AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and AAMC Board Chair Kirk A. Calhoun, MD, challenged physicians and scientists from U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals on November 13 to work collectively to improve the health and mental well-being of colleagues and communities.
Nearly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic caused massive upheavals in the nation’s health care system — in response to which “learners, faculty, staff, and leaders have risen to the occasion magnificently” — challenges remain. “We find ourselves still in a situation of fragmented communities, often bitterly divided public opinion, and severe difficulties hearing and listening to each other,” Skorton told more than 4,200 medical professionals during the leadership plenary of Learn Serve Lead 2022: The AAMC Annual Meeting.
Deep-seated inequities, worsening learner well-being, threats to the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship, and the inability of those with opposing viewpoints to find common ground were among the challenges identified by Skorton as those that “keep him up at night.” Calhoun likewise identified similar “headwinds” to fulfilling the multiple missions of academic medicine.
“Academic medicine lies at the nexus of higher education and health care delivery. Both exist in very treacherous waters of rapidly changing expectations, misinformation, partisan debate, and economic pressure,” said Calhoun, president of the University of Texas at Tyler, and chair of the Board of Directors for UT Health East Texas. “As we engage in informed and heartfelt dialogue based on the facts, I beg you to never forget the immediate unmet needs of our patients and their families, our students, faculty, and community.”
Calhoun urges renewed attention to increasing diversity in medicine
Calhoun began his address with a personal story of growing up “a poor, asthmatic, Black child, bedridden in my mother’s living room.” Indeed, the young Calhoun was too ill to attend school and relied on nuns from the parochial school in his community to come to the house to give him lessons.
That all changed when his mother was able to get him an appointment to see an allergist at an academic medical center in Chicago. The doctor, who was Black, examined him and then said, “I know what this is, and I know how to fix it.” Those words, spoken by someone who looked like him, completely changed the course of Calhoun’s life, sparking in him the ambition and drive to become a physician.
Unfortunately, though, there are still far too few physicians of color, despite years-long efforts by the AAMC and other organizations, Calhoun noted.
Calhoun recounted the …….