Why We Care about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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. 

About the Authors

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

Chair of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Penn Medicine; associate professor of Anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School. ABA Committees: Credentialing and Continuing Certification and Research


  1. It is with great disappointment that I see the ABA march headlong into the soft science of sociology and the more recent pursuit of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that focus almost entirely on immutable characteristics like gender and race.

    Almost all of the disparities are better explained by behavior rather than race, and if their is a correlation between race and outcomes that, again, would be better explained by group behaviors that some would describe as culture.

    Thomas Sowell, Ph.D. has produced volumes of well evidenced and rational work on this subject. What modern academics call diversity is simply a predetermined ratio of people that fall into categories of physical traits, like white or black. Equity, as currently used, is a reference to somehow creating similar outcomes in spite of differences in behaviors. Sowell best address the idea of equity, or justice, in his book The Quest for Cosmic Justice. We simply are not equipped, or capable, of administering a system that can both act as both judge and jury for every individual. Finally, inclusion is a misnomer because in this current environment there is zero room for true inclusion of diverse ideas, simply put, having a differing opinion is liable to cause you to suffer serious consequences.

    True diversity is about a plurality of ideas and experiences and has little to do with immutable characteristics. We should all strive to treat each other and every patient not only as we would want to be treated, but within reason, to treat them as they would want to be treated. Finally, we should seek to be truly tolerant of others and their beliefs.

    The actual mission of the ABA should be certifying that a physician trained in anesthesiology is properly prepared to safely shepherd patients through the perioperative period, everything else you suggest you are doing is far beyond your actual scope and, frankly, is both misguided and likely destructive to the field.

  2. Here it comes, the ABA is becoming “WOKE”. Should I start hating myself now or wait for this “enlightening” race/gender study to complete? Do these authors feel special and forgiven/redeemed because they are looking into this nonissue. Maybe we should award them a special credential for being so forward thinking. Where can I stop contributing to the ABA. More PC rubbish.

  3. I hope you’re using the term equity out of ignorance, and not in the critical theory sense of guaranteeing equal outcome for target groups, which is Marxist philosophy. Equality of opportunity for everyone is good. Creating a system which discards merit and controls outcome based on race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. is demonstrably catastrophic. That is equity. Either way, this doesn’t bode well despite what I assume are good intentions.