Advanced practice nurses, physician assistants and Medical Center leaders gathered virtually on Jan. 16 for the kickoff of the 2024 series of Advanced Practice Grand Rounds, a monthly educational series organized by the VUMC Office of Advanced Practice.
The session featured Amita Bey, EdD, MPH, associate director of the VUMC Office of Inclusion and Health Equity, who gave the keynote presentation, “Embracing Diversity in Health Care: Cultivating a Culture of Humility, Quality and Care.”
“Diversity in health care is not just a buzzword or a catch phrase,” Bey said. “It is a fundamental necessity.”
Bey offered personal anecdotes to illustrate the importance of diversity in the workforce to address health disparities. Her family has roots in Union Springs, Alabama, not far from where the Tuskegee Syphilis Study took place. The federal study, conducted between 1932 and 1972, included patients who were not informed of a cure for syphilis, resulting in the death of perhaps 100 men. She learned more about the history of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study as a student at Tuskegee University.
“Learning about such a profound wrong inflicted upon my own people, Black people from Alabama, this highlighted for me the critical need for ethical standards and human rights in medical research, and this realization really steered me, or I’d even say rocketed me toward a career in public health and academic medicine,” she said. “I was compelled to be an advocate for vulnerable populations and to speak for people who did not have a voice to ensure that these types of injustices would never occur in the future.”
Unethical research methods have led minority populations to be skeptical of medical providers, causing hesitancy to seek care and disparities in health outcomes. Increasing diversity in the medical workforce can help turn those perceptions around, Bey said.
Bey cited research from the Commonwealth Fund that “shows that a diverse and representative health care workforce improves patients’ access to care, their perceptions of the care they receive and their health outcomes, especially for patients of color.
“Furthermore,” she added, citing the Commonwealth Fund research, “when Black patients are treated by Black doctors, they are both more likely to be satisfied with the care they receive and more likely to agree to receiving and actually have received recommended preventive services within the last year.”
Bey offered a deeply personal example to underscore the gravity of increasing diversity, and with it, trust in health care in minority populations. Her father, Leon, did not believe the COVID-19 vaccine was safe or effective for Black people or other minorities. Just a few weeks before Christmas in 2021, he contracted COVID, and after the disease progressively worsened, he was rushed to the hospital. He died in early January 2022, just after his 72nd birthday.
“If you take nothing else away from today’s talk, please keep in mind that diversity is not merely just a check box of differences, but it is a celebration of unique backgrounds that, when united, began to form a formidable force that is capable of driving positive change in creating more compassionate and diverse workplace environments.”
During the kickoff session, the 2024 Advanced Practice Ambassador Award was presented to Jaci Ryals, BS, associate director of the Office of Advanced Practice. The award honors non-advanced practice providers for their contributions advocating and supporting the role of the Advanced Practice profession.
For more information about Advanced Practice Grand Rounds and the Office of Advanced Practice, visit https://www.vumc.org/nursing-oap/welcome.
“The Office of Advanced Practice serves as the professional home for over 1,500 advanced practice practitioners who are committed to delivering our mission at VUMC,” said Brent Dunworth, DNP, MBA, APRN, CRNA, NEA-BC, associate nurse executive for Advanced Practice.