Mount Sinai launches diversity innovation hub to tackle racism and gender inequity in healthcare

Mount Sinai aerial shot
Mount Sinai is launching a "first-of-its-kind" effort to diversify medicine and innovation while also using technology to address social determinants of health in local communities. (Mount Sinai Health System)

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is launching a new diversity and inclusion hub to help diversify their pipeline of talent in the innovation space.

The New York City-based health system said it is a "first-of-its-kind" effort among medical institutions, creating an incubator aimed at diversifying medical innovation while also using technology to address social determinants of health in its local communities. 

Mount Sinai’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion will spearhead the diversity innovation hub initiative, known as the DIH.

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"As medical and research institutions around the country look to solve inequities and mitigate disparities in health care, we hope this project will become a model for others nationwide," said Dennis S. Charney, M.D., the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in a statement. "To close long-standing gaps, we all need to innovate, and we need to engage local stakeholders in the process.” 

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"We need to diversify medicine and ensure diverse participation in the innovation space to ensure quality care for underserved communities. Equity—be it for our staff, students or patients—is vital to making our work a success. The Diversity Innovation Hub is a novel step forward in that effort," said Gary Butts, M.D., Dean for Diversity Programs, Policy, and Community Affairs.

"It’s our hope that this will not only be a difference-maker for the neighborhoods surrounding Mount Sinai but that it will meaningfully and intentionally further diversify our innovation and health care industries," Butts said.

The initiative represents a first for a health system to connect the dots between inclusion, equity and innovation, Butts told FierceHealthcare.

The DIH effort will have three areas of focus, Butts said: furthering the inclusion of people of color and women in healthcare innovation; using innovative approaches, including technology tools, to address social determinants of health and healthcare in local communities; and creating a brain trust to tackle problems and advance diversity and inclusion with innovative approaches on an ongoing basis.

RELATED: Pay gap widens for women physicians; earnings average $105K less than men

The foundation of this work will be the development of design teams that will use the hub as an incubator for new ideas, identify resources and consider new investments to advance healthcare. The first phase of the DIH, which launched earlier this month, will provide mentorship, training and networking opportunities for students and staff.

There will be separate design teams for students, trainees, administrative fellows, staff and community leaders and stakeholders, Mount Sinai officials said.

There continue to be problems regarding diversity and inclusion in the technology industry and among innovation firms based in Silicon Valley. Mount Sinai's DIH initiative is in a position to help improve that pipeline for innovation talent, Butts said.

"We have a lot going on at Mount Sinai in the innovation space and we can leverage that effectively to launch, in a powerful way, a model with a dynamic approach through these design teams," he said.

RELATED: Women only make up 30% of healthcare executives. Here’s a look at why 

As part of the initiative, a multi-layered fellowship program will be offered to medical students and will serve as an ideas accelerator for addressing social determinants in health for underserved communities.

As students and their teams pitch ideas for closing social problems relating to equity, the best ideas incubated within the DIH will be connected with partners to support and invest in their concepts. The second phase of the program will lead to those ideas coming into fruition through pilot projects and demonstration work in various communities to address social determinants in healthcare.  

Mount Sinai's diversity and inclusion hub also will look to partner with leaders and stakeholders in East and Central Harlem, Mount Sinai’s surrounding neighborhood, like 100 Black Men of New York, Silicon Harlem, local business leaders, and entrepreneurs.

By engaging local community leaders, the DIH will aim to identify gaps in local healthcare delivery—and identify technological or data-driven solutions to close them, the health system said.

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