The Society of University Surgeons (SUS) is committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion. We believe the strength of our profession lies in its diverse nature and we are committed to ensuring the leadership of the future reflects that diversity. To that end, we developed a collaboration with the Society of Black Academic Surgeons (SBAS), Eastern Association for the Surgey of Trauma (EAST), and the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) to start the Promising Leaders Program (PLP).
There remain significant deficits of underrepresented minorities in medicine (URM) and academic settings. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently reported less than 10% of medical school faculty and less than 10% of surgeons are from an URM background.1 Additionally, there remains a paucity of URMs in tenured positions or positions of leadership in academic health centers, and a majority of the already limited number of URM academic physicians remain at the Assistant Professor level (Figure 1).1 Much emphasis has been placed on providing support, mentoring, training, and sponsorship during the early career stage to increase the number of surgeons from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups who
are successful in developing independent research programs; however, few have been successful in attaining senior leadership positions to build upon this research success, including leadership positions in departments, institutions and surgical societies. Professors, chairs and deans are predominantly white with very few URM physicians achieving these positions.2 Lack of mentors and role models, as well as lack of sponsors and infrastructure are commonly cited challenges for URM physicians desiring advancement in academic medicine.3, 4 Therefore, leadership training and mentorship are crucial for increasing the diversity of the current pool of academic leaders in surgery.
The importance of finding a solution to this problem cannot be understated. A diverse and inclusive surgical workplace is one in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect, where talents and skills of different groups are valued, and where productivity and patient care improve because the workforce is happier and more motivated. A diverse surgical workforce leads to more inclusive, more patient-centered care. A diverse surgical workforce is more likely to consider problems from all angles and come up with solutions that better reflect the needs and concerns of patients. In short, the needs of all patients are considered and all voices are heard when our surgical departments reflect the general population.
The goal of the PLP is to provide travel awards for URM surgeons to participate in the following:
- Three established leadership development courses (the SUS midcareer course, the SBAS Leadership Academy, and the SUS Leadership Agility Program)
- Structured mentoring
- Executive coaching through a two-year program that provides comprehensive training in leadership principles that prepares URM surgeons to obtain and successfully advance in leadership positions in academia.
Our joint commitment to this program is unwavering. Our leadership is necessary to addressing diversity in the surgical workforce by encouraging URM medical students to pursue careers in surgery, recruiting URM surgeons into tenured and tenure-track faculty positions, and providing financial and administrative support to help guarantee their success. The first cohort of PLP were selected in 2017. We were honored to have our first group of participants include Dr. Kakra Hughes (Howard University) and Dr. Zara Cooper (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) both of whom were sponsored jointly by the SUS and SBAS. SAGES sponsored Dr. Colin Martin (University of Alabama, Birmingham) and Dr. Racquel Bueno (University of Hawaii). The group gathered at the American College of Surgeons in Boston, MA in October of 2018 to debrief the year and reflect on the value of the program (blog posts to come).
The second cohort of PLP were selected in 2018. Dr. Samir Pandya (UT Southwestern Medical Center) and Dr. Sharon Stein (UH Cleveland Medical Center) are sponsored by SAGES. Dr. Jason Hall (Boston University School of Medicine) is sponsored by SBAS. Dr. Shaun Kunisaki (Johns Hopkins University) is sponsored by SUS. Dr. Dirk Johnson (Yale University School of Medicine) is sponsored by EAST. We look forward to watching their progression through academic surgery as rising leaders.
While we recognize there remains much to accomplish, the leadership of the SUS, SBAS, EAST, and SAGES remain committed to working towards increasing diversity in American surgery. We remain committed to providing opportunities to all individuals to ensure inclusivity and equity. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out and contact any one of us if you have questions about the Promising Leaders Program.
- American Association of Medical Colleges. Diversity in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2012. Washington DC. 2012.
- Yu PT, Pars PV, Hassanein O, Rogers SO, Change DC. Minorities struggle to advance in academic medicine: a 120y review of diversity at the highest levels of America’s teaching institutions. J Surg Res 2013; 2012-2018.
- Butler PD, Longaker MT, Britt LD. Major deficits in the number of underrepresented minority academic surgeons persists. Ann Surg 2008; 248(5)704-11.
- Sambunjak D, Straus SE, Marusic A. Mentoring in academic medicine: a systemic review. JAMA 2006; 296(9):1103-15.