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This is Our Lane: An SGO Forum for Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity

DiversityInclusion & Health Equity
Aug 27, 2020


Late Sunday afternoon in Kenosha, WI, Jacob Blake became the latest victim of an egregious act of police brutality against a Black person. Within full view of his three young children, Mr. Blake was shot seven times in the back while walking away from police officers and opening his car door, causing generational trauma before our very eyes, the scope of which is unknowable. Will calls for justice for Mr. Blake go unanswered, as they have for Breonna Taylor and so many others? Why should we care? What is the role of the physician in times of social injustice and societal distress?

Traditionally, political neutrality has been strongly encouraged in the medical profession; societal issues are often considered outside the purview of the field of medicine and political affiliations irrelevant to the conduct of professional duties (ref). It is hard to remain neutral these days, when the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare deep structural inequities in our society (Farley et al), and seemingly never-ending violence towards people of color documented by cell phone cameras. Ever since the killing of George Floyd, the nation and the world have been moved to a heightened state of consciousness about the destructiveness of racism. From an ethical perspective, neutrality stands in direct opposition to the medical ethics pillars of justice and non-maleficence. The AMA Code of Medical Ethics states the following principles: “A physician shall recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health,” and “a physician shall support access to medical care for all people.” “Political” topics such as racism, gender and sexual orientation bias/discrimination, and economics including poverty affect health equity and remain in our lane both personally and professionally.

The SGO is an organization steadfast in advocating for equitable quality care, with a mission “to promote excellence in the care of women at risk for or affected by gynecologic cancer through advocacy, education, research and inter‐disciplinary collaboration”, with core values that include advocacy, diversity and inclusion. In the recent SGO Statement on Racism and Violence, SGO leadership state: “We decry the pervasive racism and racial violence that challenges our members, patients and employees to live in dignity, safety and health…The welfare of our patients, our members, our staff and our society depends on our willingness to acknowledge the conditions that threaten people of color and underserved communities and to advocate for change.”

Keeping in line with its mission and core values, the SGO Board of Directors has recently approved a proposal for the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to become the Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity Committee.  The task force had been operating for all intents and purposes as a committee for the past three years and with the approval for full committee status, the SGO Board acknowledged and solidified the importance of this work. The full-fledged Committee will continue to work in partnership with members of the SGO executive leadership team and SGO management to create sustainable processes, policies and initiatives designed to foster diversity, inclusion and health equity, build cultural competence and achieve an inclusive environment throughout SGO. Exciting accomplishments of the Committee to date include procuring funding for a Foundation for Women’s Cancer Health Equity Research Grant, publication of a communiqué , clinical practice guideline and delivery of a webinar about health equity during the COVID-19 era, creation of tailored training in implicit bias for fellowship program directors, and a well-received speed mentoring event.  Many other initiatives are in the works, including the development of a curriculum for how to support LGTBQ/trans patients, virtual networking and mentoring programming, and formalized implicit bias and anti-racism training.

In addition, the Committee will publish a monthly column, “This is Our Lane,” in the SGO Issues newsletter to highlight diversity, inclusion, and equity issues related to the field of gynecologic oncology, to maintain the momentum of the current collective antiracism movement, and to amplify Black, Brown, LGBTQI and other underrepresented voices. We are committed to create a forum to promote open discussion, allow for personal reflections and highlight work in this area done by SGO members in their own communities. The Committee will strive to amplify the diverse perspectives and under-represented voices that make our specialty strong.

We hope you will read this column and feel inspired and motivated to continue the dialogue with colleagues and patients. Let’s come together to make good on the inherent promise that all of our people should be able participate in our society and attain their full potential. By working together toward diversity, inclusion, and equity within our society, we can cultivate meaningful change.

If you would like to write or contribute to this column, please reach out to robyn.kurth@sgo.org.

We invite you to learn more about our initiatives.

Subcommittee Chairs of the Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity Column:
Nita Karnik Lee MD, MPH and Ana I. Tergas, MD

Co-Chairs of the Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity Committee:
Eloise Chapman-Davis MD, and Sandra E. Brooks MD, MBA

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