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In the fall of 2021, UW Medicine’s Office of Healthcare Equity formed the Cultural Observances and Implementation Subcommittee (COIS) to streamline, coordinate and advance the work of recognizing and celebrating cultural observance months and holidays.

A diverse team

COIS is chaired by Priscilla Estrada, community and workforce engagement specialist for the Office of Healthcare Equity, and Enedina Dumas, strategic outreach manager for the Center for Women and Children and a member of the UW Medical Center – Montlake EDI committee. Members meet bi-monthly to discuss current projects, plan for future celebrations, and evaluate feedback received from the UW Medicine community. 

Subcommittee members include employees from all four hospital campuses, the Office of Healthcare Equity and Shared Services, including a variety of roles from patient care services to volunteer services to marketing. 

“Representation is so important, especially in the workplace. Our goal is to celebrate and bring awareness to our diverse communities within UW Medicine. We strive to provide both education by sharing articles that discuss disparities, in addition to sharing joy via music videos and cultural foods in our cafeterias,” Estrada says. “Having worked within UW Medicine for the last 13 years, it is such a privilege to co-chair this subcommittee and see the celebration of diverse cultures become a priority. I look forward to our continued work.” 

Working together

The subcommittee’s work spans from coordinating flag raisings at each hospital to producing stylized Zoom backgrounds and signage to creating custom menu items for the cafeterias with information relevant to the culture celebrated.  

For each cultural celebration, subcommittee members consult affinity groups and individuals within and outside of UW Medicine who identify as members of the culture being celebrated and center their voices through features such as employee profile articles and articles of historical or current relevance to the cultural observance. 

“My hope is that people see the work we do and it piques their curiosity and makes them want to learn more about a culture they might not have known much about,” says Dumas. “Then they might start asking questions, having discussions with others, or doing more research on their own. Hopefully, this helps us all be more inclusive in the workplace and our communities.”

A year’s worth of celebrations 

Each year, UW Medicine recognizes and observes a range of cultural celebrations:  

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration (January) 
  • Black History Month (February) 
  • Women’s History Month (March) 
  • Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May) 
  • Pride Month (June) 
  • Juneteenth (June 19) 
  • Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) 
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day (Oct. 11)  
  • Native American Heritage Month (November) 

How to give feedback to the COIS team

UW Medicine employees, committees or groups may request or recommend that additional events or initiatives be sanctioned by UW Medicine, by completing the Request for EDI Event/Initiative to be Sanctioned by UW Medicine form.