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Editor's Page: Awareness Leads to Action
Our new column will continue the dialogue on diversity.
Daniel Cook
Publish Date: July 13, 2020   |  Tags:   Editors Page

Last month, as peaceful protests and violent opposition took over American cities following George Floyd's murder, surgical professionals around the country began to share powerful personal stories of past and recent racial injustices with this magazine. The collection of honest, eye-opening, first-person accounts (beginning on page 16) aims to raise awareness of inequalities and prejudices you might not know exist, and to provide hope for a more inclusive future in surgery.

These stories begin an ongoing dialogue that will take place in a new regular column "Diversity and Inclusion," set to launch in the August issue. This platform will allow national experts and informed individuals to discuss ways to empower, involve and accept staff members and patients of different skin colors, genders, ages, religions, disabilities and sexual orientations.

The column won't be enough to solve the complex issue of inequality in health care, but hopefully it's a positive first step. These experts' insights will increase awareness of the need for more inclusion and acceptance, and provide actionable steps for making the OR a more welcoming place.

Creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace is the right thing to do. It also positions your facility to meet the surgical care needs of the nation's growing minority population, which might feel more comfortable interacting with healthcare providers who share their racial identity. Building a diverse team of caregivers will help you improve access to surgical care for a currently underserved patient demographic.

Investing in diversity also lets you tap into new talent pools when hiring, giving you access to different viewpoints and fresh perspectives that can inspire new thinking and innovative ideas.

I spoke to Ari Collins, the surgical tech who appears on this issue's cover, about the bigotry she's endured and the racism she's faced throughout her 18-year surgical career.

Ari shared her stunningly honest insights of what's it's like to be an African American woman in a predominantly white profession. At the end of our hour-long conversation, I was more informed of her perspective and the inner turmoil she endures just to feel like she fits in among the teams she works with each day, let alone thrive in her chosen career.

"You keep your guard up if you're constantly the only minority in an environment," said Ari. "It's an exhausting state in which to function, and it takes an emotional toll."

I told Ari about our plans to launch a new column to increase awareness of the need for more acceptance and inclusion in surgery, and to turn words into actions. She told me it will be impossible to ignore the shared perspectives of individuals from various organizations in different parts of the country. She also volunteered to be a regular contributor.

I asked Ari what individuals can do on the smallest of levels to help address a problem that seems too big to solve. "Just reach out," she said. "One of my coworkers approached me after George Floyd was killed and said, "I can't even imagine.' That was enough to show she cared. It opened a floodgate of pent-up emotions."

Ari told me some colleagues have asked her how she's doing during this tumultuous time.

"It's a nice gesture, but it's also a loaded question," she said. "Did they really want to know? We would have been there for a while."

It's a time to share, and a time to listen. Let's keep the conversation going. OSM

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