Driving excellence and inspiring people to reach their full potential are the core elements of how I mentor others, and people who know me well know I have incredibly high expectations. I think I had to learn over time to be less critical and more encouraging when I observed gaps and places for opportunities. I’ve had to reframe the tone with which I coach and encourage students to help them see my high expectations as a reflection of their potential. My mentees have taught me how to do that, and through that process I’ve grown as an educator and as a leader.
Explore This IssueNovember 2021
SR: As a trailblazer, you have raised awareness about a need for diversity in our field, and have helped steer us in that direction. What specific changes in our field do you think would make a difference?
DT: To successfully achieve diversity, we must aim to be a welcoming place for diverse people and diverse life experiences. By learning from these perspectives, we can begin to appreciate the beauty and brilliance that diversity brings.
Our leaders and decision makers who can actively listen, ask the right questions, and leverage the strengths of diversity will be positioned to lead in changing our present circumstances by broadening their skills in inclusive mentorship, sponsorship, and allyship. By creating diversity in our specialty, we’ll begin to think more inclusively about the care we provide, the research questions we aim to answer, and who we educate and attract to our field.
The pipeline in otolaryngology is leaky. Our medical schools can help by having a student body that’s more representative of the diverse demographics of our country, so that more students are available to choose our specialty. We also must make intentional efforts to get involved in our undergraduate medical education programs to expose students of color to otolaryngology, because many don’t consider us as a career choice. If we create an environment where learners— students, residents, and fellows— feel supported and welcomed and are inspired to demonstrate how their presence makes a difference, we’ll change how we look as a specialty. Engagement in more community-facing clinical care and research will also show underrepresented minorities who tend to choose specialties with a much more direct community impact that there are opportunities to contribute similarly in our field. They’ll be inspired to see how their presence belongs in otolaryngology.
SR: How do you think we can begin to accomplish this change?