Celebrating Black Leadership in ACG

by Sophie M. Balzora, MD, FACG; Chair, ACG Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

Dr. Sophie M. Balzora

ACG is proud to observe Black History Month with a focus on the achievements of Black gastroenterologists and their contributions to medicine, to GI, and to the life of the College.

For several years the focus of ACG’s observance of Black History Month has been to highlight the pioneering career of our first Black member, Leonidas H. Berry, MD, MACG, who joined ACG in 1946 and received the College’s very first Clinical Achievement Award in 1987. For 2023, the ACG Committee on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion hopes to expand our focus as we celebrate Dr. Berry’s legacy by putting the spotlight both on today’s leaders as well as those who are emerging in the field of GI.

ACG is committed to advancing the forward trajectory of the careers of Black physicians in gastroenterology and to investing in meaningful programs and initiatives in areas such as clinical research funding, mentoring for medical students, and leadership development for early career gastroenterologists.

As a source of inspiration and education, the Committee has compiled a selection of high-impact journal articles and other resources. Notably, the DEI Committee in 2021 launched a free CME module on Health Equity & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on the ACG Education Universe online learning platform.

As you explore these resources and reflect on the achievements of the College’s Black leaders, I urge you to join me in engaging fully in the challenging work of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of GI. For thoughts on how we will get there, I want to share a passage from an editorial I co-authored with colleagues Dr. Adjoa Anyane-Yeboa and Dr. Darrell Gray in The American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2020:

“So what does it require to enhance diversity and inclusion in GI? It demands an environment in which all people feel valued and those from minority groups are in roles and spaces in which they can influence practice and policy decision-making. Such an environment recognizes and mitigates implicit biases, actively addresses racism and the structural forces that produce inequities, and cultivates GI practices and, to a larger extent, health systems that reflect the increasing diversity of the society that we live in today.”

Member Spotlights

Frank Hamilton, MD, MPH, MACG
In 2022, the College celebrated the distinguished career of Frank Hamilton, MD, MPH, MACG, of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) in a cover story in ACG MAGAZINE. Dr. Hamilton’s visionary leadership within the College includes service on the Minority Affairs & Cultural Diversity Committee (now the DEI Committee) from 2003 to 2010, and as Chair from 2003 to 2007; his role on the ACG Research Committee from 2001 to 2010; and his significant contributions as a member of the Board of Directors of the ACG Institute from 2010 to 2016 – all reflecting his deep dedication to ACG. Dr. Hamilton received the College’s Minority Digestive Health Care Award in 2013 (now the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award). READ MORE.
Rachel Issaka, MD, MAS
The achievements of Rachel Issaka, MD, MAS, were widely recognized by ACG in 2022 when she was one of the first two clinical investigators whose research was funded under the inaugural Health Equity Research Award. This is a new grant funded through the ACG Institute’s Center for Leadership, Ethics & Equity. The College also honored Dr. Issaka with the 2022 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award (formerly the Minority Digestive Health Care Award 2007-2020) which recognizes an ACG Member whose work in the areas of clinical practice, research, teaching and/or leadership has demonstrated an emerging or sustained commitment to the values of diversity, health equity and inclusion. READ MORE.

Celebrating Black Leadership in ACG

James C. Hobley, MD, FACG
Dr. James Hobley became a Trustee of the College in 2021. He served as ACG Governor for Louisiana and was honored with the College’s William D. Carey Award, the highest honor bestowed by the ACG Board of Governors for outstanding service. Dr. Hobley is Past Chair, ACG Legislative & Public Policy Council and has served on ACG’s Membership Committee, Credentials Committee, and Minority Affairs and Cultural Diversity Committee.

Vonda G. Reeves, MD, MBA, FACP, FACG
ACG’s Governor for Mississippi, Dr. Reeves was recognized by her peers on the ACG Board of Governors for her leadership and contributions with the 2022 Junior Governor’s Award. She is also member of the Practice Management Committee, the Awards Committee, and the DEI Committee.

Darrell M. Gray, II, MD, MPH, FACG
Dr. Gray delivered the 2021 Emily Couric Memorial Lecture at the ACG Annual Scientific Meeting, “Changing the Narrative on Colorectal Cancer Prevention: Translating Stories to Partnership, Policy and Practice.” Named in memory of Virginia State Senator Emily Couric who died from pancreas cancer in 2001, this is one of the College’s most distinguished honors. Dr. Gray received a Presidential Leadership Award in 2020 and the College’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award in 2021. He was a member of the ACG DEI Committee from 2014 to 2021, serving as Chair from 2018 to 2021. He is currently a member of the ACG Legislative & Public Policy Council. Watch Dr. Gray deliver the 2021 Couric Lecture.

