To respond to the continuing societal and health problem of racism thrown into stark relief in 2020, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) earlier this year initiated the Task Force on Racial Issues, which delivered some of its recommendation in a Tuesday, October 6, Panel Session, which will be available for on-demand viewing through the virtual Clinical Congress meeting platform through December 31.
Wayne Meredith, MD, FACS, Winston-Salem, NC, ACS President, explained how the ACS Regents decided that, “We need to improve our position on race, with the position that we can’t be excellent if we can’t be excellent on race.” The task force was created to identify areas within the field of surgery and the College that need to improve to create substantive, lasting changes.
The foundation of these efforts begins with creating a Just and Inclusive Environment, according to Lenworth M. Jacobs Jr., MD, MPH, FACS, ACS Regent, who explained that the problems of racism are “multifactorial, often subtle, and require complex, societal solutions.” It is incumbent upon the ACS to identify racial inequity within the organization and its members.
Adding antiracism to the ACS’ codified list of values “will create an environment in the College and throughout surgery departments where there can be open, candid conversations about racism,” he said, following with task force recommendations that include creation of a Regental committee on racial inequity; an office of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); and College-developed education and training to improve awareness of the issues related to race, among other items.
Meixi Ma, MD, Chicago, IL, discussed the necessity of developing a Culturally Competent and Diverse Work Force to “devise a thoughtful plan with meaningful antiracist policies to begin bridging the chasm of racial inequity,” with the group focusing on addressing antiblack racism.
Dr. Ma provided the group’s recommendations, including more antiracist education, inclusivity, creating a diversity-dedicated executive leadership position with the ACS, as well as guidance on diversifying the workforce to include more underrepresented minorities (URM) so that surgery and the College better represent the country’s demographics.
Andrea A. Hayes-Jordan, MD, FACS, Chapel Hill, NC, discussed the group’s focus on Advocacy Efforts and Legislative Reform. Dr. Hayes-Jordan spoke on the importance of why it is critical that the College work to include more Fellows from URM backgrounds and increase representation in health care. “The connection between patient and provider is better and preferred if providers look like their patients,” she said, and action should be taken to provide more surgeons to URM populations.
For the College’s activities, the task force proposed increasing URM representation on ACS activities; evaluating diversity on leadership; improving advocacy by utilizing a new ACS DEI office that addresses issues of concern to minority populations within and outside the College, and more.
With recognition that, “Research and public policy initiatives have been critical in shining light on disparities that exist and are imperative to eliminating those disparities going forward,” Zara Cooper, MD, MSc, FACS, discussed how the ACS can assist in developing Public Health Research and Initiatives.
Research has shown that Black patients are considerably more likely to experience poor health outcomes than their White counterparts in many otherwise similar health situations. In response, the ACS should take steps to define a public health measures agenda and research needs, identify federal funding opportunities and fill those gaps, and explore barriers to participation in ACS Quality Programs, among other needs.