Dana-Farber, Mass Gen to ramp up minority inclusion efforts, hire diversity officers

Two of Boston's leading teaching hospitals are increasing their efforts to improve diversity among their physicians and patient populations, according to The Boston Globe.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute officials told the publication they plan to hire a leader for diversity programs, and will require all faculty and administration to complete a bias awareness workshop, among other initiatives, as part of the institution's 2018 strategic plan. Similarly, Massachusetts General Hospital plans to hire a chief diversity officer and will begin evaluating department heads and senior leaders on whether they've achieved their diversity goals with regard to physicians and patients.

"We need to be even more diligent and intentional," said Shea Asfaw, chief of staff for the office of the president at MGH. "There is a void of a narrative about MGH in the communities of Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester."

MGH told The Boston Globe its diversity efforts were underway prior to the publication's seven-part series on race last December, but that the series increased focus on diversity issues.

The series provided evidence of persistent patient segregation patterns at some of the city's elite hospitals, including Dana-Farber and MGH. It also highlighted the lack of minority physicians at elite hospitals citywide. Roughly 2 percent, or eight of Dana-Farber's 359 physicians, are black, while 3 percent of MGH's 2,349-physician staff are black, according to data cited in The Boston Globe's investigation.

In an email to The Boston Globe, a spokesperson for Dana-Farber said the cancer center plans to undertake a "qualitative assessment" focused on hiring more minorities and improving work conditions for physicians and staff. The assessment will reportedly comprise focus groups, interviews and brainstorming sessions to examine the institution's recruitment and retention efforts, as well as its workplace culture.

Representatives from both institutions cited several reasons for their struggles in recruiting minority patients and physicians, including restrictions on where Medicaid recipients can receive care, housing expenses in the city and Boston's reputation for being generally unwelcoming to African-Americans, according to The Boston Globe.

"When I was applying I was told, 'Why you would apply there? This was a racist city,'" said Utibe Essien, MD, a general internal medicine fellow at MGH and a member of the hospital's Center for Diversity and Inclusion advisory board. "[That impression] is a reality that causes some limitation to recruitment."

To access the full Boston Globe report, click here.

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