In the midst of the #MeToo Movement and greater awareness of racial and ethnic bias, Dr. Thompson is ready to lead and inspire others to speak up and advocate for change—she always has been—but she’d prefer that more and more people join the charge. “Change is easier when we have an understanding of each other and appreciate our different perspectives,” she said. “It’s implicit and explicit bias that gets in the way. As an African-American woman surgeon, I’ve navigated this for 50 years. Implicit and explicit bias has been part of my reality. Whether it’s a perceived or a real obstacle, by the way, I’ve had to figure out a way to navigate around it and change course constantly and consistently.”
Explore This IssueJune 2018
Change Is Constant
For those who argue that the status quo can be maintained, Dr. Thompson disagrees.
Whether it’s the “business of medicine” moving from fee-for-service reimbursement to value-based care reimbursement models where we must understand patient values (which may be very different than our own), or droves of physicians being lost to mergers of major healthcare systems and to concierge medicine, the playing field for otolaryngology is changing, and we must learn to be adaptable, said Dr. Thompson. “We’re in the 21st century,” she added. It’s a new era where change is constant.”
Take millennials, the oft-maligned generation that is a growing cohort of the otolaryngology workforce—and its next set of leaders. This generation is more comfortable with change. They were reared on technology like no generation before them, and they are more exposed to ethnic diversity and more comfortable interacting with diverse people. They also expect more work-life balance and integration than their predecessors.
That upbringing means that older physicians have to speak to them and educate them in a language they understand. Dr. Thompson calls the communicative approach the “millennial sandwich.”
“We have to search within this generational gap and give them a millennial sandwich,” she said. “So you open your conversation with praise. In the middle, you put the constructive feedback. And at the end, you put the praise and how to manage the journey to get the trophy.”
“Good Is Never Enough”
Progress won’t be easy, Dr. Thompson said, but it never has been. She recalled presenting at a Triological Society meeting in January 2000 in Cincinnati. As an early-career otolaryngologist back then, her biggest worry that cold, overcast day was supposed to be her words. But she can’t forget the KKK demonstration in the city’s Fountain Square Plaza.