Members of the UCLA Urology Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, top row (l. to r.): Beth Miller, Tracy Prinz, Kassandra Zaila, Dr. Stanley Frencher, Jr., Alexa Hughes; second row (l. to r.): Dr. Carol Bennett, Dr. Claire Burton, Dr. Christopher Saigal, Dr. Efe Chantal Ghanney Simons, Hosna Safi; third row (l to r.): Dr. Isla Garraway, Dr. Jeremy Blumberg, Dr. Jesse Mills, Dr. Ja-Hong Kim, Dr. Jonathan Bergman; bottom row (l. to r.): Maria Estrada, Dr. Renea Sturm, Laura Baybridge.
To improve urological health and health care, we seek to create world leaders in health and medicine, discover the basis for wellness and cures for urological disease, foster a culture of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, cultivate community partnerships, and heal humankind one patient at a time.
Stanley K. Frencher, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of UCLA Urology and Director of Urology and Chair of Perioperative Services Department at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH), has been named the UCLA Urology Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Frencher, along with Dr. Jesse Mills, leads the department's Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
UCLA Urology has long worked to promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our faculty and training programs, to bring high-quality care to traditionally underserved communities, and to right the health care injustices and inequities that persist.
In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., declared: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” More than 50 years later, our society has arrived at a moment that was long overdue even when Dr. King made that observation: a reckoning with the toxic effects of centuries of systemic racism, including ongoing injustices in health care.
UCLA Urology has long worked to promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our faculty and training programs, and to bring high-quality care to traditionally underserved communities. And we must continue to work to right the injustices and inequities that persist in health care. In the United States, the legacy of systemic racism in sectors such as education, housing, and employment means that Black, Indigenous, and people of color are more likely to experience reduced access to health care and poorer health. Within the larger health system, insufficient diversity among providers compromises the quality of care. Studies have shown that we all harbor implicit biases that can influence our care. As racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes persist, we must act urgently to address the causes.
UCLA Urology has embodied the values of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion for manyyears, but as long as these problems remain, we must look inward and determine how we can do better. As the cover story of this issue describes, that process is ongoing. It’s not an undertaking we will one day complete; rather, it will always be part of the fabric of our department, embedded in all that we do. It involves rooting out overt and covert forms of discrimination, as well as dismantling the systemic factors that perpetuate inequities. It involves pursuing diversity not merely as a matter of justice, but to improve quality. And it means continuing to venture well beyond the confines of Westwood and Santa Monica to bring our state-of-the-art care to communities that UCLA hasn’t always reached. We are proud of the high-quality services UCLA Urology provides at our affiliate institutions in some of the most underserved areas of Los Angeles. Our goal is to become even more active participants and collaborators with these institutions to improve care and promote social justice, with the recognition that we all have much to learn, and that out of these interactions we will all become better practitioners.
We recognize that as an individual urology department, we can’t solve the entire societal scourge of systemic racism. But we also recognize our power to make a difference. In the words of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Mark S. Litwin, MD, MPH
However, as long as these problems remain, we must look inward and do better. Toward that end, the department established a Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, co-chaired by Drs. Stanley Frencher and Jesse Mills and includes more than a dozen students, staff, resident physicians, and faculty members.
The mission of the Task Force is to dismantle racist policy, engage in honest conversation, identify challenges and implement recommendations to foster a culture in which diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice become the fabric of the department.
The Task Force has identified five priority areas to create a culture of inclusion within our department and the broader community that we serve: 1) representation, 2) awareness and understanding, 3) education and training, 4) equity in care delivery and 5) pipeline programs.
Dr. Efe Chantal Ghanney Simons, urology fourth year resident, is the inaugural winner of the Diversity Equity & Inclusion Award, a new honor bestowed jointly by the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) and The Society of Black Academic Surgeons (SBAS). This award is to be given annually for the pursuit of a career in surgery that is in alignment with the missions of AWS and SBAS. Read more in the UCLA Health Newsroom >
The percentage of urology residents who are Black/African American is under 4%, and those numbers suffer from significant attrition. Dr. Kymora Scotland, UCLA Urology assistant professor, has decided to tackle this problem by developing a nationwide mentorship program for Black residents by Black urologists, in her capacity as director of resident outreach at the R. Frank Jones Urological Society. The initiative is being conducted in partnership with the leadership of the UReTER program at UC San Francisco and with the support of the Society of Academic Urologists.
