This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2022 ACGME Awards. The awardees join an outstanding group of previous honorees whose work and contributions to graduate medical education (GME) represent the best in the field. They will be honored at the ACGME Annual Educational Conference, taking place virtually March 30-April 1, 2022.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), based in San Francisco, California, is one of four honorees receiving the ACGME’s Barbara Ross-Lee, DO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award in 2022. Dr. Keith Carter is a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Iowa. He is a past AAO president and currently serves as Chair of the AAO’s Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring Executive Committee. He answered the ACGME’s questions about the outstanding measures this organization has taken to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.
ACGME: Can you tell us a little bit about the AAO?
Dr. Carter: The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the largest organization representing ophthalmologists in the world. It has focus on education and patient and member advocacy. The AAO produces educational material for all levels of learner, including practicing ophthalmologists. The ONE Network is a major portal for this educational material and the AAO has eight education centers on its website. Advocacy for our patients and members is also a major focus. “Protecting Sight. Empowering Lives” are the words that drive the actions of the AAO.
ACGME: Why is the organization so dedicated to the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Carter: We recognize that our society is becoming more diverse and that to address this change we needed to train a more diverse physician group to serve this patient population. The data supports this premise. Our subspecialty hasn’t done as well as others in training a more diverse pool of physician and future leaders. This concern was shared by the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) and the AAO, which led to the establishment of the Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring Program.
ACGME: What work or initiative is specifically being recognized with this award?
Carter: The Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring Program [supports] the recruitment and mentoring of first- and second-year medical students to the field of ophthalmology, but [also to] any medical area the students choose to enter. I would love for all of our students to enter ophthalmology as a career but even if they don’t, we have provided mentorship toward a field of their choice.
ACGME: Can you talk about what that work looks like?
Carter: The program provides an individual ophthalmologist mentor, Step 1 test preparation, and introduction to our specialty. The mentor-mentee relationship is very important for success. We have training for both our mentors and our mentees on how to make the most of this relationship. Our goal is to create a minority pool of competitive applicants for residency.
ACGME: How has this work helped make your institution/program/organization more diverse and/or inclusive?
Carter: The program is in its first three years. Our classes have increased from 25 students the first year to 100 students in 2021. It is too early to measure the impact of this investment but watching the excitement of our students for this opportunity is an early reward for those of us involved.
ACGME: How could others use this work as a model to become more diverse and inclusive? What advice would you give to GME leaders who are looking to do just that, but aren’t sure how to start?
Carter: Recruit a dedicated group of members who believe these programs of change are important. It requires a strong group to not only recruit students but also [inspire] their organization member participation. You must be ready to defend the need for such a program and find leaders that lead by example.
Learn more about the ACGME’s Barbara Ross-Lee, DO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award and nominate a deserving individual for the 2023 Award – nominations are due by April 6, 2022.