The Summer Series, developed by Sylk Sotto, EdD, MBA, MPS, consists of four wide-ranging talks related to racial equity issues in medicine and education. Three of them are panel discussions that include a variety of experts from IU School of Medicine and beyond; the fourth is a Medicine Grand Rounds given by Sotto on faculty actions to advance equity.
“As a department, we have made great efforts, and launched great initiatives, but we still fall short when it comes to equity and inclusive excellence,” said Sotto, who is Vice Chair for Faculty Affairs, Development and Diversity for the Department of Medicine. “With this series, I wanted us to explore serious topics and do something more intentional.”
Saira Butt, MD, agreed that there is an “urgent need” for dialogue about structural racism and persistent, widespread bias —
both implicit and explicit —
in medicine. Butt, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and the director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship program, participated in the July 15 panel on racial disparities and infectious diseases.
“The goal of this discussion was to raise awareness of underlying social determinants of health, instead of stigmatizing skin color and human behavior,” she said.
The discussions also had benefits for the participants themselves. Areeba Kara, MD, MS, FACP, SFHM, who participated in the June 24 event on discrimination in hospital medicine, said it was a cathartic and productive experience.
“The anecdotes I shared were personal and painful,” said Kara, who is a hospitalist and Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. “I felt like the burden of these stories was being carried by everyone listening, and not just by me.”
Furthermore, she said, the event’s high attendance was a testament to the community’s commitment to doing better.
But Sotto says that commitment must be seen through with meaningful steps toward equity.
“If we are going to push for inclusive excellence, then equity must be present in every decision, every day,” said Sotto. “Awareness isn’t enough; we need action.”
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Hannah Calkins is the communications manager for the Department of Medicine.