The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

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Day 2 Report: Digestive Disease Week 2022

"Too often, diversity is viewed as a numbers game, or “checking the box,” rather than creating a culture of “true inclusivity.”

Dr. Jennifer Christie, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy’s president-elect, plans to implement a society-wide effort promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion while leading the professional GI society. 

Christie is a professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases at Emory University School of Medicine, executive associate division director, and clinical director of digestive diseases for The Emory Clinic. She presented her plans as ASGE president, which feature 35 submitted initiatives touching on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, May 23 in San Diego during Digestive Disease Week 2022.

Too often, diversity is viewed as a numbers game, or “checking the box,” Christie said, rather than creating a culture of “true inclusivity.” To do so, organizations must recognize the “what,” “who,” and “why.”

The “what” — diversity and inclusion — means inclusivity regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion, and disability. Christie recognized members, patients, and pipeline as the “who.”

She cited many reasons why diversity and inclusion matter. They mean better patient outcomes through education and improve engagement and productivity in the workforce. They lead to increased innovation and enhance organizational performance. Additionally, they create a variety of perspectives and better member engagement and retention.

Businesses with higher gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers, Christie noted; ethnically diverse organizations are 35 percent more likely to do so.

“The business community is far ahead of us on this,” she said.

ASGE redesigned its strategic plan a year ago. Creating a culture of inclusion topped the list of nine strategic points. From there, the society created a separate plan to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, which featured five key priorities:

  • Increase diversity and inclusion on the ASGE board, committees, task forces, educational programs, awards and nominations, and leadership programs.
  • Promote diversity in the GI workforce pipeline.
  • Promote equity and protection in the workplace regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability status.
  • Expand healthcare equity and access to GI care.
  • Expand a culturally sensitive as well as diverse healthcare workforce that is well trained to deliver quality healthcare that improves the health of all patient populations.

Christie shared graphics showing women represented 47.9 percent of medical students as of 2018-19, but only 34 percent of active GI fellows in 2019-20. Though these figures indicate an improvement, there remains “a long way to go.” Men make up 73 percent of ASGE physician members.

Only about 5 percent of clinical trial participants were from underrepresented groups in 2014 and just 6 percent of research faculty are from underrepresented groups, which creates recruiting and retention challenges. Diversity, equity, and inclusion disparities create the same challenges in healthcare, Christie said.

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