When it comes to advocacy, the AAP Section on Pediatric Trainees (SOPT) is known for getting things done. The section often is on the leading edge of highlighting critical topics that impact its members.
Over the past year — and despite the pandemic — SOPT also has helped lead the AAP in promoting equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in pediatrics.
An EDI work group and its first executive coordinator, Tatiana Ndjatou, M.D., have organized events like a movie club featuring panel discussions with experts over Zoom; writing to pediatric residency directors to suggest use of pronouns, such as when interviewing applicants; and using social media to promote Black History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and LGBTQ Pride Month.
They also prepared questions for Aletha Maybank, M.D., M.P.H., chief health equity officer and a vice president at the American Medical Association, who was the keynoter at the SOPT program during the 2020 AAP National Conference.
A needs assessment of members is the work group’s latest effort. The results will be used to make recommendations to program directors and faculty members to create more inclusive environments for trainees, patient families and residency applicants.
Shedding light on issues
All of this work is just “starting a larger conversation,” said Dr. Ndjatou, an adolescent medicine fellow at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York.
“Obviously, there are tangible things that need to be done in terms of increasing diversity within the field,” Dr. Ndjatou said. “But I feel like you can’t get there until we address the problems … We’re just doing the basic work of shedding light on these issues.”
Dr. Ndjatou and the 15-member work group come up with the EDI activities. They are a diverse group of people from across the country who bring different perspectives.
“It’s definitely a team effort. And I feel this has been the most fulfilling experience for me, in my training so far,” she said.
In a video posted on the SOPT website, work group members talk about EDI activities and why they’ve joined the effort (https://bit.ly/3qQIGQ6; login required).
Gurinder Kumar, M.D., a resident at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland affiliated with Case Western Reserve University, said the EDI initiative demonstrates the AAP’s commitment to promoting a diverse environment and equal opportunities for residents and fellows.
“I joined this group to share my opinions and thoughts, as well as learn from other members of the group,” he said.
Films spark dialogue
The movie club was launched to spark discussions about social issues. Members were invited to watch the following films and documentaries on their own and meet virtually for a discussion after each one:
- “13th” — explores racial inequality and the U.S. prison system;
- “Disclosure” — looks at transgender depictions in film and television;
- “Black Men in White Coats” — encourages medical school partnerships to produce documentaries about the need for more Black men in medicine and the barriers they face, part of a campaign founded by Dale Okorodudu, M.D.; and
- “Asian Americans” — PBS film series highlighting accomplishments and challenges of Asian Americans.
Next up is a movie discussion on Sept. 15 for Hispanic Heritage Month.
When feedback after the first film (“13th”) suggested the need for more tangible advice, the discussion following the second film (“Disclosure”) included panelists from the Human Rights Campaign, the Trevor Project and PFLAG, all of which advocate for LGBTQ rights. Also present was a representative from the film.
“It was an awesome group,” Dr. Ndjatou said. She noted that attendance went way up with the expert panel, which shared experiences and advice on how to better serve LGBTQ patients.
The panel for “Black Men in White Coats” included Black male physicians, and the panel for “Asian Americans” included Asian American pediatricians.
Those two films had a real impact on work group member Fiorella Beatriz Castillo, M.D., M.P.H. The third-year resident at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., is sensitive to the barriers colleagues confront in academic settings.
“Just knowing that there are people working to break down those barriers, they create a connection,” she said, noting that the panelists shared resources and mentoring programs that helped them build their own careers. Some of the experts have stayed in touch with SOPT leaders.
The movie clubs have been so successful that invitations have been extended to the Section on Early Career Physicians and the Section on Minority Health, Equity and Inclusion.
Such a larger audience suits Dr. Ndjatou fine, as does the work group’s tasks of securing expert panelists and coming up with other activities.
“I really love the idea of just bringing people together,” she said, “and this collaborative effort of learning around the EDI umbrella doesn’t really feel like work. It’s more like fun work. That’s been gratifying.”