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"Reframing the Narrative": New AAMC Chief Diversity Officer Marc Nivet

AAMC Chief Diversity Officer Marc Nivet

AAMC Chief Diversity Officer Marc Nivet

Marc Nivet, Ed.D., joined the AAMC in June as chief diversity officer. In that role, Nivet provides strategic vision for all the AAMC's diversity and inclusion activities and leads the association's diversity policy and programs department, which focuses on programs designed to increase diversity in medical education and advance health care equity.

Nivet has dedicated his career to improving higher education by creating and supporting initiatives that increase diversity. As the associate executive director of the Associated Medical Schools of New York for seven years, he oversaw several programs designed to increase enrollment and retention of minority students in the health professions. He has also held positions as director of state outreach for The Sallie Mae Fund and director of the office of minority affairs at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Most recently, Nivet served as chief operating officer of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, where he oversaw day-to-day operations of the foundation and managed an endowment of $150 million. The foundation supports programs designed to improve the education of health professionals in the interest of public health.

What do you believe are the major issues and challenges facing academic medicine?

The changes precipitated by health care reform and current demographic trends are poised to rapidly transform the health care space. To maintain relevance and solvency in the face of these dramatic changes, all the components of academic medicine—from medical school admissions criteria to the faculty profile, to the research agenda and financial models of academic health centers—will be forced to evolve at an accelerated pace.

As I see it, one of the keys to making the transition will be elevating issues of diversity and inclusion from being seen as problems that must be dealt with to being equated with institutional excellence and innovation. Our job is to herald the idea that institutions which welcome and embrace a plurality of backgrounds and identities are more likely to excel on all levels: education, research, and patient care.

How do you intend to help address challenges facing the diversity community?

I'm going to spend a lot of time on the road, speaking at institutions and meeting with their leadership. I want to find those champions who can assist in developing this new rationale for diversity. And I also want to work within the AAMC, to arm people with this narrative so that we can take diversity from a sideline initiative to a core mission driver.

The AAMC's new Group on Diversity and Inclusion (GDI) will be a powerful ally in these efforts. GDI members are on the front lines of helping institutions realize the benefits of diversity, and will be important ambassadors to the broader community of medical schools and teaching hospitals.

As part of their mission, GDI champions a definition of diversity which encompasses both its historical origins in gender, racial, and ethnic equity and a richer set of factors which differentiate us, such as socioeconomic status, geography, language, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and age. In my outreach efforts, I will promulgate this expanded notion of diversity and strive to frame diversity as a tool for strengthening the capacity of institutions to navigate complex challenges.

If you could only address one problem on diversity, what would it be?

It would be the K-12 education system in this country. Disparities in educational outcomes based on geography socioeconomic status, or language spoken at home mean many talented students are not being given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Ultimately, this means we are not fully tapping into our talent base. Efforts to increase medical school capacity and diversify the pipeline of applicants are inextricably linked to the available talent pool. Thus, striving toward equity in educational outcomes at the K-12 level would prepare a larger cadre of individuals for careers in medicine.

With the health care reform law now in the implementation phase, what opportunities do you see in the law to help advance diversity?

All the levers in the law that help improve the health of the public are the same ones that would advance the cause of diversity. The central goals of reform are clear: better health, better health care, and lower costs. The new provisions to improve equity in access to health insurance and address chronic illness in a preventive and community-centered fashion have huge potential to reduce health disparities. In turn, efforts to train a more diverse and culturally competent health care workforce will gain momentum as they are shown to expedite our path toward these outcomes.

How do you feel that you and the AAMC can best help to effect these changes?

My role mirrors the AAMC's mantra to "learn, serve, and lead." I need to continually understand and share promising practices for diversifying the workforce in the academic, clinical, and research environments. Our collective aim will be to align the efforts of our institutions with their broader societal missions, within the arenas of research, education, and patient care. Personally, I hope to assist our institutions in lining up the incentives, efforts, and initiatives that will allow them to thrive in the 21st century.

Two ways to evaluate the impact of our efforts will be: are our constituents tapping into the power of diversity to devise innovative solutions, and are our constituents attracting and educating the right mix of students to meet the needs of the new patient population that will gain access to health care following health care reform?

How do you think academic medical research will change over the next five years?

The growing complexity of scientific exploration, plus a broadening agenda which encompasses both bench work and efforts to advance the quality of health care delivery and translate lab discoveries into health outcomes for a diverse population, means academic medical research is on track for major changes in the coming years. In the context of diversity, the most salient change will be the growing emphasis on interdisciplinary, team-based research, with the most innovative breakthroughs emerging from groups of professionals from a range of backgrounds.

—By Scott Harris