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October 27, 2009

Rush University Medical Center Employees Honored for Contributions to a Diverse Culture

Diversity Week Include Lectures, Discussions, Performances

CHICAGO-Rush University Medical Center is honoring three employees who have demonstrated exemplary leadership and initiative in supporting Rush’s diversity initiatives and activities. The award winners will be presented during “Rush Diversity Week” being held October 26 – 30.

Sharon D. Gates, MA, director of the Office of Community and Global Health and interim director of Multicultural Student Affairs, has been chosen as the inaugural recipient of the new Rush Diversity Leadership Award.

Sarah H. Ailey, PhD, RNC, associate professor, Department of Community, Systems and Mental Health Nursing, and Robyn Hart, MEd, director, Child Life Services, are this year’s winners of the Eugene J-MA Thonar PhD Award.

The Rush Diversity Leadership Award honors significant contributions to furthering Rush’s progress towards its mission of enhancing excellence in patient care, education, research and community service for the diverse communities of the Chicago area now and in the future. Gates will receive the award at a ceremony at Rush on Oct. 28 at 4 p.m.

Now in its 17th year, the Thonar Award will be presented on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at Rush. It’s given each year to a person in the Rush community—a staff member, faculty, student or volunteer—who has made outstanding contributions to Rush and enabled the institution to further its commitment of offering opportunities to individuals who are determined to turn a disability into a possibility, both professionally and personally.

The award was created in honor of Eugene Thonar, PhD, a member of the Diversity Leadership Group and the George W. Stuppy, MD, Professor of Arthritis, Section of Rheumatology.

“Sharon Gates embodies Rush’s diversity commitment and is richly deserving to be the first recipient of the Rush Diversity Leadership Award,” said Bradley Hinrichs, a member of the Diversity Leadership Group and administrative vice president of transformation at Rush. “Her nominators described her commitment to and work promoting diversity at Rush using such words as leader, innovator, role model, mentor, advocate, door opener, ambassador and icon.”

Gates created the hugely successful RU Caring Back to School Fair, which serves hundreds of Chicago children each year. She also helped in the creation of a wellness education program for senior citizens in Chinatown. She strengthened Rush’s connections with the Hispanic community by reaching out to the Mexican Consulate and Spanish language radio stations. She continually encourages Rush to be a model of diversity in her work with Rush trustees, attending physicians, veteran faculty, community leaders including senators and aldermen, for-profit and not-for-profit CEO’s, former, current and prospective students and Rush employees at every level.

Ailey and Hart organized a multi-disciplinary committee of 22 individuals and created a program to help Rush better meet the needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They’ve provided numerous staff training programs, consultation services, a pre-hospitalization program for patients and their caretakers, and a helpline for caretakers and their families. Working through the Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Committee (AIDD Committee), they created new educational tools and formats for increasing Rush staff competencies in serving and treating adults with these disabilities.

Diversity Week is organized by the Diversity Leadership Group at Rush. The group was established in 2007 to provide direction and guidance for a diversity commitment that reflects the mission, vision, and values of Rush. The three focus areas of the group include: Leadership and Accountability; Hiring, Retention, and Promotion; and Training and Improved Communication.

Diversity Week at Rush is a celebration of the contributions and differences provided by everyone who works, studies and teaches at Rush and rooted in respect for each other. This means recognizing, valuing and enabling the contributions of each employee and creating a work environment where differences are accepted and valued, according to the Diversity Leadership Group. This environment leads to compassionate care for the many patients who come to the Rush every day.

Other Diversity Week activities include:

  • Performance by actors from Victory Gardens Theater of a play written by Sarah Ailey titled “Of Jewels and Dreams.” The play reading will be held Monday, Oct. 26 from 4 to 6 p.m.

  • Lois Halstead, PhD, RN, vice provost and vice president, university affairs will moderate a panel discussion about the value of diversity in health care and education on Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 4 to 6 p.m. The panel features Martin R. Castro, JD, vice president of external affairs, Aetna Foundation; Sue Gin, chairman and CEO, Flying Foods and Rush Trustee; Dwight McBridge, PhD, MA, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago; and Peter Weil, PhD, vice president, American College of Healthcare Executives.

  • “A Culturally Conscious Model of Health Care Delivery” featuring speaker Josepha Campinha-Bacote, PhD, president and founder of Transcultural C.A.R.E. Associates will be presented on Thursday, Oct. 29 from 4 to 6 p.m.

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