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Diversity Champion Workshop focuses on inclusion to recruit minorities and care for underserved patients


The Second Annual Diversity Champion Workshop

In September 2020, the Academy hosted its second annual Diversity Champion Workshop. Two hundred and forty dermatology faculty members and residents representing nearly 80 academic dermatology programs across the country came together to exchange ideas and share success stories for evaluating and selecting underrepresented minority candidates for their institution’s residency programs.

In addition, the participants discussed dermatology diversity outreach programs and initiatives. This was an especially timely discussion since African Americans are dying at a highly alarming and disproportionate rate than their white counterparts during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research, diversifying the specialty, and the health care workplace at-large, increases access for underserved patients.

Event co-chairs Nkanyezi Ngwenyama Ferguson, MD, FAAD, and Rebecca Vasquez, MD, FAAD shared their perspectives about the importance of the Diversity Champion Workshop, including effective ways to implement diversity initiatives to help create greater opportunities for underrepresented minority medical students exploring careers in dermatology.

Question: COVID-19 has reminded us about the injustices that loom in the health care system. When compared to their white counterparts, a disproportionate number of African Americans test positive for and die from COVID-19. Can you share how AAD programs like the Diversity Champion Workshop help to address disparities in care?

Headshot of Dr. Ferguson

“AAD programs like the Diversity Champion Workshop recognize the importance of reducing health care disparities through a number of approaches including diversifying the dermatology workforce. ... The Diversity Champion Workshop addressed several topics important to achieve this goal including mentorship, allyship, holistic residency applicant review, recruitment, and retention.”

─ Nkanyezi Ngwenyama Ferguson, MD, FAAD

Dr. Ferguson: The importance and the urgency to meaningfully address health care disparities have been underscored by the events of the past several months in which COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact specifically on Black and Latino communities. AAD programs like the Diversity Champion Workshop recognize the importance of reducing health care disparities through a number of approaches including diversifying the dermatology workforce. The research shows that diversity and inclusion in the physician workforce increases access for underserved patients. The Diversity Champion Workshop addressed several topics important to achieve this goal including mentorship, allyship, holistic residency applicant review, recruitment, and retention.

Question: To kick off the Diversity Champion Workshop, Dr. Amit Pandya gave an update on the state of the specialty. In your opinion, what was the most striking news/data he reported as it relates to health care disparities and the importance of diversifying the specialty?

Dr. Vasquez: The most striking news was the persistent racial and ethnic disparities that exist in healthcare (especially in dermatology) despite evidence that diversity improves patient care and directly addresses disparities in access to care.

Increasing diversity is a means to an end: to enhance culturally competent physicians that can better serve a growing diverse patient population and expand the health care research agenda.

We must individually reflect upon why this pattern continues to exist and collectively work to dismantle constructs (like institutional racism) that impede diversity and inclusive efforts.

Question: The Diversity Champion Workshop is unique in that it is designed for faculty members in dermatology residency programs who are involved in the evaluation and selection of candidates for their program. When thinking about diversifying the specialty, why is it crucial to start at the residency level?

Dr. Ferguson: Diversity is recognized as an attribute of excellence within medical education and health care institutions. Within the clinical learning environment specifically, there is persuasive evidence that recruiting a diverse student body and faculty has a strong, positive effect on the quality of medical education (including to help break down stereotypes and racial biases, challenge assumptions, broaden perspectives about racial, ethnic and cultural differences) and increases trainees’ awareness of health and health care disparities. To achieve the goals of diversity within our specialty, it is important to review residency applicants in a holistic manner and focus on mentorship to help resident physicians thrive and eventually transition into leaders within our specialty. It is also critical to recognize the importance of expanding our pipeline efforts beyond residency and include outreach to underrepresented high school, undergraduate, and medical school students.

Question: Workshop speakers discussed new diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives. Which initiatives stood out to you? What would you say needs to be a common theme for any diversity, equality, and inclusion initiative to be successful?

Dr. Vasquez: Several initiatives stood out: pipeline programs starting at grade-school level, exploring holistic measures to recruitment and selection that go above test scores, but that include the candidate’s volunteer work and community efforts, making diversity part of the program’s agenda, and exploring the constructs of systemic racism and how it affects our patients and our field.

This is not the work of one person; it takes a village and allyship.

Question: This is the second annual Diversity Champion Workshop. Aside from hosting this year’s event virtually, tell us more about what was new this year. Specifically, how did the content evolve from last year?

Dr. Ferguson: The first Diversity Champion Workshop was incredibly powerful and set a high bar for future educational programming. This year, the workshop built on programming from 2019 and went beyond the "why” to discuss the "how.” This year’s program highlighted discussions surrounding the impact of microaggressions and tools on how to respond and become an ally when these situations arise in the clinical education setting. The steps and challenges to implementing diversity initiatives and holistic review into residency programs were discussed and experiences were shared. The importance of medical student mentorship and minority faculty recruitment and retention were highlighted and speakers gave practical advice about how to ensure success in these different arenas.

Question: Let’s dig into one of the breakout sessions: Mentorship – Building the next generation of underrepresented minority dermatologists. Why would you say “mentorship” is important for cultivating and sustaining underrepresented minority dermatologists? During this breakout session, what key points did the speakers give on how to incorporate mentorship opportunities into the overall college/residency experience for underrepresented minority (URM) medical students?

Headshot of Dr. Vasquez

“Mentorship is crucial and can serve as a bridge to improve unequal access to opportunities for students from historically marginalized groups. Faculty who share their time, knowledge, support, experience, and provide opportunities to network can improve an applicant’s chances of becoming successful in the match.”

─ Rebecca Vasquez, MD, FAAD

Dr. Vasquez: Mentorship is crucial and can serve as a bridge to improve unequal access to opportunities for students from historically marginalized groups. Faculty who share their time, knowledge, support, experience, and provide opportunities to network can improve an applicant’s chances of becoming successful in the match.

Importantly, a mentor does not need to be of the same race/ethnicity as the student, but it could help to have some personal/relational commonalities.

As URM students are less likely to seek a mentor, participation in outreach programs that target URM students (i.e. Student National Medical Association (SNMA) and Latino Medical Student Association) is encouraged. By providing opportunities to explore the dermatology clinic, we can help students understand how our specialty can profoundly impact the lives of patients.

The Academy's commitment to diversity

The Academy is committed to increasing access to dermatologic care through diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through fostering diversity in the dermatology specialty and increasing dermatologic services available to underserved populations.


Related Academy resources

Diversity main page

Return to the main page to see all of the Academy's available diversity resources.

Diversity Champion Workshop

Learn more about the 2021 Diversity Champion Workshop.

Career development

See all of the Academy's resources, from starting a practice to selling one and more.

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