Earlier this week I had the pleasure of going to the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges. I enjoy attending these meetings to learn the latest trends affecting medical schools, teaching hospitals and research institutions, and to share ideas with leaders of other academic medical centers.
This year's meeting was in Baltimore, Maryland. It's a lovely and historic city that was sadly torn apart by riots last spring after the death of a young black man while in police custody. Similar incidents played out in other cities around the country during the last year.
So it was not a coincidence that a theme running through several of the leadership speeches this year was the role AMCs have in promoting health equity and social justice for all of our citizens. Indeed, provision of care that is equitable to all citizens is one of the six areas cited for needed improvement in the Institute of Medicine's 2001 landmark report, “Crossing the Quality Chasm.”
Dr. Darrell Kirch, president of the AAMC, noted that “You can't have true quality without equality.” And Dr. Peter Slavin, CEO of Massachusetts General Hospital and chairman of the AAMC Board of Directors, took a strong stand when he said: “Issues of equity and justice are not separate from the practice of medicine; they are central to the practice of medicine.”
Dr. Slavin also noted that the strongest predictor of health status is race. “We can't rest until every patient, every employee, every student feels that our institution is an open, inclusive and welcoming community,” he said.
During these inspiring talks, I thought about our own progress toward these important goals. As we all know, our state historically has fallen short in the equitable treatment of its citizens. And we have large health disparities based on race, geographic location, socioeconomic status and other factors.
And while I'm not so naïve to think that we have adequately addressed these problems - far from it - I do think that we are advantaged in some ways because we have long recognized these areas of needed improvement and have been working on them for many years.
You don't have to look far to notice all the activities that members of our UMMC community are involved in to promote health equity:
- The recent establishment of a school-based clinic for adolescent health at Lanier High School, an initiative of our School of Nursing