The Department of Medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System has built one of the most acclaimed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in the country, with significant benefits to patients as well as the sizable staff of health care professionals who treat them. Consider three novel ways in which that effort continues to grow:
Undoing Racism Workshops, which give clinicians and staff an unvarnished view of the biases and disparities in the health care environment and society at large, and what they can do to promote individual and institutional change
A pipeline of medical talent through an active mentorship program that pairs residents from underrepresented groups with leaders in the Department of Medicine for crucial support and career guidance
A special curriculum that shares with physicians ways they can build greater trust and ensure better health outcomes among patients with limited English proficiency, a population that encounters significant conscious and unconscious discrimination
In recent years, the DEI initiative has expanded to all corners of the Health System, impacting faculty recruitment and retention, training and development, and research and quality improvement. It has gained further traction by the appointment of a vice chair to manage and coordinate all activities across the Department of Medicine.
“As the largest academic department [at Mount Sinai], we’re often called on to set the standards for other departments, which we’ve been proud to do by introducing programs like mentorship, anti-racism education, and unconscious bias training,” says Kirk Campbell, MD, who became System Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in January 2017. “We try to anchor our program in data and metrics so we can track our progress and implement meaningful change over time.”
Dr. Campbell, who was appointed as Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine in October 2021, is quick to credit the strong support he receives from leaders and organizations across Mount Sinai. “To have a full vice chair in this position with equal standing as other department leaders in research, education, and clinical care on a systemwide basis is pretty unique,” he points out.
Among the groups he works most closely with is the Departmental Diversity Council, which he helped form and which now serves as a key advisor and sounding board for new initiatives.
Anther strategic partner is Maria Maldonado, MD, a general internist who serves as Director of Education in Cross-Cultural and Patient Centered Communication. With input from residency and fellow programs across the Mount Sinai Health System, she has created workshops on implicit bias, cultural competencies, and most recently, caring for patients with limited English proficiency. The latter is an area where Dr. Maldonado sees a particular need for training and improvement. Her two-hour small-group workshops for internal medicine residents show how to effectively use language interpreters, for example, to improve the physician-patient experience and ensure better health outcomes. “Our goal is to mitigate disparities in these relationship and make sure patients feel respected,” she explains.
Exploring ways to overcome disparities in the health care workplace and beyond is also the focus of the Undoing Racism Workshops, which scores of physicians have attended. These intense, weekend-long sessions—conducted by skilled specialists from The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond—were brought to Mount Sinai seven years ago by Steven Itzkowitz, MD, Professor of Medicine (Gastroenterology), Oncological Sciences, and Medical Education, and actively supported by the late Barbara Murphy, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine, and the current interim System Chair, David C. Thomas, MD, MHPE.
“Department leaders believe this workshop is a powerful and influential way to promote racial awareness and the need for fundamental change,” says Dr. Itzkowitz. “It was life-changing for me when I took it ten years ago, and now I don’t go a day without seeing things through the lens I developed at this program.”
Kirk Campbell, MD
Professor of Medicine (Nephrology)
Steven Itzkowitz, MD
Professor of Medicine (Gastroenterology), Oncological Sciences, and Medical Education