The need to increase diversity in healthcare and surgery is compelling. Diversity brings differing viewpoints, perspectives, creativity and innovation to medicine, all contributing to better outcomes. In our academic institutions, this translates to more culturally appropriate care, enhanced health care quality, patient satisfaction, better outreach, and more effective mentoring for students and residents. Taken together, there are compelling ethical and pragmatic reasons to support greater diversity in the surgical workforce. Unfortunately, however, national representation of female and underrepresented in medicine (URiM) colleagues continues to lag. The health care workforce needs to change so that academic medicine and our surgical workforce reflect the gender, racial/ethnic, and LGBTQ diversity of our society.
In order to increase diversity among faculty and residents, the Department of Surgery and its leadership have engaged in many initiatives. Over the past 15 years in the categories of Departmental Governance & Policy, Recruitment, Mentoring, Support & Sponsoring, and Education, the Department of Surgery, in partnership with the WCM Office of Diversity and Inclusion, seek to promote working and educational environments where all persons can prosper, succeed, and find community.
The Department of Surgery has established a yearly Diversity lecture which occurs as part of the Dean’s Diversity Week each spring, which focuses on diversity and health equity topics. The Department invites prominent faculty speakers of diverse backgrounds for lectures to offer an opportunity to share professional and personal experiences with faculty, residents and students during the visit. These speakers also serve as a potential pipeline for future recruitments.
We are proud of our progress: over the past 15 years the Department of Surgery went from 37 faculty members, of which only a handful were females with no URiM members, to 118 in 2021, comprising 76 males and 42 females, with 39 URiM faculty.
Diversity in Leadership
Cornell Women in Surgery
The Weill Cornell Medicine Department of Surgery acknowledges its role in addressing systemic racism against African Americans in healthcare as a public health crisis. We have therefore created a departmental Anti-Racism Committee (ARC), which is named in recognition of this acknowledgment and also as a tribute to the comments of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” ARC will include trainee as well as faculty members, and will implement a series of concrete programs designed to confront and dismantle systemic racism as it effects our ability to deliver surgical care and to train future generations of surgeons.
Strengthening Departmental Awareness of Barriers to Health Equity
Strengthening Resident Diversity
Strengthening Trainee Research
As a Department that thrives on the diversity in background, thought and perspective of our community, we are committed to promoting equity, inclusion and belonging throughout our institution. Optimal healthcare workforce diversity refers to gender balance as well as representation from all of the races, ethnicities, and cultures that comprise our patient population. Recognizing the history of our institution diversity helps to strengthen the inclusion of minorities as we move forward. Take a look at some of our Cornell firsts:
First African-American male admitted to Cornell University Medical School
First African-American male certified by American Board of Surgery
Member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and national president in 1910
Member of the National Medical Association, and national president in 1937
First African-American resident at New York Hospital-Cornell
Former US Secretary of Health and Human Services
Founding dean of Morehouse School of Medicine
Formed Sullivan Alliance to transform the Health Professions in 2005
First African-American female resident at NYP-Cornell in 1982
First board certified African-American female surgeon in Brooklyn, NY
American College of Surgeons Governor
The Chair of the Department of Surgery has taken a primary role in mentoring diversity faculty for their promotion and career progression. The Chair and senior leadership perform careful monitoring of progress with honest feedback to help faculty progress. This process aims towards a fair departmental work environment with transparent promotion models in line with established equity criteria. Other mentoring resources include programs run by the Dean’s Office of Faculty Development, the Dean’s Mentoring Academy, the Dean’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Diversity Center of Excellence of the Cornell Center for Health Equity.
The strategic plan of the Department of Surgery includes an assessment of recruitment opportunities. Knowledge of upcoming recruitment needs facilitates proactive recruitment of diverse candidates at meetings and conferences, to encourage them to apply for faculty positions early in the process. We are committed to maintaining pay-equity throughout our department.
The Diversity Officer works with the Department Chair and Division Chiefs to recruit, retain and promote diversity faculty; to advertise institutional activities in favor of Diversity such as seminars, workshops and conferences; and to coordinate activities across the department. The creation of a Diversity Office has served as an explicit statement of the importance of Diversity to the department at large.
When searching for a Division Chief, the search committee includes the Department of Surgery Diversity Officer and adequate diversity faculty representation both in number and in seniority. Given the many potential explicit and implicit biases that exist, members of the committee are asked to review the AAMC Unconscious Bias online video training course in an effort to create a search process free of interview and selection bias.
Closing the diversity gap requires continuous vigilance and self-assessment in order to track progress and identify areas in need of improvement. We must all maintain a constant sense of commitment towards the goal of an equitable academic community. No one can succeed alone: we must all take up the challenge to mentor, coach and sponsor female and URiM faculty members to ensure success and achieve equity in our academic institutions. We are eager to continue our efforts.
Community Partnerships | Cornell Health Education and Research Program; The Environmental Health Disparities Study; The Advanced Cooking Education Program; Understanding the Perspective of Home Care Workers Who Care for Adults With Heart Failure; Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco); NYC DOH Center for Health equity Neighborhood Health Action Center; HeartSmarts Program in Brooklyn Churches; Patient Activated Learning Systems (PALS); NYC DOH Breast Cancer Screening