UPMC has a vibrant committee of people interested in promoting Diversity among its ranks of 50,000 employees. New committees and projects dealing with aspects of promoting Diversity with Respect and Dignity for all are being created frequently. I have been participating in many of the Diversity related discussions and events at both the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, intentionally becoming known by the Deans, Chancellors, and UPMC officials involved in these efforts to secure the Department of Anesthesiology a seat at that political table.
My observation over the past year is that the richness and diversity that we already have in our department has to be paraded in plain sight on our websites, in our advertisements, at our Departmentally-sponsored meetings, and in our front offices. This will create marketing that will attract diverse candidates in unspoken ways. Establishing relationships among the members of our diverse department where people get to know each other as friends as well as colleagues (inclusiveness) will promote retention. We can create a reliable stream of applicants and accumulate the desired diversity of the workforce by encouraging the medical school to increase diversity among its candidates and by recruiting stellar candidates from their ranks into our residency, fellowships, and staff. Appropriate marketing and inclusiveness of the workplace will lead to a more diverse workforce. Without these steps, just bringing in numbers of even the best diverse candidates will lead to a frustrating revolving door.
To this end, the projects in which I have been involved over the past year are foundational and mostly focused on marketing and inclusiveness. Diversity for this Department must take on a broader meaning and celebrate all backgrounds and cultures. We are among the largest academic multi-site Anesthesiology Departments in the world. Establishing relationships begins by knowing who we work with.
- With commendation from the Vice Chancellor, I served as a member of a discussion panel on surgical careers at the National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit, “Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons”, that came to the University of Pittsburgh on Jan 15th, 2010. Although the event focused on surgical careers, Anesthesiologists and Surgeons are intricately intertwined and the numbers of African American Academic Anesthesiologists are quite small, both at UPMC and nationwide. My presence as an African American Anesthesiologist at the venue promoted Anesthesiology as a possible career track for other African Americans.
- On November 4th, 2009, I took part in an invitation-only open meeting with members of the UPMC Board, UPMC Physician Services Diversity Committee, and the Urban League of the city of Pittsburgh. The meeting participants discussed the results of an 18 month study to better understand the diversity climate at both UPMC and University Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSoM) with respect to recruitment and retention of under-represented minority physicians, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, along key professional career pathways (medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty). Many new initiatives were suggested to combat the feeling of academic and personal isolation that many under-represented minorities experience at UPMC and the University.
- On October 17th, 2009, I attended the first Multi-Cultural Anesthesiologists reception, held at the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) annual conference. This event was sponsored by the ASA committee on Professional Diversity, the Anesthesiology section of the National Medical Association (NMA), and several Anesthesiology Departments (Hopkins, Mass General, UCSF, George Washington, U Mass, & Cornell). I joined the NMA via the local Gateway Medical Society and spoke to the organizers regarding our department’s involvement in future events.
- Pitt Assistant Vice Chancellor for Diversity Paula Davis and Chief Inclusion Officer Candi Castleberry-Singleton created a learning and mentorship program for underrepresented minority high school students interested in medicine and the sciences called “The Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC)/Job Links School to Career (S2C) Students”. Throughout the year, UPMC provides opportunities for these students to visit ORs, participate in medical simulation training experiences through the Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education and Research (WISER), and gain valuable experience as volunteers in many clinical and non-clinical departments. They also learn from UPMC employees and professionals who serve as guest speakers during career day activities. On October 22nd, 2009, I guest lectured on a topic chosen by the students for me: “How do we get from where we are, to where you are?” What was intended to be a 1-hour lecture turned into an almost 2-hour lively interactive lecture/discussion, and I was almost unanimously invited to return for another lecture.
- In November 2009, I served as a member of the “Multicultural Partnership Council”, a new initiative started by Candi Castleberry-Singleton and her Chief of Staff, Dawnita J. Wilson. This is a UPMC/University/UPSoM wide effort focused on engaging all 50,000 University employees and community partners in the “Dignity and Respect” campaign to raise awareness of the multiple cultures, generations, race/ethnicity, and religions that make up the UPMC family. This was the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s first attempt to increase cultural competency in the workplace and community. Their goal is to advertise and present multicultural events and activities at the University and in the City in a way that all will feel welcome to come and support their colleagues
- I am active in the Gateway Medical Society, a component of National Medical Society, which has a mission of addressing underserved minority medical needs, “closing the gap” to medical care provided to these communities, and improving the numbers of minority providers. Within months of joining, I’ve served as Secretary, Parliamentarian, and an Executive Board Member. The group aims to address the community’s needs and create a pipeline of African American males to pursue a career in medicine.
- We requested and received a grant from the Heinz Foundation to start a mentorship program specifically for African American males. This year we have 15 sixth-graders in the program. We were able to hire a full time director of the program and solicit volunteers from the minority medical community to interact with these students one-on-one. We have partnered with UPMC in this and all of our projects, giving UPMC a very positive view in the black community as a supporter of these issues.
