Accepting, understanding, and celebrating diversity

June 2017 – Vol. 36, No. 5

By Valerie A. Flanary, MD, Diversity and Inclusion Committee chair; Sujana S. Chandrasekhar, MD, AAO-HNS immediate past president, with Scott R. Chaiet, MD, MBA, and Stacey L. Ishman, MD, MPH

The word “diversity” can describe many groups. We observe and celebrate the diversity in the patients we treat, the staff we employ, and our professional colleagues. Our Academy is also committed to the diversity of our members. The expansion of the name of the AAO-HNS Diversity Committee to the AAO-HNS Diversity and Inclusion Committee denotes the extension of the Academy and Foundation’s mission to include representation of, and attention to, members from all ethnic and religious groups, and members of different genders, gender identities, and sexual orientations. This action also highlights the importance of, and renewed commitment to, complete, compassionate, and culturally sensitive care for all patients.

People sometimes see the word diversity and roll their eyes. They think it’s just another “mandatory” module that they must complete. We believe diversity should be welcomed with open arms—different people with different backgrounds only serve to enrich a given experience.

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee recently hosted an open dialogue to identify ways to better embrace members of the LGBTQ community as patients we treat and as members of AAO-HNS, who are all encouraged to participate in the committee as members, consultants, or guests/observers. As a result of the dialogue, several initiatives are under way to promote this important conversation and foster improved relationships.

As we have seen previously with female and under-represented minority members, some LGBTQ members of our Academy report a lack of open and obvious support from our Academy.

It is time for this to change. Diversity is not coming, it’s here. It’s not something to be feared, but accepted and celebrated as well as understood.

Physicians who understand differences can see similarities and can deliver culturally sensitive care to their patients. Fostering diversity in our professional organization can provide our members the tools to treat all patients.

All people seek inclusivity and understanding. To get there, we must establish where we are and what we are hoping to become. Please join us September 10-13 for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee Meeting at the 2017 AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO Experience in Chicago, IL. Look for the time, date, and location on the mobile app.

I welcome your ideas or questions at If you would like to make a formal presentation to the committee, please send me the details so that it can be incorporated into the agenda.