The Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine asserts that racism is a health pandemic.
For many years, the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has worked to reduce health disparities and advance the health and inclusion of all races in our school, university, our city, and around the world. Although some of these efforts have been incrementally successful, they have not brought the sweeping improvements that we desire. We must redouble our efforts, better coordinate our work, and devote time and resources to attacking the problem at all levels.
Here are some of our efforts.
- For more than a decade, the School has been host to an NIH Center for Reducing Health Disparities, based at MetroHealth, now headed by Ash Sehgal and Daryl Thornton. This center explores the racial difference in kidney diseases and their treatments.
- For over six years, we have been intense participants in the Health Improvement Plan – Cuyahoga, and one of our faculty, Heidi Gullett, is the co-chair. Four elements are emphasized in the plan: 1) eliminating structural racism; 2) linking public health and physician care; 3) chronic disease control, and; 4) healthy eating, active living. Two of the four subtopics are headed by faculty members Heidi Gullett, Erika Trapl, and one grew out of a CWRU initiative.
- Better Health Greater Cleveland, a decade ago, set out to improve care for hypertension, diabetes, and heart failure in primary care practices. In the first three years, processes and outcomes improved in all but one participating practice. Four years later, the racial gap had closed. Their strategies were adopted by the State of Ohio in two statewide initiatives on diabetes and hypertension, led by Michael Konstan, Vice Dean, Translational Research at CWRU.
- First Year Cleveland, launched in 2015 to reduce infant deaths and racial inequities through community partnerships and a unified strategy, explicitly recognizes and is attacking the vast racial gap in pregnancy outcomes. This is led by Michael Konstan.
- The Center for Health Integration headed by Kurt Stange is bringing together the hospital investments in healthcare racial disparities for greater impact.
- The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center addresses racial disparities in incidence and outcomes of cancer in multiple research programs with a SPORE grant led by Nathan Berger, a Cancer Disparities Annual Symposium led by Erika Trapl and Jennifer Cullen, an Implicit Bias annual workshop, and a clinical trials committee focused on underserved populations led by Smitha Krishnamurthi.
- We have emphasized diversity in hiring. Successful at the student level (22-23% URiM for MD program, 17% for PhD), but less so at the faculty level. We have progressively escalated the requirements for faculty hiring with respect to diversity, most recently implementing a “Rooney rule”.
- We have achieved considerable linkage with Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools, especially John Hay High School of Science and Medicine, summer research programs, and the MC2 Stem School (Horizons program), which is augmented by the Joan C. Edwards Scholarship, a pipeline to higher education and eventually, medical school.
- The School has prepared a second Diversity Strategic Action Plan starting in 2020, after implementation of the first one from 2014.
- The School gives awards for promoting diversity at both the faculty and staff levels.
- We have created a Committee on Women and Minorities under the aegis of the Faculty Council in 2019 to enhance action and attention to issues disproportionately affecting female and URM faculty.
- The School of Medicine has established the FRAME (Faculty Reaching for Academic Excellence) professional development program to promote the healthcare and scientific careers of underrepresented minority faculty and enhance retention of these faculty in Cleveland.
- We regularly track the progress in diversity of our faculty both at the School proper and in our clinical affiliates, and we report annually to LCME, our accreditors, so as to assure we are aware of the success of our initiatives. Each of our affiliated hospitals has its own plan and implementation promoting diversity of new hires and inclusion.
Please join us in the effort to combat the pandemic of racism in Cleveland, at Case Western Reserve University and in our own circles.