ASN Holds Summit on Diversity

 

In June, ASN held its first-ever summit on diversity. Chaired by Jonathan Himmelfarb, MD, FASN, and Donald E. Wesson, MD, FASN, the summit focused on what ASN can do to improve diversity at all levels of the society, encourage more students from underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in nephrology, and better support all nephrologists.

Ten nephrologists joined the meeting organizers, ASN Councilors Himmelfarb and Wesson, incoming ASN President Sharon M. Moe, MD, FASN, and several ASN staff members. In advance of the summit, ASN solicited input from key leaders in nephrology and diversity programs, and shared that input with the summit participants. These leaders provided information on mentoring and professional development programs, described ongoing initiatives such as the NIH BUILD consortium, and offered suggestions for how ASN might better incorporate inclusiveness into the fabric of all ASN activities.

During the summit, participants discussed successful diversity programs, career challenges in nephrology, and opportunities for change at ASN. A number of those attending shared their motivations for becoming nephrologists. Several singled out senior nephrologists who piqued and encouraged their interest in kidney disease, helped them advance in their careers, network at ASN Kidney Week and other meetings, and provided formal and informal leadership training. Others noted their first introduction to kidney medicine came via family members with kidney disease, and the group discussed the importance of medical and research careers as avenues to giving back to communities and improving society.

Eddie Greene, MD, FASN, Director of the Office of Diversity at Mayo Clinic, described the rapid pace of demographic change in the United States (Figure 1), and emphasized that “identifying, recruiting and employing outstanding and talented people from the pool of diverse individuals present in our society has the potential to be our strongest asset in assuring that we achieve sustainable excellence and success.” He also provided information on how organizational performance improves as organizational diversity increases.

Figure 1.

Distribution of U.S. Population by Race, Ethnicity, 2010 and 2050

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The relatively low numbers of medical school graduates entering nephrology training garnered much discussion, and a number of summit members provided insights into ways to increase interest in kidney medicine, research, and policy. Dr. Moe presented information on current ASN activities and outreach to students and trainees, such as Kidney TREKS (Tutoured Research and Education for Kidney Scholars).

Highly successful characteristics of a number of career development programs to increase diversity in research and academic medicine were discussed and evaluated, including the Robert Wood Johnson Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, the NIDDK Network of Minority Research Investigators program, and mentoring programs developed by the J. Robert Gladden Society of the American Academy of Orthopedics.

Participants also discussed the importance of establishing appropriate measures of success for diversity and mentoring programs. Challenges to robust evaluation of program performance include establishing baseline demographics and adequate resource support for programs.

By the conclusion of the summit, participants reached consensus on a number of recommendations that will be presented to the ASN Council later this summer. Dr. Himmelfarb discussed the interest of all Council members in the outcomes from this summit.

“To accomplish its mission, ASN will expand opportunities for all members to participate fully, meaningfully, and personally,” said ASN Executive Director Tod Ibrahim. “This participation will go beyond ASN Kidney Week to include helping the society develop high-quality programs, formulate policy initiatives to improve care for every person with kidney disease, and make decisions that enrich the lives of kidney patients worldwide.”

July 2013 (Vol. 5, Number 7)