Discussing the challenges
diversity officers at health professions schools face along with the pathway to
implement change was on the agenda at the Inaugural National Association of
Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) Health Professions Chapter
meeting held on Nov. 15. ADEA hosted the historic event at its headquarters in
“This is not only a historic
first meeting, but it signifies the importance of fostering diversity and
inclusion, a culture that supports each person’s growth along the cultural
competency continuum, ensures health equity, and embeds inclusive excellence,
as a norm, in the health professions,” says ADEA President and CEO Karen P.
West, D.M.D., M.P.H., in her opening statement.
NADOHE is an organization that
serves diversity officers in higher education. It has several mission goals,
including producing and disseminating research to inform diversity initiatives,
identifying and circulating diversity best practices, providing professional
development for current and aspiring diversity officers, informing and
influencing national and local policies as well as creating and fostering
networking opportunities for diversity officers.
Topics during the inaugural
meeting included a discussion of NADOHE as well as the evolution of the Health
Professions Chapter, an overview of ADEA’s diversity and inclusion initiatives
by ADEA Chief Diversity Officer Sonya Gyjuan Smith, Ed.D., J.D., and a
conversation about the NADOHE Health Professions Chapter’s priorities.
During the afternoon session,
“Reading the Pulse of Diversity Officers,” David A. Acosta, M.D., Chief
Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Association of American Medical
Colleges (AAMC), laid out the obstacles diversity officers now face at some
medical schools and teaching hospitals. Those obstacles included lack of
workforce diversity; learning environments tinged with racial tension, sexism
and anti-immigrant sentiments; and even the existing curricula that don’t
include racial literacy or address existing racism in medicine.
Dr. Acosta noted that past
efforts to increase diversity in medicine, from grant funding to initiatives
like Project 3000 by 2000, largely seemed to benefit Asian Americans and
non-Hispanic whites. In fact, despite those diversity efforts, the percentage
of Black or African American matriculants to U.S. medical schools has only
increased by roughly one percentage point between 1980 to 2016—from 6.0% to
Dr. Acosta pointed out that
mistreatment and sexual and gender harassment also continues to be an issue in
academia. According to the 2018 consensus study report by the National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Sexual Harassment of Women, more than 50% of women faculty and
staff in academia and between 20% to 50% of women students in science,
engineering and medicine said they had experienced sexual harassment.
Dr. Acosta also discussed
possible ways to address these challenges, from programs like AAMC’s Healthcare
Executive Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program to Council of Deans
Fellowship Program to diversity officers trying to work with their respective
administrations to find ways to tackle “the exclusionary practices that were
put into place before you even arrived” that act as obstacles to diversity, Dr.
Acosta shares. One example he gave was arbitrary board scores that exclude
medical students from entering residency for some specialties, further limiting
the pool of candidates in these disciples.
Attendees walked away from the
event energized and full of ideas.
“I was exceedingly pleased
with the formation of the Health Professions Chapter (HPC) of NADOHE and the
inaugural convening at ADEA,” Dr. Acosta says. “The HPC can serve as a ‘space’
where equity, diversity and inclusion officers can safely convene to express
and exchange ideas, troubleshoot issues, build our resilience, and address and
prevent diversity fatigue and burnout. The HPC can be the voice for equity,
diversity and inclusion in the health professions. We can use our collective
intelligence, wisdom and conviction to influence change in the name of equity,
diversity and inclusion.”
Published on Dec. 11, 2019