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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Diversity & Inclusion

Feinberg Launches Inaugural Sustained Dialogue Program

Feinberg students now have access to a resource to aid their efforts to engage in dialogue about difficult topics. Feinberg is the first academic medical center to pilot sustained dialogue (SD).

Hal Saunders, PhD, founder of the Sustained Dialogue Institute defined dialogue as a process of genuine interaction through which human beings listen to each other deeply enough to be changed by what they learn. Each makes a serious effort to take the other's concerns into their own picture, even when disagreements persist. No participants give up their identity, but each recognizes enough of the other's valid human claims so that they will act differently toward the other.

During the summer break, a group of 20 second-, third- and fourth-year students spent a weekend honing their inclusive leadership and moderating skills. Throughout the 2017–2018 academic year, five groups of students, each led by two moderators, will dialogue four topics: racial climate/privilege, religion, mental health and two open sections in which moderators and participants choose the topic.

Second-year medical student Monica Mehta described her experience in the program: "I have found that SD is a great place for gaining perspective. You brush past the small talk and really get to know the people you go to school with. You put faces to the challenges and hardships you only read about in books and hear about in the news. I was really excited to have difficult conversations with a group of medical students because we are all signing up for a profession that requires empathy day in and day out. I felt like this was the perfect group of people to have dialogue with, to be able to voice my own hardships and also gain perspective from my peers. SD is really exciting to be a part of because the group is action oriented. We talk about difficult topics and situations related to identity and then we work to DO something about that. In a place like Feinberg, which is constantly changing for the better, SD is a perfect fit. In my opinion, Feinberg is a place where the problems and solution proposals created by SD groups will actually be acted upon and taken seriously.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education and student government worked together to bring sustained dialogue to the student body. "Partnerships such as this are critical to ensure that our students have the best educational experience. We are grateful for our close working relationship and mutual goals that tremendously benefit our students," said Diane Wayne, MD, vice dean of Education.

Read more about medical students' experience participating in SD and their visits to Chicago neighborhoods to better understand their patients' backgrounds in a news story here.

Student dialogue

student dialogue

student dialogue