Diversity can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. To SHM Minnesota chapter president Nichole Cummings, MD, it means a statewide chapter that truly feels open to everyone. That means community and academic hospitalists, white hospitalists, Black hospitalists, early-career docs, and later-career nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
“Diversity is so important,” said Dr. Cummings, a hospitalist for CentraCare in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Cloud. “We have a lot of similar needs as hospitalists, but a lot of really different needs as hospitalists, too.”
Dr. Cummings, a nearly 10-year SHM member who is in her second year as chapter president, said growing the group’s leadership from three members to nine members was an important way to wrap in hospitalists from regions outside the Twin Cities, Minnesota’s most populated area.
“We’ve really tried to get leaders from different institutions, so we are representing different types of hospitalist groups,” she said.
The Minnesota chapter was established in 2013 and has 497 members.
Perhaps no year was more challenging for the group—and its state—than 2020, when hospitalists and the community dealt with both the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
That year, the chapter held its first diversity and equity event, with the title of “Working Through Two Pandemics.”
“It was about the pandemic of COVID-19, but then also the pandemic of health disparities, and how social disparities affect our patients and our physicians and patient care, and how we provide care for different groups,” Dr. Cummings said.
That event—as well as the chapter’s other efforts—led to the group winning the 2021 SHM Resiliency Award. In a press release announcing the award, SHM specifically honored the chapter’s “ability to withstand and rise above hardships as well as to successfully adapt and thrive.”
Dr. Cummings takes immense pride in that award, which noted both the chapter’s second annual diversity and equity event—“Deconstructing Race and Dismantling Race-Based Medicine”—and a poster competition that saw a 175% participation increase over the prior event.
“We were able to add a couple more events, and actually had several more events in 2021 that we weren’t able to do in 2020,” Dr. Cummings said. “Despite still having COVID-19 surges and being in the midst of the pandemic, we were able to get together as a leadership team and as a state to continue to provide different events and support to everyone in our state.”
Dr. Cummings said that, as valuable as the state chapter was during COVID-19 for clinical advice and tips on best practices, she tried to remain focused on non-clinical topics such as burnout, research, and quality initiatives.
“It’s so easy to focus just on COVID-19 and just what it’s doing to our patients and our medical systems, that it’s easier to forget that we’re still treating patients as a whole,” She said, “We still have issues with diversity and equity. We still have residents and learners who are coming up and need to learn about all different types of cases and all different types of research. We thought it was very important to try to continue to look at medicine broadly instead of through a very focused lens of COVID-19.”
Dr. Cummings said that a major part of the chapter is also the social networking that comes from events, particularly as in-person gatherings have become safer over the past few months.
“It gives people a mental break, and to be with other people we know had similar experience,” she said. “Though they might work at a different institution with a slightly different population of patients, they went through similar stressors and were able to talk about that, kind of decompress about that.
“Also, we found that people make really good connections at social-networking events that they were able to use during COVID-19 when people could bounce ideas off each other. ‘Hey, we met at this SHM event, and we’re struggling with this part of the pandemic care. What are you guys doing?’”
Moving forward, Dr. Cummings wants to continue growing the membership of the chapter.
And, you guessed it, she thinks that diversity is the key.
“We’d like to continue focusing on reaching out to different groups in outstate Minnesota, groups that maybe aren’t in the Twin Cities area, to make sure we’re trying to represent as much of the state as we can,” Dr. Cummings said. “And we also want to begin reaching out to different groups such as our advanced practice providers, our residents, and our medical students. We just try to have as diverse a number of jobs and locations that we can.”
Told you diversity was important here!
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.