Trainees Reflect on Cultural and Linguistic Competency Conference

By Jennifer Cleofe, Tracy Hincke and Kacie McDonald, MCDD trainees

On September 22, 2020, trainees of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) attended the 10th annual Room to Grow: Journey to Cultural and Linguistic Competency Conference, hosted by Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training in collaboration with the MCDD. This was the first year the conference was held virtually. The primary goal of the conference is to increase the understanding of various equity approaches to promote health, leadership and well-being for all. Although virtual, this event was engaging and had a profound impact on our view of equity and diversity in health and healthcare.

Conference attendees included hundreds of professional leaders, educators, trainees and advocates from across the nation. Following the warm introduction by Kennedy Krieger’s president and CEO, Bradley L. Schlaggar, MD, PhD, were presentations on a variety of topics, including structural racism and segregation in Baltimore’s history, urban inequity, women in leadership, inclusion and social justice, d/Deaf* health equity, and the neuroscience of equity in decision-making. Each speaker motivated and challenged us, as trainees, to be more cognizant of our judgments, perceptions and behaviors toward others in both our personal and professional lives.

As MCDD trainees, we are learning to engage in leadership that advances the inclusion of people with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities, as well as equity for all. Understanding the root causes of discriminatory policies and practices, and how they intersect, will help us achieve this goal. Discriminatory policies and practices have created present-day inequities for individuals with disabilities. Communities have been marginalized over the course of history—that is evident in our present-day society, through treatment in the workplace and professional settings, the quality of healthcare, and social discrimination. For these reasons, our responsibility as future professionals is to be aware of and advocate for social justice and change in our current systems, which oppress marginalized groups and communities.

Recognizing and understanding the importance of making unbiased decisions is another critical step in creating equity for all. The unconscious process of decision-making that we face as future professionals can lead to an inaccurate and unfair judgment of others, which can lead to disparate outcomes in the delivery of healthcare. Aside from awareness, perspective-taking is shown to mitigate the impact of implicit bias. Consciously attempting to envision another person’s viewpoint can help leaders in our field reduce implicit bias (Chapman et al., 2013). During the Room to Grow virtual conference, we used various perspectives to analyze relevant topics in the world today. As future health professionals, we look forward to expanding our knowledge and educating our peers.

*Kennedy Krieger Institute recognizes that the word “deaf” can refer to both a condition and a culture. Kennedy Krieger spells the word as “d/Deaf” to be inclusive of both hearing status and cultural identity.

Chapman, E.N., Kaatz, A., & Carnes, M. (2013). Physicians and implicit bias: How doctors may unwittingly perpetuate health care disparities. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 28(11), 1504-1510. Retrieved from