Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Samuel Merritt University's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is expressed through its mission statement, "to educate students to become highly skilled and compassionate healthcare professionals who positively transform the experience of care in diverse communities." In light of the demographics of our local communities and the vital role a diverse healthcare workforce plays in reducing healthcare disparities, the University has identified diversity as a strategic imperative. Diversity is a core strategy embedded in the ongoing work of the institution at all levels.

    Our Mission

    The mission of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) is to foster a culture of service, inclusion, and excellence.

    • We create a sense of belonging for all campus members
    • We educate a diverse and culturally responsive health care workforce
    • We develop culturally competent leaders that reflect community demographics
    • We work to reduce health care disparities in vulnerable communities

    Principles of Community

    As part of the Office of People and Culture, we're guided by SMU's principles of community.

    • We affirm the value of human diversity, respecting our differences while acknowledging our common humanity
    • We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate based on mutual respect, fairness, and inclusion, calling for civility and decency in our personal interactions, regardless of position or status in the academy
    • We respect the right of freedom of expression within our community and value the different perspectives of others, recognizing and appreciating these differences builds trust and contributes to the excellence of the university
    • We challenge all forms of behavior that are prejudicial, discriminatory, and detrimental, or contrary to the values expressed in this document; and we take responsibility for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education and our interactions with one another
    • As a community, we are committed, individually and collectively, to embodying and safeguarding these principles

    Process and Procedure
    This report allows Samuel Merritt University to monitor and effectively respond to activity that negatively affects the campus climate. By reporting bias incidents, you are reaffirming our Principles of Community . Once received, ODI will review the information and may contact you for additional information. ODI will protect your anonymity and confidentiality to the extent permitted by law. Dependent on the nature of your report, ODI will collaborate with designated campus leadership to develop resolutions and/or recommendations regarding the circumstances of your report.  We thank you for completing this form.

    Definition of Bias Incident
    Speech or action that targets, attacks, or restricts the free movement of an individual, a group, or property of an individual or group because of their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sex, gender identity, veteran status, disability, sexual orientation, age, or any other protected personal characteristic.

    File Report

    Dear SMU Community,

    ODI is excited to announce the 2019-20 Community Reads selection The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity. Over the year, you are welcome to participate in shared readings, discussions, and events surrounding this book.

    Can severe childhood stress lead to cancer, stroke, and dementia?

    Nadine Burke Harris, M.D., Bay Area physician and California State Surgeon General, skillfully conveys her groundbreaking research related to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the potential lifetime effects of childhood adversity and toxic stress on the body’s systems and wellbeing. Burke Harris is a thought and practice leader who, as founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point, developed a screening tool and evidence-based interventions that can minimize or prevent lifelong illness.

    Clinicians have repeatedly experienced the shock of seeing “something’s just not right” with our “standard evaluations.” The Deepest Well powerfully demonstrates Burke Harris’ process to find a solution rooted in re-examining how long-held social inequities affect individuals across the life span informing the encounter between the provider and patient. She provides the “ACEs antidote,” a proven strategy for making a difference by acting as servants of public health, encouraging the reader to challenge assumptions and consider the compassion and courage required to build a beloved community.

    All members of the SMU community are invited to read The Deepest Well this summer in preparation for discussions with leaders in trauma-informed care and implementation of the ACEs in clinical practice along with other local luminaries.

    The book is available for loan at SMU and local libraries in print, electronic, and audible form.

    Shirley Strong, Chief Diversity Officer, Co-Chair, Community Reads
    Marjorie Hammer, MSN, FNP, SON Professor, Co-Chair, Community Reads

    CITATION: Burke Harris, N. (2018). The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity. Mariner Books, NY: NY. ISBN-13: 978-1-328-50266-7                                                                                                 Mhammer 03.17.2019

    Prior Years' Community Reads Books

    2018-2019 Community Reads: The 57 bus: A true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives & "You're in the Wrong Bathroom" And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions About Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People 

    2016-2018 Community Reads: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink, Ph.D

    2015-2016 Community Reads: Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Workers in the United States by Seth M. Holmes, PhD, MD.

