Elizabeth B. Malinzak, M.D., FASA, is Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, and Director of Anesthesiology Medical Student Education, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Elizabeth B. Malinzak, M.D., FASA, is Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, and Director of Anesthesiology Medical Student Education, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

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Annemarie Thompson, M.D., is Professor of Anesthesiology, Medicine and Population Health Sciences, and Director, Anesthesiology Residency Program, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Annemarie Thompson, M.D., is Professor of Anesthesiology, Medicine and Population Health Sciences, and Director, Anesthesiology Residency Program, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

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Tracey Straker, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., C.B.A., FASA, is Professor of Anesthesiology, Director of General Anesthesia, and Director of Advanced Airway Fellowship and Rotation, Department of Anesthesiology, Montefiore Medical Center, University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.

Tracey Straker, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., C.B.A., FASA, is Professor of Anesthesiology, Director of General Anesthesia, and Director of Advanced Airway Fellowship and Rotation, Department of Anesthesiology, Montefiore Medical Center, University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.

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A couple years ago, I (EBM) joined my department’s grand rounds (GR) planning committee. This was an exciting opportunity for a junior attending with an academic interest in medical education because I would be able to work closely with leaders in my department to attract top speakers. GRs is an important outlet for exposure and dissemination of academic achievements and expertise; it also showcases the speakers as scholarly role models. When I reviewed the roster of speakers at the end of the year, I realized it was a compelling schedule of senior faculty and experts in anesthesiology; but in my excitement of contributing to the planning, I had neglected to consider the diversity of our speakers.

Diversity and inclusion have become important initiatives in my career as an educator in anesthesiology. On a daily basis, I teach our next generation of leaders in our field, our residents and fellows, and I am actively involved in promoting the importance of perioperative medicine to medical students as our department’s director of medical student education. I want to attract the best and brightest students to anesthesiology and demonstrate the leadership abilities of anesthesiologists. I know that if students don’t see someone who looks like them or relate to someone with a similar background, it becomes more difficult for them to consider that field as a potential career.

Historically, women and minorities are underrepresented in anesthesiology. Women comprise half of medical school graduates, yet only 41% of U.S. medical school faculty and 25% of the overall anesthesiology workforce.1-3  Similarly, underrepresented minorities are 10.4% of medical school graduates, 7% of U.S. medical school faculty and 8.7% of the overall anesthesiology workforce.1,3,4  A large volume of literature describes the challenges of women and under-represented minorities in academic medicine, including promotion, equitable pay and leadership roles.5-17  Despite these gaps, women and under-represented minorities bring many positives to the health care environment and may help to eliminate health care disparities.18  Consequently, the importance of leadership diversity has been recognized.17,19 

The traditional academic promotion track values research success and professional reputation.20  One way to build a regional or national reputation is through presentation of a talk in a large format, such as GR. For young physicians, including residents, fellows and early-career faculty, GR also conveys the message of who is a leader in academic medicine.21  Exposure to successful female and underrepresented minority role models in prestigious academic venues may positively affect the retention of these populations in academic medicine.21 

Therefore, I proposed that the demographics of GR speakers are an important dataset for academic departments to consider when implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. In researching this topic, I discovered that the extent to which underrepresented minorities or women are represented in GR in anesthesiology departments has not been fully examined. Boiko et al. reviewed the GR speakers in 17 academic anesthesiology departments and found that 28% of speakers were women, which was significantly lower than the percentage of women in the academic anesthesiology workforce (34%).21  However, this cannot be considered complete nor accurate as there are 155 anesthesiology training programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Therefore, I sought out a mentor to assist me in this endeavor, Dr. Annemarie Thompson, the residency program director for our department. We designed a study to fully evaluate the demographic composition of GR speakers in academic anesthesiology departments, including gender, race, ethnicity and age. Given the importance of exposure to colleagues and trainees during large format presentations, if systematic disparities do exist, this data may be used to create an educational intervention to enhance awareness of the importance of diversity in GR speakers.

