Bridging Across Differences Toward Flourishing

Bridging Across DIfferences Toward Flourishing Thumb

We are excited to announce the nine U.S. medical schools that will participate in a national demonstration project to identify ways to bridge across differences and overcome polarization in academic medicine! View the announcement to learn more >>


"Academic medicine can be a leader in bridging due to its role in society as a trusted voice, and its commitment to care for the health of those in need regardless of differences in beliefs, cultures and positions."

 Cheryl A. Maurana, PhD, MCW Eminent Scholar,
Senior Vice President for Strategic Academic Partnerships, Professor, Bioethics and Medical Humanities,
Founding Director, Kern National Network for Flourishing in Medicine

What is "Bridging"?

Bridging is a facilitative process that advances flourishing by providing a framework for engagement across groups and individuals with different views on topics. At its core, bridging aims to increase understanding and find common ground, which can be a foundation for creating value.

So, how might we accomplish bridging? The first step is through genuine dialogue and interest in others’ perspectives. There are often two extreme reactions when people are faced with division and disagreement. One is simply “going along to get along”. The other is labeling or dismissing others who disagree with our views. Intentional dialogue toward common ground encourages us to avoid those extremes and ask ourselves questions such as:

  • Am I open to learning from others and taking interest in their perspectives?
  • Am I willing to challenge my own and others’ assumptions?
  • What does it look like to bridge divides through conversation and constructive argument?
  • What steps can I take to move in that direction?1

Kern National Network | Brdiging Across Differences

This dialogue is most effective when certain habits are in place, including:

  • The courage to fully engage and learn from others.
  • The humility to admit what we don’t know or understand.
  • Openness to refining our perspective based on compelling evidence.
  • A sense of fair-mindedness, to consider all perspectives while acknowledging our biases.
  • Patience with the process of reflection and discovery, and with that of building trust.
  • And, finally, respect for those whom we perceive as having views opposed to our own.1


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1. Adapted from Courageous Dialogue Toolkit by Barbara Whitlock and Karen E. Bohlin with Deborah Farmer Kris and Gabrielle Landry


Why Bridging: Key Considerations Informing the Work

  • Extraordinary time of divisiveness and polarization
  • Fear in academic institutions to express thoughts and use language that may offend
  • Poses significant barrier to flourishing in medical education and medicine

Dive Deeper by Reading "We Need to Talk: Advancing Open Inquiry"

Access Article

How the Bridging Initiative Will Advance the KNN Mission of Flourishing

Today, the KNN is uniquely positioned to lead the effort to develop an approach to bridging and create ways to strengthen bridging practices, such as by developing, testing and disseminating bridging tools. With the KNN’s framework for flourishing for caring, character, practical wisdom and flourishing as a foundation, we can begin to work across medicine to support bridging at a national level in medical and other health professions education and in the profession itself.

KNN Bridging Across Differences Toward Flourishing: Three Workstreams

Our goal is to increase understanding in medical and other health professions education as well as healthcare and find common ground; a foundation for creating value. Through this initiative, the KNN will support viewpoint diversity, building a culture strengthened by differences and connected by trust.

KNN Bridging Across Differences Toward Flourishing: Three Workstreams

Working Toward Common Ground….

Asking different questions
  • Am I open to learning from others and taking an interest in their perspectives?  
  • Am I willing to respectfully challenge my own and others' assumptions?
  • What does it look like to bridge divides?
  • What steps can I take to move in that direction?
Fostering habits for bridging conversations
  • Courage
  • Humility
  • Openness
  • Fair-mindedness
  • Patience
  • Respect



Some Questions for Discussion

  • Does this focus resonate with you?
  • What challenges do you see?
  • Are there people with whom you would suggest we speak?
  • What advice would you give as we begin?

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