Dashunda Bunton Bailey is project manager in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Dashunda Bunton Bailey is project manager in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
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People of the U: Dashunda Bunton Bailey

Published on Wednesday, June 23, 2021

By: Bruce Coleman

Editor's Note: Front and Center is part of an ongoing series featuring UMMC's faculty, staff and students. See more Front and Center features.

Character. Collaboration. Kindness.

Each month, the Medical Center community is encouraged to consider the meaning of a selected word and how it relates to the institution’s standards in promoting a respectful and inclusive environment.

The person behind that effort and a key contributor to several other initiatives from UMMC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion is Dashunda Bunton Bailey.

Many of the finest qualities the selected Words of the Day engender could easily be ascribed to Bailey, a soft-spoken, friendly project manager who plays a critical role in the office, according to its chief, Dr. Juanyce Taylor.      

Portrait of Dr. Juanyce Taylor

“Dashunda is instrumental in the daily operations and management of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” Taylor said. “A smile is worth a thousand words, and so is politeness. One thing I can honestly say about her is that she is probably the friendliest person I have ever met and always wears a smile.

“We all know how far a smile can go, but it is also her well-tempered demeanor, friendliness and politeness that really gets the job done.”

While honing her skills as an administrative assistant at Nissan Motor Manufacturing for eight years, Bailey earned her Bachelor of Health Administration degree in 2010 and her Master’s of Public Administration in 2012 at Belhaven University. During that time, she joined the Mississippi State Department of Health as an administrative assistant in the Office of Preventive Health and later served as a branch director in MSDH’s Office of Oral Health and Office of Health Disparity Elimination.

When an opportunity arose in 2015 to more fully put her education to practice in the School of Health Related Professions, she took a leap of faith at the Medical Center.

“My degree was in health care and so lied my passion, and UMMC allowed me to become involved in both health care and public health,” Bailey said. “Those were my interests, and the Medical Center provided me the opportunity for growth, to learn new things and an opportunity to make more of a contribution.”

As a program administrator in SHRP, she had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Juanyce Taylor, then chair of health sciences. One year later, when Taylor was tapped to lead the newly established Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UMMC, Bailey became the first person hired to staff the new office.

All of a sudden, the scope of Bailey’s responsibilities changed dramatically.

“When I was in SHRP, I was basically working with students,” Bailey said. “Here in ODI, I work with educators, clinicians, researchers, etc. - I get to interact with individuals from all across the organization, as well as those from external agencies.

“I like that it’s more in-depth. You’re constantly learning, because the world is constantly evolving, and so is ODI. There’s always something new each day. Diversity and Inclusion is deeper than just the color of our skin, which is the first thought most individuals have when they hear those words. It’s about equity, culture, accessibility and making sure people feel included. More importantly, it is about respect. There are so many different components to diversity and inclusion.”

An office with such far-reaching latitude requires staff members attuned to the ever-changing cultural landscape. Taylor said Bailey personifies that requirement.

“She is highly knowledgeable of the needs of students, faculty and staff, including the patients we serve,” Taylor said. “She is in contact with so many people and departments throughout the Medical Center on a weekly basis. She understands the sensitive nature of the work of ODI and brings a balanced perspective to the strategies and development of achievable goals to help advance diversity, equity and inclusion at UMMC.”

Among those strategies is the Word of the Month. As lead of the employment engagement initiative that originated from the 100-Day Workout’s Diversity and Respect Team, Bailey designs a monthly toolkit distributed to managers across campus and “engages a wide range of support and participation from individuals at every level of the institution,” Taylor said.         

More than anything, the initiative is a tool for learning, Bailey said.

“It is an opportunity for individuals on campus to learn about diversity, inclusion and equity,” she said. “If they’ve ever had any doubt about what the words mean, it presents an opportunity for managers and employees to engage in conversation about the word and related things going on around campus and/or in society.”

Bailey is also passionate about her office’s efforts to promote UMMC’s chapter of the Group on Women in Medicine and Science and its goals to advance the full and successful participation and inclusion of women within academic medicine by addressing gender equity, recruitment and retention, awards and recognition, and career advancement.

“I like ODI’s involvement with GWIMS allows us to coordinate, plan and be engaged with a diverse group of women,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to get to know other people and be a part of a bigger picture.”

Another ODI initiative Bailey said she enjoys is the Pillars, institutional awards that honor individuals who have made meaningful contributions that broaden diversity and promote a climate of inclusion in the UMMC community.

“We work with many different departments internally as well as our partners in the community when we are coordinating the Pillars,“ she said. “And we take pride in that. I still can’t believe we’ve been doing this for three years now! I can remember vividly almost everything about the first Pillars! I feel like the awards have become a staple at UMMC.”

When she isn’t steadfastly working towards a climate of inclusivity at the Medical Center, Bailey enjoys taking spontaneous road trips with her husband. Since he likes to fish, most of their trips revolve around some body of water or another - and food! She is also an avid reader, but with a son who is a senior in college and a daughter soon to be transitioning into high school, it can be hard for her to find the time to dig into a good book.           

Her commitment to service - to her family and friends, her coworkers and the Medical Center family - remains her driving passion.

“I’m always here to help, whatever is needed,” Bailey said. “I’m eager to learn and eager to help get the job done, whatever needs to be done. That’s just who I am.

“I’m a giver - I like to see smiles on people’s faces and I like to feel like I am being helpful.”

That helpfulness has born rich fruit, especially considering her early days in the office, when her focus was primarily on helping Taylor establish a solid foothold for diversity and inclusion initiatives at the Medical Center.

“It has been awesome to see where this office has started and where it is today,” she said. “To see Dr. Taylor’s goals and vision, and the strategic plan for our office come together has been really special. Dr. Taylor is a leader who pushes you to be better than your best. She never treats you like you’re an employee under her. She possesses all the positive aspects of leadership. She motivates you. She can give you constructive criticism that inspires you at the same time. I see her passion for this office. She sets the bar pretty high for us.

“To see what we’ve been able to accomplish with such a small office - we’re only four people, but we’re a team that has had a mighty big impact on this campus. I love my whole team. They each bring something to the table that you can take with you personally and professionally. None of us are complacent. We’re pretty diverse in our backgrounds and skillsets, but we come together, lift each other up and support each other.”

Which - in a word - is the power of diversity.       

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