We both recognized that this project would require a tremendous amount of data collection; therefore, we applied for the ASA Mentoring Grant from the Committee on Professional Diversity. Fortunately, our proposal was awarded and has enabled us to obtain assistance in the data collection and data analysis necessary for the project. Not only has receipt of this grant given me the opportunity to work with an accomplished mentor and complete meaningful research, it has also given me the chance to learn how to be a mentor. The research assistants we hired with the grant assistance are a medical student and undergraduate student. It has given me immense pleasure to work closely with them, see their enthusiasm and recall what I was like at their ages. It has strengthened my hope in the future of medicine and its leaders.

Additionally, the grant has provided the opportunity to network with other anesthesiologists active in advocacy and inclusion initiatives. I was able to attend the ASA annual meeting in 2019, where I discussed my project with members of the committee. Not only did I receive valuable feedback, I also made connections with colleagues across the country. I have also been inspired to reconnect at the state advocacy level, where I hope to encourage the adoption of programming directed at women and underrepresented minorities. From my involvement in the ASA Committee on Women in Anesthesia, I have realized that progress must occur at both a state and national level, so I hope to contribute to both.

The ASA Mentoring Grant has provided more to me than I would have imagined. It is my first grant and has pressed the accelerator in my academic career. My confidence in my ability to perform significant work in diversity and inclusion has improved. I have gained understanding of the power of the mentorship relationship by serving as both a mentee and a mentor. The connections I have made with other anesthesiologists will be invaluable for my future professional development and career advancement. I would highly encourage others to consider submitting their proposals for this program as the rewards are worth the hard work (... and I also would encourage anyone receiving a survey from me to please complete it)!

I have also been inspired to reconnect at the state advocacy level, where I hope to encourage the adoption of programming directed at women and underrepresented minoritites.

The matched mentee/mentor pair should submit the application form, their individual curriculum vitae and a one- to two-page description of their project to the ASA Committee on Professional Diversity no later than June 26, 2020. The submission should include the following:

  • 1. A detailed description of the project’s objective, along with an explanation of how it will enhance the professional growth and leadership potential of the mentee.

  • 2. A designation of the length of time, required equipment/supplies, travel, meetings and requested funding; also include co-funding provided by the home institution of record in support of the project chosen by the mentee/mentor, if any.

  • 3. Potential barriers to the success of the proposal.

  • 4. A description of how this project speaks to the mission and duties of the ASA Committee on Professional Diversity.

Mentors should be well-established clinicians, educators, and researchers and current ASA leaders who have an interest in and passion for mentoring a rising medical student, anesthesia resident/fellow, junior faculty member or new graduate in private practice. The mentor will provide time, one-on-one guidance, direction and counsel to the mentee on a mutually agreed-upon project. The one- to two-year project must have the goal of enhancing the professional career, leadership potential and active involvement of the mentee within ASA. Mentees should be ASA members of diverse racial, ethnic or gender backgrounds who are interested in gaining experience in leadership,and exposure to research, education or political advocacy opportunities within ASA. Mentees may be medical students, anesthesia residents/fellows, junior faculty members or new graduates in private practice.

In addition to working on their chosen project and maintaining regular interaction with their mentors, mentees are expected to:

  • A. Join their state component Society and, if possible, attend at least one local meeting annually; volunteering for active involvement within component activities, and local and ASAPAC participation is encouraged.

  • B. Self-nominate for at least one ASA or subspecialty society committee and actively participate if selected.

  • C. Submit an educational, clinical or research abstract or poster at an ASA or subspecialty society meeting within 12 months of project completion.

  • D. Along with their mentor, briefly present their project at the annual Committee on Professional Diversity Meeting.

The application form can be found at http://www.asahq.org/For-Members/ASA-Mentoring-AwardProgram.aspx. Completed materials should be submitted to DiversityMentor@asahq.org. The committee will review all submissions and notify the matched pairs of potential funding status and support of the project by August 8, 2020. Selected mentees will also be invited to present a synopsis of their project at ANESTHESIOLOGY 2020 with a final presentation of their project at ANESTHESIOLOGY 2021. Funds will be distributed after ANESTHESIOLOGY 2020. A one-page written update of the progress of the project will be due June 30, 2021.

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