This week marked the beginning of an important data collection initiative for the ABA, one that will help advance our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). For full details on the race and ethnicity data collection via ABA Go, view the announcement here. This announcement also includes links to a recent statement on racism, DEI work, and progress that describes our efforts to date and future plans to address DEI issues, which we urge you to read if you have not already.
We’ll briefly address two questions in this blog post: Why are issues related to DEI important to the practice of anesthesiology? Why is the ABA now collecting race and ethnicity data from candidates for certification and diplomates?
Firstly, disparities in the healthcare provided to the U.S. population based on race and ethnicity are real and persistent. Such disparities in care contribute to striking disparities in health outcomes, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Care disparities include some aspects of anesthesia practice, such as the provision of labor analgesia and the management of chronic pain. There are many potential causes, and many potential solutions.
Considerable scientific evidence suggests that one part of the solution is a diverse healthcare workforce that understands how disparities can impact care. Anesthesiologists can play a key role in identifying and eliminating any disparities in the provision of perioperative care, critical care and pain medicine care.
Secondly, we have long collected demographic information such as gender, which helps us understand the characteristics of our candidates and diplomates. We already analyze these data to better understand the characteristics of our diplomate community, and to help find and root out bias in our assessments if and when they are identified. As an assessment organization, we take the possibility of implicit bias in both our written and oral examinations very seriously. Although we already have measures in place to mitigate the possibility of bias, gathering race and ethnicity data is essential to addressing this possibility in our initial and continuing certification assessments.
We began gathering information from our volunteers (e.g., question writers and examiners) regarding race and ethnicity in 2018, to gauge whether the volunteer corps is representative of the broader anesthesiologist community. Diversity among these volunteers, who generate examination materials and administer our APPLIED Exam (SOE and OSCE), is another part of the effort to minimize the potential for any bias in our assessments. It also helps ensure that the ABA benefits from a diversity of perspectives and experiences as part of our commitment to support our diplomates and specialty to the best of our ability through initial and continuing certification programs.
Issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion have been controversial throughout American history, and the current day is no exception. We understand that some candidates and diplomates may not be comfortable with sharing their race and ethnicity and are under no obligation to do so.
We hope this clarifies the ‘why’ behind this important data collection initiative and provides insight as to how the ABA plans to use these data to advance our DEI work and mission. We welcome any feedback on this and other aspects of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as we strive to advance the highest standards in the practice of anesthesiology – for all of our patients.
David O. Warner, M.D. ABA Secretary
Professor of Anesthesiology, clinician investigator and consultant, Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. ABA Committees: Credentialing and Continuing Certification, OSCE, ADVANCED Exam and STEEP Advisory
Deborah J. Culley, M.D. ABA Director