OHSU faculty, leaders launch dialogue on sexual harassment

Having tough conversations to get to inclusion

Jan. 23, 2018

"We are going to have the tough conversations to make this an inclusive environment for all of us," Jackie Wirz, Ph.D., assistant dean for Graduate Studies, OHSU School of Medicine

Some of the organizers involved in planning campus-wide events

Faculty are launching a campus-wide dialogue on sexual harassment supported by the OHSU leadership team including Provost Elena Andresen and School of Medicine Dean Sharon Anderson. Photo, from left: Karen Eden, Ph.D.; Leslie Garcia, M.P.A.; Andrea Cedfeldt, M.D.; Sharon Anderson, M.D.; Jackie Wirz, Ph.D.; Mitzi Boardman, D.D.S., M.S.


It started small. Mitzi Boardman, D.D.S., M.S., National Library of Medicine postdoctoral fellow, began a series of conversations with Karen Eden, Ph.D., professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology, OHSU School of Medicine, about sexual harassment. The discussions became increasingly focused on action. They gathered peers, got the enthusiastic support of OHSU Provost Elena Andresen and a series of campus dialogues was born.

The OHSU Sexual Harassment Awareness Dialogues are:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 31, Richard Jones Hall 4340, noon to 1 p.m., listening session | Add to calendar (OHSU login required)
  • Tuesday, Feb. 27, Richard Jones Hall 4340, noon to 1 p.m., open lunch conversation
  • Tuesday, March 13, Doernbecher Vey Auditorium, noon to 2 p.m., workshops

"In the moment when it's happening you kind of go gray—is this right? Is this wrong? Did I do something to give the impression that this is okay?" said Dr. Boardman. "It's much easier to not tell someone. It's important to know what the resources are and what to do."

Once they landed on the idea of workshops "very, very quickly, everyone signed on," Dr. Eden said. "Everyone seemed to have been touched in different ways by this issue."

As Andrea Cedfeldt, M.D., associate professor of medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, and vice chair for faculty development, Department of Medicine, observed, organizations with higher percentages of women in leadership roles have less sexual harassment and discrimination.

"If you look at our leadership right now, it is a seize-the-moment time," Dr. Cedfeldt said, referencing the women at OHSU in visible senior leadership roles, including executive and senior vice presidents, vice presidents and department heads.

"It is everyone's task and problem—we need bystander education and involvement to empower people with the skills to personally ask 'is that okay?' and 'why did you just say that to my colleague?'" Dr. Cedfeldt said. We have to "create a culture where not only is harassment not tolerated, but we all treat each other with respect."

OHSU as a community faces the dual challenge of internal culture as well as how providers are treated by patients, notes Leslie Garcia, M.P.A., assistant chief diversity officer, assistant vice provost and director, OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion. And understanding discrimination isn't always straightforward, as Garcia points out: "It's not just sexual harassment, it's creating an environment that might feel hostile or belittling."

To that end, the events are open to everyone, of every gender identity and allies.

"We need everybody looking out for everybody," said Dr. Boardman.

Across campus, many OHSU team members representing Title IX, Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Ombudsman, JBT Health and Wellness Center, OHSU Faculty Senate, School of Medicine, Graduate Studies, Human Resources and Women in Academic Medicine have come together to plan this series of events.

The Jan. 31 event is a listening session, facilitated by Allison Fryer, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate studies, OHSU School of Medicine, with Provost Andresen, Dean Anderson, Connie Seeley, OHSU executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief of staff to the president, and Alice Cuprill-Comas, J.D., OHSU vice president and general counsel.

Following the Jan. 31 listening session, there will be an open lunch conversation on Feb. 27 and two hours of workshops on March 13.

"We are positively identifying resources for a constructive dialogue about how to be a holistic community," said Jackie Wirz, Ph.D., assistant dean for graduate student affairs, OHSU School of Medicine. "This is an absolutely unique opportunity and indicative of where OHSU is taking this movement. We are going to have the tough conversations to make this an inclusive environment for all of us."