May 21, 2020

ACGME Announces New Diversity and Inclusion Award

On May 11, 2020 the ACGME announced a call for nominations for its new Diversity and Inclusion Award, which will annually recognize efforts to achieve diversity and inclusion in graduate medical education (GME). The inaugural award(s) (up to two) will be presented at the 2021 Annual Education Conference, and nominations are being accepted through July 17, 2020.


In March 2019, the ACGME launched its Department of Diversity and Inclusion, charged with increasing the diversity of individuals and groups underrepresented in medicine (URiM) and in the GME workforce. This includes residents and fellows, faculty members, academic leaders, and GME program and institutional staff members. One of the ways to bring attention to this work is to acknowledge the efforts of colleagues who are gaining ground on advancing this objective. By highlighting their strategies, the GME community can share practices that lead to successful results. The Diversity and Inclusion staff has conducted research, spoken across the country, developed and written articles and materials, and initiated programs and projects toward achieving its goals. The announcement of this important award marks a significant milestone in these efforts.


COVID-19 has, unfortunately, reinforced how underrepresented minorities are victims of systemic inequality. In these unprecedented times, the ACGME maintains and reaffirms its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This award will highlight innovative and exemplary initiatives driving diversity in GME and will allow programs, institutions, and organizations to share and be recognized for what they have done to move forward.


We sat down—virtually—with Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dr. William McDade and Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Bonnie Mason to talk about the award and their vision for its impact on the GME community and the health care landscape overall.



ACGME: Why is now the time for a Diversity and Inclusion Award for GME/the ACGME?


McDade: Through its role in this country’s physician education, the ACGME is positioned now to make a significant impact on driving America’s medical learning environments and health care workplaces to be more diverse and inclusive, which in turn accelerates the provision of excellent health care for all. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Access to health care is a problem that, in part, requires a workforce solution. The number of URiM physicians is not increasing to keep pace with the need and it is these individuals who disproportionately care for poor and minority community patients. This award identifies excellence in innovation to recognize efforts to reenergize strategies that positively change this dynamic.


Mason: Most certainly. This award was established so that the body of GME could recognize excellence in helping to build a more diverse and inclusive physician workforce. It is critically important for us to acknowledge the role that residents and faculty members play in addressing health equity and health care disparities in ways that are meaningful and impactful. 2020 is proving to be the ideal time to launch the ACGME’s Diversity and Inclusion Award, particularly because of the disparities that are being revealed during the COVID-19 crisis in the United States. It is important for us to connect the dots for both the general public and the GME community, so that we relay the point that there is a direct link between creating a diverse workforce to address the dearth of underrepresented minorities and women in medicine who are innately tooled to take care of marginalized populations, especially in these types of crises.

ACGME: Who do you hope will apply for/be nominated for this award?

McDade: The award is designed to recognize exemplary efforts on the part of programs, institutions that sponsor GME programs, or medical specialty organizations that are helping to drive the diversity and inclusion effort nationally.

Mason: I am absolutely encouraged because I know firsthand that there are a plethora of programs, institutions, and organizations [across the country] that are invested in this work. We look forward to having them apply and be subsequent recipients of this award in the future.

ACGME: What impact do you see this award having on GME and medicine?

Mason: One of the primary goals of this award is to inform educators and learners that engaging in efforts to increase equity in medical education and health care is not only important but it’s feasible and ultimately benefits the entire GME community, not just underrepresented or underserved communities. Through this work, we also fulfill one of our key purposes in GME, and that is to provide excellent health care to all individuals from all communities.

McDade: There are many in the GME community who would like to embark on an initiative to begin to eliminate health disparities through workforce measures, but who are uncertain as to how they may go about doing it. By highlighting how some have done it, it may help others set a strategy to do similar work at their own institutions and organizations. Many think the work is too hard, may be unlawful, or is not applicable to their own situations. Seeing their peers providing an inclusive work environment may help those institutions recognize that there is a problem and that there are some tangible steps they can take to address the challenges, too.

ACGME: What does it mean to you to launch this award?

Mason: Launching of this award is extremely meaningful and impactful because it serves to recognize health care disparities exist and can be exacerbated if we are not intentional about [addressing and correcting them].

McDade: Launching the award brings our society one step closer to eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities. Although workforce diversity is an important component in increasing health care access, all physicians should learn about cultural humility, implicit bias, allyship, and social determinants of health in order to be as effective as possible. The award encourages bold innovation to assess both types of efforts and to stimulate learning in the GME community around diversity and inclusion. It gives winners national recognition to highlight its efforts and educates the entire GME community, providing a north star to follow as it looks for solutions to health disparities.

Mason: Yes! This award allows the Department of Diversity and Inclusion and the ACGME as a whole to highlight the full continuum and meaning behind this work, which is extremely fulfilling.

ACGME: When you think ahead, how do you envision this award impacting GME/medicine?

McDade: Imagine a world in which we train sufficient learners who go on to serve minority and disadvantaged communities such that we can eliminate excess death due to health care access issues. Imagine a world in which there are sufficient scholars and advocates who study the problems that adversely impact minority communities and who work for find solutions to achieve health equity. Think of what the learning environment could be like if physicians-in-training who looked like the patients they serve were so plentiful as to no longer seem exotic, or like misfits in medicine. They would help to educate their peers in the appreciation of cultural differences and elimination of cultural superiority simply by working alongside their colleagues so that the humanity of individuals as individuals could be appreciated. This award can thereby serve as a catalyst, facilitating the spread of adoption and eventual increase in learners. This is what the impact of the award can be.

Mason: The Department of Diversity and Inclusion is ambitious in our infancy as one of the newest additions to the ACGME. As such, our office has the lofty goal to award this honor to almost every program in the country in the future by encouraging them to take some of the courageous steps toward equity that our Diversity and Inclusion Award winners are taking now. We are hopeful that the majority of GME programs, Sponsoring Institutions, and specialty associations will find the value in engaging in effective diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts for the betterment of patients nationwide. Not only that, this award will hopefully induce a level of empathy and inclusion amongst our current and future faculty members and learners such that we can eliminate health care disparities and distribute health care in an equitable fashion. It is our hope that this award will be one huge step towards making these goals a reality.

ACGME: Anything else either of you would like to add?

McDade: We must begin to do the hard work putting forth a genuine effort to train a more diverse health care workforce and to build psychological safety into our learning environments. Each one of us has a role in advancing this work, to drive us to a better future.

Mason: I would like to encourage everyone in the GME community to consider sharing this blog with your colleagues. Many of us know the people who are committed to engaging in efforts with passion and sacrifice nationwide. Those are the members of the GME community we want to hear from, we want to highlight, and we want to honor with this award. So please, spread the word broadly. Thank you.

Learn more about the ACGME Diversity and Inclusion Award, including how to apply, here. Stay tuned for more news and updates about this award and its inaugural recipients by following the ACGME on this website, including this Blog, and on Twitter and LinkedIn.