Affinity groups bring employees together, promote diversity, respect

December 01, 2020

HERSHEY, Pa. — The screen was filled with people, some dressed in festive, colorful clothing and enjoying sweet treats. On the final night of the Hindu, Sikh and Jain holiday of Diwali, people gathered online to be together and enjoy the celebration.

The scene was exactly what Dr. Thyagarijan Subramanian and Carey Brevard wanted to see. The group they lead, the Penn State Health Capital Region (Dauphin) Multicultural Employee Affinity Group, planned the Nov. 16 event as a way to help individuals connect during Diwali.

“Part of our goal with the affinity group is to bring people together and raise awareness of different cultures and races,” said Subramanian, a neurologist at Penn State Neuroscience Institute and professor in the departments of Neurology and Neural and Behavioral Sciences at the College of Medicine. Brevard is director of Environmental and Linen Services at Hershey Medical Center. “That way we can understand one another and relate better to each other.”

Subramanian’s and Brevard’s group is one of seven employee affinity groups in Dauphin County that are sponsored by the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Penn State Health and the College of Medicine. New affinity groups are planned for Berks, Lancaster and Cumberland counties. The current plan is to launch the Multicultural and Military Veteran groups for Berks and Lancaster counties this month and other groups in future months.

Dauphin County groups include:

  • LGBTQ and Allies Affinity Resource/Network Group, which assists with education, information, support and advocacy services to Penn State Health and College of Medicine by creating and maintaining a safe, inclusive and equitable environment for LGBTQ students, learner, staff, faculty, alumni and patients.
  • Military and Veteran Affinity Group, dedicated to helping to create a military/veteran-friendly campus by recognizing, supporting and advocating the rights and needs of military and veteran employees, students and patients. It represents, communicates and organizes events to enhance the professional and personal advancement of employees with direct and indirect military affiliations within Penn State Health, the College of Medicine and the community.
  • NextGen Employee Affinity Group, which is committed to empowering the next generation of leaders at Penn State Health and the College of Medicine. Through networking, mentoring and community outreach, the goal is to empower diverse and career-driven professionals to reach their professional goals.
  • Multicultural Employee Affinity Group, which provides a forum to promote cultural awareness and knowledge, networking opportunities and professional development within Penn State Health and the College of Medicine. The group aspires to increase racial/ethnic diversity at all levels by building a stronger presence in the surrounding community and participating in recruitment, retention, development and career advancement efforts.
  • Disability Affinity Resource/Network Group, which provides advocacy and informational resources to help develop a more welcoming and inclusive environment for patients, students and faculty/staff with disabilities, and for those who are caregivers and advocates of persons with disabilities. This group also provides recommendations for advancing Penn State Health and the College of Medicine’s commitment to increase the representation of employees with disabilities in the workforce.
  • Interfaith Affinity Resource/Network Group, which aims to connect individuals from diverse spiritual beliefs and backgrounds to foster a respectful and inclusive environment for all. In addition, it strives to promote religious awareness throughout the organization through educational events and community outreach.
  • Group on Women in Medicine and Science, an Association of American Medical Colleges-affiliated organization, addresses employment interests of women physicians, researchers and other scientists.

“Employee affinity groups are an integral component of Penn State Health’s commitment to creating a respectful and inclusive workforce, providing culturally responsive care for our patients, education to our students, and making discoveries that create a greater well-being for everyone, regardless of background,” said Lynette Chappell-Williams, vice president and chief diversity officer of Penn State Health.

The affinity groups touch on many issues important to the Penn State Health and College of Medicine community. Subramanian said the multicultural group held a well-attended, productive meeting with the Derry Township police chief a few months ago about a variety of questions, including police training on racial bias. 

“Overall, we all are more aware that we are working in places with greater minority and multicultural workforces,” Brevard said. “We are now a global society, and the time is right for us to become a unified force.”

All affinity groups promote diversity, respect, integrity, transparency, teamwork, inclusiveness and excellence, according to their goals. Anyone who wants to join an affinity group in Dauphin County or wants to be part of the development of the affinity groups in Berks and Lancaster regions can email diversity@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

An upcoming affinity group program that’s open to everyone is:

  • Interfaith Holiday Celebration from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10, hosted by the Interfaith Employee Affinity Group. Sign up here.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 02, 2020