Richard Baker, MD, senior vice dean of medical education at Wayne State University School of Medicine, helped develop a series of seminars on diversity, equity and inclusion in the health professions for the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.
Dr. Baker, Professor of Ophthalmology, was Vice-Chair of the Planning Committee, which prepared “A Study of a Culture of Justice, Respect, and Anti-Racism through Diversity, Justice, and Inclusion in Health Education: A Seminar Series” for the organization.
Dr. Baker’s committee convened a diverse group of faculty, students, administrators, and health professionals to study diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism across the spectrum of health education. Participants shared ideas and educational materials that led to an interactive web page tool for educators and health professionals to explore ideas and answers, considering:
• Accreditation as a mechanism for change
• The importance of language for provoking action
• How indicators and funding organizations are used or could be used to measure and promote the anti-racist structures of institutions
Each session explores the forms of institutional structures as potential mechanisms for influencing or eliminating discriminatory practices within the education of health professionals. All three working sessions are summarized in the received free interactive educational resource, full of downloadable content.
In addition to monitoring the committee planning the seminar, Dr. Baker presented the “Five Key Points” that form the core of the program. His five points, which he described as “recognized as ambitious”, were “useful for facilitating a common understanding of the topic for a more focused and deliberate discussion”.
1. DEI – diversity, justice and inclusion – is not the same as “anti-racism”
Make a clear distinction between DEI’s efforts and anti-racism efforts. DEI is extremely important. This can be a path to or a platform for anti-racism, but DEI-related progress should not be replaced or confused with the achievement of anti-racism goals.
2. Race is not a biological construct
Race is not a biological construct, it is a social construct. Race as a biological construct is widespread and highly maintained, but inaccurate belief and conjecture. Science clearly demonstrates that race is not based on meaningful biology, it is at best a bad and often misleading example of real biological determinants of health, such as origin or genetic predisposition. Misrepresentation, especially among our faculty and students, is very problematic and is a basis for perpetuating false beliefs, misinformation, inappropriate curriculum and inappropriate care.
3. Health inequalities stem from racism, not race
Health injustices experienced by a particular marginalized race, ethnic group are primarily a product and consequence of racism, not race. Racism is a powerful social factor in health. Despite the undeniably powerful impact of racism on health, historically the term racism has usually been eliminated, ignored or actively avoided in health discussions.
4. Distinguish between structural racism and interpersonal racism
It is useful to distinguish between structural and institutional racism from interpersonal racism. Discussions, activities and proposed interventions related to efforts to combat racism in the field of health education focus mainly on structural and institutional racism, as opposed to interpersonal racism at the individual level.
5. Structural racism extends far beyond the educational environment
Given the reality that structural racism extends far beyond the educational environment today, the main issues are twofold. First, what is the role of accreditors’ challenges and the recognition and elimination of structural racism in the health professions? Second, what is the role and challenges of creditors and mitigating the pervasive and highly detrimental effects of structural racism on the teaching staff and patients we serve?