate


We walked away with the following take away points: 

  1. Try to see other people as being multidimensional
  2. Empathy is about connecting with someone and telling stories can help
  3. Our actions are much more important than what we say and listening is an action
  4. Though a challenge, Social Media is a place to start showing empathy
  5. Feedback is an important part of improvement.

If you were unable to attend the discussion please take the time to review the following resources:

Forbes article on Charity , Empathy and Story Telling:

Explore a possible gender difference in empathy:  

A quick empathy refresher from Brené Brown:


If you can’t make the discussion or lecture find someone to share your thoughts:


Reach out to any SOM Diversity and Inclusion Officer:


Leave Feedback on these topics or suggestions for future Brown Bag discussions each month:


See past discussions and highlights at:

On 16 Nov 17 we discussed “Diversity in Leadership”


We walked away with the following take away points:  

Diversity is only half of the solution, people must feel included.

Inclusion does not mean that everyone has an equal influence but everyone can be heard.

The belief that the person with the most experience should make the decisions is powerful.

The greater the consequences (surgery, airline emergency) the more important in hearing from others.

Actively work towards everyone at the table being heard.


 If you were unable to attend the discussion please take the time to review the following resources:

Women in Health Leadership as reform:

Does US Healthcare need more diverse leadership?

An interesting TED talk on inclusion:  


If you can’t make the discussion or lecture find someone to share your thoughts:


Reach out to any SOM Diversity and Inclusion Officer:


Leave Feedback on these topics or suggestions for future Brown Bag discussions each month:


See past discussions and highlights at:


On 19 Oct we discussed the “Imposter Syndrome”

We walked away with the following take away points:  We can all help by working to build others up.

Choosing the right person to tell can be a challenge but we need to tell others how we feel.

The feeling of not belonging can create positive pressure to do better.

Don’t criticize yourself more than you would a friend. (Be gentle with yourself)

Listen to the one person thinks you can instead of the others who doubt you.

Accept that feeling like an imposter is normal.

Check your history, believe that you can do what you have already done.

Senior people have the power to make a positive difference.


If you weren’t able to make the discussion please review the following websites and find someone to share your thoughts with:


Opinion piece from the New England Journal of Medicine: (link is external)


Feeling like a Fraud? (link is external)


Podcast about Racial Imposter Syndrome: (link is external)


Reach out to any SOM Diversity and Inclusion Officer to process current event:


Leave Feedback on these topics or suggestions for future Brown Bag discussions each month:

On September 21, 2017

We discussed the Transgender ban and we walked away with the following take away points:

Being "Lost in the woods" is better when you are with a group.

There are support groups at both USU and just up the street at WR

Support from leadership is valuable

Accession policy will not likely change


Feel free to review the following resources that we discussed during the meeting:

The original Transgender Policy

Latest statement from Secretary Mattis

For people struggling with the continuous change or feelings of exclusion consider these sites to help with resilience:

Resilience Training

11 Skills and Attitudes Can Increase Resilience

How to Boost Resilience in Midlife

Leave Feedback on these topics or suggestions for future Brown Bag discussions each month here.

On August 17th we discussed the timely events in Charlottesville, VA 

We used this opportunity for USU members to discuss their impressions and thoughts about the future. Several people joined the conversation remotely.


  1. Some people felt that the confederate symbols do not represent hate but pride. Being able to accept that others only see a positive symbol is difficult for many people.
  2. There is fear in being a minority that has been a target of violence.
  3. Some people are hopeful that this will be a turning point for our country, but many don’t feel that way.
  4. Respecting each other and looking for compassion helps to lessen the impression of “us” versus “them”.
  5. Continuing the conversation knowing that hateful speech cannot be ignored is important.
  6. Every Chief of Staff stated unequivocally that the hate demonstrated by the Neo-Nazi, KKK and White supremist is unacceptable and there is no place for it in the military.
On July 20, 2017 we discussed "How Does Helping Others Help Me?"
Participants walked away with the following considerations:
1. Establishing mentor relationships is important.
2. Caring for patients can be an act of service when we are present with their pain.
3. Mandated or required service is still beneficial because it can expose a passion for helping others.
4. Service makes us feel good when we realize we are good at serving and able to do it on our own.
5. Serving helps us understand diversity, not just different backgrounds, but also identifying who among us are givers, receivers, or matchers.
6. Giving back shouldn't be restricted to age or times in our lives. 

Coming Soon!

On May 18, 2017 the group discussed "How do we talk about sexual harassment?"

The discussion lead to the following steps toward solutions:

  1. It is every organization’s responsibility to create and maintain a culture where harassment is unacceptable
  2. “Fox News” is the best example that people won’t report harassment if they believe nothing will happen to the person harassing
  3. Acknowledge that embarrassment plays a role in preventing reporting
  4. Some women try to let the person harassing down easily, it is more effective to be direct and place distance between you
  5. Being logical is difficult during an emotional encounter, write down the details when you can
  6. Education before starting a job about resources and responses can help
  7. The leadership at USU needs and wants to know about unacceptable behavior


This discussion included guest speaker perspectives of patient refusal and difficult interactions to include discrimination because of gender, religion, race and military service.

This interactive presentation aimed to assist participants in addressing situations where patient rights and beliefs may interfere with optimal care.

On February 16, 2017 we discussed the question, "How do our responses change by our group identity?"

Consider these pieces for reflection:

 Us vs. Them

 Thandie Newton's TED Talk "Embracing Otherness"

How to Avoid "Us vs. Them" Thinking in Your Team



On Jan 19, 2017 the topic was  “How do we talk about sexism in health care?”

After the discussion we walked away with the following take away points:

1.       Be an example of treating others with respect and fairness

2.       Have an awareness of media messages

3.       Counter messages by reading

4.       Encouraging empathy and realize that emotions are shared

5.       Confront discrimination when witnessed

Consider these pieces for review:

Washington Post article, Women are better doctors:

An essay on the Healthcare industry:

The importance of treating men and women differently:


On December 15, 2016 the group discussed, “Does our attitude influence our communication?"

After the discussion we walked away with the following thoughts:

  1. We should be diligent and practice self awareness because there are several different ways we tend to respond to information received from others. 
  2. We can receive news that either help or tear down a relationship whether it was constructive or destructive in delivery.    

The following links provide more context on the issue:

From a business perspective, "Attitude Affects Communication"

"Managing Emotions in the Workplace" (podcast available)

"Positive Emotions"

We’re looking for more feedback! If you have comments, suggestions or solutions please leave a comment here:




 The main ideas from the discussion were:

  1. Power influences how we communicate
  2. Find neutral places or topics where both people are ignorant enough to decrease differences

Consider the following articles:

"Becoming Powerful Makes You Less Empathetic"

"A Sense of Power Can Do a Number on Your Brain"

"How Do Human Gain Power" Video

"Soft Power vs. Hard Power" Video   

After the discussion we walked away with the following talking points:

  1. We all maybe classified as having a disability in one form or another, however it is important to be mindful of the words we choose when communicating with others. 
  2. We have to cleanse ourselves of inappropriate words when speaking with others and always be mindful of our audiences. 

The following links provide additional context on the topic:

 Attitudes towards individuals with disabilities as measured by the Implicit Association Test: A literature review

Stella Young TED Talk "I am Not Your Inspiration"



 Due to the recent attacks in Orlando, we discussed, "What? What happened? What should we do? What happens next?"
We walked away with these main points: 
  1. Communication is key!
  2. Try to gather facts about a situation before making judgment
  3. Treat others as we would like to be treated

There are no additional readings as news coverage will be sufficient. 


On May 19, 2016  the discussion topic was “Are some groups promoted faster than others?"

After the discussion we walked away with the following take away point:

"Pursue what most interests you and actively seek mentorship to help achieve your goals."

The following links gave background information on the issue:

How US Military Structure Overcomes the Gender Pay Gap

Sheryl Sandberg’s 2010 TED Talk: Why we have too few women leaders

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Faculty Promotion in Academic Medicine

If you have comments, suggestions or solutions please leave a comment:

The opening question for the discussion was: “Why do we use race in medicine?” 

