Dr. Winokur speaks to improving our culture as a member of the UIHC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force


In our ongoing series about the UI Health Care Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, we spoke with Pat Winokur, MD, executive dean, Carver College of Medicine. Winokur is a professor of internal medicine specializing in infectious diseases.

You were selected to co-chair the DEI Environment & Climate Committee. What does this selection mean to you?

I think I was chosen because the climate really needs to span throughout the organization. And so that includes the clinical environment, the educational environment, and the research environment. All three of those missions are important to UI Health Care. The college, which is where I have more of my leadership activities, allows me a glimpse into all three of those missions.

How would you define diversity, equity, and inclusion?

We know that the U.S. population is becoming more and more diverse, and there are special needs in certain segments of the population. We need to be much more cognizant of those specific needs. It’s not treating everybody exactly the same, rather, it’s realizing that some people may need a little extra help to get up to the same level as others. How do we make sure that we add some extra training or extra support so that they can? Because we know they have the abilities, it’s just the matter of getting the right kind of opportunities and education that bring them up to a level playing field.

What do you and your committee members hope to accomplish?

We need to embed our efforts throughout all our activities and make this almost a continuous infusion of thoughts. One person in our group said, we have journal club. And now we ask, did that journal article address disparate populations? Did they only enroll Caucasians between the ages of 18 and 50? Is it then failing to even have an opportunity to address whether there might be some differences in different populations? If they did identify some differences, what are some of the biologic reasons or socioeconomic reasons (which are often called the social determinants of health)? Our goal is to instill throughout the organization practices that become second nature as we’re doing training, clinical care, and research, where we do think about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What drew you to infectious diseases as your specialty?

When I got to medical school, I really liked the concept that you’re examining the whole person and trying to understand what their exposures have been, what their lifestyle is, and how all of those can play an important role in determining the correct diagnosis. We get to know our patients probably better than many other physicians because our patients’ jobs, their pets, their family life, and their hobbies help us with their diagnosis.

What might you tell someone considering a career in medicine?

I always tell the students this is one of the most flexible careers they can choose. So maybe they’re interested in education. There are a lot of opportunities to work in an academic medical center. Maybe they’re interested in public policy. There’s a lot of public policy in medicine. Maybe they really like to take care of patients, obviously there are ample opportunities for that. There are many ways you can keep reinvigorating yourself throughout your career; medicine gives you a lot of growth potential.

What do you enjoy doing when not at work?

I’m mostly outdoors. I’m bicycling. My husband and I have an acreage that’s about an hour north of here. We love walking around the pathways we’ve created in the prairie and the woods.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020