Working Together as We Embrace and Support Our Differences

March 2020 – Vol. 39, No. 2

This month, I would like to highlight the history and efforts of our Academy in the area of diversity and inclusion. The motto “We Are One” embodies the composition of and commitment to our membership and the patients we serve. What is now the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, currently chaired by Cristina Cabrera-Muffley, MD, had its origins nearly 15 years ago starting as a task force and evolving into a committee (with me as the Chair) with a guest seat on the AAO-HNS Board of Directors. Our Past Presidents, Drs. Richard Miyamoto, Ron Kuppersmith, Jim Denneny, J. Regan Thomas; the Board of Governors; and staff (as well as other leaders) all played critical roles in turning this vision into a reality. One of the first tasks of the group was to create a statement on diversity, which appears on our website and is as follows:

Duane J. Taylor, MD, AAO-HNS/F President

“The AAO-HNS affirms that in order to continue to work for the best ear, nose, and throat care, we must support and encourage diversity in our membership.

We acknowledge that culturally effective care is predicated on cultural sensitivity and cultural competence. We are committed to diversity and equal opportunity for our members. The Academy affirms its dedication to diversity by ensuring and developing opportunity for leadership positions within the Academy that are accessible to all Fellows, including underrepresented minorities within our specialty.

We maintain that achieving diversity requires an enduring commitment to inclusion that must find full expression in our organizational culture, values, norms, and behaviors. Throughout our work, we will support diversity in all of its forms, encompassing but not limited to age, disability status, economic circumstance, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation.

Leading by example, we aspire to make diversity a core and abiding strength of the otolaryngology community.”

As the largest organization in the specialty, representative of all otolaryngologists, we strive to encourage an atmosphere of inclusion for all. Toward that end, our Diversity Committee was initially charged with educating and promoting diversity and inclusion in all its forms—including gender, race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, geographic location, sexual orientation, age, and culture—within our membership and especially in our leadership. It was also charged with promoting cultural sensitivity and competence in concert with other committees, first to the membership and medical schools, and then to the public, for the best treatment of ear, nose, and throat, and head and neck disease. We were and still are committed to establishing programs that support these goals of inclusion in an effort to build a culture that will attract the best and brightest physicians to our specialty, increasing research being conducted by a diverse population of researchers, fostering the best education exchange, and enhancing patient care.

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the AAO-HNSF Diversity Endowment and the Harry Barnes, MD Endowment Leadership Grants. The committee and a group of concerned Academy members at our AAO-HNSF 2010 Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, gathered with the support of an energetic staff development team to raise the initial funds to support these endowments. In 2010, under the leadership of AAO-HNS/F President J. Regan Thomas, MD, and me as Chair of the Diversity Committee, the AAO-HNSF created the Diversity Endowment to provide critical funding of programs that will facilitate education and awareness, create an atmosphere of inclusion, and encourage pursuit of the specialty by underrepresented minorities. This endowment was set up to provide funding for:

  • Grants for medical student rotations in otolaryngology
  • Medical student grants and mentoring associated with the AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO Experience and AAO-HNS/F Leadership Forum & BOG Spring Meeting
  • Resident Leadership Grants for the Annual Meeting and Leadership Forum & BOG Spring Meeting
  • Distinguished research prizes for medical student papers
  • CORE Grants for research related to underrepresented populations and for underrepresented researchers
  • Marketing outreach to encourage awareness of diversity and inclusion and AAO-HNS/F efforts and resources in these areas

We have come a long way and congratulate the work of all who continue to support these efforts.