By Chantal Reyna MD, FACS
Lets face it, 2020 has not been kind. Pandemic. Race Riots. Unexpected Deaths. It has been a challenging year on many fronts. Hopefully it will lead to increased awareness of important issues, including but not limited to equity and equality.
There has been an increasing cry for diversity, equity, and inclusion. A few months ago, I was awoken to the sound of flash bombs and riots. This was the first time I had witnessed a riot. Windows were smashed; flash bombs exploded; riot police standing in a line moving the protesters along. In the morning after, broken glass and boarded windows were prevalent.
Not too long after, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a champion of equality, died. I spent the weekend after her death watching documentaries, reading biographies as well as reading some of the dissents she so eloquently wrote. Her loss to me (and I am sure to many others) was devastating. She worked for decades striving to lay the groundwork for fundamental change of equality.
Equity in every aspect of life should be the end goal. As a result of 2020, I evaluated the role of equity in the workplace. In the beginning of the COVID pandemic, there was so much confusion. Equal access to information during that time may have helped prepare people for the pandemic. Amongst employers, sharing information may have unified the workforce rather than setting up walls between management and the workers. While physicians and staff were putting patient care above their own safety, information sharing from all forms of leadership (governmental, organizational, administrative) would have helped medical care professionals feel valued and included. Hospitals were receiving government funds, but staff were still seeing pay cuts, hours reductions, forced PTO, unpaid leave, and furloughs — many with very short notice and no clear explanation. Equal responsibility and inclusion would help alleviate concerns and create camaraderie. It’s easier to share in the pain if we have a clear understanding of the situation.
Recently, I read an article in the Washington Post, “There’s still a taboo on discussing salaries. But millennials are breaking it” . This brought my introspection to pay equity. The article discusses the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) survey which stated about half of employees were forbidden or discouraged to talk about pay. A decade later, despite a few states passing legislation against this, a recent survey by the IWPR found the same results. The beacon of hope was found in the younger generation: Millennials. This group was willing to speak out. In this time, which strives to improve diversity equity and inclusion, breaking the salary taboo and increasing transparency among colleagues and friends is critical. Salary has already been considered a sensitive topic to discuss, but it is the best way to improve transparency. I encourage trainees, colleagues and friends to follow the lead of the young and start to openly discuss the uncomfortable topic of salary. As stated by President Barrack Obama, “Pay secrecy fosters discrimination, and we should not tolerate it.”
As we close 2020, I hope that we use this year as a platform on which to continue forward progress. We have faced many challenges and learned many lessons. Let us use these to build a strong unified community and a brighter future where diversity, equity, and inclusion are the norm and not the abstract ideal.
Dr. Chantal Reyna is an Associate Professor of Surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology at University of Cincinnati. She is a fellowship trained, board certified surgeon, specializing in diseases of the breast. She received her medical degree from the University of Nevada School of Medicine, and completed general surgery residency at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Nevada. Following her passion for breast cancer care, she pursued a fellowship in breast surgical oncology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida. She has been practicing at University of Texas M.D. Cancer Center until her pursuits lead to the University of Cincinnati. Her research interests include minimizing axillary surgery. She has received many honors including, the University of Nevada School of Medicine Surgery Student of the Year, Chairman’s Professional Conduct Award, the University of Nevada Heart of Gold Award and Alpha Omega Alpha. She is a member of the American College of Surgeons, the Society of Surgical Oncology, the American Society of Breast Surgeons and Association of Women Surgeons. She holds committee positions in several of the organizations. She is an avid soccer fan and enjoys reading and traveling internationally. You can find her on twitter @kprgrl3.
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