This year has undeniably changed the way we do things: the way we stay connected to our friends and family, the way we interact with our patients, the way we stand up for one another.
Like many organizations across the United States, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and ABIM Foundation (ABIMF) are at a turning point, where we move from being “passively non-racist” institutions to committing ourselves to be an “actively anti-racist” influence in health care. In the tumultuous summer of 2020, we made a public commitment to explore our role in perpetuating —intentionally or not— racial disparities in health care through our Board’s policies and programs.
And while our initial commitment in 2020 focused on racial justice, ABIM’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy has broadened to bring as many voices to the table as possible. Our goal is to ensure that our programs and policies are not divorced from the lived experiences of our diplomates, including (but not limited to): age, race, ethnicity, faith, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, geographical location or practice setting.
Decades of data on health outcomes for people of color, the differently-abled and gender minorities show that we are not practicing equitable, evidence-based medicine as a whole. As in the vehicle through which the internal medicine community sets standards for itself, we are called to look at our role in creating that reality and what our role is in remedying it.
To remain transparent and accountable to our community about the commitments we have made, we offer the following update a year after sharing our statement on racial justice.
Structural Accountability: In August 2020, ABIM’s Board of Directors established its first ever Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, appointing Robert O. Roswell, MD as Chair and supported by ABIM’s VP for Medical Education Research, Lorna Lynn, MD. The DEI Committee is responsible for ensuring ABIM’s programs, including assessments, are fair, equitable and free of bias. And in September 2020, ABIM named Pamela Browner White as its first ever Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.
Changes to ABIM Assessments: In April 2021, considering the well-established body of research that exists around health equity and social determinants of health, the Board voted unanimously to approve a resolution to include discipline-specific health equity questions in ABIM assessments, and signal the importance of this content by adding health equity to examination blueprints. Reinforcing that these are areas physicians need to be aware of in order to practice today’s medicine, Directors agreed that this moment felt urgent, essential and historic.
Advocating on Behalf of the Marginalized: ABIM has made a number of changes to incorporate community feedback into every decision we make, stand in solidarity with our colleagues across internal medicine and its subspecialties, and make our values as an organization and as a profession known. Over the past year, we have stood with physicians advocating on behalf of people of color, the transgender community, women and mothers, and the immigrant community. We will continue to stand with you and reaffirm our community’s values.
Representing Diverse Voices in ABIM’s Governance: ABIM Governance consists of more than 300 members on more than 50 boards and committees. The individuals who serve in ABIM’s Governance are ABIM. Institutions, after all, are created, controlled and changed by the people within them. It is important that ABIM Board Certified physicians and candidates see themselves represented in ABIM. This year, we featured 8 ABIM Governance Members in our ongoing Voices that Transform series, many of them engaging in DEI efforts of their own at the institutions where they practice and teach. If you are interested in joining an ABIM Board, Committee or Task Force, find the openings here.
Community Collaborations: ABIM is listening to, learning from and developing opportunities to collaborate with medical specialty societies in a number of areas, including: health equity education, diversifying physician workforce and pipeline, and assuring that all voices and viewpoints are heard in all places where decisions are made. The Building Trust & Equity in IM Training Grant is a community collaboration between ABIM, ABIM Foundation, American College of Physicians (ACP), Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine (AAIM), and the Macy Foundation to offer grants to physicians and trainees incorporating DEI in internal medicine training programs.
Opportunities to Engage: Now more than ever, it is imperative that we continue to work to understand each other. In the fall of 2020, ABIM held listening sessions with Early Career Physicians, Women Physicians, and Black Physicians in order to hear what they value, how they want to be reached, and what they need from us to feel like ABIM understands them and their unique challenges navigating the medical profession. There are more groups that ABIM wants to hear from, and we plan on holding more listening sessions in the future. While there will be plenty of formal and more specific opportunities to engage with ABIM on this important journey, we invite you to share your thoughts, suggestions and feedback on this work. You can contact us about diversity, equity & inclusion opportunities at DEI@abim.org.
See a more complete list of activities on the ABIM Blog’s new webpage: ABIM’s Commitment to Health Equity.
While we’re proud of the work our governance, community partners and staff have done over the past year, we know that we have only just begun. We want the community to know that we are listening, and we are learning.
Thank you to our diplomates for advocating on behalf of your patients, yourselves and your colleagues, for speaking truth to power, and for making us a better organization.
The work continues.
Robert O. Roswell, MD
Chair, ABIM Committee on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Richard J. Baron, MD
ABIM President & CEO