Defining Our Terms

ODEI Word Cloud

Words have power. Using the correct language is essential to communicate respect and inclusivity, acknowledge the complexity behind different issues, and can help us all understand a specific scenario before moving forward together. This is our list of commonly used words and phrases and how we define them. It is not a comprehensive list but rather is meant to serve as a starting point for communication and learning.

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An acronym that stands for Asian American and Native American Pacific Island Serving Institutions. These are institutions of higher learning in which 10 percent or more of the student demographics are Asian American or Native American Pacific Islander. Learn more about the University of Minnesota’s designation.


An acronym that stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander. The term is used to describe a diverse and fast-growing population of 23 million Americans that include roughly 50 ethnic groups with roots in more than 40 countries. This includes all people of Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander ancestry who trace their origins to the countries, states, jurisdictions and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions.


The quality of being possible to get into, use, or make use of. 

Source: National Conference for Community and Justice


A lifelong role in which people with privilege and power work to develop empathy towards other marginalized groups challenges and issues and use their power to make the marginalized group feel valued, supported and heard. Being an ally takes action.


The policy or practice of opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance.


The fact of having and expressing strong, unreasonable beliefs and disliking other people who have different beliefs or a different way of life.


A term that stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. It is based on the recognition of collective experiences of systemic racism and meant to emphasize the hardships faced by Black and Indigenous people in the United States and Canada. The use of this term is still evolving.

bystander/bystander intervention

A person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part. One can take action and intervene by recognizing a potentially harmful situation or interaction and choosing to respond in a way that could positively influence an outcome; this is called bystander intervention. 

Source: Oxford University Press and Lehigh University


A social system of customs, learned behaviors, and norms that a group of people develop and create together to ensure its survival and adaptation. It is also a system of values, habits, skills, ideologies, and beliefs.


A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment. 

Source: Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990


Prejudiced treatment of a person on the basis of the social groups to which they belong, and stereotypes about those groups. 

Source: Foster School of Business, University of Washington


Diversity simply means variety. There are endless ways to be a diverse community - race, religion, ethnicity, economic background, geographic origin, gender, sexuality, ability, belief, and more.

dominant culture

A dominant culture is one that has established its own norms, values, and preferences as the standard for an entire group of people. Preferences and norms are imposed regardless of whether they contradict what is usual for other members of the group. The group tends to accept and adopt these behaviors and practices, even if they aren't shared.

Source: BetterUp

emotional sovereignty

A personal freedom. It is a powerful inner state that one can reach once they develop the skills to lovingly hold whatever emotion arises.

Source: Women of the Water

equity vs. equality

Equity is the state, quality or ideal of being just, impartial and fair. Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. The difference, and why we focus on equity, is that not everyone starts from the same place, faces the same barriers, or needs the same things.


Social constructed categories of masculinity/manhood and femininity and womanhood.

growth mindset vs. fixed mindset

In a growth mindset, people believe that intelligence and talents can be improved and developed over time through effort, good teaching, and persistence. In a fixed mindset, people believe that their intelligence is fixed, static, and innate.

Source: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, PhD

health disparity/health equity

Health disparities are differences in health outcomes and their causes among groups of people.

Health equity is when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

human rights

Rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. In response to widespread, horrific violations of human rights in the first half of the 20th century, the international community established The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and international human rights laws that lay down the obligations of governments to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights (APA, 2015b). Human rights are defined by the United Nations as “universal legal rights that protect individuals and groups from those behaviors that interfere with freedom and human dignity” (APA, 2021b).


The compilation of identifying labels anyone uses to represent themselves. Also a system of identifying labels ascribed to social groups that gives a sense of belonging to the social world based on sameness to groups (ex. sex, gender, ethnicity, race, nationality, ability, religion, spirituality, age, socio-economic status, language, political leanings, etc.).

Source: School of the Art Institute of Chicago

implicit bias

Favorable and unfavorable attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases are activated involuntarily and without your awareness.


An environment that offers affirmation, celebration, and appreciation of different approaches, styles, perspectives, and experiences, thus allowing all individuals to bring in their whole selves (and all their identities) and to demonstrate their strengths and capacity. (APA, 2021b)


Originating from a culture with ancient ties to the land in which a group resides.


The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. 

