August is National Civility Month, and while the concept of affinity months can seem forced and artificial, the importance of reflecting on, and modeling, civility in our daily interactions is no less real or relevant throughout the year.
The National Institutes of Health explored the subject of civility in its collection of articles on Covid-19. Most of us think of civility as displaying a common politeness and courtesy in our behavior with others. But scholars also advance a broader definition worth considering: Civility as public mindedness.
In the article Understanding Civility, authors Matteo Bonotti and Steven T. Zech state: “Civility as public-mindedness refers to the way we interact with others via our actions and speech in societies characterized by diversity and disagreement… to respect others as free and equal means to respect their fundamental rights, liberties, and equal civic standing. It means, for example, refraining from using physical violence against others, discriminating against them, or using racist or other types of expression that portray members of certain groups as physically, intellectually, or morally inferior.”
Incivility impacts employee performance, increases turnover and compromises relationships. Research tells us managers spend the equivalent of seven weeks a year dealing with the effects of incivility. And the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety stated, “Harm from disrespect is the next frontier in preventable harm.”
At the School of Medicine, I’m pleased we offer Stepping In 4 Respect, a resource developed by UVA to foster a culture of respect and inclusion. VCU health sciences schools are offering training workshops throughout the year to help mitigate the impact of disrespect and bias in clinical and academic environments. I recently attended one of the trainings and encourage all who have the opportunity to do so.
Our diversity is a strength, not a weakness, and sustaining an environment of mutual respect is not only critical to our success, but also is the right thing to do. I am proud of the institution we are, and even more proud we proactively commit to taking steps to be continuously learning and improving as a school, as a workplace and as an important and vital member of the communities we serve.
As colleagues and peers, let’s use Civility Month as a year-round reminder to ensure every member of our SOM community is respected and valued for who they are and for the diverse qualities they bring to the education, research and patient care we provide every day.
With respect and gratitude,
Arturo P. Saavedra, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System