The Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) has launched an annual diversity and inclusion scorecard for academic cardiovascular (CV) training programs in the US. The results from this ranking initiative – ABC DIBS (Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Scorecard) – will be published annually.
“For nearly 50 years, the ABC has been working to create transparent and plausible paths to cardiology for those with the aptitude for and interest in becoming a physician,” said Dr. Michelle A. Albert, ABC president and associate dean of admissions at the University of California at San Francisco. “These programs have ranged from middle school students all the way to new faculty.”
The group identified potential solutions to addressing some challenges in the recruitment of underrepresented minorities in cardiology fellowships, such as an evidence-based screening process, a culture that prioritizes diversity and transparency in the recommendation process.
“The problem with academic medicine in many ways is that if I time traveled back a hundred years, it looks pretty much how it looks now,” said Dr. Karol E. Watson, director, cardiovascular medicine fellowship, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and co-chair of ABC’s Preventive Cardiology Committee. “People tend to hire themselves over and over, so we need to get people to understand how important diversity is and get buy-in from the community. It has to be everyone’s responsibility, not just African-Americans, to bring all of us along.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the long history of health care disparities that disproportionately affect communities of color, including African-Americans. Diversifying the clinical workforce is one step towards eliminating these inequities. Statistics show that Black doctors help provide better health outcomes for Black patients and are more likely to work in underserved communities. However, while African-Americans make up 13 percent of the population, fewer than 3 percent of cardiologists are African-American, according to a 2015 American College of Cardiology survey. Additionally, the same survey found that less than 3 percent of medical school faculty are African-American.
ABC seeks to address this gap and foster an inclusive and more diverse cardiology workforce, by assessing academic programs utilizing four characteristics: (1) number of underrepresented in medicine (UIM) in general cardiology fellowships; (2) the change in the number of fellows over the life cycle of the training program; (3) trainees’ assessment of a sense of belongingness (i.e. how welcome they feel in that program); and (4) the number of UIM faculty overall as well as in leadership spots in their cardiology training program. A “traffic light” rating will evaluate programs as poor, at-risk or excellent based on these four metrics. Rankings will be announced on a yearly basis.
This diversity scorecard is the next iteration of a 2006 effort when the ABC conducted a study to determine historically the most inclusive and exclusive training programs for underrepresented minorities.
The new effort aligns with ABC’s ultimate goal of improving the health status, both cardiovascular and overall, for Black Americans and other disadvantaged minorities as well as improving access to high-quality health care.