Source: The African American Policy Forum


The process of society moving from an unfair, unequal, or inequitable state to one that is fair, equal, or equitable. A transformative practice that relies on the entire community to acknowledge past and current harms to reform societal morals and subsequently the governing laws. Proactive enforcement of policies, practices, and attitudes that produce equitable access, opportunities, treatment, and outcomes for all regardless of the various identities that one holds.


Acronyms that refer to communities of individuals who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Individually, the letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual. The plus (+) includes all other expressions of gender identity and sexual orientation and recognizes that definitions may grow and evolve overtime.


A small gesture of inclusion, caring or kindness. This includes listening, providing comfort and support, being an ally, and explicitly valuing the contributions and presence of all. It is particularly helpful for those with greater power or seniority to “model” affirming behavior.


A proposed antidote for microaggressions. Small-scale individual or collaborative efforts that empower targeted people and allies to cope with, respond to, and challenge microaggressions with a goal of disrupting systems of oppression as they unfold in everyday life, thereby creating more inclusive institutions.

Source: Kumar and Refaei 2021


Microaggressions are brief, commonplace, daily verbal behavioral or environmental indignities—whether intentional or unintentional—that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults. Macroaggressions are classes of groups of populations affected by biases, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that reside in the structures, programs, policies of institutions, society, and our customs

Source: New York-Presbyterian


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely. 

Source: Stonewall


The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures.


Actions and beliefs that prioritizes masculinity. Patriarchy is practiced systemically in the ways and methods through which power is distributed in society (jobs and positions of power given to men in government, policy, criminal justice, etc.) while also influencing how we interact with one another interpersonally (gender expectations, sexual dynamics, space-taking, etc.).

People Of Color

A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latinx and Native American backgrounds, as opposed to the collective “White”.


Our social position or place in a given society in relation to race, ethnicity, and other statuses (e.g., social class, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, ability, religion) within systems of power and oppression. Positionality refers to our individual identities and the intersection of those identities and statuses with systems of privilege and oppression. Positionality shapes our psychological experiences, worldview, perceptions others have of us, social relationships, and access to resources (Muhammad et al., 2015). Positionality therefore means actively understanding and negotiating the systemic processes and hierarchy of power and the ways that our statuses affect our relationships because of power dynamics related to privilege and oppression (APA, 2019b).


The capacity of some persons to produce intended and foreseen effects on others. 

Source: UMN Office of Diversity and Equity



A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.


Words to refer to a person after initially using their name. Gendered pronouns include she and he, her and him, hers and his, and herself and himself. “Preferred gender pronouns” (or PGPs) are the pronouns that people ask others to use in reference to themselves. They may be plural gender-neutral pronouns such as they, them, their(s). Or, they may be ze (rather than she or he) or hir (rather than her[s] and him/his). Some people state their pronoun preferences as a form of allyship.

psychological safety

Psychological safety is focused on creating a climate where all can feel comfortable. Where members can—or are even encouraged to—take interpersonal risks by speaking up and sharing concerns, questions, or ideas. 

Source: National Institutes of Health



A socially constructed system of dividing humans into groups based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry.


A belief that race determines human traits and capacities and that racial differences result in the superiority of a race over another and the behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief.

social determinants of health

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Two Spirit

A term used within some American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) communities to refer to a person who identifies as having both a male and a female essence or spirit. The term encompasses sexual, cultural, gender, and spiritual identities, and provides unifying, positive, and encouraging language that emphasizes reconnecting with tribal traditions


A person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.

URM/UIM/URiM (Underrepresented In Medicine)

Racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.

Source: Association of American Medical Colleges

Underrepresented Minority (URM)

A term used by the AAMC, before switching to UIM on June 26, 2003, to define a group consisting 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.”

white privilege

A concept that highlights the unfair societal advantages that white people have over non-white people. It is something that is pervasive throughout society and exists in all of the major systems and institutions that operate in society, as well as on an interpersonal level. 

Source: Verywell Mind

URiM vs. URM

Student Voices: Abhishek Chandra, Class of 2023

abhishek chandra

I chose the University of Minnesota Medical School because of the emphasis on collaborative learning during didactic instruction, the value placed on engaging with patients within their communities, and the opportunities to participate in research throughout medical training. The shift towards competency-based education further encourages students to engage with material for the sake of learning and not simply for rote-memorization in preparation for exams.

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