Anesthesiology must lead in diversity, equity, and inclusion
Rovenstine lecturer touts steady progress, but urges anesthesiologists to do more
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just goals ASA should be working to achieve, they are goals we should be working toward as a society – and ASA must lead the way.
That was the message from Claude Brunson, MD, FASA, Executive Director of the Mississippi State Medical Association and Professor Emeritus of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, during Monday morning’s “Emery A. Rovenstine Memorial Lecture.”
“There is no organization better positioned and equipped to lead on this work,” Dr. Brunson said, “because ASA has a track record of leadership, disruption, and innovation in the field of medicine. We can use what we have learned from our critical work to improve patient safety and the coordination of care to lead professional medicine on DEI.”
Dr. Brunson spoke about Robert Smith, MD, the personal physician to slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Just two days after Evers’ funeral, Dr. Smith protested outside the offices of the American Medical Association because he was not allowed to become a member, and therefore was also barred from being a member of a hospital staff.
“At that time, Dr. Smith said about his choice to fight for admission into the AMA, ‘Medicine is one of the most elite professions anywhere, and I’m sure that’s why I wanted in, why I wanted those barriers broken down,’” Dr. Brunson said. "There are people who taught me from home to grade school to high school that we’re all created equal, and I believe that.’”
Whether you realize it or not, diversity – or the lack of it – can affect how your medical practice or hospital is perceived, Dr. Brunson said. He shared the story of an ICU patient whose family didn’t feel he was getting the care he needed because of discriminatory practices. Dr. Brunson himself investigated the case and found that while there was no evidence of prejudice, the perception was still there because the staff was lacking in diversity.
“There was a perception that this place was not a welcome place for minorities,” he said. “This was magnified by a non-diverse nursing and surgical team.”
Dr. Brunson said that if it is going to lead the way, ASA needs to take a close look at where it is now on the journey toward DEI.
“We can’t make a realistic plan for where we are going until we realize where we are,” he said.
Part of that plan should include realizing what DEI really stands for. Of course, it means diversity, equity, and inclusion, but Dr. Brunson believes it can also stand for “dare to explore and invite.”
“When we dare to explore and invite, we can create more inclusive organizations that ensure all of those tables where we meet and greet, where we plan and prepare, where we mentor and promote, have a seat for people who have traditionally been outside the room or worse – not in the building at all,” he said. “We should be asking two questions – who is not represented in this room? And what do we need to do to get them here?”
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