Karmanos Cancer Institute launches diversity and inclusion committee

DETROIT—Officials at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit announced the launch of a diversity and inclusion committee.

The committee will develop best practices in diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence to deliver outstanding and equitable medical care to patients and a welcoming and supportive environment for staff members.

Justin Klamerus, M.D., president of the Karmanos Cancer Hospital and Network, will serve as executive sponsor of the local committee with Kay Carolin, chief nursing officer, as the chair.

“Diversity at Karmanos has always been an organizational strength,” Klamerus said. “To enhance its power, we must continue to educate and embrace culture shifts, seek ways to improve, stay present and bridge gaps in care for our patient population. This cannot be done by the local committee alone. We will align with the McLaren Health Care corporate council and seek engagement from staff to empower the community we serve.”

The committee is comprised of members from several areas of the organization, from leadership and administration to clinical staff and researchers. The group held its first meeting Oct. 19. In addition to core members, the committee will work with department leaders in identifying staff members to participate in initiatives to broaden the scope of voices and ideas.

In alignment with the organization’s increased focus on diversity and inclusion and to encourage open conversation about inequity, Karmanos has launched a Health Equity Book Club. The purpose of this quarterly program is to educate health care providers on the history of systemic racism in medicine and to set the stage for developing strategies and interventions to eliminate the impact of racial inequities in medical practice and society. This will be done through the reading and discussion of texts that explore a range of topics related to equity in health care.

“Karmanos encourages everyone to learn more and support our community. Doing so makes us better caregivers, colleagues and individuals,” said Michael Simon, M.D., co-leader of the Breast Cancer Multidisciplinary Team and creator of Karmanos’ Health Equity Book Club.

For more information and to register for the first virtual dialogue session on Thursday, Oct. 22, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., visit www.karmanos.org/bookclub.

“No time is soon enough for us to heighten our long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Simon said. “Through open conversation, vulnerability and education, we can take steps that will allow us to better understand our patients, our colleagues and ourselves.”

While the committee and book club are new, Karmanos officials say the institution has long been committed to serving diverse populations. Through its Population Studies and Disparities Research (PSDR) Program, Karmanos researchers work to identify risk factors underlying disease onset and progression and develop intervention strategies to reduce risk and improve diagnosis, treatment and outcomes. These goals are aimed at decreasing race and ethnicity related disparities and overall disease burden.

Additionally, Karmanos began working with the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) in 1973, as one of the original nine registries. Karmanos contributes approximately 38 percent of the national cancer incidence and survival data for African Americans. The SEER registry is not only used for descriptive studies; it provides a population-based source of cases for case-control and case-case comparisons.

Karmanos is also home to the Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement (OCHECE) whose mission is to eliminate cancer health disparities in Michigan by promoting community-engaged research and evidence-based strategies throughout Karmanos’ 46-county catchment area in Michigan. OCHECE programs include Michigan Cancer HealthLink, an academic-community partnership created to build community capacity to collaborate in cancer-related research and a Research and Advocacy Consortium (RAC). This growing network includes more than 30 faith-based, social service and public health organizations. The RAC works with OCHECE to support evidence-based interventions to improve cancer outcomes; inform diverse communities about clinical trials, cancer control, prevention, screening and treatment; aid in the dissemination and implementation of research discoveries; and advance health policy recommendations.

“We are proud of the work we have already done to enhance equity in cancer care, and in the medical field overall. However, there is much more to be done. We are committed to fighting inequity, just as we are committed to fighting cancer,” said Dr. Klamerus.

Karmanos Cancer Institute has 15 network sites throughout the state. More at www.karmanos.org.

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