Our diversity enhances academic medicine

Inclusiveness. It's not only the right thing to do – it's the smart thing to do.

At The Ohio State University College of Medicine, we believe diversity is more than a good idea or an ideal to strive for. It's a value we uphold with pride. Why? Because we believe in empowering physicians to provide quality health care and compassionate care to everyone.

Studies Prove Diversity in Medicine Matters

  • Physicians from underrepresented minority and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to practice in medically underserved communities.
  • Physicians who attend medical schools with diverse student bodies describe themselves as more comfortable treating diverse populations than peers at other schools.
  • Minority men are more likely to comply with preventive health recommendations when they are provided by minority physicians.
  • Diverse thinkers outperform homogenous groups on complex tasks, resulting in improved problem solving, increased innovation and more accurate predictions.

“Drs. McDougle and Capers both agree – it takes full alignment of purpose and commitment from senior leadership to create a totally integrated academic experience.” Click to tweet this story

Diversity + Inclusion Move Medicine Forward

It's been nearly 40 years since Penchansky and Thomas defined The Five As of Access in their hallmark article, "The Concept of Access: Definition and Relationship to Consumer Satisfaction."

For our College of Medicine faculty, staff and students, Availability, Accessibility, Accommodation, Affordability and Acceptability in health care continue to drive unprecedented breakthroughs at Ohio State.

Leon McDougle, MD, MPH, chief diversity officer and professor of Family Medicine at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, believes Acceptability is the "A" that drives foundational thinking from a cross-cultural context, ultimately offering better Access through diversity.

We seek to lead, serve and inspire in all we do at Ohio State College of Medicine, as evidenced by our innovative Lead.Serve.Inspire. curriculum. And according to Dr. McDougle, diversity and inclusion are strategic imperatives for two important reasons:

1. Diversity drives excellence and innovation.

Lead. We are committed to reinvesting in underserved communities - and we're willing to focus on impact over income to do so.

A beautifully refurbished Ohio State University Hospital East stands as a tangible commitment to the people of Columbus' diverse near East Side. "It's why I chose to come to Ohio State," Dr. McDougle says.

Serve. We have proved that increased opportunities for underrepresented minorities in the medical professions create increased opportunities for diverse patients.

According to cohort studies, College of Medicine students who came from underserved communities are more likely to serve in similar underserved communities after graduation, enhancing quality health care for all.

Inspire. "Diversity in people drives diversity in ideas, which are integral to the success of our research endeavors and research training programs," says Ginny Baumgardner, MD, PhD, associate dean for Research Education at Ohio State College of Medicine.

As a reflection of the complex diversity and synergy of the human body, each medical team is intentionally diverse and open to new methods. It's a holistic systems approach that not only works - it inspires.

2. Diversity not only improves lives - it saves lives.

Lead. From a public health perspective, diversity is a life-or-death concern. We're serving patient populations more diverse than ever before. And we know understanding and embracing our differences directly correlate to improved patient care and outcomes.

Providing quality health care to everyone - regardless of ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, culture, race and ethnicity, as well as socioeconomic and educational experience – is a need that cannot be ignored.

Serve. Increasing our collective cultural competency allows caregivers to communicate more effectively in cross-cultural situations. It not only ties to Availability, Accommodation and Acceptability – it drives Affordability and Access.

When patients need to feel fully seen, heard and understood by their doctors, fears of marginalization may keep them from seeking the care they need. Access to medical professionals from diverse backgrounds increases the potential for empathetic, compassionate care.

Inspire. As medical professionals training the next generation of medical professionals, we know this much to be true: Diversity is a life-or-death imperative.

We're not only committed to improving lives through quality care – we're committed to saving them. A diverse population enriches the educational experience of all our students and trainees, and we know that clinicians from groups underrepresented in medicine and biomedical sciences are key healthcare providers to advancing health equity and eliminating health disparities.

