Pat Tille, PhD, MT(ASCP)
Step back for a moment and imagine if everyone was a medical laboratory scientist. What would the worldview look like? Would all individuals have labels on everything in their home, garage, and car? Would we lean everything we have, from clothing to food to everyday needs? Can you imagine that?
What if everyone had a PhD? Have you ever been in a room with 100 PhDs? As a PhD, I can tell you that at times that can be very disturbing and difficult to manage for anyone. No disrespect intended, but we can be a little different.
Take anything you want that you would normally associate with intelligent people—would you want a room, or a world, filled with clones of those individuals? Intelligence can be viewed in a variety of ways as well. Some people are very good with their hands, some are very good with writing, some are excellent at math. Intelligence is not a measure of some magical number that we can use to fit everyone into a single mold. Intelligence is associated with the development of skills and applying knowledge related to those skills. In the laboratory world, we may associate competency with intelligence. On a golf course, intelligence can be the ability to read the green, the wind, and the distance to sink the ball in the cup.
“[I]f you look at diversity in terms of skills, abilities, experiences, personality, morals, and values, you can see past the hate and become part of the solution.”
Let us take this one step further. Take intelligence and add the concept of emotional intelligence to the equation. This is a technique where you understand others; understand the skills and knowledge or intelligence of others around you. You use that working knowledge of those skills and abilities to maximize the work output in your laboratory and in the other tasks you do among friends or colleagues.
Why would I choose the term intelligent diversity as the focus of my article? In today’s state of the country, I find many of the recent actions and social media posts truly alarming and a demonstration of our lack of tolerance for diversity in the United States. However, if you look at diversity in terms of skills, abilities, experiences, personality, morals, and values, you can see past the hate and become part of the solution.
How do you develop an appreciation for intelligent diversity, which is looking at diversity in terms of skills, abilities, and so on? You must submerge yourself among others who are different. It does not matter what their ethnicity is, what their social status is, what their sexual orientation is, or how much money they may have; what matters is how they enrich your life and how you enrich theirs.
How do you know when you have reached a point where you can truly respect intelligent diversity? I think it is a personal feeling; it is knowing that you can walk into a room of people who have no idea who you are and carry on a meaningful conversation and leave the room with a new insight or idea. When you feel that every interaction you have with different individuals is enriching and an experience that you can learn from—and have no idea when you leave the room what their ethnicity is, what their sexual orientation is, where they are from, or how much money they have—you have embraced intelligent diversity.
One of the greatest compliments I have ever had in my life was from a student who said to me, “Dr. Tille, if I did not know you were a PhD, I would have never thought that about you.” Now you can take that one of two ways: an insult or a compliment. You know how I took it. If I can carry on a conversation with someone and they leave that conversation with a positive experience having grown from the interaction, that is a sign of embracing diversity.
Step back and be intelligent about diversity and be part of the solution. As laboratory professionals, I truly do believe that we have a different outlook about the world around us and are able to see diversity in a different way than other professions.
Pat Tille is Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director at the University of Cincinnati College of Allied Health Sciences and lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.