The field of academic surgery is often far less diverse than other medical disciplines, therefore it is a necessity to create a nurturing and inclusive culture—one in which diversity is supported in every way possible. Duke’s Diversity in Surgery Coalition (DiSC) was founded in order to foster community and enhance interdisciplinary mentorship for underrepresented trainees of the Department of Surgery.
General surgery residents Carrie Moore, MD, PhD, and Vignesh Raman, MD, are founding members of DiSC, which began in the summer of 2020 after the national cultural shift resulting from the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“The overarching and primary goal of the Diversity in Surgery Coalition is to create a safe space for minoritized trainees and trainees who are underrepresented in surgery to just come together in shared experiences,” Dr. Raman says. “It's basically a place where you can share your poor experiences and positive experiences about surgery with one another in a setting where other minoritized trainees are more likely to understand what you're talking about, and much less likely to essentially cast off or minimize your experiences.”
Moving Beyond Words
A secondary goal of DiSC, Dr. Raman says, is to educate and offer assistance to those allies who struggle to find ways to support underrepresented colleagues, and to offer bystander training to create an entire community of support amongst colleagues rather than isolated units.
DiSC meetings pose questions that draw trainees and faculty together to take advantage of all of their specific areas of knowledge for the common good. By building a commonality that overcomes differences, it helps members understand the struggles of their colleagues, and to develop empathy for one another.
“The overarching and primary goal of the Diversity in Surgery Coalition is to create a safe space for minoritized trainees and trainees who are underrepresented in surgery to just come together in shared experiences."
— Dr. Vignesh Raman, General Surgery Resident
At a recent meeting, the coalition discussed the factors that limit inclusivity in Duke Surgery. To facilitate the discussion, the team used these questions:
- What do you see as the other barriers to a safe culture of inclusivity in surgery at Duke?
- What do you think are the underlying reasons driving these barriers?
- What practical solutions do you think we can enact to improve our culture at Duke Surgery?
Dr. Raman stated these, “drove a really spirited discussion between our trainees and our faculty, and we identified several problems that are barriers to a safe culture.”
By asking the difficult questions, DiSC hopes to confront existing problems and find answers that help to create an environment that supports every member of the Department of Surgery.
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