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

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A Family History of Service against a Backdrop of Anti-Asian Prejudice, from the Nisei Soldiers of WW II to Today

Caitlin Takahashi-Pipkin, DORecent attacks on persons of Asian descent are not the first wave of such prejudice in the U.S., and at least one member of the ACS will be featured in a ceremony honoring Japanese-American soldiers in World War II who chose to serve their country, despite discrimination. Lt. Caitlin Takahashi-Pipkin, DO, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve and surgery resident at Vidant Medical Center/East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, will actively participate in the July 15, 2021, Day of Affirmation Ceremony being held to honor the Japanese-American soldiers who bravely fought for the U.S. military in World War II. These soldiers did so in the face of severe and blatant discrimination against persons of Japanese descent.

A few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, an Executive Order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the involuntary internment of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans in what is now recognized as one of the worst acts of discrimination in U.S. history. Despite being born in, and holding allegiance to, the U.S., second-generation persons of Japanese descent, referred to as the Nisei, were confined to camps with their families and initially prohibited from military service. In 1943, manpower shortages led to policy changes, and the Nisei were permitted to enlist in the military, though they were restricted to a segregated battalion. They served loyally and bravely, in both Europe and the Pacific theaters, earning a reputation for exceptional courage and competence.

Kazuo Takahashi, the grandfather of Dr. Takahashi-Pipkin, was interned with his family in Utah's Topaz confinement camp as a teenager. At age 18, he joined thousands of other Nisei in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose motto was "Go for Broke," which was the most decorated unit for its size in U.S. military history. Serving as part of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), he was stationed in Japan, performing counterintelligence and translation services, and he re-enlisted for a second term of service. The MIS intercepted and translated enemy messages and were credited with shortening the war by at least two years in the Pacific and saving countless lives.

Kazuo Takahashi

Four years after the end of WWII, Mr. Takahashi met and married Fusa Takahashi, another Japanese-American who was incarcerated in Camp Amache, CO, also known as the Granada War Relocation Center, another of the 10 centers interring our Japanese citizens. Ms. Takahashi, now 94 years old, has worked to honor the legacy and service of her husband and other Nisei through a Stamp Our Story Campaign for the release of a U.S. postage stamp. After 16 years of effort, the Go for Broke stamp (shown below) was released June 3, 2021, by the U.S. Postal Service to recognize contributions of the Japanese-American soldiers who fought in WW II.

Go for Broke Stamp

Herself a servant leader, Dr. Takahashi-Pipkin will proudly represent her family's service, her Japanese heritage, her dedication to the care of others as a surgeon, and her service to the U.S. Navy at the Day of Affirmation Ceremony being held at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the Japanese American Veterans Association and the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. We thank her for her service and join her in recognition of the Nisei soldiers.

Hone Your Craft, Create Multidisciplinary Teams, Set Achievable Goals: Profiles in Diversity with Dr. Paris Butler

The ACS Committee on Diversity Issues - Profiles in Diversity series spotlights surgeon leaders who thread diversity, equity and inclusion throughout their careers and work. Through interviewing ACS Fellows, each interviewee shares their story of incorporating DEI into their career and offers tips for integrating concepts and best practices into your professional career and practice.

Fernando Arias, MD, Committee on Diversity Issues Member, sat down with Paris Butler, MD, MPH, FACS, assistant professor of surgery, and director, Underrepresented in Medicine (UIM) Affairs for the University of Pennsylvania Health System Graduate Medical Education office, Philadelphia. This profile details Dr. Butler's work to champion diversity, equity and inclusion throughout his surgical career.

Dr. Butler offers three essential pillars for integrating DEI into a surgical career, as follows:

  • DEI efforts require support from all colleagues, not just those that are a part of this group. To create programs at your institution to improve DEI, you need support from your institution's administration and leadership. Gaining critical support can be difficult, but if you can provide data (local, regional, and/or national), this can help show that your efforts are necessary. Furthermore, creating a list of achievable goals for your institution can improve your collaboration with the leadership/administration.
  • Creating a multidisciplinary organization at institutions that provide graduate medical education can be an essential adjunct to improve recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in medicine at the student, resident, and faculty levels. Recognizing and rewarding programs that implement these types of organizations may help increase the motivation for institutions to create them.
  • As a young minority surgeon with administrative aspirations, do not forget to hone your craft and become an excellent surgeon and clinician. It is vital to gain respect from your surgeon colleagues and within the medical community to support the facilitation of your DEI efforts.

Listen to the full interview and to learn more about Dr. Butler's story and commitment to DEI as a surgeon.