Social Media in Practice

Social Media in Practice

April 30, 2019
3 min read

‘It matters for everyone’: ACG’s social media push promotes diversity, inclusion

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Sophie Balzora
Sophie Balzora
Darrell Gray II
Darrell Gray II

Much like medicine in general, the field of gastroenterology is largely not representative of the patient population to which it provides care. That is why the American College of Gastroenterology is launching #DiversityinGI, a social media campaign designed to promote inclusion in gastroenterology and motivate more people with diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in the field.

The effort is being spearheaded by Sophie Balzora, MD, FACG, of the NYU School of Medicine and chair of the ACG’s Public Relations Committee, and Darrell Gray II, MD, MPH, FACG, of The Ohio State University College of Medicine and chair of the ACG’s Committee on Minority Affairs & Cultural Diversity. They started brainstorming the idea for the campaign at last year’s ACG Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

“We had the idea of getting the entire college involved and to run this campaign on social media,” Balzora told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease. “Social media has become a fantastic opportunity to grow an idea really quickly and have things disseminate at a fast pace.”

Gray told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease that diversity helps drive excellence, as well as innovation in the field and even impacts patient outcomes. As the campaign brings diversity to the forefront for the ACG, Gray said they hope it also inspires other professional organizations.

“It matters not only for patients in underserved communities, but it matters for everyone,” he said. “As it pertains to quality of care that is delivered to diverse populations, it matters that the providers are also from diverse populations.”

It is not just about race either, Balzora said. It is also about everything from religion and socioeconomic status to diversity of thought, cultural competency and including people with different interests.

“What we know is that with a more diverse medical community, patients are benefited by that,” she said. “The more diverse the medical community, the better patients do, the more adherent they might be to medications, to visits and to being less reticent to tell doctors about things that are ailing them.”

One of the main objectives of the campaign is to enrich the pipeline of trainees and providers from underrepresented populations. Part of that is engaging with learners and showing them what is possible.

“If you can see it, you can be it,” Gray said.

“That doesn’t just start with residents and fellows. It really starts in childhood in our elementary, middle and high schools.”

Gray is part of a group that does yearly high school visits during the ACG Annual Meeting that help promote visibility among young people and show them there is a path to success. The ACG also has a summer scholars’ program to provide opportunities for underrepresented minorities to engage in research and clinical shadowing.

“We have to ensure that diversity and inclusion is a pillar of our professional organizations,” Gray said. “It has to be a priority in order for it to be acted upon. I commend the ACG for taking this stance.”

As the #DiversityinGI campaign gets underway, the ACG is encouraging doctors to use the hashtag to share their thoughts on how they envision diversity and inclusion. They also plan to promote articles from the literature and news stories that help raise visibility.

Even though the campaign started, Balzora and Gray said they have already seen the hashtag spread as far as Europe and the Middle East. Balzora knows it is just one step in the process, but she hopes to get more doctors to join social media and take part in the campaign so it can grow and reach even more of an audience.

“It’s about bringing awareness to the fact that patients come from all sorts of backgrounds, and people need to be seen as whole people and not just thrown into different buckets or groups,” she said. “Once we recognize that, that calls for a more culturally competent physician and more culturally competent care.” – by Alex Young