ASN Crafts Roadmap for Diversity and Inclusion

In 2013, ASN organized a summit in Washington, DC, to help leaders develop a proposal for increasing diversity at all levels of the society, particularly in terms of those underrepresented in medicine. At ASN’s Diversity Summit, led by Dr. Donald Wesson and Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb, participants reviewed results of a survey of senior leaders in nephrology and diversity and developed recommendations that were presented to, and unanimously approved by, ASN Council in August 2013. These recommendations are being enacted with the oversight of ASN’s Diversity and Inclusion Work Group (Table 1), a new working group developed to directly address diversity issues at ASN, and by ASN’s Diversity Champion, Dr. Eddie Greene.

Table 1
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Diversity (a range of difference and variety) and inclusion (bringing all parts into the whole) advance an organization’s success, reach, and competitiveness. Organizations that embrace diversity and inclusion are more effective at strategic development and execution, and at applying a variety of skills and experiences to achieve optimum results. In addition, the patient population in nephrology is disproportionately minority, and will be better served by a more diverse nephrology workforce.

ASN’s focus on diversity: beyond the moral imperative

ASN is well positioned and committed to playing a critical role in the multiple events impacting the fight against kidney disease. These include health care reform, evolving national demographics, economic challenges, advances in translational science, and potential changes in the nephrology workforce. Incorporating a framework of diversity and inclusiveness optimizes ASN’s capacity to achieve excellence in the entire scope of its mission—supporting education, advocating for high quality care, communication, and research. The engagement of multiple perspectives, skill sets, and experiences will strengthen ASN’s national and global leadership (Nivet, Diversity 3.0 Commentary Academic Med, 86, 2011, Diversity 5.0, CT Laurencin, IOM).

Diversity Roadmap: a marathon, not a sprint

To begin to build a more diverse and inclusive organization, minority ASN nephrologists met in June 2013 at the society’s office to draft foundational initiatives and recommendations that were then approved for implementation by ASN Council (Table 2). ASN then convened the Diversity and Inclusion Work Group in late 2013 to help ASN develop a roadmap for improving diversity and inclusion. In addition, ASN Council appointed Dr. Eddie Greene as Diversity Champion. Dr. Greene reviews all ASN activities (not just those of the Work Group) and reports to ASN Council regarding the society’s progress in improving diversity and inclusion across all aspects of the society. Incoming ASN President Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb and Dr. Donald Wesson co-chair the Diversity and Inclusion Work Group.

Table 2
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Diversity and Inclusion Work Group recommendations

In developing the diversity roadmap for ASN, the work group crafted a mission statement that was reviewed and approved by the Council. The resulting diversity and inclusion mission statement is the first for ASN and sets the stage for ongoing activities and recommendations. The work group also actively supported a Kidney Week lectureship that honors the late Michelle P. Winn, MD, who contributed substantially to genetics research in nephrology, additional collection of demographic data from ASN members, development of web resources for increasing diversity, and promotion of diversity among ASN leadership.

Metrics, accountability, and you

With key input from the work group, in January 2014 ASN expanded its options for collecting demographic information from members, including information about types of practice, professional appointments, as well as race and ethnicity. The Diversity and Inclusion Work Group will evaluate demographic shifts over time to assess the performance of the growing array of initiatives aimed at broadening diversity in ASN and within nephrology. If you have not already filled out this information, we urge you to do so when you renew your membership at http://www.asn-online.org/membership/.

The road forward

Diversity and inclusion are key components of an organization striving for excellence. ASN’s commitment to embedding diversity in the fabric of the organization reflects this, as well as the moral imperative of addressing health care disparities, unequal access, and discrimination that have existed in the health care system.

Led by the guiding principles of its statement on diversity and inclusion, ASN will effect change by promoting inclusiveness, mentorship, patient advocacy, engagement, and health equity. ASN President Sharon Moe, MD, FASN, notes “ASN is grateful to the members of the Diversity and Inclusion Work Group, and to Dr. Greene in his role as Diversity Champion, for their energy, creativity, and thoughtfulness; their work has already enhanced the activities of ASN and will, ultimately, help improve care for kidney patients.”

Recommendations approved by ASN Council

  1. Increase representation of underrepresented minorities as leaders across all ASN committees, advisory groups, and panels, as well as ASN Council (and consider mentored ad-hoc positions to provide exposure to ASN leadership activities at earlier stages in career development).
  2. Develop partnerships with other highly effective organizations that have successful diversity and inclusion and minority outreach programs.
  3. Establish a sustainable and highly effective mentoring program.
  4. Create strong career development and training resources.
  5. Reconfigure ASN’s website to include a focus on diversity and inclusion and related mentoring opportunities.
  6. Develop baseline data on ASN member demographics and structured mechanisms for tracking diversity and inclusion across all ASN activities.