Equity & Inclusion in Medicine – Part III: How to Create a Diverse Cardiology Workforce
In Part I, I discussed experiences of BIPOC in medicine as well as those underrepresented in cardiology as a framework to build understanding. In Part II, I made a good case for why diversity will help cultivate innovation and improve health disparities. In the final part of this blog series, I will review how cardiology programs can improve diversity.
We are in an era of great reflection and growth as we endure the extreme pressures of the COVID19 pandemic. This horrendous experience has fostered some positivity which is the strong motivation towards racial harmony and equity. This is a special time of modernity and we can capitalize on this momentum by amplifying initiatives towards increasing diversity in cardiology.
The Duke cardiology group published a data-driven manual on how cardiology fellowships can improve diversity, especially for those who are underrepresented. In this article, Rymer et al. 1 designed a quality improvement study from 2017-2019 with the aim of increasing the numbers of underrepresented cardiology fellows in their training program. This initiative included reorganizing the fellowship recruitment committee, changing the applicant process and interview day, as well as making changes to the applicant ranking process. Finally, there was a postmatch intervention. This involved developing a diversity and inclusion task force to spearhead these initiatives. Comparing applicants 10 years before and during the intervention period, there was a significant increase in women and underrepresented applicants. Women increased from a 5-year mean of 27% to 54.2% after the intervention and underrepresented fellows increased from 5.6% to 33.3%. After the intervention, the fellowship population was 2/3rds either women or members from an underrepresented ethnic group!
Williams et al. further pushed toward cultivating an antiracist cardiology culture in their article entitled: How to Build an Antiracist Cardiovascular Culture, Community, and Profession 2. The authors took a deep dive into several ways to build a diverse team. They state that to purposely create a culture of diversity, especially for those that lack diversity; programs should aim to share their objectives in creating a less biased training program for applicants. This strategy also includes having a diversity and inclusion committee to evaluate promotional materials to ensure they do not include racially biased language. Once trainees are there, they recommend continuing this initiative by having structured teaching sessions that include implicit bias training. They further recommend allowing for space for underrepresented trainees to share microaggressions. One example of a microaggression expressed by underrepresented physicians is constant questioning regarding country of origin or ability to speak English with a condescending tone. These stories can be shared on a personal level to help each other understand and appreciate different experiences.
There are professional ways to support trainees and create an inclusive environment. The authors suggest encouraging respect by introducing fellows as “Dr.” and leaders of the team. They emphasize intentional mentorship for underrepresented trainees shared amongst faculty. They further warn against perpetuating the “minority tax”, which puts the entire onus of diversity and inclusion on faculty of color with often a lack of compensation. In addition, the authors encourage all faculty to help introduce trainees into a network and provide a platform for successful promotion by nominating under-represented minority members to appropriate positions. Certainly, this can extend beyond fellowship. It goes without saying, that nomination and promotion is suggested for those who earn it; however, not uncommonly underrepresented fellows meet this criterion and may be overlooked.
The future of this country is one in which there may not be a majority. It is important that we understand one another and work together to move forward. Diversifying cardiology will bring about innovation and growth in the field. The patient experience can improve as well with more physicians who share their personal experiences. This can build communication and preventative measures. I hope that we continue this momentum and cultivate a better experience for all.
- Rymer et al. Evaluation of Women and Underrepresented Racial and Ehnic Group Representation in a General Cardiology Fellowship After a Systematic Recruitment Initiative. JAMA Netw Open. 2021; 4(1)
- Williams et al. How to Build an Antiracist Cardiovascular Culture, Community, and Profession. JACC 2021 77 (9)
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