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May 15, 2019

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A Journey Toward Inclusion, Diversity, Access & Equity at IDSA

By Jasmine R Marcelin MD and Ravina Kullar, PharmD, MPH, FIDSA

Many medical specialties have acknowledged disparities in their healthcare workforce and have made strategic changes to address diversity and inclusion as an innovation challenge for their medical societies. Infectious Diseases is no different, and recent compensation studies published demonstrated ongoing gender pay gaps as well as possible racial/ethnic pay disparities. IDSA recognized that these are issues that need to be addressed, especially in the context of overall workforce development challenges, and commissioned a Gender Disparity Task Force in 2016.

In 2017, a supplement article by Aberg et al. on behalf of the task force reviewed workforce disparities for women and minorities in ID, and recommended creation of a task force to examine minority disparities in ID. The IDSA Governance Task Force subsequently commissioned the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, later renamed the Inclusion, Diversity, Access & Equity (IDA&E) Task Force.  The goals of this task force are to intentionally: 1) Cultivate a welcoming environment where differences are embraced, valued, and respected; 2) Ensure that processes, policies, and practices foster fairness, belonging, equity, and reflect the views and values of our Society; and 3) Guarantee transparency to promote fair treatment and access to opportunities for all members within all levels of the organization.

After an initial call for volunteers, the IDSA Board of Directors approved 13 members to form this task force, chaired by Tina Tan, MID, FIDSA, with IDSA staff support from Salandra Fleming.  In addition to the task force members, which include adult and pediatric ID physicians, PharmD, and ID fellow participants, IDSA has engaged diversity and inclusion expert Vernetta Walker, JD to help the IDA&E Task Force achieve its mission.

IDA&E Task Force.jpgIDA&E Task Force Meets at IDWeek 2018

From the very first meeting at IDWeek2018, the task force went to work, developing guiding principles. After discussion about the role of the task force, IDSA’s values, and consensus that equitable access to opportunities is essential for success of any diversity and inclusion efforts, the task force recommended the name change to IDA&E, which the Board of Directors approved in December 2018. 

Next steps included adding the principles of IDA&E to all IDSA core values.  At its March 22, 2019 meeting, the IDSA Board of Directors approved the following  IDA&E case statement for IDSA: “…Our goal is to create a welcoming environment that recognizes the value of individuals with diverse backgrounds, talents, experiences and perspectives, and empowers them to fulfill their full potentials within the Society and in the community. We strive to build collaborative relationships with other organizations to further ensure the success of our Society's missions, and we serve as a champion for the principles of IDA&E in the global Infectious Diseases community.”  As a task force, the group provided guidance on selection of individuals to create the newly approved Leadership Development Committee, another strategic initiative by IDSA to foster IDA&E in leadership throughout the society.

IDA&E Task Force  2.jpgIDA&E Task Force Creates Roadmap at IDSA Headquarters

Last month, the IDA&E Task Force met in person at IDSA headquarters in Arlington Va., and spent the entire day creating an IDA&E roadmap and discussing short and long-term goals that IDSA should consider when putting together the initiative to make the Society more equitable for all members. This roadmap is centered largely on data, because we recognize that without being able to name and quantify the challenges, we will not be equipped to address them. While the roadmap is still being finalized, the focus of next steps will be to make recommendations on what kind of data will be important to evaluate the current state of diversity and inclusion in our society, followed by recommendations on what to do with that data. The innovative challenge will be to plan strategic initiatives to increase representation and access to opportunities for groups who have been underrepresented thus far in our society’s history.

As a demonstration of IDSA’s commitment to this, recognizing that this is not simply a box to be checked, IDSA has commissioned a Diversity & Inclusion supplement to be published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. Topics to be covered include data-driven reviews on the value and spectrum of diversity, unconscious bias, equity, institutional climate, and the relationship of IDA&E and governance. The supplement will be published in print in September 2019, ahead of IDWeek2019. This year’s IDWeek also has several sessions devoted to gender bias and challenges for women in medicine, and the #FacesOfID and #FutureOfID campaigns were instrumental in driving engagement and attention to the proposed governance changes.

The task force acknowledges that this is neither a short-term nor simple endeavor, and looks forward to continued support from the IDSA Board of Directors and governance, moving the needle toward an IDSA leadership structure that reflects the diversity of our membership and patient population.

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