Fuentes-Afflick to Focus on Diversity as APS President

As the new president of the 1,200-member American Pediatric Society, Elena Fuentes-Afflick, MD, MPH, heads an organization devoted to advancing academic pediatrics throughout the United States. For many years, she has been a passionate advocate for a key element in the group’s mission—promoting diversity and inclusion in academic pediatrics.

Fuentes-Afflick, who is chief of Pediatrics at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and vice dean for Academic Affairs in the UCSF School of Medicine, will continue to pursue that passion in her one-year term as APS president, working in concert with the APS’s sister organization, the Society for Pediatric Research, as well as other pediatric professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fuentes-Afflick takes the helm of the APS as it completes a strategic planning process, including examining ways to increase diversity within the organization. Several years after her 2008 election to the APS, the organization’s leadership asked her to chair a task force to advance diversity and inclusion within the society’s membership. That led to creation of a standing committee in 2012, which she has since chaired.

As part of its initial work, the committee created a voluntary questionnaire on gender and race/ethnicity. Responses indicate that one third of APS members are women, while within the total membership, two percent are African American, two percent Latino, and six percent Asian. Those figures are slightly lower than faculty diversification numbers tracked by institutional members of the American Association of Medical Colleges, said Fuentes-Afflick.

APS members are drawn from individuals with demonstrated excellent academic leadership, and two current members must formally support nominations. “Within that framework, one of our goals is to identify diverse people for membership,” said Fuentes-Afflick.

Fuentes-Afflick has also led programs for academic development and career advancement at both UCSF and at the APS. She helped create an APS program, now in its fourth year, that recruits members who would like to serve as mentors or mentees. “If someone wants to become a department chair or direct a research center, we can pair them with a mentor who has been in that role,” she said.

Fuentes-Afflick has also worked to ensure that the APS annual meeting addresses topics that help encourage diversity and inclusion. These have ranged from presentations on unconscious bias to panel discussions that review how diversity and inclusion work in settings ranging from the Veteran’s Administration to Kaiser Permanente.

Diversifying academic pediatrics will be an ongoing process, but it is one that is important to the nation’s health. “The population of children in the United States is increasingly diverse, and that requires us to encourage diversity and cultural competency in the pediatric academic workforce,” said Fuentes-Afflick.

by Leslie Lingaas

Read “The Road to Tolerance and Understanding,” a commentary co-authored by Dr. Fuentes-Afflick, in the June 2017 issue of Pediatrics.