Improving Diversity Enhances CT Surgery Access, Care, Outcomes

Diversity is not about political correctness, according to Joan Y. Reede, MD, MPS, MBA, of Harvard Medical School. “It is about improving the care we deliver as physicians every day.”

Joan Y. Reede, MD, MPS, MBA

Joan Y. Reede, MD, MPS, MBA

Dr. Reede made her case during a diversity and inclusion session on Monday, calling on all STS members to take a good look at their hospitals and departments and work toward developing a wider, more experienced talent pool that could better address patients’ needs. “Working to improve diversity will change patient outcomes and move organizations forward. Unless cardiothoracic surgery embraces all racial, ethnic, and gender groups, the practitioner shortage will become even more acute,” she warned.

She presented statistics reflecting a lack of diversity in medicine, with a majority of medical school faculty being white (61.3%), followed by 16.2% Asian, 3.1% African American, 2.7% Hispanic, and one-tenth of one percent American Indian, Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

Dr. Reede described the barriers to inclusion as many and familiar. They include difficulties in preparation, opportunity, and resources to pursue medical education and advancement. In addition, she said that minorities are often not taken seriously.

She used Google to illustrate. A search of images for “smart person” turned up a screen of white males. Her queries for “doctor,” “surgeon,” and “professor” found similar images. A search for “assistant professor” yielded primarily white females and a few white males.

“If you don’t match the societal image and somehow make it through, you are seen as a token, isolated and excluded,” she said. “You are invisible and hyper visible at the same time. It can be an extremely uncomfortable place.”

In order to change the dynamics, Dr. Reede said it has to start with vision. She said that Harvard Medical School has incorporated diversity, equity, and social justice into its mission and values statements; the next step includes collecting data. “Are minority students as likely to stay or return as residents, fellows, and junior faculty? If not, why? And what would convince them to stay?,” she asked. “Tracking diversity and reporting the results publically supports positive efforts to change.”