Both the Sullivan Commission report and an Institute of Medicine study correctly identify the multiple barriers to greater diversity in the medical and other health professions ("Healthcare's minority report," Sept. 27, p. 6). They're also on target in linking this issue to the glaring disparities in healthcare quality where minorities and nonminorities are concerned. And though both reports' recommendations are on point as far as they go, we think that's not far enough.
Community Catalyst has been involved in the issue of physician workforce diversity long enough to have concluded that the real key to changing the current situation is to challenge and transform the norms of academic medicine regarding what makes a good doctor and who is "worthy" to enter the profession. These judgments have been left to the sole discretion of medical educators and administrators. That needs to change, and we don't think it's possible-or desirable-for the profession to be left to heal itself in this regard.
Both the Sullivan Commission report and the IOM study make a number of excellent recommendations, many of which involve public policy shifts that create incentives for institutional change. What is missing, though, is any mechanism for creating the pressure that will actually move these recommendations. Past experience suggests it won't come from the institutions themselves.
Community Catalyst designed its Physician Diversity Project to address just this problem. The project supports the development of community-based organizations that want to work with local academic medical institutions to address diversity issues. If those efforts aren't fruitful, the community groups will be prepared to create the political demand for change in the policy arena.
Director of the Physician Diversity Project
Director of development and policy
Community Catalyst, Boston
The American College of Healthcare Executives is proud to be a founding member of the Institute for Diversity in Health Management. Having worked with Rupert Evans and the institute so closely, I know how important has been the leadership shown by Evans, who is stepping down as its president and chief executive officer ("Leader steps down," Sept. 27, p. 7).
During Rupert's tenure-which spanned more than half of the institute's 10-year existence-the institute expanded services, programs and membership. More than 600 minority students have benefited from the institute's Summer Enrichment Program. More than $110,000 in scholarships have been awarded to promising undergraduate and graduate students. And each year the institute holds a leadership conference to help healthcare leaders further diversity in their organizations. It also sponsors a session at the ACHE's annual Congress on Healthcare Management.
Rupert Evans has ensured that the institute is poised to face the challenges ahead. As he moves on, we all need to commit to making greater progress in achieving diversity in our field.
President and chief executive officer
American College of Healthcare Executives