Mount Sinai Launches Center to Address Bias and Racism Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Source: Mount Sinai

Press Release —Seeking to address racism and bias against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), as well as the under-representation of AAPI in leadership roles in medicine, Mount Sinai announced today the launch of the Center for Asian Equity and Professional Development (CAEPD). This innovative undertaking represents one of the first of its kind nationwide by an academic medical center.

“The pandemic highlighted inequity and racism towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, but the truth is that our Asian community has been subjected to bias and racism for a very long time,” says CAEPD Executive Advisor James C. Tsai, MD, President, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, and Delafield-Rogers Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Mount Sinai Health System.

“We have a big role to play to address this and we are strongly committed to understanding and addressing the implicit bias and racism that contribute to the professional development challenges faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” says Dr. Tsai.

The center will support its mission of advancement through four key activities: promoting professional advancement, education, research, and safety. Through Health System-wide events, Center leadership has already distributed safety whistles, personal alarms, and detailed information on how members of the Mount Sinai community can stay safe. “It is critical for our community of American Asians and Pacific Islanders to feel safe, represented, and supported in their career trajectories; we have devised a spectrum of strategies from handing out safety whistles to on-campus events to private, one-on-one mentoring and career development,” says Dr. Tsai.  

The statistics tell the story, says Dr. Tsai, and underline serious racial concerns brought to light during the pandemic. For example, in an analysis of data gleaned before the pandemic in 2019, the Association of American Medical Schools reported that a significant percentage of Asian Americans in the physician workforce—35 percent of female physicians and 30 percent of male physicians—had experienced racially or ethnically offensive remarks. Importantly, Asian patients also experienced bias; Asian patients were more than two times more likely to experience bias than white patients.

Furthermore, data suggests that, while the Asian community is well represented in the physician workforce as approximately one in five of all doctors, they are not as well represented at the top of the ladder. “The data suggests that Asian Americans are not being promoted into professorships or dean-level positions as other races and ethnicities are. Our center will address this through coaching, comprehensive mentorship and sponsorship programs, and rethinking the recruitment process,” says the Center’s inaugural Director, Amanda J. Rhee, MD, MS, Medical Director of Patient Safety, Office of the System Chief Medical Officer.

Through the creation of CAEPD, Mount Sinai is rising to meet these challenges in a way that builds on a 200-year commitment to counter racism and develop diversity as a core strength. The result is a center that will equip AAPI trainees and clinicians with the necessary skills and tools to achieve their career development goals and advance our mission of excellence in both research and health care. The Center will also collect data to track diversity among AAPI doctors as well, gauging the quality of patient care.

The Center evolved from the Committee to Address Anti-Asian Bias and Racism (CAABR), an initiative founded by Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of Icahn Mount Sinai, to advance safety, education, communication, and professional development among Mount Sinai’s AAPI community. That evolution included collaborations with Mount Sinai’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and Addressing Racism: A Road Map for Action, which was developed in the wake of George Floyd’s death and a surge of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The center will build on the work of CAABR.

“Although the fundamental premise upon which the center was created was to advance representation of the AAPI community in leadership positions in the medical profession, our intent is to work with any organization that is dedicated to eliminating racism or bias because we believe it is important to support all people facing discrimination against their identity,” says Dr. Rhee.

If successful, Dr. Rhee envisions CAEPD providing a template for other academic medical centers to pursue similar objectives. “We have been hearing from our AAPI colleagues nationwide that they want to see their leadership support endeavors such as this. Although we have a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of us, we believe the data we gather, the initiatives we launch, and the changes we effect will not only be impactful, but also make a strong case for other institutions to tackle these pressing issues,” says Dr. Rhee.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, more than 400 outpatient practices, more than 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,400 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report‘s Best Hospitals, receiving high “Honor Roll” status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is ranked No. 14 nationwide in National Institutes of Health funding and in the 99th percentile in research dollars per investigator according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Newsweek’s “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York and in the top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside in the top 20 globally.

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