The following links gave background information on the issue:

Medical Schools Teaching Race

TED Talk:

The problem with race based medicine by Dorothy Roberts

  1. After the discussion we walked away with these take away points:  
  2. Race belongs in the social history section not the Chief complaint or Identification
  3. AAMC has to get involved to create a systemic change especially in standardized testing
  4. Medical students are taught to always consider race except for microbiology immunology slides
  5. When asked what label to use for a patient, “i.e. Black or African American” use what the patient uses or use nothing if you didn’t ask the question
  6. Race is a surrogate for culture, environment and social influences
  7. Genetic differentiation may be more prevalent in the future


The opening questions for the discussion are: “Why am I here? How do I find meaning and purpose? What sustains me during difficult times?” Our answers to these questions can indicate how spiritually resilient we are. In turn, our spiritual resiliency is an essential component in our overall ability to maintain a state of well-being.

Our chaplain is posing these questions in the context of our monthly diversity dialogue because each of us answers them differently. For many, their answers are partially or wholly informed by various religious beliefs and perspectives. Yet others find meaning and purpose apart from religion. Please join us in discussing what gives your life meaning and purpose and what we can do to increase our individual and collective spiritual resiliency.

The following link offers one (not religion specific) perspective on the issue:


How to Unlock the Power of Purpose - Richard Leider

Imagine a pill that would aid cognitive decline, help prevent macroscopic stroke, aid sleep, and add 7 years to your life. How much would you pay for it? Would you take it? It turns out that pill is free, and it's available to all. It's called Purpose.

The opening question for the discussion was: “How do you recognize burnout?” 

Captain Patricia McKay discussed our topic on Burnout and provided the following ppt:

Power point presentation for Burnout

The following links give background information on the issue:

That's the thing: You don't understand burnout unless you've been burned out. And it's something you can't even explain. It's just doing something you have absolutely no passion for.

-         Elena Delle Donne


The article below recommends that the Triple Aim be expanded to a Quadruple Aim, adding the goal of improving the work life of health care providers, including clinicians and staff.

Care of the patient requires care of the Provider


Job burnout: How to spot it and take action


Discover if you're at risk of job burnout — and what you can do when your job begins to affect your health and happiness. 


The video below is about Vanessa Loder's mission to empower and inspire millions of women by helping them realize true success is easier than they think. 

How to Lean In Without Burning Out


 The opening question for the discussion was: “Who wins when the patient and provider disagree?” 

The following links give background information on the issue:

Medical conflict overview article (six years old but a good topic overview):


Dismissing families for vaccine refusal:


How to use an expert (Watch it as a patient not a provider):


Empathy and Patient–Physician Conflicts:



The following links give background information on the issue:

Quotes about compassion: 

Cherokee tribe of Native Americans, who said “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”. 

“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960 

Kids and entitlement: 




The CFC campaign proves how generous we are as a community and how we take care of others.  Amy Poehler said “There are so many people in the world with so little. Who cares why you decide to help?”

Charity and giving is however an issue for some people, especially when connected to compassion, stewardship, entitlement, or empowerment. 

The opening question for the discussion is: “To whom should I give?”  

The following links give background information on the issue:

Quotes about compassion: is external)

 Cherokee tribe of Native Americans, who said “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”.

 “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960

  Kids and entitlement: is external)


Panhandling: is external)


Poverty: is external)



Nov 19th “Interfaith Dialogue”   

The opening questions for the discussion are: “How do we move from the clash of civilizations to a dialogue of civilizations and find ways of relating to each other that are genuinely collaborative and go beyond mere tolerance? Is this even possible? What can I do personally?”  

Preparation materials:

TEDxDU The Interfaith Amigos: Breaking the taboos of interfaith dialogue

The theme of "Radical Collaboration" is personified in Rabbi Ted Falcon, Pastor Don Mackenzie, and Imam Jamal Rahman - collectively known as The Interfaith Amigos. In a time when religion appears to be at the heart of fragmentation, suspicion and conflict, their friendship is a beacon to a wiser, more compassionate, and hopeful path. is external) 

TEDxRainier - Interfaith Amigos is external)

The Necessity and Possibility of Interreligious Dialogue

Given the geopolitical state of our world today and the role that religions are playing in that world, the religious communities that populate our planet have reached a point in their history in which they must find a new way of relating to each other. They are being called to collaborate with each other rather than compete with each other. It is time to set aside their centuries long agenda of competing, fighting, and trying to replace each other and enter into a genuinely cooperative dialog of equals. Is this possible? How? (A lecture by Paul Knitter that was part of the 2014 Baldwin Wallace Faith & Life Lecture Series) is external)

Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian: The Challenge and Opportunity of “Double Belonging” is external)

