Parting thoughts from President Diaz

November 19, 2018

Dear SMU community,

As I begin my last week as president of Samuel Merritt University, I look back at my more than four decades with pride and appreciation. It’s been a privilege to lead a University dedicated to educating students to become health care practitioners who will use their knowledge to improve the well-being of all communities.

Despite all of my good memories, I find myself thinking more about the present and the future. While we are all busy with our work, we cannot ignore the troubling events taking place around us. This is a very difficult time in California, where wildfires are killing people, destroying homes, and disrupting the lives of so many.

It is also a very distressing time for our nation with news on a daily basis that increases our anxiety. We learned last week that hate crimes rose sharply in the United States in 2017, with an increase of attacks against religious and racial minorities including Jews, Muslims, Latinos and African Americans.

Harsh political rhetoric has inflamed tensions, causing the differences between people to create a dangerous gulf. We were reminded of that recently when 11 people were murdered at a Pittsburgh synagogue and again when a black man and woman were fatally shot at a Kentucky grocery store.

We cannot allow adversity to shape our own behavior. Respect and appreciation for our differences are critical to creating a positive learning environment that will enable all of us to achieve our professional goals. Courtesy and civility are not only important values at SMU, but will be essential when our graduates provide health care to marginalized individuals and communities in the future.

When I created SMU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), a major goal was to support underrepresented students who will contribute to a more diverse health care workforce. Just as important to me was cultivating a climate of respect and cultural awareness on our campuses where all of us can feel accepted and appreciated.

Through a variety of initiatives, from speakers to trainings, ODI promotes values that help to unite us rather than divide us. My colleague Shirley Strong, SMU’s chief diversity officer, often speaks of building a beloved community. What that means to me is that through practicing compassion and tolerance, we can build a better world.

I have often said that I stayed at Samuel Merritt University as long as I have because I continued to learn with each passing year. My greatest hope is that you will all continue to benefit from the journey of discovery offered by SMU in a spirit of harmony.

With gratitude,

Sharon Diaz
President and CEO

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