Marc Nivet, Ed.D., M.B.A., chief diversity officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), kicked off the first day of the National Conference of Constituency Leaders here on May 5 with a keynote speech during a plenary focused on the importance of promoting diversity through leadership.
Marc Nivet, Ed.D., M.B.A. (left) speaks with National Conference of Constituency Leaders attendees following his opening plenary speech.
In Nivet's role as chief diversity officer at the AAMC, he provides strategic vision and programmatic leadership on issues surrounding community engagement, diversity and health equity at universities, medical schools and teaching hospitals across the United States and Canada. He's spent more than 20 years in academic medicine developing creative program initiatives and innovative approaches to the mission of excellence in research, education and patient care.
Playing on the conference's theme of leadership, Nivet described leaders as "being comfortable with being uncomfortable." He said he's familiar with this concept as he gets paid to agitate people for a living. "If I effectively agitate the deans of medical schools and the CEOs of hospitals, I'm doing my job," he said.
As to the definition of diversity, Nivet said, "it means nothing more than 'difference.' That's all diversity means, not positive or negative, it just is different."
- Marc Nivet, Ed.D., M.B.A., chief diversity officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, kicked off the first day of the National Conference of Constituency Leaders on May 5 with his plenary on promoting diversity through leadership.
- Nivet said an important key to improving diversity through leadership is asking good questions.
- The future of medicine and its ability to embrace diversity depends heavily on leveraging all of the talents, abilities and skill sets of the people who have yet to even think about opportunities working in health care and as physicians.
But what's required to make diversity useful and to leverage it is inclusion. "Inclusion is the fuel that animates diversity," he said. "It's a culture that you can create in your practice, in your organizations and in the different places that you network. It's not simply counting people who are different -- it's about ensuring people count."
Nivet explained to attendees the history of frameworks or "operating systems" that the United States has used in its approach to diversity in recent history.
He called the approach to diversity in the country since 1954 and the Brown v. Board of Education case "Diversity 1.0." Nivet said in the health care system, "we wanted to be more diverse but we believed we needed to give up something to be more diverse...whether that was patient care, research or education."
Nivet said in his role, he has visited more than 145 M.D.-granting medical schools in the past six years and most of these programs have moved to a "Diversity 2.0" framework.
"Now what you hear is, 'We want to be diverse; we want to be inclusive; and we want to be excellent in patient care, research and education," he said.
Nivet explained this is a parallel construct. "This is better than diversity competing with excellence. Now diversity is parallel to excellence," he said.
However, despite this progress, Nivet said he has yet to find an organization operating under a "Diversity 3.0" framework. "A Diversity 3.0 organization moves beyond diversity being parallel to excellence and to diversity being core to its excellence," he said.
The Diversity 3.0 approach builds on recruiting and retention of a diverse group of people to attracting them and creating a culture in which they can thrive.
Asking Good Questions
Nivet said another important key to improving diversity through leadership is asking good questions. "The question that is never asked is, 'Why do you want more diversity to begin with?'" he said.
"As health organizations, the reason we're here is to improve the health of the public and eradicate health disparities," Nivet said. "But we have to leverage diversity and inclusion to drive (these missions). Until our organizations get clear on this for themselves, diversity will continue to be a very important topic that we'll continue to talk about but it will never become urgent."
Education Key to Future of Health Care
Nivet said the future of medicine and its ability to embrace diversity depends heavily on leveraging all of the talents, abilities and skill sets of the people who have yet to even think about opportunities working in health care and as physicians.
He asked attendees to ponder, "How do we reach back and leverage the assets, the minds and the brilliance of the next generation to ensure the talent pool is extremely diverse and interested in a career in medicine?"
Nivet said this is important to consider because in 2042, there will no longer be a majority racial demographic in the United States and a more diverse population will be ripe to enter the health care world. He added that in 2010, in the population younger than age 18, there already was parity in ethnic diversity.
"So we don't really have until 2042," he said. "We are wasting a lot of talent in our K through 12 education system. And I do think there is a huge role for all of you as physicians to engage in our education system."
In addition, he said there is an opportunity for physicians to engage deeply in advocating for health issues, including education, in their communities to improve health care and the health of the public.
Nivet ended his speech explaining that the process of changing organizations to be more diverse is difficult and that until organizations take steps to increase their efforts to promote diversity, diversity will remain an important issue but not the urgent issue it needs to be.
"Your role as current and future leaders is to work collectively and figure out how to move diversity from important to urgent," he said.
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