US dermatologists reject ‘anti-diversity’ push for AAD


By Geir O'Rourke

13 Mar 2024

The American Academy of Dermatology board has voted down a proposal to end its diversity, equity and inclusion programs following a fierce debate at its annual conference in San Diego.

The academy has been making headlines since February after it emerged that dozens of members had put their name to a motion seeking to “sunset all diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)” initiatives at the professional organisation representing US dermatologists.

Authored by New York-based dermatologist Dr Brian Raphael, the resolution cited “instances where the DEI movement has been perceived as being filled with antisemitism, weaponizing the concept against Jews by labelling them as ‘oppressors’ and allegedly justifying extreme hate speech and violence.”

The motion also claimed that diversity programs “led to the control of speech and the stifling of diversity of thought and professional conversations regarding difficult issues.”

Mr Raphael told Bloomberg he’d like AAD “to adopt an even more inclusive policy in its place, one that promotes the end of racism and hate speech.”

In response, three AAD members prepared a counter-resolution, defending efforts to improve inclusion in dermatology, described as among the “least diverse” specialties in the USA.

More than 6100 people also signed onto a related petition strongly opposing the anti-DEI proposal (link here). Its proponents noted the anti-diversity resolution “does not describe where, when and whose speech has been controlled or antisemitism appeared within the Academy’s DEI programs.”

Both proposals were finally put to a vote over the weekend at the academy’s annual scientific meeting, with the academy’s advisory board not only voting to reject the resolution, but also to expand the academy’s mission to prioritise diversity and address inclusion issues within the field.

“We celebrate diversity in all forms including, but not limited to, religious, ethnic, cultural, gender, and racial identities and aim to improve disparities in health care,” AAD president Dr Terrence Cronin Jr told NBC News (link here).

“We are ardent opponents of any form of antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Asian hate, and racism of any kind.”

The issue of racial diversity within the dermatology specialty has received growing attention in recent years, with a 2020 study reporting African Americans comprised just 3% of the US dermatology workforce despite being above 13% over the overall population (link here).

Hispanic or Latino clinicians were also reportedly underrepresented, comprising 4% of dermatologists against a population share of 19%, according to the study.

The AAD produced a three-year plan in response (link here), detailing initiatives such as a Diversity Mentorship Program, in which medical students from underrepresented groups team up with a dermatologist of their choice for a month of one-on-one mentorship.

Other initiatives include the encouraging greater diversity in academy committees, promoting DEI-related research and the creation of specific awards and lectureship for underrepresented clinicians.

How the AAD will expand on these in light of last weekend’s vote remains uncertain.


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