Diversity: The collective mixture of differences and similarities that includes individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, and behaviors. It encompasses our personal and professional histories that frame how we see the world, collaborate with colleagues and stakeholders, and serve communities (CommonHealth ACTION, adapted from Washington State Human Resources, n.d.).

Implicit Bias: Attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control (Kirwin Institute, n.d.).

Inclusion: Active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity, including intentional policies and practices that promote the full participation and sense of belonging of every employee, customer, or client (CommonHealth ACTION, adapted from Riggs, 2012 & Xavier University, n.d.).

Ethnicity: The Institute on Medicine (IOM), in a 1999 report edited by Haynes and Smedley, defines ethnicity as how one sees oneself and how one is seen by others as part of a group on the basis of presumed ancestry and sharing a common destiny. Common threads that may tie one to an ethnic group include skin color, religion, language, customs, ancestry, and occupational or regional features. In addition, persons belonging to the same ethnic group share a unique history different from that of other ethnic groups. Usually a combination of these features identifies an ethnic group. For example, physical appearance alone does not consistently identify one as belonging to a particular ethnic group.

Underrepresented in Medicine: "Underrepresented in medicine means those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population."

Adopted by the AAMC's Executive Council on June 26, 2003, the definition helps medical schools accomplish three important objectives:

Before June 26, 2003, the AAMC used the term "underrepresented minority (URM)," which consisted of Blacks, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans (that is, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians), and mainland Puerto Ricans. The AAMC remains committed to ensuring access to medical education and medicine-related careers for individuals from these four historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.

Sexual orientation: Defined by the Human Rights Campaign as "an inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people."

Gender identity: Defined by the Human Rights Campaign as "one's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth."

Gender expression: Defined by the Human Rights Campaign as "external appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine."

Intersectionality: Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality, the idea that when it comes to thinking about how inequalities persist, categories like gender, race, and class are best understood as overlapping and mutually constitutive rather than isolated and distinct.— The Atlantic, Adia Harvey Wingfield

Cultural competence: The NCCC embraces a conceptual framework and definition of cultural competence that requires organizations to:

  • have a defined set of values and principles, and demonstrate behaviors, attitudes, policies, and structures that enable them to work effectively cross-culturally.
  • have the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct self-assessment, (3) manage the dynamics of difference, (4) institutionalization of cultural knowledge, and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of the communities they serve.
  • incorporate the requirements above in all aspects of policy development, administration, and practice/service delivery and involve consumers systematically (modified from Cross, Bazron, Dennis, & Isaacs, 1989).

Race: The IOM report (Haynes & Smedley, Eds., 1999) states that in all instances race is a social and cultural construct. Specifically, a construct of human variability based on perceived differences in biology, physical appearance, and behavior.The IOM adds that the traditional conception of race rests on the false premise that natural distinctions grounded in significant biological and behavioral differences can be drawn between groups.