Belmont’s College of Health Sciences recently welcomed Dr. Karen Bankston, associate dean for clinical practice, partnership and community engagement in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing, to campus as a Scholar in Residence. From February 20-24, Bankston led students and faculty in convocations, lectures, small group discussions and even one-on-one conversations surrounding the role that diversity plays in the health care system. Bankston has been working in the health care industry for over 40 years in areas ranging from trauma care in the emergency room to psychological health. She spent her week at Belmont speaking to students and faculty on topics centered on social leadership in the 21st Century.
At her convocation event on February 22, Bankston discussed the history of health care in the U.S., starting with the conception of the idea that care should be provided to everyone, including those who can’t afford it, which surfaced during the Civil Rights Movement. She focused on how the industry has had to adapt, like everything else, to changes in technology, moving from an industrial society to a technological one and from a national consumer base to a global market. Due to these advancements in the way that society functions, the focus of health care shifted to meeting the needs of an audience that expected fast and immediate attention. The idea no longer seemed to be centered on the patients being served or on the quality of the service, but rather on the money that could be made through providing the quickest gratification.
“There is no health care industry in the United States,” Bankston said. “What we have in the U.S. is an illness care industry.” With the emphasis of care being placed on those who are already sick instead of also working to promote wellness and prevent illness from occurring in the first place, different areas within the industry are straying away from their common goal of providing care. Bankston raised the question, “When is it okay to let one’s rights take a backseat to cost and quality?”
Bankston also discussed the role that social leadership should play in creating change where and when change is needed. She described social leaders as the ones who “bridge the gap between what is and what should be” and encouraged students and faculty to always question why things are done the way they are.
Bankston’s visit gave CHS faculty members the opportunity to open a discussion regarding the role that social contexts play in creating disparities in the health care industry. This information is being considered moving forward as the School of Nursing works to launch a new curriculum this fall.
“Dr. Bankston challenged us with shared experiences and insights into our academic social responsibilities, and we’re especially grateful for her frank contributions to our on-going dialogue about diversity and inclusion. She is an inspiration for future healthcare professionals,” said Dr. Cathy Taylor, dean of the College of Health Sciences.
“We know that the health care workforce needs to look more like the population we serve,” added Dr. Martha Buckner, associate dean and professor in the School of Nursing. “We lack diversity in our professions and we believe the dialogue generated around [Bankston’s visit] will help move us forward. We also know that health professions faculty need to be more diverse and we hope to inspire a future generation of diversity for academia.”