ACG Governors

  • Military: Joseph G. Cheatham, MD, FACG
  • Mississippi: Vonda G. Reeves, MD, MBA, FACP, FACG
  • West Indies: Mike O. Mills, MD, FACG

College Leaders

  • Trustee: James C. Hobley, MD, MSc, FACG
  • Trustee: Renee L. Williams, MD, MHPE, FACG
  • LE&E Center Advisory Board (Advocacy): Uchenna A. Agbim, MD
  • LE&E Center Advisory Board (Equity) & DEI Committee Chair: Sophie M. Balzora, MD, FACG

Journal Editors

  • AJG Associate Editor: Patrick Okolo, MD, MPH
  • ACGCRJ Associate Editor: Yvette Achuo-Egbe, MD, MPH, MS
  • ACGCRJ Associate Editor: Jennifer Onwochei, MD, MPH, MS

Cultivating a Diverse Pipeline in Gastroenterology

ACG Institute Young Physician Leadership Scholars/Early Career Leadership Scholars

  • Uchenna A. Agbim, MD (2018-2019)
  • Frances Oymiba (2018-2019)
  • Jade Edwards, MD (2019-2020)
  • Alexandra Guillaume, MD (2020-2021)
  • Olufemi Kassim, MD (2020-2021)
  • Paula Adamson, MD (2020-2021)
  • Tracey Martin, MD (2020-2021)
  • Belen Tesfaye, MD (2020-2021)
  • Yakira David, MD (2021-2022)
  • Chiazotam “Zo” Ekekezie, MD (2021-2022)
  • Jannel Lee-Allen, MD (2021-2022)
  • Ayanna E. Lewis, MD (2022-2023)

ACG Summer Scholars

  • Darius Whitmore-Carter, Morehouse College of Medicine (2021)
  • Marie-Lise Chryostome, Drexel University College of Medicine (2022)
  • Joseph Chibueze, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (2022)

Spotlight on Journals & Publications

ACG MAGAZINE: Leading the Way in Advancing Health Equity (Issue 2021-1)

Along with Darrell M. Gray, II, MD, MPH, FACG and Renee L. Williams, MD, MHPE, FACG, I evolved a transcript from the 2021 ACG Town Hall, “Leading the Way on Advancing Health Equity,” into a cover story in ACG MAGAZINE, which included a reading list and links to video content.

Anti-Racism Reading List From ACG MAGAZINE 2021

  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  • Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington
  • The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • How to be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • White Rage by Carol Anderson, PhD
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • So You Want Talk About Race by Iseoma Oluo
  • Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings

Healthy Equity Multimedia Videos

ACG Racism in Medicine Webinar Series

Health Equity & DEI Module on the ACG Education Universe

ACG’s Health Equity & DEI Module features a comprehensive educational program dedicated to providing updates on diversity, equity and inclusion topics. The modules include content specifically designed to allow the learner to increase knowledge and develop strategies that can be implemented into practice.

Further Resources

The Association of Black Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists (ABGH) – blackingastro.org  ABGH exists to promote health equity in Black communities, advance science and develop the careers of Black gastroenterologists, hepatologists, and scientists.

Intersociety Group on Diversity (IGD) – The purpose of the IGD is to advise, assist and support the sponsoring societies (AASLD, ACG, AGA, ASGE and NASPGHAN) in furtherance of their collective objectives on diversity, equity and inclusion. The IGD aims to increase diversity in gastroenterology among our societies’ members, our pipeline of trainees, and leadership; and eradicate health disparities in the patients and populations our members serve. Leadership of the IGD rotates among the GI societies and the current IGD chair is Sandra Quezada, MD (AGA). 

In 2022, the IGD developed a digital guide highlighting the five GI societies’ individual DEI initiatives, research opportunities, pipeline development programs, education, and awards in a helpful at-a-glance format with links to learn more.

ACG and NASPGHAN #DiversityinGI Social Media Campaign

ACG and NASPGHAN in June 2019 forged a partnership to extend the reach and enhance the impact of the #DiversityinGI social media campaign launched by ACG in April 2019, while increasing diversity and inclusion in gastroenterology for both adult and pediatric practitioners. Both ACG and NASPGHAN recognize that the GI workforce is not as diverse as the patients we serve, which has an impact on patient care. LEARN MORE.

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