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Examining Diversity and Equity at ACOG 2021

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Although we have all been separated by the pandemic, this year’s ACOG virtual conference focused on topics that could serve to unite us as we work to build a more inclusive and equitable society, including within our specialty of obstetrics and gynecology. 

As an academic physician practicing in Minneapolis, I have seen the consequences of over 400 years of inequity and structural racism. So I was pleased to see the ACOG community address this issue head-on in this year’s Hale Lecture on Diversity and Equity in Obstetrics and Gynecology: The Patient and the Provider — Care Delivery to Employment. 

This year’s lecture highlighted three leaders in addressing necessary changes to our specialty: Dr. Wanda Nicholson, Dr. Jane van Dis, and Dr. Michael Lu, with moderation provided by Dr. Diana Ramos. 

Dr. Wanda Nicholson serves as the chair of the ACOG workgroup on diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence. She focused on the importance of diversity in our providers, which would allow for a richer understanding of what our patients need, and diversity in thoughts and perspectives to solve the challenges facing our goal of truly equitable clinical care. She acknowledged the significant gaps in representation in high care, both historically and currently. These gaps are even more striking when examining current academic medicine, with fewer Black men applying to medical school in 2014 than applied in 1978 and a decline of 8.5% in NIH K grants for Black and African American researchers. 

Dr. Jane van Dis, the cofounder of Time’s Up Healthcare, examining the persistent issues of gender equity in starting salary offers out of residency and in opportunities for career advancement. She also discussed the importance of allyship and engagement by male physicians to truly advance gender equity in the healthcare employment environment. 

Dr. Michael Lu, one of the pioneers of naming systemic racism as a factor influencing inequity in adverse perinatal outcomes, closed out the lecture team. He provided data on the ongoing inequity in ob/gyn leadership: Black women comprise 13% of the US population, but only 8.3% of ob/gyn faculty and only 7.2% of ob/gyn chairs. He provided concrete suggestions for increasing equity in leadership, including self-advocacy, self-development, and the importance of building a leadership resume.

All three presenters emphasized the importance of an institutional and departmental commitment to more diverse and equitable leadership in our academic communities. This includes a sustained commitment to reimagining our leadership development with family-friendly work policies and flexible promotion policies and to changing organizational culture and climate using support at all levels for anti-racism training of all team members and redefining the values that must drive our missions. Are we prioritizing faculty and resident work in anti-racism and gender equity in the same way that we prioritize a goal of at least three peer-reviewed publications a year?

Collage by Diana Connolly / Pensee Sauvage/ Irina Strelnikova/ Shutterstock

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