The Power To Do Good
As you nominate your colleagues for the 2019 Power List, consider the wider impact of your choice
Just before the end of the year, The Ophthalmologist editorial team was busy promoting the opening of our 2019 Power List nomination process. With a closing date fixed earlier than usual – the end of January, we were slightly apprehensive that we would not receive the usual impressive response. We should not have been concerned! I kept an eye on my inbox over the holiday period, and the number of nominations cast every single day of the winter break was overwhelming. If you haven’t nominated your peers yet, please do so here: http://top.txp.to/powerlist2019
While you are considering the most worthy candidates for each of the list’s five categories, I have a favor to ask: though you must, of course, take merit into account, please don’t forget to consider diversity. There has been a slow increase in the number of women entering ophthalmology in the last decade or so, but the number of professionals from underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the USA has not risen, and there has actually been a decrease in the number of URM residents (1). As our societies become increasingly diverse – a process that is unlikely to slow down or stop – it is important that professionals in all walks of life come from equally varied backgrounds. In ophthalmology, increased diversity can help confront ethnic and racial disparities in eye care; for example, women and ethnic minorities are more likely to work in disadvantaged areas (2).
The concept of meritocracy, a term coined by Michael Young (a British egalitarian who became entirely disillusioned with the idea), has been increasingly exposed as a myth, with conversations around implicit or hidden social biases becoming more prevalent over the past few years. Cultural, social and educational opportunities, as well as overall attitudes must be taken into account, if we are to talk about individual achievements.
Initiatives do exist to level the ophthalmic playing field: the Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring (MOM) program, summer internships with Diversity in Vision Research and Ophthalmology (DIVRO), and those organizations and societies working on increasing the female profile in the field, such as Women in Ophthalmology or Women in Vision UK.
To see positive effects of a more diverse ophthalmic workforce, an immeasurable number of small steps must be made. One of those steps might just be taking diversity into account when nominating an esteemed colleague to our 2019 Power List. I, for one, cannot wait to see the results.
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- 1. IM Xierali et al., “Current and Future Status of Diversity in Ophthalmologist Workforce”, JAMA Ophthalmol, 134, 1016–1023 (2016). DOI: 20162257.
- 2. KO Walker et al., “The Association among Specialty, Race, Ethnicity, and Practice Location among California Physicians in Diverse Specialties”, J Nat Med Assoc, 104, 46-52 (2012). PMID: 22708247