Courtney Lyder Tapped to Head Two Diversity Initiatives

October 30, 2006

Oct. 20, 2006 -- Courtney Lyder, a leading voice in patient care and diversity issues in healthcare, has been appointed to head two University of Virginia diversity initiatives. The University of Virginia Medical Center Professor of Nursing and Internal Medicine and Geriatrics and head of the School of Nursing’s Department of Acute and Specialty Care, Lyder will chair the President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action and be the first director for diversity initiatives for the Medical Center and School of Nursing.

With a health system that attracts patients from all over the world, Lyder’s personal goal is to “have a Medical Center staff that looks like the populations they serve.” Of his role as chair of the president’s committee, Lyder said, “We need to make sure the playing field is level for faculty, students and staff and focus on assuring that movement within the University is fair an equitable for all.”

“When Courtney first came to the University, he began helping the school look more thoughtfully at diversity,” said School of Nursing Dean Jeanette Lancaster. “He is passionate about the topic and as a member of an underrepresented group in nursing, he is ideal to be a spokesperson for the need to recruit and retain a more diverse nursing workforce.”

As chair of the school’s own diversity committee, which he headed from 2003 to 2005, Lyder recognized redundancy of offerings and the lack of coordination on diversity initiatives between the nursing school and Medical Center.

In his new role as director of diversity initiatives “his goal is to use our scarce resources of talent, time and money more effectively and in a more coordinated fashion,” Lancaster said. “That is why his involvement with both the School of Nursing and the Medical Center is so important. Our work together should be closely intertwined.”

Lyder is already embracing ideas for developing strategies to address diversity issues related to students, faculty, staff and curriculum at the nursing school.

“We need to insure that we have a curriculum that helps students and faculty meet the needs of a diverse population,” Lyder said. Diversity recruitment in the school has risen in recent years, with a combined graduate and undergraduate minority enrollment of about 10 percent.

Noting that at both the School of Nursing and the Medical Center the end focus is on the patient, he recognizes the need for diversity at every level.

Within the Medical Center, Lyder plans to address issues that will create a staff that is sensitive to the diversity of the patients they serve, as well as discover avenues to highlight the diversity in the workforce that already exists.

“We have come a long way,” he said, but emphasized that the impact has not been felt partly because there is not an awareness of the accomplishments and initiatives already in place. Creating that awareness will be one focus of his work. “There are stories to tell,” Lyder said. Last year the medical center purchased a computerized program “culture gram” that allows nurse clinicians to learn quickly unique aspects of providing care to diverse populations, The school of nursing now requires applicants to write an essay on how they can contribute to the growing diversity at U.Va. 

The position was created to bring greater light to diversity efforts, said Peg Van Bree, chief operations officer at the Medical Center. With Lyder’s clinical background, his appointment is a “really great example of how the Medical Center and School of Nursing can work together.”
Lyder knows the initiative cannot be addressed from the top down. He will keep his eyes and ears open and work with members of the nursing and medical communities at all levels to develop a strategic plan. It’s those who have daily patient and student contact who will provide ideas for change, he said.

“Within the diversity initiatives I want to be able to seed some pilot projects,” Lyder said. “As I listen to students, faculty and workers, I want to respond to their needs.”

Diversity is a Universitywide initiative and a top priority of the Board of Visitors. Assuming the chairmanship of the President’s Commission on Diversity/Affirmative Action, of which Lyder has been a member for the past two years, is another realm where he will address concerns across a broad range of diversity-related issues.

The group of about 24 members from all areas of the University community are charged with identifying and assuring that there are proper policies, procedures and institutional practices in place to enhance the University’s ability to take active, affirmative measures to create greater diversity within all areas of the University — faculty, students and staff.

Championing underrepresented populations is not a new role for Lyder, who came to the School of Nursing in 2003 after a stint at Yale University. His investigation of the prevention of pressure ulcers in dark-skinned patients led to his appointment as a member of a federal panel that revised patient care guidelines for nursing homes, and strengthened the penalty for violating them. Lyder’s current research includes a study of the quality of wound care in the United States — including best practices and an examination of cost — and an analysis of patient safety issues for elder adult Medicare beneficiaries in U.S. hospitals. With a three-year grant, he is developing a master’s level geriatric nurse practitioner program. Lyder, who is the first black male to hold a chaired professorship of nursing, also takes time to informally mentor young black men and minorities in the School of Nursing.