Addressing and Eliminating Racism at the AAMC and Beyond
The ongoing pandemics — both COVID-19 and racism — have laid bare the dehumanizing and damaging effects of structural racism throughout our country.
Regrettably, we see these effects in academic medicine as well. As we wrote in our June 1 statement, all academic medicine leaders — including the AAMC — must step up and transform rhetoric into action.
We as individuals, as an association, as part of the academic medicine community, and as members of society need to do our own work, individually and collectively, to create a shared vision of the AAMC and academic medicine institutions as diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist organizations. We acknowledge this work can and will be difficult for even the most skilled, experienced, and well-intentioned. This framework will serve as a strategic imperative; guide our own internal efforts at the AAMC; and help amplify, support, and accelerate the efforts of our member institutions to catalyze change in academic medicine. The shared vision should emanate from our own thinking at the AAMC and from lessons learned from our members and affinity groups, the communities of which we are a part, and the communities we serve. Through our efforts, we can address and work toward eliminating racism not only within academic medicine but also in our communities and the nation.
The sense of urgency called out in our June 1 statement has ignited discussions among our staff, leaders of our member institutions, and our constituents, and it has led us to identify four sets of concrete actions to pursue as the AAMC.
AAMC Framework for Addressing and Eliminating Racism at the AAMC, in Academic Medicine, and Beyond
1. Our own work
This calls for self-reflection and taking the initiative to educate ourselves. Each of us as individuals must work to understand systemic racism — if we don’t already — and recognize its subtle manifestations in the workplace and beyond, reflect on our own racial biases and stereotypes, and examine our comfort in conversing about race and racism. The AAMC is committed to identifying, developing, and making accessible resources for staff and others to consider. As members of an organization working to become anti-racist, diverse, equitable, and inclusive, AAMC staff will be expected to be open-minded; continue the practice of respectful conversations, both formal and informal, no matter how uncomfortable; and create the necessary space where everyone can feel safe to be authentic and open to each other’s identities and perspectives.
2. Our work as the AAMC
We believe the AAMC must become an anti-racist, diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization and lead and serve our member institutions in doing the same. Our vision, mission, and values will keep us focused as we work on the following highest-priority actions:
Hire a consultant to help guide our anti-racism efforts over the next three years.
Establish diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advisors for each cluster who will serve as cluster representatives and liaisons for all matters related to DEI and our anti-racism work. Each DEI advisor will serve on the DEI Council.
Establish a DEI Council within the AAMC composed of DEI advisors from each cluster. This advisory body will advocate for, guide, and promote DEI initiatives and strategies at the AAMC. The council will report jointly to the chief human resources officer and the CEO to give voice to the direction and priorities of the DEI initiatives and ensure accountability.
Review and use the rich data, both quantitative and qualitative, on the state of DEI within the AAMC and pursue needed actions as part of our goals for fiscal year 2021 and beyond pertaining to recruitment; hiring; retention; professional and career development; staff advancement; and achieving a safe, inclusive, and anti-racist environment.
Regularly seek input from staff through intergroup dialogues, open discussion, listening sessions, and briefings about our plans and progress. The AAMC will invest in training staff interested in becoming certified trained facilitators in sustained dialogues.
Hold everyone at the AAMC responsible and accountable for continuous equity improvement through their DEI efforts, which include everyone’s effort to address and eliminate racial inequities in our workplace. The AAMC will commit to re-envisioning a reporting system that is safe, accessible, and confidential so that we can address incidents of racial bias, prejudice, and discrimination in the most effective and efficient ways.
3. Our work as part of the academic medicine community
Based on our new strategic recognition that community collaborations are on par with research, education, and patient care, we will work with our councils and affinity groups to make needed change. Working with partners, we will expand our activities aimed at improving the aspects of the environment in the local Washington, D.C., community that we have the expertise and means to help change. These expansions could include collaborating with other local organizations and agencies on their anti-racism efforts and advocating for change around health inequities affecting local vulnerable communities. Importantly, we will commit to working with and learning from our member institutions to recognize and disrupt systemic and structural racism within academic medicine. For example, we will:
- Explore, identify, collect, and make available effective hiring, promotion, and salary policies and practices at our member institutions.
- Help identify the subtle manifestations of structural racism that lead to exclusionary admissions processes in medical schools and residency programs.
- Identify promising systems-based solutions that achieve equitable enrollment and support for learners to thrive.
- Identify effective approaches for achieving safe, inclusive environments and safe reporting systems.
- Identify effective culture and climate assessments of institutional environments.
- Conduct research on the effectiveness of anti-racism interventions.
- Identify innovative and promising pedagogies that educate medical students, residents, and other clinical and research trainees effectively about racism to ensure they have the training to treat all patients and co-workers equitably and with cultural sensitivity.
- Explore and identify examples of staff professional development, faculty development, and leadership development about racism, its manifestations in the workplace and learning environments, and the best approaches to addressing them, including attending to equity in appointments, salary, advancement, and leadership development.
4. Our work as part of the broader community
We will continue to speak out about the need for meaningful progress toward eliminating racism to keep it a top priority for the AAMC as an association, the community of academic medicine, the local Washington, D.C., community, and the nation. This includes speaking out about issues affected by systemic racism, from local health equity to police and public safety protocols and beyond. As an association whose mission is “to improve the health of people everywhere,” we have a social contract and obligation — both locally and nationally — to hold ourselves accountable for societal health and public health needs. We will seriously consider forming a local community advisory board in the district and a national advisory board to advise us on the priority order of issues. We also encourage our member institutions to learn from their community collaborations and foster more effective efforts in every community, and we will support them in those efforts.
The need for action is urgent. We know that we must plan this difficult work carefully and well and that it will take dedication, a sustained commitment, and investment for years. We are committed to continuing the many DEI initiatives we have already started, and we strongly believe we have the collective drive, expertise, and commitment to do this work and succeed.