Mount Sinai Researchers Lead Charge for Diversity in Science and Medicine
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
The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest integrated delivery system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai's vision is to produce the safest care, the highest quality, the highest satisfaction, the best access and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,480 primary and specialty care physicians; 11 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 410 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools", aligned with a U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" Hospital, No. 12 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding, and among the top 10 most innovative research institutions as ranked by the journal Nature in its Nature Innovation Index. This reflects a special level of excellence in education, clinical practice, and research. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of top U.S. hospitals; it is one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Orthopedics in the 2019-2020 "Best Hospitals" issue. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital also is ranked nationally in five out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 12th nationally for Ophthalmology and the South Nassau Communities Hospital is ranked 35th nationally for Urology. Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, Mount Sinai West, and South Nassau Communities Hospital are ranked regionally.