    2014-2015 Community Reads: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

    The Dr. Cornelius Hopper Diversity Excellence Award is designed to inspire faculty and staff to engage in activities that will advance health equity and make a lasting impact on individual health and community well-being. The award is named for and honors Dr. Cornelius Hopper, who joined the SMU Board in 1997 and served as its chair from 2000 to 2011. Dr. Hopper has been dedicated to addressing racial disparities in the nation’s healthcare system since 1971.


    • All faculty and staff who engage in activities that will advance health equity and/or make a lasting impact on individual health and community well-being on and/or off campus.

    Award and Recognition

    • Recipient will receive up to $1,000 and a personalized trophy.

    • Recipient will have their name inscribed on a perpetual plaque.

    • Recipient will be announced and presented during the 2020 Black History Month Celebration, February 25, 2020.


    Past nominations have included volunteers working to reduce sex trafficking, faculty who organize medical mission/immersion trips, establishment of affinity groups, humanitarian work, creation of a mentorship program, those who have built community relationships that help further the University's mission, and other volunteerism on and off campus.

    Past Recipients| Beginning, September 2019 the Sharon Clark Diaz Health Equity Leadership Award was created to honor students. 
    2014| Pride Committee: Josh Campbell, Tanya Grigg, and Dr. Anglyn Sasser, staff members 
    2015| Che Abram, staff member
    2016| Margrette Peterson, staff member
    2017| Students: Carmen Craven (BRIDGE mentorship program), Mohammad Deen (Humanitarian work), Nga Dwork (BRIDGE mentorship program), and Shante Myers (BRIDGE mentorship program)
    2018| Cynthia Stacy, RN, MSN, faculty member
    2019| Alice Jacobs Vestergaard, EdD, RN, faculty member

    The purpose of the Pride Committee is to identify and address issues pertaining to LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Agender, and Ally) students, staff, and faculty at the University. Allies are welcomed and encouraged to join.

    Current Goals of the Committee

    • Identify and address the needs of the LGBTQ+ community at Samuel Merritt University

    • Increase the LGBTQ+ presence/visibility on each campus

    • Create LGBTQ+ social opportunities and activities

    • Confirm gender equality in the application process

    • Identify scholarship opportunities for the LGBTQ+ population

    • Fundraise for LGBTQ+ Samuel Merritt University scholarship

    • Research healthcare volunteer opportunities within LGBTQ+ community for all students

    • Work with LGBTQ+ community/youth/medical/homeless centers to provide educational outreach

    • Find LGBTQ+ issues addressed in all program curriculums and seek out ways to increase exposure to healthcare issues unique to this community

    Learn More

    With the goal of making SMU an inclusive "beloved community"—envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr. as a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and the love of one’s fellow human beings, SMU’s HEALERS group focuses on:

    • Building knowledge among staff, students and faculty through book groups, speakers, regular discussions, and workshops on topics related to health inequities, structural competence, and white privilege
    • Sponsoring regular HEALS training and practice sessions, along with communications workshops
    • Expanding the School of Nursing’s Structural Competency Curriculum Integration workgroup to additional SMU degree programs
    • Policy changes at the institutional level, including adding inclusion work to annual performance reviews for staff and faculty, and revising search processes to make them more inclusive


    Halt—Pause the discussion. Ask to clarify. Focus on the idea. Use "I" language to express concern

    Engage—Let's talk about the issues embedded in this concept. Who might be affected? What are the health care implications?

    Allow—Trade opinions, stories, perspectives, articles, reaction

    Learn—From one another through engaged and active listening

    Synthesize—Connect the dialogue to health care equity and quality of care

    For more information: Mary McCall, faculty diversity coordinator,

    Instructors gathered around a computer

    Office of People & Culture

    Providing employees with a safe working environment, open communications, competitive pay and benefits, and a professional environment. (Formerly Human Resources).

    Office of People & Culture

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