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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives

Emergency Medicine walk for diversity

Written by Jill Jansen, Dr. Andreia Alexander, Dr. Megan Palmer, and Dr. Nash Whitaker 

Colleagues reading Ibram Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist” in their book club.

A new application screening rubric for the residency program.

Additional underrepresented in medicine (URM) scholarships for the away program.

An upcoming visiting professor series with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a theme.

Amid the nation’s renewed call for action to address age-old issues of racial inequality and division, in large and small ways the Department of Emergency Medicine is making DEI a strategic and cultural priority. While the department’s newly reconvened DEI committee is planning initiatives for the coming year, activities surrounding diversity and inclusion are already at the forefront of the department’s agenda.

Recruitment initiatives with a DEI focus

New application screening rubric for the residency program – Residency program directors have developed a new rubric for reviewing and selecting resident candidates for interviews. The refresh is designed to help avert some of the systemic biases inherent in the resident review process—not just at IU School of Medicine but across the country.

“We stepped back and made a list of what we’re really looking for in a resident and came up with a rubric that focuses on the whole person with emphasis on overcoming adversity and making cultural contributions outside of medicine,” said Andreia Alexander, MD, PhD, assistant program director for the department’s residency program. “Being URM is one of the things the new rubric takes into account, but overall, it’s about being very intentional in our selection throughout the process and trying to be more objective.”

Residency program leaders—the group who recently selected Kendi’s antiracism guide for their book club—are interviewing current and past residents about the climate within the residency program. The residency curriculum also is under review to help ensure diversity issues are included.

“We’re working to weave diversity throughout the curriculum, so residents are thinking about it all the time—in every assignment, every lecture and in every patient they see—with the goal of developing physicians who are thoughtful about their patients and providing inclusive and safe care.”

URM scholars in the away program – As part of the Department of Emergency Medicine’s one-month summer away program, a URM scholars program was added in 2018. In the first and second years, the program included scholarship funding for six URM students. For these students, the experience includes mentorship by a URM faculty member in the department. Of the 12 students who have participated in the URM scholarship program, three have matched at IU EM. (The away program was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.)

This year the department is expanding the program to include individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. Further, with additional funding from FAPDD, the department is adding three additional scholarships.

“Ensuring our recruitment efforts are focused on URM students is something I think everyone in the department is fully behind,” said Nash Whitaker, MD, statewide clerkship director. “We see the benefit and value in creating a more diverse group of residents who will hopefully stay to practice in Indiana.”

IU Medical Student Program for Research and Scholarship (IMPRS) – Diversity continues to be an important consideration when selecting students to participate in IMPRS each summer. While the program is not specific to URM students, it will allow for more active identification and recruitment of students from diverse backgrounds who have an interest in emergency medicine.

Emergency Medicine Scholars and Leadership Program (EMSLP) – This year, EM is launching a new longitudinal program that allows students early and continued mentorship, research and experience within the department. The experience begins the summer after the students’ MS1 year and continues throughout their time in medical school. For the inaugural year, three students will have this opportunity. This program offers yet another opportunity to identify and recruit students from diverse backgrounds and integrate them into the department.

“All of these initiatives—from resident recruitment and visiting student programs to IMPRS and EMSLP—give us an  opportunity to be more strategic in our recruitment of diverse students,” said Megan Palmer, PhD, EM vice chair for academic affairs. “With the visiting student programs, IMPRS and EMSLP, we can engage with students earlier, helping to shape their interest in emergency medicine and our program.”

Training initiatives with a DEI focus

Visiting professor series – The 2021-22 visiting professor series will be focused broadly on DEI issues. The schedule for the series, which begins in August, is under development, but possible topic areas to explore include social determinants of health, differences in patient outcomes among diverse populations and ways in which specific diseases affect various populations.

URM student mentorship – In addition to the faculty mentorship that’s part of the URM scholars program, Nathan Alves, PhD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, has mentored students through National Science Foundation LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) and the Center for Research and Learning at IUPUI. He has been a featured speaker at IU and nationally on the topic of mentoring URM students and has served on mentorship panels at Ivy Tech, Ball State and other universities. He has also served as a guest lecturer for Indiana LSAMP’s summer program and the LSAMP program in Missouri.

Unconscious bias training – This training is included in IU School of Medicine’s new faculty orientation and is also a part of the orientation for new EM interns. Similar unconscious bias training was also required for faculty reviewing residency applications this year.

Upcoming DEI initiatives

This spring, the Department of Emergency Medicine will deploy a department-wide diversity climate and engagement survey in all 10 emergency departments. The survey, which will be completed by faculty, staff, residents and fellows, is designed to gather baseline data about climate and diversity. Combined with a series of interviews with URM faculty and residents at the academic health center, the feedback will be used to inform a new multi-year diversity plan for Emergency Medicine.

Beginning this year, work related to the department’s strategic pillars (clinical excellence, patient outcomes, educational excellence and innovation) will have goals and metrics related to diversity.