Pulmonary Perspectives®

The importance of diversity and inclusion in medicine



There is growing appreciation for diversity and inclusion (DI) as drivers of excellence in medicine. CHEST also promotes excellence in medicine. Therefore, it is intuitive that CHEST promote DI. Diversity encompasses differences in gender, race/ethnicity, vocational training, age, sexual orientation, thought processes, etc.

Academic medicine is rich with examples of how diversity is critical to the health of our nation:

– Diverse student populations have been shown to improve our learners’ satisfaction with their educational experience.

– Diverse teams have been shown to be more capable of solving complex problems than homogenous teams.

– Health care is moving toward a team-based, interprofessional model that values the contributions of a range of providers’ perspectives in improving patient outcomes.

– In biomedical research, investigators ask different research questions based on their own background and experiences. This implies that finding solutions to diseases that affect specific populations will require a diverse pool of biomedical researchers.

– Faculty diversity as a key component of excellence for medical education and research has been documented.

Diversity alone doesn’t drive inclusion. Noted diversity advocate, Verna Myers, stated, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” In my opinion, diversity is the commencement of work, but inclusion helps complete the task.


Dr. Demondes Haynes

Dr. Demondes Haynes

An inclusive environment values the unique contributions all members bring. Teams with diversity of thought are more innovative as individual members with different backgrounds and points of view bring an extensive range of ideas and creativity to scientific discovery and decision-making processes. Inclusion leverages the power of our unique differences to accomplish our mutual goals. By valuing everyone’s perspective, we demonstrate excellence.

I recommend an article from the Harvard Business Review (HBR Feb 2017). The authors suggest several ways to promote inclusiveness: (1) ensuring team members speak up and are heard; (2) making it safe to propose novel ideas; (3) empowering team members to make decisions; (4) taking advice and implementing feedback; (5) giving actionable feedback; and ( 6) sharing credit for team success. If the team leader possesses at least three of these traits, 87% of team members say they feel welcome and included in their team; 87% say they feel free to express their views and opinions; and 74% say they feel that their ideas are heard and recognized. If the team leader possessed none of these traits, those percentages dropped to 51%, 46%, and 37%, respectively. I believe this concept is applicable in medicine also.


What can we do to advance diversity and inclusion individually and in our individual institutions? A sponsor is a senior level leader who advocates for key assignments, promotes for and puts his or her reputation on the line for the protégé’s advancement. This invigorates and drives engagement. One key to rising above the playing field for women and people of color is sponsorship. Being a sponsor does not mean one would recommend someone who is not qualified. It means one recommends or supports those who are capable of doing the job but would not otherwise be given the opportunity.

Ask yourself: Have I served as a sponsor? What would prevent me from being a sponsor? Do I believe in this concept?


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