• Press Release

Mount Sinai Researchers Lead Charge for Diversity in Science and Medicine

  • New York, NY
  • (August 21, 2019)

Great minds don’t think alike.

Bolstered by data indicating that teams of diverse individuals fare better on complex tasks than homogeneous groups, a group of researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has teamed up to bring diversity—and the barriers that prevent it—to the forefront. The Mount Sinai researchers have created a robust report that details the challenges, opportunities, and suggestions necessary to mitigate bias and achieve greater levels of equity in clinical practice and research. Their work, “The Science and Value of Diversity: Closing the Gaps in Our Understanding of Inclusion and Diversity,” was published today in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Individuals of varying socioeconomic backgrounds, religion, age, and other characteristics are in a unique position to generate new research questions and approach them from a novel standpoint, the report authors say. Obstacles to setting up diverse teams remain, however, in the areas of recruitment, retention, education, and the promotion of talented individuals. For example, individuals may perceive an institution as being unwelcoming of people from their background, or the biases of selection committee members may become a factor in decision-making.

Unconscious bias affects judgment and can pose a critical barrier to the recruitment and retention of a diverse biomedical workforce. The report suggests that diversity among those individuals charged with program admissions is vital. In addition, support and mentorship is crucial for cultivating the careers of young scientists from any background.

Unconscious bias is a powerful force because it can be invisible to most individuals. However, it can be mitigated with data-driven strategies. In particular, live workshops, unconscious bias training, and institution-sponsored awareness campaigns have been shown to have sustainable improvement in fostering diversity.

Study co-author Talia Swartz, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She noted, “We are grateful that our institution is committed to furthering the mission of inclusion and diversity. The challenges are great and here we provide actionable guidance on how to begin to break down the barriers. Each individual can make a difference."

The authors encourage institutions to reach out to varying populations, to develop a pipeline focusing on networking and mentoring for specialized groups, and to provide guidelines for institutions that foster diversity and inclusion:

  • Identify and define traits to the promotion of diversity and inclusion
  • Develop and adhere to policies that reflect diversity and inclusion
  • Educate and provide resources to uphold institutional policies
  • Enforce recruitment and retention policies favoring diversity, including equity in salaries and resources.
  • Promote diversity publicly
  • Create a system of mutual accountability

The research team itself is a quite diverse group of scientists, clinicians, representatives from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Center for Multicultural and Community Affairs, Office of Women’s Careers, and leadership at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. This work was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (grant K08AI120806).

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with 48,000 employees working across eight hospitals, more than 400 outpatient practices, more than 600 research and clinical labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time—discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 9,000 primary and specialty care physicians and 11 free-standing joint-venture centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida. Hospitals within the System are consistently ranked by Newsweek’s® “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals, Best in State Hospitals, World Best Hospitals and Best Specialty Hospitals” and by U.S. News & World Report's® “Best Hospitals” and “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The Mount Sinai Hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report® “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll for 2023-2024.

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