This is a defining moment for health and health care in the United States, and medical schools and teaching hospitals have a critical role to play. The combined forces of health care reform, demographic shifts, continued economic woes, and the projected worsening of physician shortages portend major challenges for the health care enterprise in the near future. In this commentary, the author employs a diversity framework implemented by IBM and argues that this framework should be adapted to an academic medicine setting to meet the challenges to the health care enterprise. Using IBM's diversity framework, the author explores three distinct phases in the evolution of diversity thinking within the academic medicine community. The first phase included isolated efforts aimed at removing social and legal barriers to access and equality, with institutional excellence and diversity as competing ends. The second phase kept diversity on the periphery but raised awareness about how increasing diversity benefits everyone, allowing excellence and diversity to exist as parallel ends. In the third phase, which is emerging today and reflects a growing understanding of diversity's broader relevance to institutions and systems, diversity and inclusion are integrated into the core workings of the institution and framed as integral for achieving excellence. The Association of American Medical Colleges, a leading voice and advocate for increased student and faculty diversity, is set to play a more active role in building the capacity of the nation's medical schools and teaching hospitals to move diversity from a periphery to a core strategy.
Dr. Nivet is chief diversity officer, Diversity Policy and Programs, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.
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