Important Conversations; Listening to the Experiences of Others

Throughout FY21 the Department of Pathology is holding Diversity & Inclusion “Listening Sessions”.  These are open opportunities for staff and faculty to come together and share experiences, feelings, resources, and ways we can move forward.  Held via zoom in this era of safe distancing has allowed   groups of individuals to join in and learn from one another.

In the Spring we will focus our listening sessions on momentum, with the knowledge of our history, the painful lessons of recent events – what are we doing differently now and in the future; what are we as a JH Pathology community doing to move us forward in a new era!

This month (January 2021); our conversation starter has been the news released in December that researchers are looking at census data of our benefactor Mr. Johns Hopkins in an era where Maryland had both enslaved people and freed slaves, an underground railroad and a unique position between the North and the South.  Additional sessions are being held January 19 and 28.

During the month of August 2020, the Pathology Department held 6 Diversity Listening Sessions. While we would have preferred in-person connection, we held these sessions via ZOOM due to continued social distancing practices.  The focus of our sessions was Black Lives Matter, and the opportunity to listen to our staff who showed courage and vulnerability in sharing their experiences both in the community and in their work at Johns Hopkins. Staff of different races contributed to our discussions, and/or provided a supportive and safe space to do so. Dr. Ralph Hruban attended each discussion, and we appreciated the honesty, compassion, and ideas shared in each unique session. It is in listening and acknowledging the stereotypes and biases faced in and out of the workspace that we can begin to understand and work together towards making a difference.

In full transparency, we wanted to share some of the common themes we have heard throughout the sessions so far:

  • We have staff hurting, and staff that do not feel included in all things.  We need to further foster inclusiveness and a place where staff can be their authentic self professionally.
  • We have many that care, and want all teammates to feel included and heard.
  • That many do not understand or have knowledge about the historical aspects of some events, or can learn more about their current communities and needs.
  • Department must continue and expand outreach to students; encourage minorities in science, lab careers. Provide resources and the educational pathway required to reach their career goal. Advise next steps on how to apply/get them into applicant pool for our positions.  (all levels staff and faculty)
  • Provide staff and faculty with career pathing info.  How do we grow and support our future leaders, see attainable opportunities & how to get there.
  • Continue the efforts of the Staff Diversity committee and expand opportunities for conversations like these to be ongoing.
  • Training or Communication on how to address / step forward / say something when things are not equitable or appear insensitive, inappropriate, or racist.  How to continue the work on awareness of unconscious bias; and changing behaviors that reflect bias.
  • A desire to move forward, to be the change, to live differently and be leaders into a new inclusive era.

We look forward to a brighter, inclusive future.  Working together we believe we can achieve that in time – these discussions are just one small step.  There are more resources on the horizon, including JHM sponsored Town Halls and a training on Unconscious Bias to begin roll out across JHM soon.  Following the sessions, a number of books, movies, and articles shared by the participants and by JHM Diversity leaders were communicated out and added to our Diversity page on our Pathology website.

Encouraging everyone to take the time to listen, learn, and reflect.  We must focus on any bias, unconscious or not; and how we may challenge ourselves and each other to work beyond and change for the future. It is critical as a department and as members of the Johns Hopkins and Baltimore community that we step up, stand out, and demand not just equity and inclusion, but demand of each other that we do better.  Our future together!


Doris Pendergrass
Clinical HR Manager
JH Pathology