Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Physician Diversity -- Part 3

You know, if you know where to look, everything is available on the BIDMC website! Here is a report prepared by Rosemary Duda, Director of our Center for Faculty Development, as a guide to the faculty recruitment process, with a specific emphasis on trying to recruit under-represented minorities and women. Pages 40 to 42 of the book has charts showing the relative percentage of different levels of faculty at BIDMC in those categories and -- starting on page 43 -- compares our numbers to Harvard Medical School (including all the affiliated hospitals).

You can look at the numbers yourself, but it is clear that we are behind the rest of HMS in all faculty ranks.

Professor Duda's introduction to the book is very well written. Having served on search committees for department chiefs, I know that its recommendations are followed. Likewise, having talked to our chiefs, I believe that its recommendations are also carried out for division chiefs and other recruiting committees.

By the way, to answer comments on earlier posts, her language on page 6 concerning the value of diversity is very compelling: The advantages of a diverse faculty at BIDMC include optimizing our ability to provide high quality medical care for our underserved populations, addressing the issues of health and health care disparity in the underserved populations as these patients are more likely to seek physicians who are similar in ethnicity, culture, race and/or gender, and improving our cultural competency educational efforts and professionalism training. A diverse faculty also brings to the institution an expansion of the research focus that would encompass health issues related to women and underrepresented minorities.

But let us return to the question. If good intentions reign, and I believe they do, why are BIDMC's results less favorable than the rest of the HMS community? I know that a large part of the answer relates to the hospital's troubled period of 1996 through 2002, when many of the existing faculty left the hospital for greener pastures and when many potential young recruits were scared away by the uncertain future of the BIDMC. In fact, our moniker of "financially troubled BIDMC" did not leave the pages of journalism until sometime in 2004. I think this set us back many years, both in terms of new recruits and in creating a pipeline for later professorial advancement.

But let's open this up to those who want to comment, who know this place or know of it. Are there other factors at BIDMC that adversely affect our performance in this matter? Are those factors different from other Harvard hospitals? From other hospitals in Boston? Please dive in and offer your opinions and remedies.


Anonymous said...


Care to comment about diversity related to sexual minority status (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) for both providers and patients? I notice this is missing among the categories of the underserved, yet there is convincing evidence regarding ongoing disparities in their treatment as employees (MD's and not) and patients.

You're probably familiar with the recent work of the GLMA and HRC to produce a report on equality around hospitals, and the HRC Corporate Equality Index. Where does BIDMC rate - or where would it - relative to the 150+ corporations that score a perfect 100%? Is it an employer of choice for this group of professionals?

Thanks for inviting this conversation in the first place.

Best regards.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe there are records of this sort kept on that issue, either for patients or providers, although I may be wrong.

I was not familiar with the HRC Corporate Equality Index until you mentioned it; but as I look at the website describing it, I believe we would rank reasonably high in terms of nondiscrimination, domestic partner benefits, diversity council, and events. Having talked with many staff members who have self-identified to me, they tell me that we have a very good work environment in that respect.

Anonymous said...


Some factors you can control and others you can't. Among the latter is perceived prestige. For minority candidates who receive offers from hospitals that rank higher on prestige and accept the offer largely on that basis, there isn't much that BIDMC can do. In the financial world, companies with weaker balance sheets pay higher interest rates for debt, but at least they can access the capital market at a price.

You might try surveying your minority employees to learn what the key factors were that attracted them to your institution and what actions BIDMC could take to make itself more attractive. Some obvious ideas that would probably be too expensive include higher pay and/or school loan forgiveness programs. Even if these were implemented and proved successful, others (with larger endowments) could copy them. Other approaches could include intangibles like proactively seeking their opinions about how the place could work better. When my wife worked for IBM as a programmer back in the late 1960's and early 1970's, managers would often reward good work on a project with a "dinner for two" award. I think you should adopt a version of advice given some time ago by the CEO of Proctor & Gamble to a group of their marketing people. He told them: "Find out what she wants and give it to her!" Unfortunately, that's easier said than done.

Anonymous said...

Lack of senior women as role models and in leadership positions deters younger faculty from even starting up. You can't blame the financial troubles in 2001 either - there have been many (a relative term, as there are so few to begin with) leave recently due to lack of support for academic activities

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I've not seen that recently, nor heard about that problem in particular. Perhaps you can send a note to my email with examples.