Our commitment to diversity

Ten years ago, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the national medical school accrediting body, directed institutions to increase the level of diversity in our programs, by working to attract and enroll greater numbers of women and minorities into our profession. Progress has been slow, however. Even as of last year, the most recently reported data from the AAMC show that faculty in medical schools is not representative of the national population, with nearly 64% identifying as white. With the exception of faculty identifying as Asian, all other races and ethnicities are represented in the single digits or even at fractional percentages. Holding our medical schools and residency programs accountable for bringing these numbers into greater equilibrium has been an important initial step. And the numbers are beginning to shift at the front of the pipeline, with women outpacing men in medical school enrollment for the first time. However, much work remains.

MLKweek_2020As the University of Iowa celebrates Human Rights Week next week it is important that our department publicly affirms our commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Students applying to our residency program self-identify as members of communities that have been historically underrepresented in medicine and we make sure that their applications receive an additional level of scrutiny, factoring in historic and structural barriers they have faced to reach this point in their careers. Beyond those important indicators of background and experience, our Education Team, led by Vice Chair for Education Dr. Manish Suneja, stays mindful of all aspects of human difference and recognizes that diversity will make our already strong program better. “Diversity enhances the educational climate,” Dr. Suneja said, “and outcomes are improved as a result.” Not only is our program improved but, as our nation and our patient population constantly change, so too should we focus on developing a workforce that can understand, serve, and heal individuals from every background.

The best example of our department’s commitment to leaving no patient behind can be found in our LGBTQ Clinic, now approaching its eighth year in reducing health care disparities for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Initially a vision of Dr. Katie Imborek and our Associate Chair for Diversity Dr. Nicole Nisly, the LGBTQ Clinic is the first of its kind in the state of Iowa and has served more than 1,200 patients from the region, many who had avoided entering the health care system at all for fear of discrimination. Next week, the entire LGBTQ care team will receive the Carver College of Medicine Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’s Culturally Responsive Health Care Award in recognition of their service. In accepting the award, the care team will be represented by Bridgette Hintermeister, who, as Dr. Nisly put it, “as one of the clinic’s nurses, is the heart and core of the health care team.” Sincere congratulations to all the members of the LGBTQ Clinic for this well-deserved recognition.

ProjectImplicitDr. Nisly also reminded me that a now-established part of our medical school curriculum will soon be available to faculty as well. Harvard’s implicit, or unconscious, bias quizzes are an essential tool for self-reflection, revealing ways in which structural and systematic forces have shaped how we view others. Medical students are guided through these revelatory analyses and then, armed with knowledge of their blind spots and knee-jerk assumptions, can more easily counteract them in actual practice. If you have not taken this assessment, I highly recommend you challenge yourself and your assumptions. Dr. Nisly, along with Dr. Denise Martinez, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, will soon begin offering a curriculum and training for faculty, similar to what they provide our medical students. We should all take advantage of the opportunity that I believe will improve our ability to connect with our patients and colleagues.

Finally, I hope that you will attend many of the activities on offer this coming week, which begins on Monday with a Day of Service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A University of Iowa Health Care lecture named for Dr. King will take place on Wednesday, January 22, in Prem Sahai Auditorium (MERF 1110). Dean of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine Dr. Talmedge E. King Jr. will deliver that lecture at noon. A keynote address the next day from Anita Hill begins at 7 pm in the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge. Our own Grand Rounds next week will feature a presentation from Dr. John Sanchez from Rutgers University entitled “Pre-Faculty Development: A Critical Factor in Diversifying Academic Medicine.” Please explore the other panel discussions, movies, and celebrations throughout the week. And thank you for everything you do to make the University of Iowa and this department a welcoming environment for diversity and inclusion that respects all backgrounds and ideas. Let us make these concepts part of our practice in our quest for equality for all.



About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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