Diversity and Inclusion in Infectious Disease — Strategies for Recruitment and Retention | IDWeek 2023


If you want a strong workforce, you need to build it to be diverse and inclusive, said members of a panel on diversity and inclusion.

ID Week brought together experts in the field of infectious diseases (ID) who highlighted the significance of diversity and inclusion in building a robust workforce.

Jasmine Marcelin, MD, associate professor of Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Dawd Siraj, MD, professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, shared their experiences and insights on the recruitment of trainees and faculty, while Shirley Delair, MD, associate professor of Pediatrics, Chief of Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for Education at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, discussed strategies for retention.

Marcelin started by addressing the critical need for diversity in ID and emphasized that diversity extends beyond racial and ethnic populations to include the LGBTQ+ community and individuals with disabilities. While progress has been made, there is still work to be done, especially in underrepresented groups like women and minorities.

Marcelin also highlighted the decline in underrepresented fellows in Pediatric Infectious Diseases, pointing out a significant drop from 23% in 2007 to 11.7% in 2019.

To address underrepresentation, Marcelin outlined strategies such as enhanced pathway programs, increased exposure in medical school and intentional recruitment. She stressed the importance of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME) requirements for systematic recruitment and retention, highlighting the need for a visible commitment to diversity.

One initiative discussed was the creation of an equity and inclusion statement for residency programs, providing a clear message of commitment to underrepresented applicants.

Additionally, she recommended creating a diversity council with a focus on including trainees in the decision-making process. The implementation of a visiting student externship program as a scholarship was another recommendation, pointing out the importance of flexibility in meeting the needs of trainees.

In the application review phase, Marcelin also encouraged de-emphasizing scores and incorporating a holistic review that considers the experiences and attributes of applicants. She then mentioned the importance of virtual fellowship interviews, offering an opportunity for more interaction with trainees.

Marcelin concluded by reminding the audience of the need for equity to lead and not just support in the entire recruitment process.

Siraj then focused on the institutional commitment needed for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Siraj asked the audience to focus on one question: Does your institution genuinely want to change?

He emphasized the importance of resources created for positions dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Factors such as financial resources, manpower, dedicated administrators, research assistants and content experts were highlighted as essential for success.

Additionally, Siraj underlined the need for data collection within institutions to measure success against their own benchmarks, stressing that progress is measured against the data one starts with. The importance of diverse recruitment in faculty and retaining minority faculty members was also noted.

The Sentinel Scholar Program, initiated in 2009 in Wisconsin, was shared among the audience as a program providing financial and administrative assistance to minority faculty. Siraj shared this initiative provides a competitive award of $210,000 in efforts to support the hiring and development of diverse faculty.

Focusing on retention, Delair emphasized that it begins with recruitment. She acknowledged the challenges in recruitment, noting that success in retention efforts can be about 50-50. However, there is a significance in understanding the inclusion, diversity, access and equity for each division.

Delair also suggested leaders must be aware of their institution's mission, vision, and the support available for faculty, including mentoring and coaching.

An individual faculty advancement plan was also presented as a key tool for faculty to envision their future within the institution, fostering commitment and a sense of progress.

Lastly, Zimmer focused on overcoming barriers to successful recruitment, using the example of the June SCOTUS decision.

She stressed the importance of understanding the culture and values of an institution and cautioned against unintended consequences, focusing on the need for preparation and intentionality.

Zimmer expressed that decisions like the SCOTUS ruling could be viewed as a form of microaggression, impacting students, residents, fellows, and colleagues.

She highlighted the significance of preparation, including multidisciplinary briefings and an intentional focus on mission-based recruitment.

Overall, the session presented by the experts highlighted the crucial approaches needed for recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce in infectious diseases.

From recruitment strategies to commitment and overcoming barriers, the speakers provided insights for building a more inclusive and diverse field.

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