Diversity will secure our future

In my last post we were near the end of Women in Medicine month and now we are right in the middle of Latinx Heritage Month. This celebration is unique for several reasons, not least of which is that the University of Iowa formally recognizes its run from September 15 through November 2. That beginning date is chosen to recognize the shared anniversaries of independence for five separate countries in Central America. Its end date coincides with Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday for remembering family and friends we have lost. The Department of Internal Medicine joins with the rest of the Hawkeye community to honor and celebrate the achievements, contributions, and cultures of all our colleagues, trainees, and neighbors who trace their origins to Spain, Mexico, the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and Central and South America. We encourage you to explore the university’s sponsored events in the remaining weeks. Dr. Francisco Moreno’s discussion of Latinx health disparities earlier this week was a sobering reminder that these inequities were with us long before COVID-19 began and will require diligence and focus to alleviate long after the pandemic is in our rearview.

Our Human Resources team informs me that about two dozen faculty and staff in the department identified themselves as Hispanic/Latinx. It is important to recognize that there is some slipperiness in the information, brought to light in the analysis of the recent census data, where many listed their ethnicity as “other.” Moreover, historical institutional practices have not been consistent in terms of data gathering and in the question of how race and ethnicity are defined. That number feels low, but it could be that when I look around at the contributions to the department, the college, and University of Iowa Health Care, the impact seems far greater than just what twenty-some members could achieve. When one considers what just a half-dozen or so MICU staff could do in providing connection and compassion to our most vulnerable, perhaps it is not so surprising. Those two dozen who have identified as such span the spectrum of roles within our department. They include investigators seeking to unlock the pathophysiology of chronic diseases in the search for cures, educators forming connections with and passing on knowledge to their trainees, and of course, clinicians changing the lives of countless patients every day.

Indeed, our Latinx members play a large role in the college in many ways. Its recently formed Latinx Faculty Council ensures that voices are heard, issues are considered, and that they help the Carver College of Medicine fulfill its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion para todos. Issues such as promotion, professional development, mentorship, and representation for our Latinx faculty and staff will undoubtedly be affected by this new organization’s input. The council is led by Drs. Tahuanty Peña and Jeydith Gutierrez as president and vice president, respectively. Other executive committee leadership roles held by Internal Medicine faculty include Drs. Antonio Sanchez, Renata Pereira, and Marcelo Correia. The entire team brings an impressive array of diverse experience, wisdom, and compassion to guide the group. Thank you for your service and your contributions that give our department its true strength.

Those same qualities will be on display by those faculty members who participate in residency recruitment interviews in the coming weeks and months. Our leadership team has been steadily preparing to re-create the magic of “virtual recruiting” they so nimbly navigated last year. They are aided in no small part by our exemplary Chief Residents, who have been planning case conference reports, building schedules, and drafting updates to our residency program webpages. They are also working with our Digital Media Services team to produce new video content, including virtual tours of some key locations. We hope that faculty members will make themselves available for interviews. If schedule and other responsibilities preclude that, I hope you can help participate in other ways. I appreciated seeing the Med-Psych residents and faculty gathering to watch the virtual conference presented by the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry. More than anything, activities like these show the bond that forms among our trainees and with our faculty members. We are at our best when we are who we are. This is what we want potential recruits to see and how we will recruit another outstanding class worthy of one of the best programs in the country.

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

Leave a Reply