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Cardiovascular specialists publish article for anti-racism awareness in cardiology practices

On March 1, the final day of Black History Month and just after Heart Month – a group of researchers from across the nation have published an article aiming to unite the cardiovascular  physician work force, bring awareness to the lack of diversity amongst cardiology professionals and promote methods of cultivating an anti-racist culture. 

Cardiovascular specialists David Winchester M.D., M.S., University of Florida College of Medicine associate professor, Division of Cardiology; Lorrel Toft, M.D., UNR Med cardiologist, associate professor, along with colleagues, Nina Williams M.D., Warren Clinic Cardiology of Tulsa, a trainee of Dr. Toft and the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Louisville Cardiology Fellowship Program; Melanie Sulistio, M.D., University of Texas, Southwestern School of Medicine, Division of Cardiology; and Christine Chen, University of Texas, Southwestern School of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, wanted to find a way to take proactive steps at a pivotal moment to build and reinforce an anti-racist culture in the cardiovascular workplace. In medicine, addressing racism means acknowledging and fixing disparate medical outcomes among minority communities and also fortifying inclusive workplace habits in a predominantly white field. 

The team collaborated on an article that aims to to unite the cardiovascular physician workforce by bringing awareness to the lack of diversity amongst cardiology professionals and promote methods of cultivating an anti-racist culture. 

In their article, "How to Build an Anti-Racist Cardiovascular Culture, Community, and Profession," published in the Journals of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), the team lists everyday actions medical professionals can take to create a holistically anti-racist culture. The article offers recommendations spanning from recruitment to training infrastructure and career advancement with support.

"We asked ourselves, 'What could we do to create a constructive narrative to anti-racism discussions?' This may be the first time some people have thought about this," Winchester said. "How can we help people become more proactively anti-racist in their local environment? We're all trainers, responsible for curriculums and are in a good position to educate."

As the increase of racial diversity becomes more emphasized in the cardiovascular workforce, there is little to no discussion about the occurrences of microaggressions and biases that underrepresented minorities in the cardiovascular profession face from their patients, colleagues and staff, and the system itself on a daily basis. The JACC article begins a discussion on the building blocks of creating and maintaining an anti-racist culture in the workplace. 

“In it, we offer specific, actionable, practical ways in which cardiologists in every setting can practice anti-racism on behalf of their colleagues of color,” said Dr. Toft.

Recruitment for underrepresented minorities in medical professions is at the top of the list, but Winchester and his colleagues aim to set practices for a healthy work environment that also facilitate retention. This comes through training and teaching infrastructure, career cultivation and promotion, and inclusive practices on a day-to-day intrapersonal level as well. 

"Racist and sexist behavior has happened before, and it will happen again," said Winchester. "We want to prepare ourselves by asking practical questions like, 'What reponse can I have in the back of my mind if I am caught off guard when someone makes an inappropriate remark?'" 

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The University of Florida’s mission is to prepare our students to lead and influence the next generation and beyond for economic, cultural and societal benefit. Recognized as among the top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report, UF is one of the nation’s largest public universities, and is the only member of the Association of American Universities in Florida. Teaching, research and scholarship, and service span all of the UF’s academic disciplines and represent its commitment to be a premier university that the state, nation and world look to for leadership. For more information, visit www.ufl.edu.

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med), Nevada’s first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Since 1969, UNR Med has trained more than 3,900 students, residents and fellows. UNR Med continues to improve the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion. For more information, visit med.unr.edu.

Emily Cardinali March 1, 2021