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Presidential Matters: David Cohn, MD, MBA

Presidential Matters
Mar 19, 2021

A joint message with CEO, Pierre M. Désy, MPH, CAE

Building on the amazing groundwork of previous Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) Presidents to move our society and community toward equity for our patients and colleagues, we are inspired by the progress SGO has made and will continue to make under incoming SGO President, S. Diane Yamada, MD, in the months (and years) to come.

In 2020, a number of events collided—compounding existing and persistent inequities in our society and field—and demanded both continued and deliberate action moving further into 2021 and beyond:

  • A global pandemic shining a bright light on long-standing inequities and social determinants of health;
  • The deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and Dion Johnson, among others—plus the victims of the Atlanta shootings this week— magnifying the systemic racism that challenges our members and patients;
  • The outcomes of the 2020 State of the Society Survey showing gender-based disparities among gynecologic oncology health care professionals; and
  • Federal policies that rolled back or attempted to roll back nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQIA+ people in health care and the workplace.

Centering our members and patients, the work of the Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity (DI&HE) Committee and Gender Equity Task Force, and our joint commitment with partner organizations—the Obstetrics and Gynecology: Collective Action Addressing Racism—SGO developed a guiding plan with a mission: To foster greater diversity, equity, inclusion and accountability within SGO, the Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC) and the larger health care community to improve health outcomes for all patients.

Overarching goals and strategies are to:

  • Attract, diversify and develop future generations of health care professionals and stakeholders who treat and care for gynecologic cancer patients;
  • Increase diversity within membership, volunteer leadership roles and staff;
  • Increase participation in content development from a diverse group of professionals; and
  • Identify and support research and education aimed at improving health outcomes for diverse patient populations.

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While not an exhaustive list, we wanted to highlight some of the work already done and in progress by various arms of SGO and FWC, including:

  • Holding sessions during the 2020 Allied Health Professionals Virtual Meeting on implicit bias in medicine and historical bias in gynecologic oncology, plus unconscious bias and inclusion training for staff.
  • Securing two inaugural $75,000 health equity research grant opportunities for investigators from underrepresented groups or whose research is focused on marginalized groups through the FWC 2020 – 2021 Research Grants and Awards program.
  • Taking intentional steps to ensure SGO committee rosters represent the diversity of membership and our society at large, beginning with a census of current and incoming members to gather self-disclosed demographic information—gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race—and identify where we can close diversity and inclusion gaps and identify opportunities for equity.
  • Diversifying the Board of Directors to include an Associate (non-physician) member representative, early-career members, and members from non-academic institutions.
  • Adding a permanent seat to the Board of Directors for the chair or vice chair of the DI&HE Committee.
  • Collaborating with the National LGBT Cancer Network to develop training curriculum for members on becoming a trans-welcoming gynecologic cancer provider.

In addition to practice-impacting education and late-breaking research, the SGO 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer—themed Innovation Technology: Scaling New Heights—is amplifying health equity research, conversations on eradicating racism and discrimination in medicine, and gender equity in the field and mentorship. If you have not already, we encourage you to register and invite colleagues or trainees who work with gynecologic cancer patients, fellow allied health professionals or patient advocates to join this meeting from anywhere in the world—live sessions started today, March 19, and all education sessions will be recorded and available through the virtual platform for attendees who register for the meeting by March 25, 2021.

Diversity and inclusion work is essential and everyone’s responsibility. How SGO moves forward is a collaborative effort. With that in mind, we open a call for comments around, “What do you need to ease the process of implementing a more diverse, equitable and inclusive practice or perspective?”

Submit your comments


Thank you for the work you do and we are sending our deep appreciation for your membership, commitment and resilience.