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

From the Director's Desk

Unequal Treatment: What We Can Do

Heidi Nelson, MD, FACS

Heidi Nelson, MD, FACS
Medical Director, ACS Cancer Programs

The ongoing pandemic, combined with rising social tensions, reminds us that the risks of illness are not equally shared, and healthcare is not equitably distributed. There can be no doubt the pandemic has tested the resolve of our citizens and our health care system, and while we can all be proud of the performance of our providers, we also can now more clearly see the need to address the realities of unequal treatment. Reforming health care access and insurance coverage is beyond our scope, but the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Cancer Programs can do our part.

To start with, we can do our part by expanding our cultural competencies. Our staff has taken the first step in this direction by committing ourselves to understanding and practicing diversity, inclusion, and equity, with an emphasis on underrepresented groups. We also can work to better understand and address social determinants of health. ACS Cancer Programs is currently partnering with other organizations to leverage our resources to study the social determinants of health so that we can define interventions to address key disparities. Lastly, we plan to develop resources to support safety net and rural programs that can help address inequities. While nobody sets out to support unequal treatment, we need to acknowledge that it will take conscious awareness and deliberate action for us to overcome the disparities that do exist.