Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

March 10, 2022

Introducing a new Diversity Science Program for practice transformation

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

The Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery recently launched a new Diversity Science Program. This new focus area expands the ability of the center to provide evidence-based solutions that advance inclusive, equitable norms for organizational wellness and practice transformation. Diversity Science is the scientific discipline that concerns the explication and elimination of racism, inequity, exclusion, and health disparities.

environmental portrait of Dr. Blocker
Renaldo Blocker, Ph.D.

The new program is led by Renaldo Blocker, Ph.D., a health care systems engineering researcher and a champion of diversity and equity at Mayo Clinic. For this role, Dr. Blocker has been designated the center's associate director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and holds the endowed position of Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Honored Investigator for Diversity Science. Dr. Blocker also chairs Mayo Clinic's Equity, Inclusion and Diversity committee in Rochester, Minnesota.

"Given the institution’s commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity, it is imperative that we seriously reimagine and/or revamp how we approach diversity here at Mayo Clinic; we must move from a series of cosmetic victories to sustainable and integrated practices based on data and analytics," says Dr. Blocker. "We want to recruit and truly retain clinicians, researchers and other staff into an organization that reflects the diversity of our local community, nation and world. This in turn allows us to fluidly and naturally engage our patients and the communities we live and work in."

"The Diversity Science Program will engage in the development or refinement and evaluation of practical and effective tools and strategies to accelerate consistent progress towards inclusive organizational cultural norms," he says.

All with a sense of urgency, and a need to create sustainable and meaningful change for Mayo Clinic and beyond.

Speaking about diversity science and health equity research in the world at large, faculty member Gladys Asiedu, Ph.D., says "It’s about time we change the science of characterizing inequities and disparities and move towards impactful science that implements interventions and programs resulting in equity and meaningful outcomes."

Focus, faculty and footprint

The Kern Center's new Diversity Science program aims to understand the current state of diversity, equity, and inclusion at an institutional level, identify opportunities and barriers for progress, and employ robust measurement and analytical systems. The program will be one engine for assisting the institution with alleviating the experiences expressed by employees via various internal mechanisms. Results from the program’s research has the potential to inform national and international efforts to extenuate racism and reduce disparities in health and wellness.

The Diversity Science Program is comprised of innovative scientists, practitioners and staff with the collective knowledge and skills necessary to derive intentional results. Dr. Blocker's initial core team includes faculty members Dr. Asiedu and Sean Phelan, Ph.D., their administrative partner Ajay Jayakumar, and several other staff. The team will expand over time to include physicians, nursing, and other allied health staff.

“The program provides infrastructure and resources to support the health equity research of Kern Center faculty and will open new doors to study and implement strategies to make Mayo Clinic an equitable and inclusive place for all people to work and get excellent health care," says Dr. Phelan.

The program has both an inward and outward focus on equity, inclusion, and diversity through a three-pronged approach to effect change in the workforce and community, and for patients. Its efforts will be conducted in partnership with numerous Mayo Clinic entities, such as:

"Diversity science is in perfect alignment with the other focus areas within the science of health care delivery," says Sean Dowdy, M.D., Mayo Clinic's chief value officer. "In the center, we work from within the Practice, providing rigorous scientific methodology and building the evidence base for transformations in health and health care — including the cultural transformations that are sometimes both elusive and long overdue."

"We are pleased to be able to provide this type of expertise, and I am confident that Mayo Clinic staff and patients will benefit from the work led by the Diversity Science Program."

Dr. Dowdy leads the center as the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Associate Dean of Practice Transformation and is a gynecologic cancer surgeon.

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Tags: About, Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research, Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, diversity, Gladys Asiedu, health disparities, News, quality improvement, Renaldo Blocker, Sean Dowdy, Sean Phelan

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