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Surgical Ethics and Diversity

  • Judith C. French
  • R. Matthew WalshEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Surgeons have an ethical obligation to ensure all patients, regardless of their personal characteristics, receive the same quality of care. Established surgeons also have an obligation to ensure equal treatment for their peers and for those who would like to join the field. The commitment to ethical hiring and working standards entails making certain all individuals have the same opportunities free from discriminatory practices. The world of business has long realized the positive implications of having a diverse and inclusive workforce. Studies have shown a positive correlation between increased racial and gender diversity and company performance. Diversity can lead to an increase in knowledge by sharing ideas with individuals who come from different life experiences and breakdown cultural barriers. We have already begun to see the impact of ignoring the importance of diversity within healthcare, including surgery. Healthcare disparities are defined by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) as “differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups.” Healthcare disparities persist despite decades acknowledging their existence, and they are pernicious and prevalent in surgery. One proposed method to help reduce or eliminate healthcare disparities is to increase the diversity of the workforce treating the patients, which would in turn reduce potential bias the patients face in the healthcare setting. Implicit bias can play a key role in interactions with patients and colleagues and needs to be explored on an individual basis. Cultural competence training can also provide surgeons the ability to effectively communicate with not only a diverse population of patients but also a diverse surgical workforce. All surgeons regardless of their role can have a positive impact on diversity as it relates to patient care and the surgical workforce.

Keywords

Healthcare disparities Surgical workforce diversity Implicit bias Cultural competence 

Notes

Glossary

Fairness

Equity, comparability of opportunities to learn and demonstrate abilities, and equality, equal practice or treatment.

Cultural competence

The awareness of one’s own cultural viewpoint, attitude toward differences in other cultures, knowledge of different cultural practices, and the skills to interact with other cultures.

Cultural sensitivity

An awareness of differences in cultures alone but still treating others with respect and dignity.

Culture

A social construct created through identification of similar characteristics in individuals.

Healthcare disparities

Differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, geographic location, socioeconomic status, and disability.

Implicit bias

Unconscious associations everyone possesses toward people’s characteristics such as race, gender, and age.

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Suggested Literature

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of General SurgeryCleveland ClinicClevelandUSA

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