- On June 12, 2010, Gateway Medical Society, led by the Executive Board and co-hosted by the Allegheny county branch of the NAACP, organized a Community Symposium for the Minority community held at the Heberman Conference Center, UPMC Shadyside Hospital. The event was sponsored by UPMC and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. UPMC also provided the venue, free lab testing (glucose, PSA, cholesterol, etc), and minority medical students to perform blood pressure screens. Speakers addressed issues regarding “Bridging the Gap” for medical care for the underserved of Western Pennsylvania. There were breakout seminars on healthy living, exercise, healthy eating and shopping, screening and preventive care, dental hygiene, smoking cessation and healthy breathing.
- On September 18, 2010, Gateway Medical Society, led by the Executive Board, hosted the Physician Symposium for Minority Medical Providers Statewide. The event, held at the Heberman Conference Center Shadyside Hospital, was sponsored by UPMC and Highmark. It was arranged in a Town Hall format. One of several panels included 3 members of the Black Congressional Caucus from Harrisburg, PA discussing features of the Health Care legislation. Another panel which discussed issues specific to Western PA included Ester Bush, President and CEO, Urban league of Greater Pittsburgh, Diego Chaves-Gnecco, MD, MPH, Program Director and Founder of Salud Para Ninos, Jamahal C. Boyd, Sr. Director, Office of Health Equity, Pennsylvania Department of Health and Angela Ford, PhD, MSW, Executive Director, Center of Minority Health, Pitt. Some Minority private practice physicians spoke about the financial impact of the forced computerization of medical records on their practice and their inability to comply.
- On October 30th, 2010, Gateway hosted a “Physician of The Year” formal Banquet at the Fairmount ballroom. 4 minority UPSoM students received $2,500.00 scholarships from Gateway Medical Society and the NEED Foundation. A minority UPMC fellow also received an appreciation and service award. The honoree and winner of the Physician of the Year for 2010 is a Tenured Professor and Endowed Chair of the Pitt/UPMC Department of Family Practice, Dr. Jeanette South-Paul, an African American woman.
- On May 3rd, 2010, I was selected to serve on UPSoM’s Self-Study Task Force (SSTF) to help prepare for the School’s accreditation site visit scheduled for March 6-9, 2011.
- On March 26th, 2010, I was invited by the Triumph Baptist Church in Sewickley to address a group of 9 to 14 yr old African American boys and their fathers in their “Rites of Passages” program at Robert Morris University. The purpose of the program is to share positive characteristics and provide role models in order to encourage educational achievement and a positive work ethic as well as affirm self-esteem. I was invited again to speak to students at their end of year program.
- On June 12th, 2010, I was asked by the UPSoM Office of Student Affairs/ Diversity Programs to address the college student Interns of the Summer Premedical Academic Enrichment Program Level I and II (SPAEP) and the high school students in the summer Prematriculation Program (Brown Bag Luncheon Series). After the brown bag luncheon lecture, two of the pre-med college students made arrangements to shadow me in the operating room. One of the students that shadowed me is from San Diego State University and she has arranged for me to speak to her and a few other students there in October 2010. I discussed acceptance into medical school and Anesthesiology as a career path. I also emphasized UPSoM as a stellar choice to study medicine.
- In September 2010, I was approached to possibly serve in a new role as Faculty Advisor/Physician Liaison for Minority Students at UPSoM. UPMC is looking for ways to retain some of the Minority Residents and Fellows who are enrolled in various training programs. Many of them leave as soon as their training is done. In this new role, I will work to create a community among young minority doctors and integrate that community with the growing young minority professional community in Pittsburgh. Many young doctors at UPMC are isolated, lonely, and can’t wait to get out of Pittsburgh. By creating connections, friendships, and putting a positive face on being an Attending Physician in Pittsburgh, more minority doctors that train in Pittsburgh may find a reason to stay in Pittsburgh. My job is to create a Minority House Staff Association. While I will still have a relationship with the medical students, I will also focus on the retention of Residents and Fellows as staff, which UPMC agrees is the key to improving diversity throughout the system.
Additionally, I have been asked to join the UPMC Physician Services Diversity Committee.
As you look back over this list of activities, you may find it difficult to relate some of them to promoting diversity specifically in the Department of Anesthesiology. My active involvement in the Diversity community made me a viable candidate for the Faculty Advisor position to the Minority Residents and Fellows. Creating a positive community for the House Staff could encourage and increase Minority medical students’ interest in training as Residents and Fellows in Pittsburgh. My presence advertises the Anesthesiology field to minority medical students, potentially increasing their interest in Anesthesiology, our residency, fellowships, and the possibly of retaining them as staff.
William Simmons, MD
Visiting Clinical Associate Professor
Department of Anesthesiology
Attending Physician, Presbyterian-Shadyside Hospital