From the Society

Flying toward equity and inclusion

Diversity is a ‘team sport’


 

These are challenging, and sometimes tragic, times in the history of the United States. The image of a father and child face down in the Rio Grande River, drowning as they tried to cross from Mexico into Texas, is heart breaking. Irrespective of your political affiliation, we can agree that the immigration process is far from ideal and that no one should die in pursuit of a better life.

Dr. Flora Kisuule, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and vice chair for clinical operations for the department of medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Dr. Flora Kisuule

The United States has a complicated history with equity and inclusion, for all persons, and we are now living in times when the scab is being ripped off and these wounds are raw. What role can the Society of Hospital Medicine play to help heal these wounds?

I am a first-generation immigrant to the United States. I remember walking down the streets of my neighborhood in Uganda when my attention was drawn to a plane flying overhead. I thought to myself, “Some lucky duck is going to the U.S.” The United States was the land of opportunity and I was determined to come here. Through hard work and some luck, I arrived in the United States on June 15, 1991, with a single suitcase packed full of hope, dreams, and $3,000.

Fast-forward 28 years. I am now a hospitalist and faculty at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, the associate director of the division of hospital medicine, and the vice chair for clinical operations at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. I learned about hospital medicine during my third year of medical school at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. While I loved general medicine, I could not see myself practicing anywhere outside of the hospital.

Following residency at Johns Hopkins Bayview, I still felt that a hospital-based practice was tailor-made for me. As I matured professionally, I worked to improve the provision of care within my hospital, and then started developing educational and practice programs in hospital medicine, both locally and internationally. My passion for hospital medicine led me to serve on committees for SHM, and this year, I was honored to join the SHM Board of Directors.

It is hard to answer the question of why, or how, one person immigrates to the United States and finds success while another loses their life. A quote attributed to Edmund Burke says, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [wo]men to do nothing.” One of SHM’s core values is to promote diversity and inclusion. A major step taken by the society to promote work in this area was to establish the diversity and inclusion Special Interest Group in 2018. I am the board liaison for the diversity and inclusion SIG and will work alongside this group, which aims to:

  • Foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in SHM.
  • Increase visibility of diversity, equity, and inclusion to the broader hospital medicine community.
  • Support hospital medicine groups in matching their work forces to their diverse patient populations.
  • Develop tool kits to improve the provision of care for our diverse patient population.
  • Engender diversity among hospitalists.
  • Develop opportunities for expanding the fund of knowledge on diversity in hospital medicine through research and discovery.
  • Participate in SHM’s advocacy efforts related to diversity and inclusion.
  • Develop partnerships with other key organizations to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion platforms so as to increase the scalability of SHM’s efforts.

We have been successful at Hopkins with diversity and inclusion, but that did not occur by chance. I believe that diversity and inclusion is a team sport and that everyone can be an important part of that team. In my hospitalist group, we actively engage women, men, doctors, NPs, PAs, administrators, minorities, and nonminorities. We recruit to – and cherish members of – our group irrespective of religious beliefs or sexual orientation. We believe that a heterogeneous group of people leads to an engaged and high-performing culture.

I have traveled a convoluted path since my arrival in 1991. Along the way, I was blessed with a husband and son who anchor me. Every day they remind me that the hard work I do is to build on the past to improve the future. My husband, an immigrant from Uganda like me, reminds me that we are lucky to have made it to the United States and that the ability and freedom to work hard and be rewarded for that hard work is a great privilege. My son reminds me of the many other children who look at me and know that they too can dare to dream. Occasionally, I still look up and see a plane, and I am reminded of that day many years ago. Hospital medicine is my suitcase packed with hopes and dreams for me, for this specialty, and for this country.

Dr. Kisuule is associate director of the division of hospital medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, and a member of the SHM Board of Directors.

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