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AAMC Conference reinforces importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion work for medical schools

This June, in beautiful Palm Springs, California, I and a handful of our University of Utah Health colleagues attended the Group on Diversity and Inclusion and Group on Faculty Affairs Joint Professional Development Conference of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The conference began with a plenary address from Bronsyne Tucker Edmonds, the associate dean for health equity research, vice president, and chief equity officer at Indiana University School of Medicine. Her address focused on the intersections of the conference, helping participants see the relationships between faculty affairs and equity, diversity, and inclusion leadership. She reminded attendees that when harmful faculty policies happen, the negative effects first manifest themselves in faculty who’ve been historically underrepresented in medicine. She also spoke of the Minority Tax,1,2 and emphasized that it is one of many inequities in faculty service that are based on identity. And she called on all of us to end the pay gap for women in academic medicine.

But Tucker Edmonds also showed how our institutions benefit from having multiple identities represented on the faculty, particularly in the leadership of institutions. She said that only when we address the disparities and increase diversity in leadership roles can we reach our full potential. She described tangible ways that medical institutions could increase faculty recruitment from populations underrepresented in medicine, to ensure that we have the best patient care for patients of all backgrounds. Finally, she noted how identity concordance with patients is a step in the right direction, making the work of promoting diversity among medical students and trainees more important than ever.3,4

 Several conference attendees discussed the current legislation affecting their work in health sciences at universities across the country, from laws limiting tenure to those forbidding equity, diversity, and inclusion work—and we shared in the hurt that many across the country have been feeling. But we also acknowledged how the diversity leaders at the University of Utah as well as across the state have received the support of leaders at the highest levels. This was a wonderful positive message to share, and it was well received.

 In other plenary sessions, panelists spoke about the need for academic institutions across the United States to define their commitment to ensuring the best care for patients, and to include diversity of care teams in that commitment. In another interesting panel plenary on mergers and acquisitions, panelists examined the intersection of the business of medicine with the mission of medical education and how it can be navigated. Virtually all panelists agreed that these business decisions will likely have a negative effect on medical education, but they also saw the opportunities that come when large corporations with deep pockets invest in the future of medicine. The panel called for more alignment between faculty affairs and equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts, and encouraged everyone to stay the course as we seek a better medical education and health system for all patients and students.

 At the end of the sessions, everyone sang happy birthday to our friend and colleague, David Acosta, chief diversity and inclusion officer for the AAMC. Acosta said it was a major birthday, but wouldn’t say which one. Still, the celebration was nice, and the cake was good—and the human touch seemed an important curative to what otherwise was a very challenging conference.

 My favorite part of the conference was the chance it gave me to spend time with friends and colleagues from U of U Health and other institutions. A few of us visited the famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway during the trip, the largest rotating tram car in the world. Though the tram swung back and forth considerably during the ascent, which made a few of us anxious—the views from the peak and from the car were spectacular, and we all had fun. We all like to work hard, so the experience of taking some time and spending it with each other socially was very fulfilling.

 More information on this excellent conference is available on the AAMC conference page.

  1.  Rodríguez JE, Campbell KM, Pololi LH. Addressing disparities in academic medicine: what of the minority tax? BMC Med Educ. Feb 2015;15(1):6. doi:10.1186/s12909-015-0290-9 
  2. Rodríguez JE, Wusu MH, Anim T, Allen KC, Washington JC. Abolish the Minority Woman Tax! J Womens Health (Larchmt). Nov 2020;doi:10.1089/jwh.2020.8884 
  3. Laveist TA, Nuru-Jeter A. Is doctor-patient race concordance associated with greater satisfaction with care? J Health Soc Behav. Sep 2002;43(3):296-306.
  4. Guillaume G, Robles J, Rodríguez JE. Racial Concordance, Rather Than Cultural Competency Training, Can Change Outcomes. Fam Med. Oct 2022;54(9):745-746. doi:10.22454/FamMed.2022.633693  

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José E. Rodríguez, MD, FAAFP

Jul 31, 2023 12:19 PM