The last couple of weeks brought another deluge of feelings as we remember the senseless death of George Floyd. The outcome of the trial was emotional for many of us and has once again reminded us of the state of our nation. Together we must face and vanquish ongoing racial disparities, inequities, and intolerance. Intention is nothing without action, and we still have much work to do. This work must be done by each of us in whatever roles we play in our daily lives.

The AASM has taken concrete steps to address these issues, though more work is needed. Apart from putting out strong statements related to these unfortunate events, including the recent statement related to hate crimes, intolerance, and racism against Asians, the AASM’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee continues to assess the current state of the AASM and the field of sleep medicine to recommend strategies for improvement. The AASM has put out education webinars on these topics to benefit our members, and leadership has undergone training on various DEI topics including implicit biases and unconscious bias. These trainings serve to improve communication on issues surrounding DEI, understand biases and how they may affect decision making for the board, and develop strategies to reduce unconscious bias. The AASM in partnership with the Sleep Research Society (SRS) created the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leadership award, and the AASM created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion travel grant to provide our members whose demographic characteristics are underrepresented within the AASM’s volunteer and leadership population an opportunity to become more engaged. You can learn more about these resources and initiatives on the AASM Diversity, Equity and Inclusion webpage.

What actions steps can we all take? We need to be bold and have open conversations about racism, intolerance, equity, and inclusion. We should not and cannot ignore this. We, as leaders, in our own areas can provide opportunities for people to have this conversation openly and safely. We should openly reflect on how much we have to learn and seek opportunities to educate ourselves and improve our awareness. There is strength in numbers, and we can take steps together in partnership with resource groups dedicated to underserved populations, or through opportunities to advocate for policies or legislative actions that address equity issues and impact the health of our local communities. We are bound to make mistakes, but let that not be a barrier to taking the first or next step to move forward. Having the humility to push toward growth is important. We cannot expect to be able to deliver patient-centered, high-quality care without addressing inequities and health disparities.

The AASM is steadfast in rejecting racism, intolerance, inequities, lack of inclusivity, discrimination of our members, staff, patients, and people across our nation. As we work toward better empathy and understanding of each other, let us lean on one another without judgement, to learn and grow, and strive to embrace each person with kindness, dignity and respect. Together our intentions, coupled with action to reduce inequities and health disparities, will improve the delivery of high-quality care for our patients and contribute to the general betterment of our communities. Irrespective of our personal stance on these issues, and not withstanding any differences, we must work together to move forward with the intent to grow more united as a community.

Kannan Ramar, MD