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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Critical Mission

December 10, 2022

ASH stands true to its commitment to build and nurture a global hematology community and workforce that is inclusive of diverse perspectives, talents, and experiences. In an interview with Dr. Deirdra Terrell, vice chair of the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and associate professor of epidemiology in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, she acquaints us with the Society’s efforts to promote DEI in hematology. 

Can you give us an overview of the latest and most successful DEI initiatives at ASH? 

Dr. Terrell: Established in 2003, the ASH Minority Recruitment Initiative (MRI) will soon be celebrating 20 years, and that is a huge success story! The goal of the initiative is to increase the participation of under-represented minorities training in hematology-related fields and to increase the number of under-represented minority scholars in the field with academic and research appointments. 

The Minority Medical Student Award Program was the first award program launched under the initiative, and from 2004 through 2021, ASH has supported 340 hematology-related research projects for underrepresented minority medical students. It is also impressive that ASH has been able to grow this initiative from an award program for only medical students to an entire pathway of awards that now includes medical students, residents, fellows, and doctoral students. 

We are also excited about the Anti-Racism Toolkit and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit, which are available at diversity-equity-and-inclusion

ASH is making great strides in being intentional about incorporating DEI into every aspect of the organization. For example, there are DEI sessions offered during the annual meeting. Additionally, this was the first year that a day was devoted to DEI during the weeklong Clinical Research Training Institute summer workshop. Moreover, there is recognition that, when possible, there should be diversity among the ASH standing committees and subcommittees to represent the many voices of the Society’s membership. 

In 2021, ASH established the Health Equity Collective — a cooperative enterprise of support for organizations seeking to help stop the trajectory, and minimize the impact, of health care inequality. This initiative builds on our work throughout the past two decades and demonstrates what ASH can do in the future with partnering organizations. 

How does the new DEI Programs Subcommittee factor into the equation? 

Dr. Terrell: The new ASH DEI Programs Subcommittee, a subcommittee of the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, was launched earlier this year. The subcommittee is composed of 14 volunteers, including Chair Dr. Deepika Darbari and Vice Chair Dr. Blachy Davila Saldana, and represents diverse communities within the ASH membership. Their mandate is to broadly ensure the execution of efforts in support of the ASH DEI strategy. Subcommittee members are currently working on implementing several activities that will enhance community-building and celebrate and recognize the heritage of ASH members. Additionally, members will contribute to measuring the impact of ASH’s DEI efforts and determine a mechanism to report progress annually to the ASH membership. 

More information on the subcommittee’s work can be found on the ASH website

Are there any foreseeable challenges, and what is the way forward? 

Dr. Terrell: It is important to recognize that diversity is not just one thing. In the United States, when people say the word “diversity,” typically the first thought that comes to mind is “race.” And while that is certainly important given the nation’s history, there is much more to consider. 

The Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strives to help ASH achieve and maintain a climate that encourages engagement and participation from all members of the Society. It should be a place where you not only feel you belong but that you also feel heard. This is not an [easy] task; one of the biggest challenges will be to pace ourselves and keep in mind that change does not happen overnight. Small steps are still important steps. 

In the next decade, we hope to not only witness the fruits of ASH’s long-standing dedication to DEI, but also see the impact of the expansion of our work that began in early 2020. 

For additional insight, see the article in the Preview edition of ASH News Daily by Dr. Juliana Perez-Botero.

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