Note from the ACDIS Director: Establishing the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force
by Brian Murphy
In the summer of 2020, our nation witnessed what seemed to be a weekly string of disturbing, terrible incidents involving violence perpetrated on people of color. We know the victims today, by name, due to the calls for justice from the voices of hundreds of thousands of people who refused to sit idly by.
These incidents, while tragic on an individual level and incredibly hard to watch, were indicative of a much deeper, underlying issue: the problem of race relations and racial inequity in the broader culture.
Faced with what we were seeing, ACDIS had to make a decision: Sit on the sideline as observers, or get involved and make a difference. For me, at least, the decision was not easily reached—not because I didn’t care, but because of who I was and how I grew up.
Here is my background. I am a white male from the Northeast of the United States. I grew up in a suburb north of Boston, Massachusetts, hailing from a middle-class family in a town that was starting to trend toward upper middle class. We had very little diversity in my town. Most of the kids with whom I attended school were white and relatively well off. Our school participated in a program called the METCO Program, which was (and is) a grant program funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. METCO’s website describes it as a voluntary program “intended to expand educational opportunities, increase diversity, and reduce racial isolation, by permitting students in certain cities to attend public schools in other communities that have agreed to participate.”
The METCO program has great intentions and, I believe, does very good work. Kids who are living in Boston neighborhoods and face major obstacles to academic success get a ticket out of town and a new chance to succeed. However, from my experience, it made these few kids who attended my high school feel like others. They were outsiders. While I felt good on some level that my school was playing a part, I did little else to get involved, and I remained isolated from their struggles.
I give this backstory because if there is one thing I’ve realized from the experiences of this summer, it’s that there is so much I don’t know about race relations and systemic racism, simply because it’s not my lived experience. I lack the capacity to understand the objective and subjective experiences of a person of color, and I cannot readily identify with the biases or outright racism they encounter in daily life.
I’d like to think that ACDIS is an association that is open and welcoming to members of all backgrounds. I see the various and diverse faces at our conferences and I think, “Yeah, we’re doing a good job.”
But the key phrase in the above sentence is “I think.” What I think does not necessarily reflect the truth, or what is actually happening in the association and the broader field of CDI. Our mission statement at ACDIS is “to serve as the premier healthcare community for clinical documentation specialists, providing a medium for education, professional growth, program recognition, and networking.” I came to realize that potentially Ignoring the needs of a large and growing segment of our membership would be irresponsible.
And as I thought this through, I knew the time had come to get involved.
Our new ACDIS Diversity and Inclusion Task Force is our first concrete step in joining the conversation and making a difference. In the coming months and years, I hope to see this group become a strong, positive voice in our organization and the broader CDI community, and an agent of change.
Our work has already begun. To date, we’ve had some fantastic, positive meetings in which members of the task force have found camaraderie and peers who’ve lived each other’s shared existence. We’ve developed a powerful mission statement that we think sums up what this new task force is all about:
To strive to make CDI a community that embodies social responsibility through promoting a positive environment of greater diversity and inclusion across all cultures, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, and educational backgrounds, to break the silence that accompanies discrimination and inequity, and to ensure that all feel valued, empowered, and welcomed.
Three members of the task force participated in a panel session in September, which you can watch in the ACDIS Resource Library. The panel covers how the task force was formed and what we hope to accomplish. I was joined by Chinedum Mogbo, Daizy Chan-Kumpa, and Rabia Jalal, who generously shared their unique experiences as CDI professionals of color.
More recently, you may have heard ACDIS member Angelica Naylor telling her story and talking about the state of diversity in CDI on the ACDIS Podcast back in October. If not, I recommend you take the time to listen to this compelling interview on our website, or via Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
As a next step, we’ve developed and deployed a membership survey to help us gauge the racial makeup of ACDIS and the barriers CDI professionals may face in entering the profession and getting fairly promoted. We’re interested to see the results and to use this data to help direct our work.
In time, my hope is that we can establish an organizational diversity award, recognizing a hospital or healthcare organization that has taken demonstrative, concrete measures to encourage diverse hiring practices and equitable treatment of CDI and other healthcare professionals, inclusive of race, gender, and ethnicity.
We can all make a difference. While I can’t be a spokesman for people of color and their struggles, ACDIS can provide a platform to ensure their voices are heard. As the association’s director, I’m proud to be playing a part, however small, in this greater national struggle.
Editor’s note: Murphy is the director of ACDIS. Contact him at email@example.com.