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Communicate and investigate
While the faces of orthopedic providers now more closely reflect the diverse patient populations they serve, continued efforts must be made to realize the potential benefit afforded by such diversity of perspective. Sexual harassment, as with all forms of harassment, undermines any prospect of creating a work environment of mutual respect, where all persons can share their unique talents to accomplish our mission of excellent patient care. Communication is central in preventing sexual harassment and, should an incident occur, it should be promptly investigated. Departments and practices should establish an explicit code of conduct and policies related to a harassment-free workplace and non-retaliatory reporting. It is essential to set departmental and organizational expectations about zero tolerance. Of equal or perhaps greater importance, a culture of inclusion and professionalism must be cultivated, starting from the top. Leaders and those in positions of responsibility must be champions of respect, serving as conscientious exemplars and demanding that other team members adhere to such a code of conduct. There can be no double standard for high-performing physicians; to the contrary, those in positions of power must be particularly cognizant of how those without such influence may be reluctant to voice grievances or suggestions. In Pittsburgh, and in the spirit of Mr. Rogers, we strive to be good neighbors. Our (orthopedic) neighborhood will only thrive if each of us feels respected and encouraged to share the best of what we each possess.
Freddie H. Fu, MD, DSc(Hon), DPs(Hon), is an Orthopedics Today Editorial Board Member, a distinguished service professor at University of Pittsburgh and David Silver professor and chair in the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Disclosure: Fu reports no relevant financial disclosures.
Sexual harassment occurs commonly in medicine today and can present in many forms. Harassment can be deliberate or elusive. Teachers, mentors, colleagues, chiefs, chairs, co-residents and even patients need to be sensitive to avoiding harassment of any kind.
With the #MeToo movement there is a greater awareness of sexual harassment and many practices and departments now have policies in place. This is a step forward as long as the policies are publicized, implemented and not just “in place.” All members of the health care team need to be able to safely perform their duties without fearing sexual harassment. There should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment of any sort.
To eliminate sexual harassment, several things must take place:
- There must be education regarding the subtleties of sexual harassment and implicit bias;
- A purposeful change in the culture must occur;
- Both men and women need to be empowered to lead this cultural change; and
- There must be zero tolerance in all practices, departments, training programs and hospitals.
Sexual harassment does occur and is often unrecognized. No longer should young bright students fear orthopedic surgery because of the potential bullying, harassment or implicit bias that has historically occurred. More than 50% of medical students are female and yet only 6% of practicing orthopedic surgeons are female. By changing the culture, we will be able to continue to attract the best students as our future leaders in orthopedics.
Elizabeth G. Matzkin, MD, is chief of women’s sports medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
Disclosure: Matzkin reports no relevant financial disclosures.