Q&A: Diversity in GI improves patient outcomes
Diversity in medicine has demonstrated improvements in access to care among undeserved communities and may positively influence health care delivery, patient outcomes and public policy, according to a report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
The report highlights steps gastroenterology practices can follow to make improvements in diversity and inclusion within the GI field. Healio Gastroenterology spoke with Adjoa Anyane-Yeboa, MD, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and soon to be GI faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital, regarding some of the specific steps GI practices should make to see an increase in diversity as well as what the GI field has already done to increase representation from minority groups. – by Monica Jaramillo
Healio: What do GI practices need to do to improve diversity and inclusion?
Anyane-Yeboa: There are several things that GIs practices can do to improve diversity, and that is one of the positive aspects of the paper. It provides concrete actionable steps that GI physicians, practices and organizations can take to improve diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Firstly, it’s important to get young people involved early on; pipeline programs for students with research opportunities can provide early exposure to the field of GI and physician role models in GI. It is also important for underrepresented minority physicians to have mentors and sponsors. Mentors can give trainees and junior faculty career guidance and sponsors can actually put their names out there for opportunities. Diversity in leadership is also key. When underrepresented students, trainees and faculty see people who look like them among physicians in GI and amongst leadership in GI then they can see themselves in those positions as well. Implicit bias training can also play an initial role in improving diversity within GI practices. All faculty and staff in GI divisions should have this training, as well as those who select trainees for residency and fellowship programs. It is critical to confront any biases that one may have prior to selecting trainees for coveted positions in training programs. Many of us are unaware of the unconscious biases that we carry, and this sort of training can be one initial step to acknowledging them.
Healio: Why is it so important for there to be diversity in a GI practice?
Anyane-Yeboa: Diversity has been shown to have many positive outcomes. Those who are from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to work in underserved areas and do research to find solutions to health disparities. Additionally, diversity in terms of patient-physician concordance has been shown to improve patient outcomes, increase receipt of preventive care and is associated with increased patient satisfaction with their physician. For an organization, diversity is associated with higher levels of innovation and better financial performance. So, across the board diversity has a positive impact on individual patients, minority communities, and organizations as a whole.
Healio: Do you think GI practices have done a good job of being more inclusive?
Anyane-Yeboa: In the past decade or so, we have seen some improvements in GI physician diversity. In 1980 about 4% of GI physicians came from underrepresented groups and in 2017 that number increased to about 10%. However, in the span of 40 years, we have only seen about a 6% increase. We need to do more. We know that about 33% of the U.S. population is comprised of people from underrepresented groups so the same should be reflected in GI practices. We have seen some improvements, but we definitely have a way to go.