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Change you can see - Sometimes: MCW Department of Otolaryngology and Communications Sciences’ Dedication to Diversity

Written by Hillary Newsome, MD, GME '21

Medical school was the first time I ever encountered a mentor that looked like me—a young, black, woman surgeon. I reaped the benefits of being able to work closely with and be mentored by someone that had shared my background and made finding a diversity a priority in applying for residency. I reviewed every otolaryngology department’s roster of residents and faculty before applying back in 2016. I wish I could say every place I applied to had a learner or teacher of color—or even just one female faculty. 

Otolaryngology has a well-known reputation of being one of medicine’s least diverse specialties. This is a fact that deprives our specialty of the opportunity to connect with all of our patients, challenge societal “norms,” and inspire the next generation of physicians. When I got to MCW as an intern, I was the only black resident out of 15. We had one faculty member that identified as being part of a race underrepresented in medicine (URM) (black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander), I promptly chose her to be my “official” mentor. 

Valerie Flanary, MD, GME '94, FEL '95 and I quickly hit it off. We published original research on our common interests of URMs within otolaryngology and did our part to increase visibility by setting up a booth for ENT at the Student National Medical Association Meeting. We hold an annual Black History dinner for our black residents and physician assistant, now on its third year. My relationship with Dr. Flanary has been easy and comfortable, and I am so blessed to have her as a confidant.

My experiences during residency have helped me realize that mentors come in all shades, sexes and ages. The diversity in thought that has been carefully curated here at MCW is obvious. Despite pursing a career as a facial plastic surgeon, I have found myself building strong relationships with our head and neck staff, especially Bruce Campbell, MD, GME '85. Although physically different, our mutual interest in narrative medicine would have united us in leading a seminar together at a national meeting. Heterogeneity allows for unity when pre-existing visions can be matched, expanded upon and molded when a new group member comes a long.

Fast-forward 5 years to our 2021 resident cohort and we now have 4 black residents, 2 internationally-born residents and 7 women. Our faculty hires over the same period include four people newly out of fellowship, two of who are women. It is a joy to work with each member of our department, as you will surely find that no two people are the same. MCW has become a refreshing blend of races, ages, genders, nationalities, religions and more in a specialty that has been late to do so but is finally pushing for diversity.

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left photo taken at a Black History dinner and pictured on the right photo are current resident Drs. Thompson-Harvey, Newsome, Akakpo and Drake

2019 Feb Black History Month DinnerAdam Hillary Ken Marc