A year ago, Ari Collins agreed to speak with me weeks after the George Floyd murder ignited the nation’s racial and social reckoning. Ms. Collins, a surgical tech in Denver, shared her unfiltered thoughts about systemic racism in society and surgery for this magazine’s July 2020 cover story. Four other surgical professionals joined her in print to discuss both the overt and subtle forms of bigotry they experience on a daily basis. The article was honest, raw, powerful — and necessary.
Ms. Collins said at the time that she wants to be a voice of change and start conversations about racism, even if the conversations are difficult to have. She believes awareness is the first step toward progress, and explained that it’s easy to dismiss the opinion of one person, but impossible to ignore the voices of a diverse group of healthcare professionals with a shared vision of inclusion.
Over the past year, the magazine’s monthly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion column served as a space to generate discussions about the importance of increasing inclusion in surgery. Working on the column has been one of the highlights of my professional career. I’ve listened and learned, and feel frequently amazed at the willingness of the authors to speak openly and honestly about their lived experiences. Their printed words are powerful, but only begin to capture the passion they have for inspiring a collective movement that continues to build momentum.
We hope to help advance the push for change with the series of articles that begin on page 18. They show why efforts to diversify health care must be urgent, authentic and ongoing.
The surgeon on this month’s cover, Dr. Auriel August, is an emerging influence. Empowered by owning her labels, Dr. August is striving to make surgery more welcoming for all providers and patients. Her energy is infectious and her message is inspiring. Dr. August is a leading voice among an increasing number of providers who are passionate about addressing health disparities and role models for a new wave of surgical professionals who will further diversify health care.
Take a look at any social media platform and it’s clear that our nation’s youth are socially aware, and use their constantly growing digital connection to speak out and speak up. Their voices will help shape a society with more unity than division, more listening than shouting, more empathy than apathy.
As my daughter finishes virtual kindergarten this month, she regularly demonstrates a sense of cultural awareness beyond her years. Her class is full of multicultural families, who teach each other about their diversity, customs and traditions. The connections that she and her classmates have made will surely impact their understanding of the diverse world in which we live.
Sesame Street, celebrating its 50th year of addressing social issues like only Big Bird and Elmo can, held a Power of We virtual town hall to teach children about the importance of standing up against racism. My daughter tuned in and later walked around the house singsonging the word on the Street: “Listen, act, unite! Stand up for what is right!” Maybe all we really need to know we did learn in kindergarten.
Everyone must face implicit bias that’s been shaped by our personal, social and cultural experiences. Increasing awareness of unconscious prejudices and attitudes among surgical professionals will increase representation in ORs and lead to equitable care for all patients.
The necessary conversations about diversity and inclusion will continue in these pages. The more we share, listen and learn, the closer we’ll get to turning important words into meaningful action. OSM