American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Fostering diversity, inclusion, and excellence in medicine

OCTOBER 23, 2018
Clinical Congress Daily Highlights, Tuesday Second Edition

The 2018 Olga M. Jonasson Lecture explored the path toward diversity, inclusion, and excellence in medicine through the vision of Joan Reede, MD, MPH, MBA, Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Dr. Reede began by discussing how the power of firsts can instigate change. She mentioned Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman surgeon in the United States, and Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman to earn an MD. And she pointed to Olga Jonasson, for whom the lecture is named. Dr. Jonasson, who was the first American woman transplant surgeon, passed away in 2006. In 1969, she performed the first kidney transplant in the state of Illinois.

Dr. Reede argued that diversity is about more than just racial equality and economic justice. It is about gender, disability, and anyone who is marginalized or excluded, she said. And it is important for our youth to understand that there are people who blazed the trails that led us to where we are today, and that they too can blaze their own trails by following their passion. “There is talent out there,” she said. “We need to identify it and nurture it and encourage these individuals to stay the course.”

To do this, Dr. Reede said, we need to embrace diversity and inclusion by recruiting, nurturing, and advancing a diverse workforce. Retaining a diverse talent pool requires creating a work environment where individuals feel valued, comfortable, and able to contribute. This is easier said than done, but she argued that we should be asking ourselves who is in or out of the room, who doesn’t have a seat at the table, and whose voice isn’t being heard.

When asked how to improve diversity in surgery, Dr. Reede challenged the surgeons in the room to engage more with students of all ages and backgrounds. She noted that many medical institutions have summer programs, which are perfect opportunities to engage with students through teaching or mentoring. She asked the audience to consider what they could do in their local communities and schools, and to ask kids in their practices about their college or career interests.

“We each have the power to achieve our potential if we recognize, learn from and honor our past. Each one of us can make a difference in our family, our patient community, and the institutions where we work,” she said. “Together, we can make a difference in our nation and the world.”

Additional Information:

The Named Lecture, Olga M. Jonasson Lecture: A Path Toward Diversity, Inclusion, and Excellence, was held October 23, at the 2018 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in Boston, MA. Program, webcast and audio information is available at

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