But the low number of Black residents requires efforts at the medical school level as well, in an attempt to increase the number of students applying to and matching in urology. To that end, Dr. Scotland has been working with Urology Unbound, a recently formed organization dedicated to recruiting and retaining Black urologists, under the leadership of Dr. Shenelle Wilson. Dr. Wilson has been working tirelessly through Urology Unbound and the R. Frank Jones Urology Interest Group to engage with urology applicants who are underrepresented in medicine (URM) to prepare them for the recently concluded match. Of the 39 URM students mentored by Urology Unbound, 31 matched into a urology program. “Urology Unbound and the R. Frank Jones Urological Society will continue to expand initiatives aimed at improving the representation of Black urologists,” Dr. Scotland says.
In April 2021, the UCLA Hospital and Clinic System launched the Health Equity Pitch Contest, a showcase of the important work advancing health equity by UCLA Health faculty, staff, students, and community partners. The contest is part of the second round of the UCLA Health Innovation Challenge. Health equity is a new category in the UCLA Health Innovation Challenge, providing opportunities and funding to tackle challenges in vulnerable populations. Desiree Sanchez, MD, UCLA Urology resident and Abhishek Venkataramana, MD, a medical student at DGSOM received a $15,000 award for “AccessiHealth,” an app-based project and pipeline program.
Dr. Sanchez is also the first author on “Moving urologic disparities research from evidence synthesis to translational research: a dynamic, multidisciplinary approach to tackling inequalities in urology,” recently published in Urology. Read the article (PDF) >
Dr. Denise Asafu-Adjei is a UCLA Urology andrology fellow and a current Urology Care Foundation Research Scholar Award recipient. She aspires to establish a physician-scientist career at the interface of andrology and health policy and is completing her one-year research project focused on disparities in erectile dysfunction services and care. The impact of her work is highlighted in the June 2021 issue of AUA Investigator. Read more >
UCLA Urology has established a partnership with Bridge Builders Foundation, a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization that supports youth through mentoring, scholarships, educational programs and the teaching of life skills. The initiative will build on the foundation’s efforts to raise health awareness and promote career opportunities for African American and other minority youth. The department is actively working with Bridge Builders in providing a platform for interested high school students to get to know UCLA Health students and professionals through a virtual series of lectures, lab experiences and dialogues. The partnership is being facilitated by Bridge Builders member Westley Sholes, a prostate cancer survivor and longtime supporter of IMPACT, the UCLA Urology-led program that has brought medical care to thousands of low-income, uninsured California men with prostate cancer.
Isla Garraway, MD, Associate Professor of Urology at UCLA and Director of Urologic Research, was a participant in a webinar about the disparities in prostate cancer organized by the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the West Angeles Church Brotherhood. Watch the video >
UCLA Urology faculty members are actively engaged in the Black, Latinx, and Native American (BLNA) faculty collective and allies in the David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM), including:
The BLNA group advising the Dean of UCLA’s DGSOM, Vice Chancellor, and CEO of UCLA Health on initiatives for the DGSOM Anti-racism roadmap. In addition to clinical care, research and teaching, the BLNA’s scope of service to DGSOM includes committee work, assuming the role of champion for diversity efforts within departments, and community/faculty/trainee/student outreach, recruitment, and mentoring/sponsorship of BLNA students, residents, and fellowship trainees who are consistently under-represented in medicine.
Association of Health-Care System with Prostate Cancer-Specific Mortality in African American and Non-Hispanic White Men, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, April 2021
To create a culture of inclusion and incorporate diverse views and experiences amongst the department’s members, UCLA Urology is distributing two books each academic year in order to implement consistent, ongoing learning and encourage dialogue all year long. The first book being distributed is Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. The book chronicles how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society.