Racism exacts a tremendous toll on public health and is fundamentally antithetical to the moral responsibilities of health professionals. Structural racism directly impacts all communities, including the healthcare community. As a leading biomedical institution in one of the largest, most diverse cities in the United States, we are committed to protecting and promoting the health of all individuals, to working toward a more just healthcare system, and to demonstrating leadership in the advancement of diversity, inclusion and equity.
We are called to action to realize change, both within our own institution and more broadly in the communities we serve and pledge to:
- Evaluate and improve practices, policies and traditions within Baylor College of Medicine that impact the recruitment, productivity, retention and advancement of all faculty, staff, trainees and students of underrepresented minority and underrepresented in medicine and science (URM and UiM) groups. Evidence suggests that Black and Latinx physicians and scientists do not have the same access to quality mentoring, successful research opportunities or pathways to promotion that their white counterparts do, and they face more structural barriers to productivity and promotion in academic centers. We know that racial/ethnic minority groups, economically disadvantaged individuals, people with disabilities and women are underrepresented in the biomedical research workforce. We can and must do better and are committed to thoughtfully assessing existing efforts and seeking input on meaningful actions we can take to improve UiM/URM recruitment, retention, productivity and promotion at Baylor College of Medicine, immediately and in the long term.
- Broaden and accelerate efforts to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for URM and UiM students. Increasing the representation of minority students in the fields of science and biomedical research requires early and sustained educational intervention. We will continue to seek ways to enhance and expand our in-person and web-based education and resources for teachers, students and the general public in order to improve STEM teaching and learning, to promote science literacy, and to stimulate interest in biomedical research among diverse communities. We will also explore additional opportunities to advance K-16 STEM education, leveraging our existing partnerships with Houston ISD, South Texas ISD and undergraduate universities focused on transitioning URM and UiM students to postgraduate biomedical education programs as well as expansion to other education organizations.
- Educate our healthcare workers, scientists and communities to address structural racism and mitigate its negative impacts on health and healthcare. Evidence suggests a correlation between implicit racial bias and disparities in healthcare due to the influence of negative racial bias on physician clinical decision making, quality of patient care, patient health outcomes and patient satisfaction with healthcare. We are committed to addressing this problem by continuing to invest in racial bias training and social awareness training, along with evidence-based quality improvement programs. We are also examining coursework and curricula to improve educational content in this area for Baylor faculty, trainees and students and are offering learning opportunities for all Baylor employees to share perspectives.
- Develop a comprehensive strategy for the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in clinical trials. Disparities exist in recruiting and retaining minority individuals for clinical studies aimed at understanding disease processes and optimal treatments. Addressing these disparities will require a comprehensive effort to establish trust among minority communities and individuals, empower them to make informed choices with regard to participation, and facilitate their active involvement in clinical research. Baylor College of Medicine is committed to leading efforts to achieve this critically important national goal.
- Address inequitable health outcomes affecting underrepresented minorities. The disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities serves as a stark reminder of how long-standing systemic social and health inequities create unacceptable health disparities. Many racial and ethnic minorities in the United States suffer from higher rates of chronic disease and premature death compared to whites. The maternal and fetal mortality rates among Blacks far exceed those for other races in the United States. As a health science university, we are committed to strengthening existing efforts in studying the root cause of these inequities and advocating for change to prevent them, including a renewed focus on social determinants of health and preventative care.
All members of our Baylor community shall be held accountable in these efforts. To effectively identify areas of strength and opportunity, departmental and unit equity action plans will be implemented during the upcoming academic year. Enhanced collaborations across mission areas and affiliates will enable Baylor to leverage expertise in health equity and foster engagement and inclusion within our community. Through dedicated energy and concrete actions, we are committed to a culture of inclusion and anti-racism and hope to be an example of the change we want to and need to see.
Contributors: Clarice Jacobson, Stephanie Morain, Hadley Stevens Smith, Toi Blakley Harris, Ashok Balasubramanyam, Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, Cedric Dark, Kimberly Kay Lopez, Ashley Butler, Stacy Lloyd, Alicia Monroe, Laura Petersen, Jill Robinson, Jean Leclerc Raphael, Joseph Garcia-Prats and Amy McGuire on behalf of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine.