In May 2022, the Digestive Disease Week (DDW) conference was held in person again for the first time in 3 years. Two years prior in July 2020 AGA launched the Equity Project, a six-point strategic plan to achieve equity and eradicate health disparities in digestive diseases.
President John Inadomi elected to focus his AGA Presidential Plenary session on updates in gastrointestinal and hepatic health disparities, and opened with a powerful testimony on his personal experiences encountering racism, and recognizing the need to translate spoken intentions into action.
This served as the perfect segue to the second plenary presentation in which an update was given on the progress of the Equity Project by co-chairs Byron Cryer, MD, and Sandra Quezada, MD, MS. Dr. Cryer described the vision of the Equity Project, including: a just world, free of inequities in access and health care delivery; state-of-the-art and well-funded research of multicultural populations; a diverse physician and scientist workforce and leadership; recognition of achievements of people of color; membership and staff committed to self-awareness and eliminating unconscious bias; and an engaged, large, diverse, vocal, and culturally- and socially aware early career membership.
Concrete action items were identified by a coalition of AGA members with diverse representation across specialties, practice settings, and identities. AGA staff and constituency programs have been critical in the execution of each action item. Key performance indicators were selected to gauge progress and hold the organization accountable in implementation of project tactics. These metrics demonstrate that the first 2 years of the Equity Project have been very productive. Salient accomplishments include three congressional briefings on health disparities topics, increased education and dialogue on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) through podcasts, career development workshops and DDW sessions, fundraising of over $300,000 to support health disparities research, dedicated DEI sections and section editors for Gastroenterology and Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and the creation of a guide for GI fellowship program directors to promote equity and mitigate bias in the fellowship selection process.
Although the Equity Project is entering its third and final implementation year, the spirit and values of the Equity Project will live on. Excellence in equity requires ongoing, focused dedication – AGA is committed to ensuring that equity, diversity, and inclusion are inherently embedded through the fabric of the organization, and continuously integrated and assessed in all of the organization’s future strategic initiatives.
Dr. Quezada is an associate professor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She reports being on the People of Color Advisory Board for Janssen. Dr. Cryer is chief of internal medicine and the Ralph Tompsett Endowed Chair in Medicine at Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, and a professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M School of Medicine. He has no relevant conflicts of interest. These remarks were made during the AGA Presidential Plenary at DDW 2022.