Colorful hands clasped

Kim Von Ahsen, MHA, MLS(ASCP)CMSLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Region VI Director

Colorful hands clasped
Photo by Tim Mossholder, Unsplash

2020 has been a year of extraordinary challenges—a global pandemic, social unrest, and political uncertainty; however, I believe that it’s also brought a positive focus to the laboratory profession, diversity, and advocacy.

Steve Jobs, when speaking about Apple in the late 1980s, said, “Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.” There is a sense in the world right now that we are in one of those moments, a moment where WE can influence the future, either collectively through our efforts in ASCLS or individually.

At the 2020 Joint Annual Meeting, ASCLS embraced the moment to influence the future by ending the meeting with the Closing Keynote by Leonard Egede, MD, MS on “Understanding Health Disparities and Social Determinants of Health: A New Era for Health Care Professionals.” In addition, the Board of Directors expanded its efforts to ensure representation on key committees such as the Virtual Learning Steering Committee and the Marketing and Communication Committee with the addition of representatives from the Diversity Advocacy Council.

Witnessing this momentum from a professional standpoint, I wondered what I could do to ensure that as a leader, but more fundamentally as a human, how I could be more mindfully diverse in my actions. Here is what I’ve been working on that I hope will help anyone looking for their own journey to be more mindfully diverse.

  • Seek to provide staff education in diversity and inclusion. This education is not only focused on laboratory medicine and diversity impacts but also education to staff about respecting the unique differences of their patients and peers.
  • Participate in and encourage, if not already available, employer diversity and inclusion initiatives.
    • Identify staff to serve on organizational Diversity and Inclusion Committees.
    • Support staff use of pronouns in email signatures and other position title documents, such as business cards.
    • Implement indicators of allyship to patients. For example, our organization has the Diversity Rainbow as a choice on a hospital-provided badge reel to identify to patients and staff as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Engage in uncomfortable conversations with colleagues and peers to highlight bias and educate on social determinants.
  • Seek diversity in hobbies such as books, podcasts, music, and movies. Actively introduce new and different voices.
  • Support local businesses that have a diversity focus/mission or have diverse ownership.
  • Participate in learning opportunities, such as cultural fairs or other community events.
  • Show allyship in social media profiles, such as pronouns.
  • Question without self-judgement and self-criticism of one’s own thoughts, assumptions, and prejudices. Ask yourself why you had that thought and how you can learn and grow with empathy and respect.

Mindfulness, as an individual and as an association, is how we will influence the future of laboratory medicine and, most importantly, elevate and celebrate the unique, diverse, and vital individuals who comprise our profession and our world.

Kim Von Ahsen is Client Services Manager, Clinical Laboratory, at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, Iowa.