Dr. Capers shares how strategies to overcome implicit bias in college admissions can increase diversity in medical schools and, eventually, in the healthcare workforce.

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To advance our diversity and inclusion goals, Quinn Capers IV, MD, associate dean for Admissions and an interventional cardiologist at the Ohio State College of Medicine, instructs Admissions teams on the art and science of Holistic Review – an admissions process that goes beyond metrics alone.

Reviewers use a blend of experience, attributes and academic metrics for College of Medicine admissions to obtain a well-rounded, diverse student population.

The college's Office of Diversity and Inclusion oversees pipeline programs to encourage greater diversity in medical school, including:

Overcoming Implicit Bias Starts in Admissions

Dr. Capers facilitates Implicit Bias workshops at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center two to three times per month to help overcome implicit bias in the academic medical community. The 140-member College of Medicine Admissions committee also undergoes implicit bias awareness and mitigation training annually under his leadership.

Dr. Capers"If you're human, your brain makes associations," Dr. Capers explains. "These associations can be helpful or harmful." His research proves that people with the very best of intentions are in fact capable of making decisions that are discriminatory.

Dr. Capers' workshop participants take robust association tests to uncover any implicit biases – attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in a subconscious manner. The results are often shocking, especially for those participants with strong commitments to impartiality.

"It's an awful place to be ethically and morally," Dr. Capers says. The good news is, implicit associations formed over the course of a lifetime can be gradually unlearned through a series of debiasing techniques taught in his workshops.

Once participants acknowledge and understand their biases, they can begin to take steps to meaningfully reduce the impact of implicit bias in their personal and professional lives.

Drs. McDougle and Capers both agree – it takes full alignment of purpose and commitment from senior leadership to create a totally integrated academic experience.

That's why Dr. Capers offers Implicit Bias workshops at other academic medical centers, universities and partnering organizations upon request. Our culture of diversity is something so good, we know we need to share it with the world.

Award-Winning Diversity + Inclusion: Locally Known, Nationally Recognized

At Ohio State College of Medicine, we see diversity as the uniqueness each person brings to achieving our goal to move medicine forward, together. This commitment not only sets us apart locally – it gains national recognition.

We are a proud recipient of the 2018 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award, alongside two other colleges from The Ohio State University. The HEED Award is the only application-based higher education diversity award that recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Our very own Ohio State Wexner Medical Center was recognized as a Top Hospital for Diversity for delivering quality care at the highest level while promoting equity and inclusion in our operations, programs, services and staffing – alongside Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.

Academic medical centers working hard to ensure everyone is treated fairly, regardless of race or creed, will be the ones that thrive, now and into the future. And we will be leading the way in inclusiveness.

Overcoming Implicit Bias the Ohio State Way

Our groundbreaking work in overcoming implicit bias in the admissions process speaks volumes for Ohio State College of Medicine. But we know that moving medicine forward together takes not only the identification of problems, but also the identification of practical, replicable solutions. Here are four techniques to help you begin to debias yourself and your teams:

1. Find some common ground. Engaging in meaningful conversation and looking for unifying experiences or preferences can soften biases and foster understanding and respect. Whether it's professional passion or a favorite sports team that unites, use it to honor the individual.

2. Build empathy. Nothing disables unconscious biases more powerfully than putting yourself in another person's shoes. It not only increases understanding and enhances communication – it moves you with compassion to help the other person.

3. Consider the opposite. When the evidence before you points to one conclusion, go through it again looking for anything that might support the opposite conclusion. Ask yourself, "What else might be true?"

4. Counter stereotype exemplars. Take the opportunity to purposefully seek out and spend time with people who are different from you. When you do, you'll discover traits you admire – and they will shift your perceptions.

Ohio State College of Medicine is reaffirming our university wide commitment to expanding opportunity as part of our overarching strategic plan. We know we're setting the tone for other academic medical centers across the country – and we're committed to helping them achieve the same success.

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