diversity…asking the tough questions

Dear Medicine

I am not a physician. I am not an oncologist. I am not a radiologist. I am not a NP. I am not a PA.

While I do have a clinical background, education, and spent many years in the clinic caring for cancer patients, and then an administrator, you merely see me as a “patient advocate.”

For the last 2 decades I have amassed many friends that are in fact physicians.

Some are retired now. Some are in private practice. Some are in residency. Some are in fellowship. Some work in academics. Others work for large corporate conglomerates.

The wonderful thing is we have a mutual trust. They share with me their experiences. They tell me things they cannot say aloud.

In return, I address the elephant in the room.

I poke when it needs to be done. When others are thinking it, but cannot say it.

It’s now time for this “advocate” to advocate for the physicians he loves, befriends, and believes are at the root of ensuring care happens at the N of 1.

Advocate for the physician leaders I believe will take back medicine from healthcare.

Over the last few years I have observed a lot of different investments, initiatives, programs, and published tools to build awareness on diversity.

There have been numerous programs, papers, and focus on diversity.

There have been internal and external campaigns. There have been training programs and courses. There have been breakout sessions, lectures, and workgroups.

There has been a #HeForShe social campaign in many of the specialties.

With all of that work, I still have to ask….

Are women facing less sexual innuendos or advances?

Do women feel any less bullied by men or senior staff?

Do women still get labeled as difficult or emotional when they address topics directly?

Do women or minorities feel any more elevated?

Or the same allotment of time for office hours?

Do they feel anymore supported?

Are we narrowing the gap in pay and compensation for women or minorities?

Are women or minorities getting their fair share in opportunities?

Are the panels at conferences still mainly WASP?

So I ask this of you Medicine…have you (we) moved the needle forward on the topic of diversity?

If we are being honest, the answer is NO.

No we haven’t moved the day to day forward.

So maybe we need to stop. Take a pause.

Instead of looking to the right, the left, in front and behind, maybe we need to look in the mirror.

Look in the mirror and ask ourselves the difficult question, “As a leader, what have I done today to address the above questions head on?”

“Am I leading diversely?”

Not in the typical passive, back hallways, or side bar conversations. Not in the private whispers shared with the few. Not in the “I took a picture and shared it on social media” manner. Not in the riding the way of a hot topic to keep up with appearances.

Have you stood up, confronted, and looked it directly in the eye?

If not, then you need to start.

Ask tough questions.

Begin by asking yourself, “Am I leading diversely?”

That’s what leaders do.

Leaders ask difficult questions. Encourage constructive conflict. Address the elephant in the room.

Leaders act. Leaders do.

It’s less in what they say and more in what they do. It’s their actions.

Ask the tough question of yourself first. Then those around you.

I ask myself, “Do I lead diversely at the N of 1?”

Ask yourself.

Do you?

I do. Will you?

Diversity begins at the N of 1.

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