SR: Can you explain what you mean by your comment that this experience “helped me reevaluate my own bias?”
Explore This IssueNovember 2021
DT: In 1993, I had my own bias about who could and would be a mentor, and that experience gave me a mindset shift. At that time, it was hard to envision and believe that a white man in a position of seniority could be a mentor and sponsor and supporter and ally of a young Black female like myself. That felt empowering, and I was amazed to discover the kindness of others through this experience. That moment of transformation took courage on my part to speak up, as well as active listening, compassion, and support on the part of others.
SR: Do you think we can change the bias that exists in our field?
DT: Absolutely. It was what I hoped to bring attention to through my Ogura lecture. I wanted to use my opportunity to speak that day to say, “Here’s the lens through which I’ve experienced bias in our field, and here are the ways I think that bias is holding us back as a specialty and what we do for the patients we care for, and here’s how we increase diversity within otolaryngology.” I wanted everyone listening to learn from my experience and use the message as self-reflection to help themselves navigate their own biases.
We’ve reached the stage where we need to implement changes and not just listen to people speak about change. —Dana Thompson, MD, MS, MBA
The lesson I hope they took away was to be as welcoming as they can be, because those moments when people welcomed me, when I wasn’t expecting to be accepted, helped me reach where I am today. I really tried to highlight the support of people who, because of my own biases, I never would have thought would be supportive of me. But they were. Instead of bias, they showed me support.
SR: How have the challenges you faced in training and your early career affected how you mentor others?
DT: I’m an idealistic person. I want to see the best in everybody. Even when I was in medical school as a senior student helping a junior student, I found I had a natural ability to see strength in people and wanted to foster that. As a trainee and early in my career, I had always hoped that others would see the best in me and help develop my potential. I have incredibly high expectations for myself and I value excellence, both of which were drivers to help overcome any question of whether I belonged or not.