Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Laboratory
The lab is in the spotlight – but it’s our job to use that attention for good
E. Blair Holladay | | Opinion
Fostering an environment that accepts individual differences – whether gender, race, age, ethnicity, or religion – is essential to building a laboratory workforce that is not only sustainable, but truly able to deliver the high-quality care all patients deserve.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts have been rising over the past two years. Never have these three words been so important in healthcare. Now that deep inequities have been exposed, patients are demanding – and deserve – equal access and care. For the American Society for Clinical Pathology, an ethos of diversity, equity, and inclusion has been part of our core tenets for many years and continues to drive how we advocate on behalf of pathology and laboratory medicine, as well as the resources we develop to ensure that patients are receiving the best possible care.
Although the work we do to help develop and sustain a diverse pathology and laboratory workforce is critical, it’s important to understand the “why” behind this drive. ASCP doesn’t pursue diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts simply to check a box. To do so would be doing pathology and laboratory medicine a grave disservice. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to our identity because we recognize that the patients we serve represent every demographic of the population – and the laboratory touches each and every patient who receives care. We can provide better healthcare outcomes when our workforce looks like the communities and populations it serves.
We also recognize that there is strength in diversity. A diverse workforce provides a sense of belonging and acceptance. It allows people to share ideas and innovate, which can increase employee retention and morale and create a stronger team. When pathologists and medical laboratory scientists feel seen and accepted by their employers, that translates to better patient care. A lack of diversity, however, can be detrimental to relationships with not only patients, but also other members of the healthcare team.
Conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are only just getting started – and there is still much work to be done. These are challenging conversations, but not ones from which the pathology and laboratory medicine can shy away. As the cornerstone of healthcare, it is up to us to lead by example and to foster relationships with underserved and underrepresented communities. It is up to us to leverage these relationships to strengthen our pipeline and develop the workforce we need – now and in the future.
Embracing our differences, rather than letting them divide us; leveraging the knowledge we have; and putting diversity, equity, and inclusion into action will further the laboratory as a leader in healthcare. When we do this, we do better not only for our profession, but also for our patients.