Academic surgery is entering a “second renaissance,” where enlightenment and progress on diversification will be exponential and lead to greatly improved patient care, according to Omaida C. Velazquez, MD, FACS, this year’s Olga M. Jonasson Lecturer.
“I think that the evolution of this second renaissance—one that truly, authentically values and embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—is going to focus on diversity of perspectives and inputs, diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and diversity of thought,” explained Dr. Velazquez, who is professor and chair of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery, the David Kimmelman Endowed Chair in Vascular Surgery, and surgeon-in-chief for the University of Miami Health System in Florida.
Whereas the first renaissance of DEI led to incremental changes in the surgical workforce, such as the increase of women academic surgery chairs from 1%–6% in the US and Canada, authentic endorsement means going beyond the simplistic belief that it is about percentages or specific numbers or quotas. Dr. Velazquez explained that DEI is about reaching for the maximum optimal excellence.
“DEI matters for the preservation of the highest level of excellence of our field, the development of new surgical cures, and the development of a healthy, thriving workforce of the future,” she said. “DEI is about capturing all of the talent from all the walks of life that is waiting out there; it is at the root of a happy surgical workforce and is at the root of curing surgical diseases into the future.”
Named after the first woman academic chair of surgery in the US, the Olga M. Jonasson Lecture is sponsored by the ACS Women in Surgery Committee and honors Dr. Jonasson’s trailblazing leadership and significant contributions to surgical practice and surgery education.
As a young surgeon, Dr. Velazquez attended some of Dr. Jonasson’s lectures and took mental note of her advice and guidance about the importance of networking and finding an appropriate set of mentors, sponsors, and role models.
“At a time when there were extremely few women in the pipeline, she taught me about the importance of not being afraid to reach out to male figures. She said, ‘You’d be surprised how approachable they will be.’ She was right, and I will always remember that specific advice,” Dr. Velazquez reflected.
Dr. Jonasson is someone who Dr. Velazquez considers a personal hero, and she said she’s humbled by the opportunity to give the Jonasson Lecture.
“It is probably the highest honor in my entire career to this point in time, and I venture to say it might be the highest honor ever in my career,” Dr. Velazquez said.
The 2022 Jonasson Lecture, “The Authentic Endorsement of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Academic Surgery: A Second Renaissance in Its Inception,” begins at 2:30 pm in Room 6B. It also will be livestreamed on the Clinical Congress 2022 virtual platform and available on-demand within an hour after presentation.