An editorial published online Friday in Annals of Emergency Medicine launched the official kick-off of a campaign to promote diversity within the specialty of emergency medicine ("Why Diversity and Inclusion Are Critical to ACEP's Future Success"). Written by two American College of Emergency Medicine (ACEP) presidents (one current, one former) and the immediate past president of the American Medical Association (AMA), the editorial announces the inclusion of diversity as an integral part of ACEP's Strategic Plan.
"The United States is culturally and racially varied, which is reflected in our nation's emergency departments," said the president of ACEP, and one of the paper's authors, Rebecca Parker, MD, FACEP. "As a specialty, emergency medicine is in a unique position to serve this diverse group of patients. As ACEP's president, I am committed to promoting diversity and inclusion within our specialty for the well-being and resiliency of our members as well as the improvement in patient care."
The paper is the result of a diversity summit held in April 2016 at ACEP's headquarters in Dallas, Texas. ACEP has a diversity and inclusion task force led by Aisha Liferidge, MD, FACEP, examining how ACEP can promote diversity and inclusion within emergency medicine by engaging colleagues, identifying and breaking down barriers, and highlighting the effects of diversity and inclusion on patient outcomes as a path to improving these outcomes.
"Embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace and our professional societies can improve patient care," said Dr. Parker. "The Institute of Medicine identified the under-representation of minority clinicians as a contributing factor to health care disparities in our country. Increasing the number of women and minority physicians in the emergency department can increase cultural sensitivity to the patients we treat."
The medical workforce remains predominantly white and disproportionately male, though in recent years the ranks of women in medical schools and residency programs have grown: In 1970, women comprised 7.6 percent of physicians, but in the past year just over 45 percent of all medical school students were women. Approximately 44 percent were from a racial minority. The percentage of women in emergency medicine residency programs has grown from 27 percent to 38.5 percent over the last 20 years. During the same period, the growth in the percentage of non-white physicians in emergency medicine residency programs has grown from 23 percent to 34 percent.
The paper recommends a strategic focus on diversity as good for business, good for ACEP's reputation internally and externally, good for clinical quality improvement in emergency medicine and good for legislative advocacy.
The third author of the paper, Steven Stack, MD, FACEP, the immediate past-president of the AMA, concluded: "Diversity is a strength and asset to our specialty and to our patients. Together we are stronger. Though there have been efforts by numerous medical and health-related associations, it is fair to say that most medical societies have failed to achieve the desired outcome of a membership and leadership reflective of the society we serve. Actively understanding and embracing diversity will transform the practice of emergency medicine. The journey will be challenging and the rewards will be great."