Universities take action to make change
Academic institutions are taking action to help bend the curve of racial disparity toward equity in a society at an inflection point of behavioral change.
“Recent events have really empowered people to speak up,” Keith D. Carter, MD, FACS, said in a discussion of race in ophthalmology at the virtual Women in Ophthalmology Summer Symposium.
Carter is chair in ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
“We had an opportunity for our underrepresented students and residents to speak up at a panel discussion with the dean, the executive dean and our leadership, and they were enlightened that, even though we are ‘Iowa nice,’ we are also ‘Iowa racist,’” he said.
Subsequently, the dean developed a task force with power to make change.
“We are trying to take an active role in trying to improve our climate here because I think it was very enlightening that things weren’t as nice as they thought they were,” Carter said.
Lynn K. Gordon, MD, PhD, who specializes in neuro-ophthalmology, is a professor of ophthalmology at UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute and senior associate dean of equity and diversity inclusion at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.
“We have the pandemic, coronavirus, that has been the most devastating virus that we’ve had in more than 100 years, and at the same time it sort of removed the Band-Aid from the scab of health disparities in the country,” Gordon said.
To meet the moment, the first week of medical school this year was devoted to social justice, health disparities and racism, she said.
“We’re embarking on full-day educational programs to include actively how to be an anti-racist,” Gordon said. “It’s not good enough to just say we want to avoid racism, or we aren’t racist — we have to actively embrace that term. We have to acknowledge the privilege that each of us has in different ways, and we have to combat issues of implicit bias microaggression, become upstanders, become effective bystanders and really be an active anti-racist.”