ABC Unveils Diversity Scorecard Initiative

New ranking system introduced during first of its kind cardiovascular workforce virtual program

The Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) announced the launch of 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.

ABC unveiled the initiative during this first of its kind cardiology workforce webinar featuring directors from top cardiovascular (CV) medicine fellowship programs. The virtual session, “Towards Legitimacy and Results in Achieving Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in Cardiology Training Programs,” highlighted issues impacting the recruitment of Blacks and Hispanics in cardiovascular medicine. Dr. Michelle A. Albert, ABC President and Associate Dean of Admissions at the University of California at San Francisco, opened with highlights of ABC’s past and present efforts to increase the number of minorities in the CV pipeline.

“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,” Dr. Albert said in the event’s opening segment. “These programs have ranged from middle school students all the way to new faculty.”

Dr. Quinn Capers, IV, Vice Dean, Faculty Affairs and Interventional Cardiologist at The Ohio State University College of Medicine (OSUCOM), gave the keynote before participating on the panel with eight other distinguished guests. Dr. Capers’ presentation outlined challenges and best practices culled from the noteworthy transformation initiated at OSUCOM under his stewardship to increase its pool of diverse medical students and cardiology fellows. The panelists included the following:

* Donna M. Polk, MD, MPH – Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
* Frank E. Silvestry, MD – Associate Chief for Education; Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
* Venu Menon, MD – Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
* Melvin R. Echols, MD – Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship, Morehouse School of Medicine
* Julie B. Damp, MD – Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship; Assistant Director, Educator Development Program, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
* Karol Watson, MD, PhD – Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
* Steven O. Marx, MD – Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship, Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital
* Donald Clark, III (Trey), MD, MPH – Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship, University of Mississippi Medical Center

During the webinar, the Directors identified potential solutions to address some challenges in the recruitment of underrepresented minorities within their own programs as well as in cardiology fellowships across the U.S., such as an evidence-based screening process, a climate and 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. Watson, who also serves as Co-chair of ABC’s Preventive Cardiology Committee. “The same metrics, the same people. People tend to hire themselves over and over, so we need to get people to understand how important diversity is and . We have to get the 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 across racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. 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% of the population, fewer than 3% of cardiologists are African American, according to a 2015 American College of Cardiology survey. Additionally, the same survey found that less than 3% 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. Of the 185 institutions receiving federal funding for their cardiology training programs, 25 percent had yet to graduate the first African American. Since then, ABC has made a significant impact on some of those institutions, including OSUCOM, where the number of Black general cardiology trainees graduating from their program increased from zero to %25 – at its peak – and now ranges between 15% and 25% a year. Additionally, for the last consecutive eight years, at least one underrepresented minority interventional cardiologist has graduated from OSUCOM.

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. More details will be forthcoming.

About the Association of Black Cardiologists
Founded in 1974, the ABC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the disparities related to cardiovascular disease and achieving health equity such that all people can live long healthy lives. Membership is open to all interested in the care of people with or at risk for cardiovascular disease, including health professionals, lay members of the community (Com­munity Health Advocates), corporate and institutional members. Today, the ABC’s public and private partnerships continue to increase its impact in communities across the nation.

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