Rawls said through one recent community outreach project, a grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation allowed faculty to visit African-American churches in Gainesville to educate members on movement disorders and schedule free clinic appointments.

“The idea is to decrease barriers of access to care,” Rawls said. “Brain, spinal cord and nerve issues can be daunting, so there’s a need to engage with underserved communities and make their experiences seeking care comforting.”

She continued by talking about the importance of diversity in caregivers: “It helps a patient to have someone there who looks like you, who may have had a similar background and understands where you’re coming from,” Rawls said.

Department Chair Michael Okun, M.D., said the importance of the council cannot be understated for the neurology team.

“We place the Neurology Diversity and Inclusion Council at the center of everything we do,” he said. “Every staff, trainee and faculty member have signed on to the four core values of our department: integrity above all, strength through diversity, compassion and respect and team and service before self.  It is not an accident that diversity is listed just after integrity.”

Rawls said that other College of Medicine departments who are interested in creating their own diversity and inclusion councils are welcome to ask the neurology department for guidance.

“It all starts with identifying the need,” she said.

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