At Washington University Surgery, we believe that diversity is one of our institution’s greatest strengths. By uniting groups of dedicated people from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, we access a rich wealth of knowledge and work together toward a brighter future for our community. We strive to foster diversity among our residents, trainees, faculty and staff in a way that cultivates a safe and supportive environment not only within our programs, but within the community we serve.
Clinical, Research, Education
Our ongoing goal is to cultivate a department which reflects the broad range of cultures and diversity of the St. Louis community and beyond. Along with our devotion to promoting excellence in clinical care, research and education, our fourth mission is to improve the diversity of our specialty as well as to improve the health equity of all the patients we serve.
Diversifying leadership encourages inclusion within all levels of our programs. We focus on recruiting department leaders to uplift minority voices and to provide mentorship opportunities for the next generation of great surgeons. Not only is it important to recruit and encourage underrepresented groups within our programs, but it is vital to provide a safe and welcoming environment during their training.
The Department of Surgery participates in department-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training and manages the DEI Task Force focused on positively impacting the diversity within the department. The Department participates in advocacy groups to provide further opportunities to our residents, trainees and faculty including the Society of Black Academic Surgeons, the Latino Medical Student Association and the Association of Women Surgeons.
Washington University’s Department of Surgery– as part of the only institution in the Midwest to do to – was a participant in the PACTS trial. This study was conducted to explore the impact of diversity and cultural competency training among healthcare professionals and departments.
Opportunities and Resources
The Department actively works on pipeline efforts to support underrepresented high school and college students who are interested in the medical field in order to break down barriers. These efforts include the Diversity Sub-Internship Program which offers minority students experiences in academic surgery and a number of events and programs held within the WISE center. The WISE center has hosted high school and community college students in surgical preparatory programs to allow them hands-on experience with professional training equipment alongside doctors, fellows, residents and surgical techs. During the Covid pandemic, coordinators at the WISE center found ways to continue these efforts virtually by allowing high school students to virtually attend a resident tour and demonstration in the WISE center and to interact and ask questions over Zoom.
The Office of DEI hosts events and provides resources to Washington University students and trainees. The Department of Medicine sponsors OUTmed, a program which seeks to increase visibility and support of LGBTQIA+ identifying faculty and trainees through education and mentorship. We offer mentorship for our women trainees and proudly support advocacy groups such as the Association of Women Surgeons, which fosters growth for women in the community and helps to address issues unique to female surgeons, residents and faculty.
We understand the manifold value of not only uniting people from all walks of life, but arming them with the resources for further success. Washington University believes in leading through action. We strive to make concrete efforts toward our goals and to be transparent about growth and learning.
“Washington University encourages and gives full consideration to all applicants for admission, financial aid and employment regardless of race, color, ethnicity, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ability, gender identity or expression, national origin, veteran status, socio-economic status, genetic information.”
– from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis Diversity Statement
Improving Health Equity
Building trust within our community is a vital part in our DEI efforts. In providing spaces for patients to feel safe and supported, we work toward eliminating health disparities and promoting health equity for all. We not only seek to foster a diverse community within our programs, but also to reach out and offer support both within the walls of our facilities and within the community itself.
The Department of Surgery recognizes racism as a public health crisis—one that affects people of color in every aspect of life, and impacts our institution’s clinical, research and educational missions. Department faculty, staff and trainees are committed to pursuing racial equity and making continuous improvements to institutional practices moving forward.
Eliminating Disparities –
Research and Action
Through expanding knowledge and education both in our research and in our communities, the Department of Surgery at Washington University hopes to address and eliminate health disparities on local and worldwide scales. In recent years, Washington University has made significant investments in North County through Christian Hospital and Siteman North County to bring much needed health resources to the area. This includes a community center within Siteman North County which is available as a space for public use. Siteman Cancer Center has developed the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD) which works to create a national model for researching and eliminating disparities in disproportionately affected groups through clinical studies, community outreach and education. In 2021, Washington University School of Medicine received a $17 million grant from the National Institute of Health funded through the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Moonshot program. This grant will allow The School of Medicine to fund further research on cancer presenting in African American patients and rare cancers which disproportionately affect underrepresented groups in medicine.
In Our Community
Washington University has long been actively working toward health equity in our communities by establishing programs, providing education and resources and physically showing up in support of the St. Louis community. We have expanded patient care into resource-limited areas of St. Louis to provide quality care to those who need it most. The Department conducts research on health disparities to understand trends and work toward solutions. The Department of Surgery’s Peer Advocacy Program helps support all students in working to eliminate microagressions and other concerning behavior from our environments. Physicians, trainees and medical students from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis stood in solidarity with health care professionals across the country in reflection and commitment to improve the health and safety of people of color On June 5, 2020 during the White Coats for Black Lives event.
Listening and understanding are the foundations for conductive advocacy. At Washington University, we listen to the community’s needs and concerns so we can do the necessary work and provide the highest quality of care.
Influences from all areas and cultures help us improve in all aspects of our field. Clinical care is improved upon when we have surgeons from all walks of life serving and supporting our patients. Research is expanded upon by providing space for ideas from varied experiences. Education benefits from a wide pool of knowledge provided by a diverse spectrum of people. In championing for diversity, equity and inclusion, we support our department-wide efforts and the wellbeing of our invaluable community in the St. Louis area.
By uniting our inclusion and equity efforts with our history of collaboration and championing for change, we look forward to working with the next generation of surgeons and all they will accomplish.