Dr. Tolulope Oso
When I graduated medical school, I was certain of two things: I was now a physician, hence my words mattered and I was still an internship year away from Anesthesia. My intern year started with Internal medicine wards. One of the things I was most impressed with was the diversity within my team. My attending was Middle Eastern, the residents, myself included, and medical students came from different parts of the world and walks of life. I had never been in a more diverse setting in my life, and for the first time in a while, I felt comfortable in the professional setting. As a team, we took on the collaborative effort and there were many innovative ideas that were brought to my mind that reflected the views of each individual. Shortly after, I received an email about the Diversity Mentoring Program and the grant through ASA. In all honesty, I didn't think that I had enough knowledge in Anesthesia or experience as a physician to apply. However, I knew that I valued diversity and I knew that I had to at least try so I did.
Upon discovering that I won the award, I was shocked. I did not believe it at first, and waited until my mentor, Dr. Omonele Nwokolo confirmed it as well. My research project is in healthcare disparities and focuses on the effect of microaggressions on the overall satisfaction of minority residents in Anesthesiology. A microaggression is a term used to encompass those brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group.
This project was incredibly important to me due to my life experiences. Growing up, I have always been the minority and as a result, I have been "privy" to the range of biased (intentional or not) comments directed at minorities. I can recall several moments in college where I overheard many classmates stating that people who looked like me were given admission, rather than earned it. Even when I proved that I earned my admission, it was never enough, as I always felt like a second-class student. In 2013, the AAMC documented the following statistics concerning the ethnicity of the physician workforce: 4.1% African American/ Black, 4.4% Hispanic/ Latino, 0.4% Native American, 11.7% Asian and 48.9% Caucasian. Within the field of Anesthesia, similar numbers were found when considering full time faculty at Academic Institutions: 3.4% African American/Black, 1.8% Hispanic/ Latino, 14.7% Asian, and 62.1% Caucasian. While there are many factors leading to lack of diversity and attrition of minorities in medicine, I wanted to find out if confrontations with microaggressions have led to the formation of a non-inclusive environment within Academic Anesthesiology.
I have been pleasantly surprised to see how the mentorship grant has allowed me to become more involved with ASA. I have had the privilege of meeting amazing people doing even more amazing things throughout the field of Anesthesia. As a part of the grant, we are encouraged to join committees in ASA to further our impact on the organization. This is of utmost importance because it helps promote diversity.
My mentor is Omonele Nwokolo, MD. I truly appreciate her mentorship. When applying for the grant, I simply asked if she knew anyone that could mentor me, or if I needed to rely on my connections from medical school. She instantly took me as a mentee and has helped to grow, refine and develop not only my project but my role in the advancement of diversity in ASA. Dr. Nwokolo is not only an Associate Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, but she also serves as the Assistant Operating Room Director at Lyndon B Johnson Hospital and our inaugural Vice Chair for Diversity and Inclusion. Her role in promoting this inclusion is one of the main reasons why I chose UT Houston as a choice for Residency. The department showed me that they valued all types of people, and that to me was of utmost importance. People sometimes take it for granted how important it is to feel supported. Dr. Nwokolo and UT have helped me feel supported and protected, for that, I am grateful.
At this point, we have undergone IRB review, developed the survey and are making the necessary changes in order to get it ready for distribution to Anesthesiology residency programs across the nation. I am hopeful for a good response rate to get adequate data. Knowing the prevalence of microaggressions in Anesthesia, will be a first step in improving the way interactions with minority residents occur. We hope this will open up the lines of communication to augment change in our specialty to create an environment that is collaborative, welcoming and progressive. I hope to continue to grow and learn more through the ASA Committee on Professional Diversity. In addition, I plan to incorporate myself in more committees that tailor to my other interests in the field of Anesthesia, not only because I want to, but I know that it is necessary.