The Daily Dose • Monday, March 28, 2022

Diversity on the RADAR

Archana Bharadwaj, MPH, CHES

Diversity involves creating a culture that values differences not only in race, but also in spirituality, ability, and more. Strong supporters of diversity, equity and inclusion, Matthew Wixson, MD, and Scott Markowitz, MD, shared the benefits of diversity, the Raising Anesthesiology Diversity and Anti-Racism (RADAR) initiative, and tools for promoting positive cultural change during the “RADAR — Raising Anesthesiology Diversity and Anti-Racism,” session held Sunday, March 20 at the IARS 2022 Annual Meeting.

Dr. Matthew Wixson, Clinical Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Associate Chair, Diversity at the University of Michigan, launched this session with a presentation on “Why Diversity Matters.” As defined in “Workplace Diversity: A Manager’s Guide to Solving problems and Turning Diversity into Competitive Advantage,” diversity involves “acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing and celebrating differences in age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice.” Given the various realms diversity encompasses, he states that it is worth specifying the type of diversity that is being referenced. There are numerous benefits to diversity, he pointed out, such as improving cultural competency, optimizing the healthcare system and increasing access to quality healthcare. Promoting diversity is especially important given that the US is projected to be a minority-majority country by 2050.

An invaluable initiative designed to promote diversity in anesthesia is Raising Anesthesia Diversity and Antiracism (RADAR), which is led by Dr. Wixson. An NIH-funded national initiative, RADAR seeks to cultivate a diverse anesthesia community through three arms: 1) outreach, 2) resource development, and 3) mentorship. The outreach arm recruits undergraduates and medical students into the field of anesthesiology. Through resource development, RADAR creates materials that can help departments build inclusive, anti-racist communities. Finally, RADAR provides mentorship opportunities to both residents and early career anesthesiologists.

Dr. Scott Markowitz, Professor, Anesthesiology, Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology and Vice-Chair for Professional Development and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Washington University in St. Louis, followed up with a presentation on “Microaggression and Unconscious Bias Beginning to Change Culture.” According to “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice,” racial microaggressions are “daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities…that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Although this paper defines microaggressions in a racial context, Dr. Markowitz explains that microaggressions can occur toward protected categories including gender, age, and religion.

Microaggressions have been seen both in the delivery of care and within the institutions themselves. To create a more diverse culture, he said that a vision of the desired culture is needed, which will enable testing of the effectiveness of the intervention. This process may require multiple iterations to achieve the desired outcomes. He concluded that enacting this change begins with awareness, continues with understanding, and ultimately culminates in actions that move the needle toward diversity.