Putting a DEI lens on cancer communications

Kim Clark leads the pre-conference workshop, "Using a DEI LENS: Showing and Telling Our DEI Story Through Outcomes," at the NACCDO-PAMN Annual Conference in Salt Lake City.
Kim Clark leads the pre-conference workshop, “Using a DEI LENS: Showing and Telling Our DEI Story Through Outcomes,” at the NACCDO-PAMN Annual Conference in Salt Lake City.

The 2016 Pulse night club mass shooting in Orlando. The 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The 2020 murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. The ensuing social unrest rocked our country and sparked ongoing national debate.

Even as these societal shifts continue to occur, corporations and organizations that waded into the controversial and politically charged conversation found themselves ill-prepared to respond appropriately.

As communicators for national cancer centers, we play a critical role in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Since 2021, the National Cancer Institute has included diversity as a component in its Cancer Center Support Grant guidelines. Cancer centers applying for the grant must include a “Plan to Enhance Diversity” among its oncology workforce.

In addition, we need to be able to talk about the research to address well-documented cancer disparities. So, how do we know we are using the right terms that reflect our commitment to DEI in a way that is trustworthy for our audiences? How can we tell our story through a DEI lens?

This was the subject of the pre-conference workshop at this year’s NACCDO-PAMN Annual Conference. The workshop was led by Kim Clark, a DEI communications consultant and speaker and co-author of “The Conscious Communicator: The Fine Art of Not Saying Stupid Sh*t.”

Using real-world examples, Clark illustrated what it means to put a DEI lens on communications and how to tell our story through outcomes — not simply listing activities or hanging credibility solely on language in our DEI commitments.

Being a conscious communicator takes more time, but the ultimate goal is to foster a community where everyone thrives. To put this idea into action, Clark shared the acronym L.E.N.S., which stands for:

  • Language the promise
  • Engage the people
  • Navigate the power
  • Strategize the process

For those who are worried about saying the wrong thing, Clark urged us to give space and grace; to stay curious and open. For those of us whose state has introduced anti-DEI legislation, Clark recommended doing the work and showing the outcomes without using the term. She believes that things are going to get worse in culture and society before it gets better but, ultimately, we are ushering a new, more inclusive way of communicating.

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