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The population in South Jersey is diverse—full of people with different backgrounds, races, gender identities, education levels and other social determinants of health. To create an environment that’s reflective and inclusive of the community we serve, Inspira Health has introduced a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) curriculum to our residency programs.
With some of the first residency programs in the country to require JEDI curriculum, Inspira Health is committed to playing an active role in the formation of a more diverse and inclusive health care experience for all people.
Communities and individuals who have been historically marginalized suffer from a number of health care disparities, including lack of access to care and experiences of racism in medicine. “One of the goals of this new curriculum is for our learners to be aware of their blind spots, and understand how factors like race, gender identity and socioeconomic status can impact a patients’ health,” said Meagan Vermeulen, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., founding program director for the Family Medicine Residency program at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill.
“JEDI curriculum is being brought forth at all levels of medical education and health care across the nation,” said Michael Geria, D.O., M.S., F.A.C.O.O.G., vice president of Academic Affairs at Inspira Health. “Studies have shown that outcomes are better for patients whose providers look like them, but the reality is, people of color are largely underrepresented in medicine and medical education.” Additionally, three-fourths of residents come from the highest-income households in the United States.
“Our goal is to not only recognize and celebrate differences but be curious, respectful and open to learning more. Part of that is stepping back and recognizing when we’re in a place of privilege. We want residents and faculty to learn in a way that’s meaningful and directly impacts patient care,” said Dr. Vermeulen.
There are common misconceptions about justice, diversity, equity and inclusion education, like the idea that it’s only for people who don’t have Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) friends or that it centers around concrete thoughts of good and bad behavior. “Common push back for this type of curriculum includes, ‘I don’t need this because I’m a nice person.’ But social justice work isn’t about being nice—it’s about taking the time to be curious, hear feedback, be humble and authentic. We’re here not to be right, but to get it right in a way that is actionable, not performative,” said Dr. Vermeulen.
Not only is JEDI an important addition to the residency program, it’s also important for experienced providers to embrace. This includes acknowledging that you won’t always have the right answers. “We all have our own lived experiences and we have to be okay with not being an expert in the experiences of others,” said Dr. Vermeulen. Instead, she suggested being curious and supporting colleagues, patients and everyone you interact with daily.
Dr. Vermeulen advised providers to look for continuing education opportunities from organizations such as the American Medical Association Center for Health Equity and the Association of American Medical Colleges Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives. It’s also helpful to learn about and understand your implicit biases in order to expand your worldview and examine your own perspectives—a simple first step is taking an Implicit Association Test.
The JEDI curriculum consists of once-per-month didactics covering a wide range of topics. These sessions are offered in-person, virtually or as on-demand recordings.
If you are interested in learning more about Inspira’s JEDI curriculum or to find out how you can attend a session, contact Dr. Vermeulen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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