An Approach to Diversity and Inclusion in Cardiothoracic Surgery

Society of Thoracic Surgeons Workforce on Diversity and Inclusion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Executive Summary: While the United States (US) population at large is rapidly diversifying, cardiothoracic surgery is among the least diverse specialties in terms of racial and gender diversity. Lack of diversity is detrimental to patient care, physician well-being, and the relevance of cardiothoracic surgery on our nation's health. Recent events, including the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, have further accentuated the gross inequities that underrepresented minorities face in our country and have reignited conversations on how to address bias and systemic racism within our institutions. The field of cardiothoracic surgery has a responsibility to adopt a culture of diversity and inclusion. This kind of systemic change is daunting and overwhelming. With bias ubiquitously entangled with everyday experiences, it can be difficult to know where to start. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons Workforce on Diversity and Inclusion presents this approach for addressing diversity and inclusion in cardiothoracic surgery. This framework was adapted from a model developed by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and includes information and recommendations generated from our literature review on diversity and inclusion. A MEDLINE search was conducted using keywords “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “surgery,” and approaches to diversity and inclusion were drawn from publications in medicine as well as non-healthcare fields. Recommendations were generated and approved by The Society of Thoracic Surgeons Executive Committee. We present an overarching framework that conceptualizes diversity and inclusion efforts in a series of concentric spheres of influence, from the global environment to the cardiothoracic community, institution, and the individual surgeon. This framework organizes the approach to diversity and inclusion, grouping interventions by level while maintaining a broader perspective of how each sphere is interconnected. We include the following key recommendations within the spheres of influence: 1. In the global environment, it is important to understand how cardiothoracic surgery compares to fields outside of surgery and medicine overall in diversity and inclusion, and cardiothoracic surgeons should look to and learn from advances in other professions. 2. Professional societies that represent the cardiothoracic community share a responsibility to prioritize specialty-wide action to improve diversity in membership, mentorship, leadership, and representation at annual meetings. 3. Each institution (including health systems, medical schools, and clinical departments/sections) must perform a self-assessment of diversity and implement program-specific strategies to achieve diversity goals. 4. Individual surgeons can create cultures of inclusion by assessing personal implicit biases and advocating for diversity and inclusion. It is important to note that each of the spheres of influence is interconnected. Interventions to improve diversity must be coordinated across spheres for concerted change. Altogether, this multilevel framework (global environment, cardiothoracic community, institution, and individual) offers an organized approach for cardiothoracic surgery to assess, improve, and sustain progress in diversity and inclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-752
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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