President's Message

Each month, AACH President Jenni Levy, MD, FAACH addresses AACH members through her president's message, sharing updates, goals, and information to keep members engaged and involved in the Academy.     

February 2017

In 2001, I attended my fifth AACH Winter Course in Burlington, Vermont. With guidance from FITs and Faculty, including Carol Mostow and Karan Cole, the course committee had chosen to focus on diversity. We started by identifying the diversity in our organization. What identities did we bring with us? What did those identities mean to us? What systems of oppression had we struggled with? What privilege did we hold?

This was the beginning of a difficult journey for me and for AACH. If we are true to our values and to our mission, we must understand the limitations of our own perspectives and we must grapple with our own biases, because we all have biases. None of us are colorblind or immune to assumptions about class or nationality.

We undertook this journey because our mission and our values require it. When we declared our intention to be the professional home for all those who are committed to improving communication and relationships in healthcare, we didn’t mean “only those who look like us.” Our research and education touch the lives of our patients and colleagues, and we must be able to work with and work for people of varying backgrounds and experiences. Along the way, we have looked inward and outward, and we are committed to supporting diversity in AACH.

Those of you who have recently joined AACH or renewed your AACH membership have been asked to complete a more expansive member profile, which includes providing more specific demographic information about yourself. These demographics were selected by our Diversity Committee to track our success in maximizing diversity. If you haven’t already filled it out, please go to our website and do so now. You will be supporting the organization in a core part of our work. Individual responses are confidential, securely stored, and only accessible to authorized staff. Additionally, if you opt in to your member profile being shared in the Member Directory (a resource accessible only to AACH members) not all demographic data is shown.  Only your contact information is provided: name, organization, job title, address, phone # and email address.  None of your other member profile demographic data is shared.  We recognize that some questions may be sensitive. If you are uncomfortable answering any question, please click "Choose not to respond" and move on to the next question. You’ll find screenshots and instructions at the end of this message to help you edit your member profile with this additional information.

In the sixteen years since that Burlington course, I have learned a lot about myself. I know that I have a persistent blind spot around class. Even after all these years, I assume that people who share my education and my interests have the same background I do. This is demonstrably false, and yet I can’t seem to shake it. I’m still working on it, and I appreciate the AACH colleagues who support me along the way.

The same assumptions and biases that affect our personal relationships have a deep and damaging effect on healthcare delivery. A NEJM editorial in 2001 – published just around the time we were meeting in Burlington – documented the wide-reaching effects of racism on medical practice and healthcare outcomes. Research is not immune; in 2002, an article in Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that “Even after controlling for markers of social class, African Americans were less trusting than white Americans. Racial differences in distrust have important implications for investigators as they engage African Americans in research.”

At this year’s Winter Course, Kathleen McGrail and Norm Jensen presented a workshop titled “Measurement in the Service of Compassion: Relationship-Centered Care, Healthcare Disparities, and Data.” I wasn’t able to attend and I still learned a great deal from conversations with Kathy and Norm. They asked participants to take the Implicit Associations Test (IAT) and presented data showing that those of us who have a preference for whites on the IAT provide different – and probably less effective – care to people of color. I was disturbed to hear that, and heartened to look at the evidence they collected to show that we can change this with systemic and individual interventions. You can take the IAT yourself; I warn you that you may be distressed by the results.

The AACH members I have mentioned in this letter are only a few of the scores of us who are working on education and research in this field. I apologize to all those I omitted, and I hope to become more familiar with the breadth of expertise over the next year.

News stories remind me every day that the understanding the experiences and perspectives of others is difficult, painful, and absolutely necessary. I have more work to do; we have more work to do. Please help us by completing your AACH member profile in its entirety, and by continuing to be open and curious and empathic to those you meet.



How to update your AACH profile:

1.  L  Go to the AACH website:

2.    Sign in to your AACH account by navigating to the Member Center tab in the main menu and clicking on “Sign In.”

3.    EEnter your email address and password:






4.    Click on “My Information” in the menu on the left:

5.    Click on “Edit/View Information.”