Black History Month Shows Glimpse of Year-Round Inclusion Efforts at Moffitt

By Steve Blanchard - February 10, 2020

Every February, Americans celebrate Black History Month, which is a time to honor the achievements of the countless black men and women who have helped to shape our nation’s history. This also provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on different ways to promote unity and equality among all people.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, there is an ongoing effort focusing on diversity and inclusion among its team members. This includes recruiting, retaining and mentoring the best physicians and scientists from all ethnicities and cultures. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Odion Binitie is tasked with continuing the cancer center’s outreach to black faculty members.

“The No. 1 goal is for Moffitt to provide the best doctors for our patients,” Binitie said. “But I think patients coming in and seeing physicians and scientists who look like them is important for them to feel even more comfortable here.”

Binitie said that Black History Month is a good time to reflect on the progress that has been made with this particular community, but the effort is ongoing throughout the year.

“We should honor our heroes every month, whether they are black, women or Hispanic. But Black History Month does serve as a good bookmark or reminder that we must recognize each culture and their individual contributions to our mission,” Binitie said. “Recognizing those achievements and recognizing the deficiencies that exist should be an ongoing process.”

Diversity and inclusion are important components to Moffitt’s success, according to Dr. B. Lee Green,  vice president of Moffitt Diversity, Public Relations & Strategic Communications. And while honoring the contributions of black experts during Black History Month is welcomed, it’s something that should be recognized year-round.

“Moffitt is proud to recognize the enumerable contributions of the black/African-American community to this country and to our mission,” Green said. “The contributions, 365 days each year, of our richly diverse body of team members move us one step closer to the prevention and cure of cancer each day.  We are a diverse and unified team, which strengthens us, and fosters the trust, respect, and collaboration that is core to our being.”

Moffitt began purposefully strategizing around its approach to recruiting and retaining black physicians and scientists in the summer of 2018. That’s when Moffitt’s physician-in-chief asked for Binitie’s assistance in improving Moffitt’s representation of black experts.

“When we dug into the numbers, we saw that we were not represented as well as we should be among that particular ethnic group,” Binitie said. “Since then we have discussed the background issues that impact recruitment, retention and mentorship.”

Binitie and his team have since engaged members of the Tampa Bay community, the University of South Florida (USF) and members of the National Medical Association. The goal is to develop a continual pipeline between USF and other training programs and reach out directly to medical schools and black physicians and scientists.

In the last year, Moffitt hosted its first invited grand rounds speaker, Dr. Joan Reede, Dean of Diversity at Harvard Medical School. She discussed the need for and the importance of diversity in academic medicine. The past year also saw Moffitt’s first African American female chair when Dr. Jhanelle Gray was appointed to the role in the Department of Thoracic Oncology.

That outreach is important not only for Moffitt, but for the community as a whole, Binitie said.

“Looking at our community demographics, you see a varied makeup of races and ethnicities,” Binitie said. “Our faculty representation should reflect that, and this ongoing outreach is one way for us to accomplish that goal.”

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