Social Work's new Diversity Committee is an example of hospital departments' diversity and inclusion efforts. Social Work committee members include (l-r): Brian Jin, LCSW; Marisol Lassalle, LCSW; Denise A. Armstrong, LCSW; and Jonathan Spodick, LCSW. Missing from photo: Mary Strauss, LCSW; and Sharon Moales, LCSW

Marisol Lassalle, LCSW, has learned a lot about Latino culture from her patients.

With her background, the Yale New Haven Hospital social worker is familiar with Puerto Rican culture, but her Latino patients also come from Mexico, South and Central America, the Caribbean and other Spanish-speaking areas.

"Every day it's a challenge, but also a learning opportunity," she said. "I've learned not to make assumptions about any of my patients and their families."

The desire to better understand and help the patients and families they work with prompted social workers to form a Diversity Committee in January. The six-member group has since held presentations on Black History Month, Women's History Month, spirituality and religion and Older Americans Month. A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month presentation is scheduled. "Our mission is to raise awareness, acceptance and tolerance for various cultures," said Denise A. Armstrong, LCSW. "We all come with personal biases, but we want to be open to other people's backgrounds and experiences."

The presentations are the types of activities YNHH and Yale New Haven Health System encourage as part of their diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The hospital's Diversity and Inclusion Council is exploring ways employees and physicians can better understand and work with diverse patient and staff populations and the community.

"To be involved in diversity and inclusion, you need to have an interest in other people's cultures," said Jonathan Spodick, LCSW. "There's a lot to know."