VUmc wants to be an organization in which diversity and inclusiveness play an important role. Where there is room for equality and where students and employees feel that they are being seen. Where everyone’s culture and background is seen as wealth.

To realize this, VUmc has entered into a partnership with us. A collaboration that has existed for five years and that has led to a number of special artistic interventions, unforgettable moments and more understanding and connection between employees and students.

Four questions and the gut feeling

The inaugural lecture of Prof. dr. Dr. Gerda Croiset, education director VUmc School of Medical Sciences, was seized upon for an impressive intervention on diversity, developed by artist Lina Issa. The intervention involved four questions: “Who is the other? When do you feel most vulnerable? When are you an interpreter or do you need an interpreter? How do you learn empathy?” In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Lina asked these questions to students, specialists, doctors, nurses and chefs from the world kitchen of VUmc. The answers were now on the chairs in the hall. The 180 participants were asked to read aloud the answer in their envelope. This made a deep impression and was the first step towards a clear vision of inclusiveness and diversity in education and – as it turned out later – it was also the seed of a new committee within MFVU, the faculty association: D.O.C.S. (Diversity. Open. Culture. Students.). A committee that stands for diversity in the broadest sense of the word, with the main aim being to make an essential contribution to the development of a learning climate in which diversity is seen as wealth and where it is optimally used.

D.O.C.S. unites students

After the first intervention by Lina Issa, 5 students went up to the director. If the discourse can be conducted in this way, if what they experience and feel is out in the open in this way, they want to play an active role in the diversity policy of VUmc. They set up a new committee called D.O.C.S. which stands for Diversity. Openness. Culture. Students. After two years they join the existing faculty association MFVU and now, 5 years later, they can not be ignored. One of the most active committees with more than 150 members. Follow them on Facebook to see what role they play within VUmc University of Medical Sciences:

And we produced this short film with D.O.C.S. and artist Lina Issa.

Diversity and inclusiveness in the bachelor

Together with Lina Issa we developed various artistic interventions for the bachelor of VUmc University of Medical Sciences. Interventions that are embedded in the existing learning path around diversity and inclusiveness of which the basis is formed by four questions: “Who is the other? When do you feel most vulnerable? When are you an interpreter or do you need an interpreter? How do you learn empathy?

One of the interventions takes place around the theme ‘dealing with language barriers’. In these interventions the students get to see a film in which a doctor tells about his experiences in this area and the dilemmas for which he came to be. And before he talks about how he has dealt with the dilemma in question, students first have to come up with solutions themselves.

In addition to this intervention, we also developed interventions for the practicals ‘Care Ethics and Diversity’, ‘From Cultural Interview to Cultural Encounter’ and ‘Preventie en Ethics’.

Teachers learn from students

A training for teachers in which students play a crucial role. During this training four students tell their story about their experiences with diversity and (the lack of) inclusiveness and indicate what a teacher in their eyes could have done differently and might have to do different in the future. These stories, which they prepare well together with Lina Issa, are very personal, make a deep impression on the teachers and give the conversation a deeper layer afterwards.

Who are you really?

Together with D.O.C.S. and artist Lina Issa we have developed an intervention for the first day of brand new students. An intervention that makes them feel immediately welcome and invites them to show who they really are and to share their story with other students. For example, during lunch there are napkins with texts that stimulate and incite them to have a real conversation, such as: “The norm here is that empathy gets less in the course of your studies” and “I feel vulnerable when I have to to adjust’.


Another part of the intervention is during the afternoon program. Then a senior student tells about his experiences and asks the new students when they feel welcome, what a doctor needs to be good, how well they can communicate, how many languages ​​they speak. The answers are given by four second-year students who are ‘disguised’ as first-year students in the auditorium. Their answers are the prelude to a conversation between these students. A conversation that they have prepared well with artist Lina Issa and that has exactly the right effect: the room is moving and the new students feel the space to share their own stories, to be open to others, to enter into a conversation and to be vulnerable.

The drinks afterwards fit perfectly with the previous program. In the middle of the room are tables with fresh mint tea, Turkish coffee, spekkoek and other delicacies, but of course students can also get a beer. The ideal setting for real conversations with other first-year students.

Supermarket forbidden

An artistic intervention during the introduction week of new members of D.O.C.S. that we developed together with artist Lina Issa. Normally, first-year students eat a quick bite with their mentor during the introduction week. But with this intervention, this quick bite changes into a valuable moment when students get to know each other better. They get a shopping list and the order not to get the groceries at the nearest supermarket, but to go to pre-selected local stores, such as the Turkish butcher and the toko. And in addition to the shopping list, students also receive a list of questions that they had to ask the retailers and – above all – each other. Questions like: “What is the dirtiest thing you have ever eaten? What do you cook to impress a date? And what taste does remind you of home?” With the result that personal conversations get started, the students get to know each other better and feel more connected to each other.

Dinner at the doctors

One of the most successful initiatives of recent years. New students who have registered with D.O.C.S. will have the opportunity to join a doctor at home during for dinner. The informal setting creates an open atmosphere at the table and there is room for the students to ask questions that they normally do not get the opportunity to do. Questions about the doctor’s field and more personal questions. And in turn, the doctors get the chance to get to know students in a different way. In the words of one of the participating doctors: “It is an inspiring evening. You were an enthusiastic group. It was nice that everyone had a different background and wanted to tell about it. Nice to see that diversity is mainly on the ‘inside’ and that not everything can be seen on the ‘outside’.”

Different in the white coat

A symposium on the state of affairs of diversity in medicine education. The theme was ‘Colorful Connection’ and we made a substantial contribution to this day. On different levels. Artist Lina Issa coached the speakers to bring their story to the fore and made sure that the participants were presented with a surprising program in which they immediately started working on the theme.

They were asked to start a conversation with a stranger by asking the following questions: “Have you gotten a hug today? What is a comforting question for you? and What does skin color mean to you?” This not only created ‘real conversations’ between the participants, but also a sense of connection. And that was – just like the rest of the day – captured in a special way by the Beeldvormers. You can see exactly what this looks like.