Fostering workplace equality and inclusion

The Division of Rheumatology at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis is committed to provide an inclusive and supportive environment in which people from diverse backgrounds and cultures are treated equally and work with each other in a spirit of collegiality, openness and mutual respect.

Creating a Culture of Inclusion

Inclusion is an integral part of the workplace routines and processes. Inclusive behaviors are reflected in the ways everyone is treated, and treats their colleagues and co-workers during their workday. The division will consistently evaluate and re-evaluate policies and procedures, and reflect on behaviors to ensure that microaggressions, unconscious and implicit biases and prejudice do not thwart our efforts to provide a safe environment for all.

Aligning our Mission to Address Health Equity Issues in the Communities

The Institute of Medicine defines health equity as “providing care that does not vary in quality because of personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, geographic location, and socioeconomic status”. To achieve health equity, we must first recognize the high burden of rheumatologic diseases and unmet health care needs in metropolitan St Louis’ underserved communities, especially the Black community and communities of color. Healthcare access is especially limited for Blacks and people of color due to inadequate insurance and transportation, limited flexibility for time off from work, communication and language barriers, historical and current discrimination in healthcare systems, and cultural differences between patients and providers. The Division of Rheumatology is committed to community-oriented programs to ensure affordable and fair access to health care for underserved communities with rheumatic diseases.

Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce

A diverse workforce offers everyone the opportunity to encounter different perspectives and cultures, which improves our processes for providing respectful and knowledgeable care to diverse patient populations. Diversity isn’t simply filling faculty, staff, and trainee positions with mandated numbers. Rather, diversity starts at the beginning, creating opportunities for individuals from all socioeconomic status, gender, race/ethnicity, and ability, thereby establishing a safe and supportive environment that ensures their continued success.

The Division of Rheumatology seeks to create an inclusive academic community, and train a diverse workforce to better address the many health inequities in rheumatology in Saint Louis communities and beyond.

DEI initiatives in the division

· We added photos to the monitors in the waiting room to introduce our team members to patients and highlight the diversity of the division

· Dr. Lisa Zickuhr and Andrew Robinson (MSW), in collaboration with the Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Nephrology, initiated a fellow-led Health Equity Case Conference to provide an opportunity to explore, discuss, and build skills to navigate social determinants of health (SDOH) that affect our patients’ outcomes in the clinical setting

· Drs. Eisen and Pham are collaborating with Dr. Melvin Blanchard (Greater Baltimore Medical Center [GBMC]) to provide mentorship in clinical research to trainees at GBMC.

· In collaboration with faculty in Washington University’s Institute for Informatics (I2), Drs. Eisen and Lew, and Sara Kellahan (NP) are evaluating the feasibility of collecting SDOH data to identify social and community barriers affecting the access and quality of healthcare delivery in rheumatology clinics

· Dr. Eisen is collaborating with GBMC faculty to mine GBMC EPIC SDOH data to gain insight into challenges presented to patients, and the relationship between SDOH and health outcomes