We live in a world that is characterized by diversity. Yet the emphasis on creating diverse and inclusive workplaces did not evolve until the passage of the civil rights legislation in the 1960s that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or age.1 The focus on diversity has also extended to professional organizations, including healthcare societies such as the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). A series of studies has shown that companies that achieve diversity in their management and on their corporate boards attain better financial results, on average, than other companies. Recent business reports have also found that companies with sustained high representation of women—three or more women board directors in at least four of five years—significantly outperformed those with no women board directors. Additionally, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform competitors while those that are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to do so.2 Yet diversity involves more than just gender and ethnic parity.
What is Diversity?
Defining diversity is not easy because it is a complex construct. A 2000 advertisement by Goldman Sachs stated, “It’s hard to define what diversity is because everyone has an opinion.”1
Merriam-Webster defines diversity as “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements” and “the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures).”3 A 2017 analysis of demographic trends in critical care fellows highlighted that diversity in the healthcare workforce is essential to providing culturally effective care.4 Although working to achieve diversity is generally assumed to ensure that every person has an equal chance of being represented, psychological research shows that diversity helps diminish the invisible but persistent psychological barriers that emerge from being a member of an underrepresented group.5
SCCM’s Commitment to Diversity
A commitment to diversity is a valued component of the Society’s organizational strategy. Since SCCM was chartered as an organization, it has been devoted to multiprofessional care and inclusion of all healthcare providers who interface with critically ill patients and their families, as well as to providing care to all patients, regardless of demographic, social, or economic profile. Our current 20-member Council consists of professionals from critical care medicine (including surgery, internal medicine, anesthesia, emergency medicine, neurocritical care, and pediatrics), nursing, and pharmacy. And 50% are women. Among the 46 SCCM presidents to date, eight have been women (17.4%) and, since 2000, 47% have been women. Three presidents (6.5%) have represented the discipline of nursing, and 1 (2%) has represented the discipline of pharmacy.
In January, SCCM formulated a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which is charged with 1) analyzing diversity data of SCCM committees, work groups, leadership, faculty, and authors; 2) working with these groups to raise awareness of the benefits of increased diversity; 3) encouraging and mentoring underrepresented populations to participate in SCCM activities; 4) identifying opportunities for increasing the diversity profile; and 5) promoting awareness that SCCM values and seeks diversity and inclusive practices within the critical care profession and within the SCCM organization.
The chair of the committee is Gregory E. Kerr, MBA, MD, FCCM; the vice-chair is Tony T. Gerlach, BCPS, PharmD, FCCM. Committee members are Hayley Beth Gershengorn, MD, FCCM; Wendy R. Greene, MD, FACS, FCCM; Lynn J. Hydo, MBA, RN, FCCM; Karin Reuter-Rice, PhD, NP, FAAN, FCCM; William Rodriguez-Cintron, MD, FCCM; Gloria M. Rodriguez-Vega, MD, FCCM; Hira Shafeeq, BCPS, PharmD; David Scott Shapiro, MD, MHCM, FACS, FCCM; Roshni Sreedharan, MD; Beth Taylor, RD, DCN, CNSC, FCCM; Ann E. Thompson, MD, MHCPM, MCCM; Kathleen To, MD; and Ellen Turney, SCCM staff partner. We look forward to the work of the committee to assist in further advancing diversity initiatives and the work of the Society. Ensuring that Society programs and initiatives meet the needs of both our broad international membership and our highly diverse patient populations is key to our ability to improve patient outcomes.
A 2017 article on gender parity in critical care medicine nicely describes the importance of addressing diversity in critical care. The authors state that the critical care community itself is diverse, as we practice in an interdisciplinary, interprofessional model that includes women and men from diverse backgrounds of various races, ethnicities, cultures, and belief systems.6 This diversity helps to shape and enrich our field as we work toward the common goal of providing optimal care for critically ill patients and their families. The authors advocate proactive strategies including critical care societies establishing diversity policies to ensure representation that reflects sex, gender, geography, ethnicity, economy, and discipline. Working toward that end, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee recently sent you an e-mail asking you to update your SCCM profile with new demographic information. This confidential information will help us increase the diversity of volunteers who serve on our many work groups, as one strategy in working to achieve diversity. If you have not done so yet, please take a few minutes to log in to your SCCM account and update your profile.
Working to Achieve Diversity
Achieving diversity is a challenging but worthwhile endeavor for any organization. As we work to advance the goals and mission of the Society, we appreciate your many contributions to help us meet our goals, including those aimed at achieving diversity. As Malcolm Forbes said, diversity is “the art of thinking independently together.”7 On a daily basis, critical care clinicians truly embrace this perspective as we think independently together to achieve the best outcomes for critically ill patients and their families. As I pass the halfway mark of my presidency term, I thank you for the opportunity to serve as SCCM president and for your ongoing contributions to the Society and to critical care! Working together, we can advance the initiatives of the Society, including those aimed at achieving diversity.
4. Lane-Fall MB, Miano TA, Aysola J, Augoustides JGT. Diversity in the emerging critical care workforce: analysis of demographic trends in critical care fellows from 2004 to 2014. Crit Care Med. 2017 May;45(5):822-827.
6. Mehta S, Burns KEA, Machado FR, et al. Gender parity in critical care medicine. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017 Aug 15;196(4):425-429.