Brian McLaren: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World

McLaren observes that two common approaches to Christian identity have been having a strong identity that is hostile to others or having a weak identity that is tolerant of others. He then suggests that it is possible to have a strong and benevolent religious identity. The problem isn’t having a strong identity, but rather building an identity of “us” around hostility to “them.” is external)

Brian McLaren: Beyond the Box Interview (90 minutes) is external)

The Heart of Faith: The Parliament of the World's Religions is external)

  Highlights from the discussion:

  • Having respect for others is universal and best shown by example
  • Discussing religion in a manner that seeks understanding reduces the fight
  • A reflective question is, "How does your spirituality help you interact with other people?"
  • Focus on the relationship to increase understanding 

"Glass Ceilings"

Preparation materials:

10 immediate actions you can take to shatter the glass ceiling

So We Leaned In, Now What?

Barriers for Women to Positions of Power

Oct 1, 2015 on NPR: Despite Improving Job Market, Blacks Still Face Tougher Prospects

 Highlights from the discussion:

  • There are physical barriers to achievement like geography and degree requirements, there are external barriers from gatekeepers and systems and there are internal barriers like self-doubt
  • Breaking barriers may not be a goal for many people
  • Support, mentorship, education and open door policies from leaders make a difference
  • Passion and persistence are essential especially to break our internal glass ceilings
  • Language can change attitudes and should be inclusive 

The “fixed mindset” or changing your mind

Preparation materials:

Highlights from the discussion: 

  • Mentorship and positive examples can helpinfluence a positive or growth mindset
  • When we are surrounded by like minded people we may not see our fixed or closed mindedness
  • Exposure to others open up our perspective and theirs
  • The discussions are a way to share views and to see other people's viewpoints

In recognition of the 4th of July, we discussed patriotism and grace.  While the two subjects seem very different, the majority of us are in the US because we were born here but we extend the privilege to others.  We are at a university of people dedicated to serving this country and we prove every day that working together takes and gives grace.

Preparation materials: is external) is external) is external)

Highlights from the discussion (Individual opionions represented):

  • America is not the same as it was in the past and we should expect the culture to be different in the future
  • Not all arguments against immigration are racially motivated, other immigrants may feel a sense of unfairness after following the rules
  • Historically there have been groups labeled as “outsiders”
  • Patriotism is as Mark Twain said, "I support my country all the time, and my government when it deserves it." 

Preparation materials: 

Current injustices: is external)

Availability Bias: is external)

Personal response to injustice: is external)

Highlights from the discussion:

  • Value those who are around you.
  • Our definitions of terms can reflect how we feel
  • Historical injustice is easily separated from current injustice for many people. (Jim Crow, slavery, Holocaust, etc.)
  • Treat everyone with respect
  • Ask questions
  • Develop relationships
  • Vote
  • Read and educate yourself  

Preparation materials:

Illusion of Transparency

Confirmatory bias

Confirmation bias

First Impression and First Impressions Count

Highlights from the discussion:

  • There was a question if first impressions are important and because of confirmation bias and the “Impostor syndrome” it is important to be aware of first impressions.
  • Everyone is concerned about first impressions
  • Having a mentor or sponsor or friend to guide you through new situations helps
  • Making an impression is a continuous act not a single event
  • When meeting a group, it only takes one person to make a new person feel less self-conscious and welcomed
  •  When presenting remember that you are the subject matter expert
  • Physical qualities influence impressions such as height, dress, positioning and grooming.  Be aware of what you can change  

Preparation materials:

Micro-agression: (disclaimer – one use of profanity)

Micro-inequities: is external)  

Highlights from the discussion:

  • The consensus was that most people want to know when they offend someone else
  • We have to educate others because most comments are from ignorance
  • Power differentials can make educating more difficult
  • Apologizing is helpful
  • Many instances can be ignored
  • Find a phrase to point out the comment that fits for you, i.e. “Are you kidding”

Preparation materials:

This video is not an endorsement but only gives one perspective: is external)

In summary a Black woman was asked to verify her information when writing a check when her cousin who appears White was not treated the same way and confronts the person.  The storyteller shares her feelings and hesitation with the injustice.

Highlights from the discussion:

  • Anyone who has courage should speak up.
  • Treat people the way you want to be treated.
  • The military is not immune to this behavior.
  • Saying something gives power, acknowledgement and counters the victim mentality